It came as a shock to many when James Kochalka hung up his elf ears on December 31, 2012, and declared an end to his daily diary strip that had been running since 1998. Although the cartoonist had flirted with the idea of taking leave of American Elf on occasion, he always came back.
With the announcement that American Elf was ending came the solace of a free archive of thirteen years of one of the most well-regarded autobiographical comics around, a feature previously only available to subscribers who donated to help keep the comic alive.
But it seems that nothing great lasts forever, as Kochalka recently sent out this email to his subscribers:
Dear Current American Elf Subscribers,
Thank you so much for your support over the years. Unfortunately, it appears that the website’s days are numbered. My webmaster and dear friend Joey Manley passed away suddenly last fall, and there’s no one around to fix some problems that have slowly crept into his code. His old company is getting ready to shut down the American Elf server. This may happen as early as the end of May!
If there’s something on the site you want to visit or enjoy, now is the time to do it.
I have been in contact with the Library of Congress, and they’ve taken steps to archive the entire site and include it in their collection. So the website will be preserved in that way. Of course there are also the American Elf books, and ebooks as well.
It’s possible that American Elf will return in some form in the future. If you would like to sign up for my Kochalka News newsletter on mail chimp, that would be the best way to be sure you’re kept in the loop for future developments: http://eepurl.com/VQuqD
Or maybe you’d like to follow my tumblr: http://kochalka.tumblr.com/
The transition obviously didn’t happen at the end of May, so subscribers can still find perks like Kochalka’s small portrait series and subscriber-only songs while the website is still up and running.
While I am sad to see the free archive go, American Elf is the kind of comic that’s worth paying for, offering insightful commentary on the everyday life of a man struggling to do his best to be a human being, a musician, an artist, a husband, and a father.
Go read what you can over at American Elf before it goes down, or better yet, buy yourself some in digital or print. Top Shelf currently has each year of American Elf, from 1999-2008, available on Comixology for $1.99/year, or you can shell out for the hard copies.
David Fairbanks is a freelance writer, poet, and artist. You can find him on Twitter at @bairfanx.