Tale of Sand is based on a screenplay written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl. You drew the graphic novel directly from that original screenplay. What was the process like for you to adapt the script? Was it harder or easier than working from a comic book script? Tale of Sand was easier to adapt than working from an comic book script, albeit probably more time consuming. When working from an established comic script I am having to adhere, for the most part, to what the writer has written. Luckily, I’ve worked with some great writers in comics so I’ve rarely had to make any drastic changes to their storytelling - and if changes were needed, I could discuss it with them or the editor.
However, with Tale of Sand there were no constraints. Nothing was established, storytelling wise. In turn, my; panel layouts, panel counts, page turns, pacing, and so forth, were of my own discretion. The freedom this allowed creatively was immeasurable.
Once I had the full script in hand, I sat down with it and a customized sketchbook I had made for the project and began visually adapting the screenplay. In essence storyboarding it, rather than breaking it down into a script and then adapting it. It was an exciting process, one I would love to tackle again.
The book doesn’t have a lot of dialogue. How did that affect your artistic decision-making?
As much as comics are a visual medium, and fans love the artists on them, in recent times, I think storytelling has suffered in that readers tend to go from one word balloon to the next and gloss over the art for the most part. Because of this story, details are at times missed. This is a discussion I’ve had with numerous creators over the years.
The beauty of Tale of Sand is that the story is in the artwork. All is told through setting, colour, pacing, juxtaposition, expressions, and other nuances. In a weird way, the parts without dialogue were actually more fun to adapt. I think in a well done comic the reader deciphers the story without the need for words at all.
It was a wonderful challenge that I readily accepted.
Few people have seen the script for Tale of Sand until now. What is like to be the illustrator to bring a Jim Henson story to life?
“No pressure” are the words I’ve echoed many a time! Honestly though, it’s an honor to be a part of the legacy of such a creative genius as Jim Henson.
Tale of Sand was easier to adapt than working from an comic book script, albeit probably more time consuming. When working from an established comic script I am having to adhere, for the most part, to what the writer has written. Luckily, I’ve worked with some great writers in comics so I’ve rarely had to make any drastic changes to their storytelling - and if changes were needed, I could discuss it with them or the editor.
The Dark Crystal is considered to be one of the best fantasy movies of all time. How was it to work on such a beloved project?
It is always a challenge to work on licensed material. On one hand, I need to get the likenesses right, so that the copyright holders are happy with the representation of their characters. On the other hand, I also need to introduce something new to the look of the work to get the copyright holder excited about a new angle on the characters.
With The Dark Crystal, there was also a consideration that there are the hardcore fans who remember Dark Crystal as a part of growing up (and thus will be guided to the comic book because they love the movie), but Henson/Archaia also needs to capture new fans who might not be familiar with the movie when they pick up the comic book, and it sure would be nice to capture their imaginations and possibly lead them to the movie via the book.
So I watched the movie a number of times, but more importantly, I read and watched a number of interviews with Jim Henson and Brian Froud. I paid attention to what they thought was important about the storyline and how they used storytelling, special effects, and other tools at their disposal to underline the main themes in the movie.
So when I created the artwork for comic book, I tried to stay true to their original intentions for the characters and the whole world of The Dark Crystal. I can only hope that will satisfy not only the longtime fans, but also entertain new fans.
You have a very unique artistic style and The Dark Crystal has very memorable imagery. How did this affect your decision-making as artist?
I think that my style of rendering is illustrative in it’s approach, so working on The Dark Crystal was a pretty good fit from the start. In this case I also spent a lot of time looking through Brian Fround’s work. Not just the The Dark Crystal designs, but his work on Fairies with Alan Lee and his later books like The Runes of Elfland and The Heart of Faerie Oracle. I also studied Froud’s influences, which led me to explore work by Arthur Rackham and John Bauer. All of this was great fun and very educational.
When I sat down and started drawing, I wanted to capture that feel of an illustrated book from the turn of the century combined with a bit of modern storytelling sensibility. So the compositions are a bit bolder, but the lines are soft and I utilized washes to add more depth and in some cases, I painted details with brushes rather than using pens.
In all of this, I was very much facilitated by Lizzy John, who digitally painted over my drawing, adding texture and highlights. It was all masterly done.
I believe the work has a very unique look…I guess we’ll see if the fans agree :)
The Dark Crystal isn’t the first time you worked with Archaia. You have also illustrated a story for Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard and your own series Robotika. What’s the difference illustrating your own series as opposed to someone else project?
When I write and illustrate stories that I write myself, I have a lot more control over pacing and storytelling. I was fortunate to get teamed up with Brian Holguin on this project. He is a very imaginative storyteller and it was fun illustrating his scripts, he was also open to my suggestions on how to set up the scenes and transition from scene to scene. I think we worked well together and that was very much facilitated by our editor, Tim Beedle, who kept on top of things by making sure that what we were doing was acceptable to the Henson Company.
So as you can see this was a group effort between Lizzy, Brian, Tim, and me. When I do my own stories, I usually just lock myself in my studio and I only come out when the whole thing is done.