Stan Lee, "Spider-Man!" Amazing Fantasy No. 15 (Sept. 1962)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hensoniana Better Left Unfound?

I've long been a fan of Jim Henson and grew up with the Muppets and the later products of the Creature Shop as frequent companions (and babysitters), so I've been thrilled to discover Archaia's recent collaborations with The Jim Henson Company. Some of these have been good (more on those in a later post), but others have been disappointments. For example, Archaia recently published Jim Henson's Tale of Sand (2011), a hardcover graphic novel adaptation of a screenplay from the late 1960s by Jim Henson and frequent collaborator Jerry Juhl. Archaia's information on the book suggests it might make and interesting read, noting as follows:
Join us as we explore this missing piece of Jim Henson’s career in a celebration of his creative process. Discovered in the Archives of The Jim Henson Company, Tale of Sand is an original graphic novel adaptation of an unproduced, feature-length screenplay written by Jim Henson and his frequent writing partner, Jerry Juhl. Tale of Sand follows scruffy everyman Mac, who wakes up in an unfamiliar town, and is chased across the desert of the American Southwest by all manners of man and beast of unimaginable proportions. Produced under the complete supervision of Henson Company CEO Lisa Henson, Tale of Sand will allow Henson fans to recognize some of the inspirations and set pieces that appeared in later Henson Company productions.
The work, rated Teen +13, has received a number of awards (listed on the book's page at Archaia's website) and been fairly well received (as reviews accessible from the website make clear). Despite this praise, I'd have difficulty recommending it to any reader. It is a very weird story--a journey or, possibly, challenge but certainly not a quest--with an odd sort of hero. (Previews can be accessed from the book's website and more from the reviews posted there.) There seems to be no narrative structure per say, and one is left unclear at the end what has been accomplished. Back to the rating, the images are violent at time and towards the end include some nudity best left unseen by younger readers. Of better value are some of the supplementary material. In addition to the comic, there is a foreword by Karen Falk, Archives Director and historian for The Jim Henson Company, that offers an introduction to Tale of Sand that situates the work within the context of the two men’s careers as entertainers and an afterword by Lisa Henson, daughter of Jim Henson and Chief Executive Officer of The Jim Henson Company, that describes the process by which Tale of Sand came to be adapted into the comics medium. Biographical sketches of Henson and Juhl are also included, by Craig Sherman, President of The Jim Henson Legacy. The work concludes with a short biography of the artist, Ramón K. Pérez, and a series of preliminary character sketches.

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