Friday, January 4, 2013

Poison Elves

A few nights ago, the topic of Poison Elves came up on G+. A gritty and grotty indie comic that began as the self-published I, Lusiphur in the early 1990s. The first one I picked up was issue #10, "Sex & Violence" and yes, I bought it solely because of this cover.
Inside, the story was wordless. Just the protagonist, Lusiphur Malache and his girlfriend Cassy in bed together, intercut with scenes of their assassin jobs. It was unlike anything I had seen before. It reminded me of the great black & white fantasy indies I loved as a kid - Elfquest of course (which had the distinction of being sold alongside Dragon magazine at my local hobby shop) and also Barry Blair's original Elflord series (especially his Windblade one-shot). But it was dark and gritty and felt more like Savage Sword of Conan than the pastoral tales of the Wolf Riders or Hawk Erickson.

After that, I picked up every issue of Poison Elves I could get my hands on. I became obsessed with the characters and the world that Drew Hayes had created. The stories were unlike anything I had read in comics before or since, and the art was amazing. The earliest issues looked like they had been drawn by a frenetic hand at 4 a.m. assisted by Marlboro reds and Samhain's "November Coming Fire". The lines were shaky and scratchy. Every inch of the page was filled in with details. It brought the gritty and lusty world of Amrahly'nn to life.

I stopped reading around issue 70, when I read that Drew had been sick. I sent him a card. The next 9 issues came out very sporadically, and by then I was too busy holding down two jobs and going to school to set foot into a comic book store. 

In March of 2007, Drew Hayes passed away. It was a shock. Drew was only a couple years older than me. We were heavyset guys who favored black work shirts, we smoked, we liked girls with lots of eyeliner and fishnet stockings. We liked beer and punk rock and Bettie Page. I never wrote him a fan letter (of which his responses to were famously published in each issue), we never corresponded, but still, losing Drew was like losing a friend.

During the height of d20 mania someone asked him in a letter if had ever thought of writing a Poison Elves RPG. Drew declined, but said that if there was going to be one, he'd want it to run on the old Runequest system - intricate and sketchy. Still, during a 3rd Edition Living Greyhawk campaign, I ran an elf fighter who shared more than a little similarity to Luse.

Poison Elves carries on, in trade paperbacks and various spin-off series, and a newly restarted series from APE comics, but it's too different. It doesn't feel the same at all and I just can't get into it. When a band loses a member, someone can usually fill that hole in the line-up, (drummers and bassists mostly) but Drew Hayes was lead guitars and vocals of Poison Elves, without him, it's just a different band playing the old songs.

No comments:

Post a Comment