Ramón Pérez didn't know that there was another side to Jim Henson.
Sure, he was a fan of The Muppets and films like The Dark Crystal, but he wasn't aware that the puppeteer also dabbled in more surreal and experimental productions like The Cube and the Oscar-nominated short Time Piece, with nary a talking frog or Skeksis in sight.
"When I actually got the script, I was asking, 'are there any weird creatures in it?'" Pérez told Newsarama during a recent interview at the Jim Henson Company Studio in Hollywood. "Then I got introduced to this whole other side of him that I didn't know existed, but was just as much of a valid side of this creator."
Pérez is the Canadian comic book artist selected by Archaia to adapt A Tale of Sand, based on an unfilmed screenplay co-written by Henson and his frequent collaborator Jerry Juhl. Archaia, who has been publishing Fraggle Rock comics since spring 2010, first announced plans to adapt A Tale of Sand last year, as an extension of their partnership with the Henson Company.
Though it's not what most Muppet fans might expect from Henson, Pérez shared that from his experience of adaptating the work, he sense that it was something uniquely important to the creator.
"This is one of his most personal works," Pérez said. "When I'm drawing it, I see Jim in all the characters. I see a lot of things that I think really speak to a moment in his career that just got lost because other facets took precedent."
A Tale of Sand depicts the existential voyage of a guy named Mac, who embarks on an unexpected journey across the dessert. The book is being created with the blessing of Jim Henson Company CEO Lisa Henson (Jim's daughter), and Pérez was announced as the artist on the project this March at the C2E2 convention in Chicago.
"It is a very visual story," Pérez said. "There's very little dialogue. Jim's script was very visually precise. You could see it verbatim."
Instead of hiring a writer to adapt the screenplay into the comic book format, Pérez is adapting A Tale of Sand directly from Henson and Juhl's script.
"By having someone who is also visually literate adapt it you're going to get something closer to what possibly could have happened if he had done it back then," Pérez said. "It allowed me to almost graphically design the book in a certain way that I thought would evoke the story."
"It's so descriptive," Archaia editor-in-chief Stephen Christy said of Henson and Juhk's original text. "It almost reads like a comic book script."
Given the surreal visuals present in the story, Pérez reports that while the script is very visually specific, there's also plenty of room to interpret and stretch as an artist.
"I kind of pride myself on being an artist that can tackle any genre," Pérez said. "I like to be as versatile as I can, and I think Tale of Sand is making me prove my chops stylistically. I get to push the envelope."
Pérez is re-examining several basic elements on the book — he's writing sound effects directly on the page (rather than adding them digitally later), and considering using color sparingly, for effect.
"I want to use the color as a character," Pérez said. "It's its own element. It's not just color for color's sake, it's color with a purpose."
The book is scheduled to clock in at 152 pages and is slated for a fall release as a hardcover graphic novel. That's a lot of art for one man to produce, especially with the added factor of serving as the sole interpreter of the script.
"It's a heavy investment," Pérez said. "I don't mind dedicating it, because it's a great story. It's quality over quantity for me, so I'm trying to give it as much love as I can in the time I have to do it."
Pérez has worked in mainstream comics before, illustrating Captain America & The First Thirteen and Deadpool Team-Up #883 for Marvel earlier this year. Though he enjoys getting to work in that arena, he says that unconventional books like A Tale of Sand are closer to his heart.
"As much as I love drawing people in tights, I think the stories that could be aren't happening because there's too much restraints," Pérez said. "Especially in America, the comics medium is so focused on superheroes, that there are so many genres to tackle that are left untouched."Got a comment? There's lots of Newsarama conversation on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.