Eclectic Creators Join Forces for JIM HENSON's STORYTELLER

 

This week, one of Jim Henson's most critically hailed television creations is being revived as a graphic novel.

Jim Henson's The Storyteller, a new graphic novel being released by Archaia this week, features nine all-new stories based on the short-lived TV series of the same name. The anthology-type collection of stories follows the format of the 1980s television show The Storyteller, with an old man as narrator sharing various tales with his dog.

 

 

Only in this case, the stories are written and drawn by some of the top comic creators in the business.

The anthology was pulled together by former Marvel editor Nate Cosby, and it features modern takes on old folk tales and fairy tales.

"We've updated them a little bit, and we've gotten a bunch of different creators to tell these old stories in a new way that's not too dark, that's in their own personal voice," Cosby said. "So working within those parameters, I opened it up to nine creators. I said, whatever old story you want to do, it has to be in [the Storyteller's] voice, and it's your interpretation of it. As an editor, that's one of the best thing you can do, is to get out of their way."

 

It was Cosby's vision that attracted creators like Colleen Coover, Jeff Parker, Tom Fowler, Marjorie Liu, Katie Cook, Ron Marz and Roger Langridge to the project.

"I have yet to turn down a job that Nate Cosby edits, because I know that A) it'll be a blast and B) he will give me a lot of rope to play with," said Coover, who wrote and drew the story, "The Milkmaid and Her Pail" for the book.

"Nate is someone I enjoy working with," Langridge said. "He's great at knowing when to step in and when to get out of the way."

 

 

While the storytelling is the backbone of the graphic novel, the variety of artwork in The Storyteller is its strength. And for several of the artists, the anthology format gave them the chance to experiment a little.

"I was really excited about working on the art for this piece, because I took the opportunity to experiment with using an ink wash, instead of the clean lines I usually use in my comics work," Coover said. "I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. I think it's some of the best work I've done to date."

Parker, who told one of the "Jack Tales" in the graphic novel, called the artwork by Tom Fowler in his story "gorgeous."

"I knew it was the kind of thing Tom would knock out of the park, and because he was so into the original series, he went all the way and painted our story," he said. "You'll love the Dragaman's secret lair. And of course he did a brilliant job on the Storyteller's dog."

Most of the stories in The Storyteller are based on old fairy tales. For example, Coover's "Milkmaid" story is based on an Aesop's Fable, but she modernized it. "A milkmaid carrying a pail of milk thinks about all the stuff she's gonna do with the mad profits she means to make from the sale of this milk, including the buying of eggs to start a chicken farm, but then she trips and it all spills. The moral is 'Don't count your chickens before they hatch,'" Coover said.

"That's pretty much literally the entire fable. I just expanded and extended her dreams from a chicken farm to a wild fantasy of wealth, adventure, and romance," she said.

Parker said the Jack Tales are a storytelling tradition from the Appalachian Mountains region that are based on the Jack stories of the British Isles.

"When I was in third grade, my teacher Ms. Hines used to read us stories from a big collection of the Jack Tales and I loved them," Parker said. "This one in particular is 'Old Fire Dragaman,' about a mystery giant who eats all of the food out of Jack's house and Jack tracks him down. Jack has good luck with giants."

Langridge has worked on Henson-based properties before as the cartoonist responsible for Boom's Muppet Show comic. "I was delighted to get another opportunity to play in the Henson toybox. It's always a pleasure to work with the fruits of Jim Henson's imagination," he said.

In The Storyteller, Langridge's story is based on a Scandinavian folk tale called "Old Nick and the Peddler."

"It's about an unsuccessful peddler who makes a bargain with the Devil to improve his fortunes," he explained. "As you'd expect, the Devil doesn't play entirely fair, so shenanigans ensue!"

Cosby told Newsarama that he's hoping the first volume of The Storyteller does well enough to justify more books. "We're hoping that, if it hits a certain number, it could be a yearly thing," he said.

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