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One of the great things to come out of the gate at the beginning of 2013? Drew Hayes’ Poison Elves is back. The cult classic has not been lost to time. Because of Robb Horan’s dedication, the comic book will once again live for another generation of readers. In this PREVIEWS Exclusive interview, Robb talks about how the project got underway with Ape Entertainment.

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PREVIEWSworld: Robb, the news of Poison Elves (JAN130830) returning is big for fans who long for the return of Drew Hayes’ characters. Could you tell us the back story on how you got together with his estate, and made this new series a reality with Ape Entertainment?

Robb Horan:  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about the new Poison Elves. Some may recall that back in 2000 Drew Hayes and Sirius Entertainment signed a long term agreement for the property that was specifically intended to allow for an expanding universe and an unhindered continuation of the relationship under any circumstances.  Drew and I shared a vision for Poison Elves that was to encompass the balance of our professional careers.  Neither one of us consciously anticipated the tragedy to come but it was accounted for beforehand in that agreement.  So there was really no need to get together with Drew’s estate to negotiate anything.  We were never apart. 

Drew is survived by his daughter Mary and his mother Sharon. We remain in regular contact, and I’m honored that at every turn they’ve shown continued support for my approach to Drew’s legacy. We’ve each had to deal with the pain and challenges of Drew’s death and the very real impact it had on our lives.  I came to realize through the process of preparing for this new series just how much I still had to work through.  I am doing my best to apply those feelings toward making the new series a genuine experience for the reader.

I’m very grateful to David Hedgecock at Ape Entertainment for his insight that having me writing this book was the best approach to move things forward. I can assure you that it really never occurred to me. Combined with other life events, I was in a bit of a shell-shocked stasis and I hadn’t recognized it. David helped to shake me out of it.

Negotiating with Ape was really a process of getting to know one another and what Poison Elves meant to each of us. I’m not one for sentimentality but Poison Elves really does evoke strong feelings from people.  David and I both understood that and spent several years gaining each other’s confidence before bringing our ideas forward to the fans.

As for the nuts and bolts of the license agreement between Sirius and Ape, we are both experienced enough in the comic field to have quickly made a conservative arrangement that puts all the value where it belongs, which is in the book. Comic publishing, especially for an independent, is always a risky business. Ape and Sirius are sharing the risks on the new Poison Elves, but I’m happy to say that Ape is probably sticking their neck out a little bit further than me. As Obi-Wan once said, “I’m getting a little too old for this sort of thing.”

PREVIEWSworld:  What was involved in the initial meetings?

Robb Horan: Interestingly, this is where Diamond Comics has an anecdotal sidebar to the story.  A former employee of Sirius and Diamond, the energetic Keith Davidson, was Brand Manager for Ape Entertainment. He first introduced David and Brent Erwin to me and my partner Larry Salamone back in 2009 at New York Comic Con. As we are on two different coasts, I haven’t actually seen David face-to-face again since.  He and I have been able to simply collaborate with each other through phone calls and emails about what our goals are for the future of Poison Elves. We are both accustomed to getting what we want so it has been interesting trying to get it from each other. 

A deep respect for Drew Hayes’ incredible accomplishments, his vast imagination and resonant storytelling ability were our primary concerns. We knew that we could never imitate or replace Drew on Poison Elves.  We also knew that his many devoted fans would take us to task for offering them anything less than a great book infused with Drew’s spirit.

PREVIEWSworld: What bridges were crossed to make final negotiations?

Robb Horan: First, David had to convince me that the task of writing Poison Elves was something I wouldn’t suffer terribly for!  It has been a challenge, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m enjoying this opportunity tremendously, and it does seem to be the right thing to do.

More important to proceeding was finding the right artist.  It’s no exaggeration to say that David and I both made our final commitments once he brought Montos on board. What an exciting talent!  Montos’ work is rich in fantasy and action with a keen eye for detail. I see his work in the tradition of Alfredo Alcala with touches of Michael Golden and Pat Broderick added in.  I hope Montos thinks that’s good!

PREVIEWSworld:  Hayes was publishing Poison Elves through Sirius. Now Ape is the publisher, and there’s an additional player, Outlaw Comics. Explain to us how this new dynamic works in bringing fans the total package of Poison Elves.

Robb Horan: Rumors of the demise of Sirius Entertainment are greatly exaggerated.  The company has been in business continually since 1994. The business plan was disrupted rather severely in 2007 when Drew passed away. Due to his health issues, it had already been almost 3 years since his last original issue in 2004.  With a lack of new material being produced it was not surprising that we lost our place in PREVIEWS.  Nonetheless we have managed to stay afloat through the worst in anticipation of exactly where we are today; acting as a holding company for Poison Elves.

Sirius was built in the 1990s upon a variety of successful Mature Readers properties, especially Poison Elves.  Given the opportunity, we diversified into all-ages books like Akiko and Scary Godmother.  I am very proud of our publishing history and the great creators we’ve worked with over the years. 

Interestingly, Ape has built an all-ages empire in this century, and is ready to diversify into a Mature Readers line that they call Outlaw Comics.  I am thrilled that Poison Elves has been chosen as the flagship title for this new imprint.

PREVIEWSworld: You are credited as the writer for this new series. With Drew leaving behind material and notes for what he hoped would be the continuation of the series, how did you approach carrying on his legacy? In other words, which minefields did you try to avoid when inserting your own vision, yet balancing it against what Drew would have wanted for the future of Poison Elves?

Robb Horan: Wow! Where were you during our story conferences? Your question really is a great summary of the challenge involved.  There can be only one!  As I said, we can not attempt to imitate Drew Hayes.  We can only demonstrate that he lives on in his work.  Not just in the new editions of the original issues that Ape will be producing, but in the lives and adventures of his characters in the world of Amrahly’nn as they forge ahead towards….well…towards where they are going.

Through the years of publishing the original series it was clear that the overriding success of the book was due to Drew’s personal investment in the work. You can literally find Drew Hayes on every page; in the story, the Starting Note, and the Deathreats letters column. This is why so many of his fans, even many who have never met him, felt like they had a personal relationship with Drew. His acerbic wit and politically incorrect honesty were the meat and potatoes of Poison Elves.  The genuine pain in his life and his relentless determination to overcome it were the heart and soul.

I know I cannot re-create that. The best I can do is to offer stories and characters that draw from the same well of personal experience and oppositional disorder the Drew did.  We were good friends with many shared experiences and points of view.  Our taste in music contrasted somewhat, but we liked it that way.  So, as a vehicle for self-expression, Drew’s world and Drew’s characters are a gold mine, one that I expect will not be limited to being mined in the future solely by me.  In fact, the aforementioned Keith Davidsen is currently writing the back up stories for the new series!

PREVIEWSworld:  For those who may be new to the series, what would you like to offer as a generic primer for explaining Poison Elves? What contemporary comparisons might you draw in helping them to understand what the book has to offer them?

Robb Horan: It’s been said that Poison Elves is the story of Lusiphur, an elf with an attitude. Lusiphur is a thief, an assassin, a force of nature that will wipe you clean from the map if you dare to call him foe. He has a disdain for authority and lives by a moral code that others might question (and often do). He is also the reluctant key player in a grand tapestry of events that may very well decide the fate of his world and all those who live upon it.  It is an anachronistic world where one may find elements inspired by Tolkien, The Crow, and The Simpsons coexisting.  If Cerebus was inspired by Conan, then I see Poison Elves as inspired by Cerebus by way of Cheech Wizard.

PREVIEWSworld:  What would you say to the fanboy and fangirl at the comic shop who may have never heard of the series?

Robb Horan: I would say it’s your lucky day to come across a book that has a history of not insulting your intelligence while entertaining your most base fantasies.  It becomes more certain every day that Drew’s original 100 issues of Poison Elves are destined to be classics in the field.  We think you’ll enjoy the new stuff to!

PREVIEWSworld: Robb, what can you tease us with so that fans get an idea about where the series starts, and where it’s headed?

Robb Horan: Drew Hayes Poison Elves #1 picks up almost precisely at the cliffhanger point where Drew left it at the end of issue #79 from Sirius.  The story involves a multi-tiered narrative device; the sort that Drew was very fond of, and that takes the reader right into the new story arc while enabling some closure on what was left unfinished.

The final issues of the original series involved a great deal of very personal material that Drew was exploring at a critical time in his life. I did not feel entitled to simply dwell on those characters and situations. Instead we launch the action forward more deeply into the New Dark War between the Fay and the Fell, arranging the various factions and characters on a grand stage that should serve to get us moving on the material that Drew had planned out for so many years to come.  Expect some very large goblins and a lot of humans running for their lives!

Even as the implications of this epic conflict unfold all across Amrahly’nn, with powerful wizards and warriors lining up against the dark forces that are overrunning the Prime Material, Lusiphur himself is compelled to start a new chapter in his life. Along with his latest companions, Petunia — a mysterious and deadly sprite — and his human friend Bob, Luse seeks renewed purpose and to deal with the unexpected transformation of his values.  All the while, he never hesitates to participate in the usual chaos that surrounds him, ever maintaining the rogue independence he is infamous for.