Saturday, June 13, 2009

How Bill Willingham Created "The Elementals"

In an interview posted on, Bill Willingham explained how he created "The Elementals" over 25 years ago this way:
"When I was a young pup trying to break into Marvel and DC, I produced sample pages featuring their house characters. When I expanded out to try to get work with the new crop of independent comics publishers springing up at the time, they had no house characters to draw. So I produced some sample pages featuring a group of made-up, generic superhero characters I called the Elementals. This was strictly to show them that I knew how to draw. Eventually a now defunct small publisher called Noble Comics, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, brought me out to work for them. When I arrived I asked what books I would be working on (they published two or three superhero titles at the time) and Mike Gustovitch, the owner of Noble Comics, looked at me sort of quizzically and said, "Well, you're going to do this series you proposed to us this Elementals book." That's when I found out I was going to be a comics writer, as well as an artist, and that I would need to come up with a story line for these Elementals characters."

When then asked how he came up with the idea that the four heroes were dead people who had been brought back to life, he responded:
"To tell you the honest truth, I can't remember when or how I came up with that. I do know that, in the Elementals fictional world, I wanted there to be only one way in which normal people became extraordinary people (dying in this case), and that there should be a terrible price one had to pay, in order to achieve these extraordinary abilities (continuing to be at least slightly dead in this case)."
Like I said, chances are that the entire series may never be reprinted in trade paperback format, which is really a shame. But many years ago a trade paperback collecting the first five issues was put out by the original publisher, Comico, called Elementals: The Natural Order. You can still buy a copy of that from a re-seller on Amazon, if you like, by clicking on that title in red.

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