A new generation is discovering Jim Henson's fantasy films of the 1980s, and Boom! Studios is doing their part to help spread — and continue — that legacy.
In April, the comic-book publisher's graphic-novel imprint Archaia releases a hardcover reprinting of the original 1986 Labyrinth novelization by A.C.H. Smith with never-before-seen goblin sketches by illustrator Brian Froud and several pages from Henson's own journal.
In addition, Archaia's planning similar reprints of the novelizations for Henson's 1982 film The Dark Crystal and the 1988 TV series The Storyteller plus new material that ultimately will lead to a Henson-centric line of comics.
"We want to create graphic novels that people will be reading 20 years from now and building on that part of the legacy," says Stephen Christy, Boom! vice president of development.
I know, I know - two Labyrinth posts in two days. Still, it's a cause for celebration! This baby has been setting people back 50 bucks on ebay for the past 15 years, so reissuing it is a smart movie for everyone involved. I'm looking forward to seeing what else they do with it.
"How can we use these original ideas as stepping-stones to create new stories that will grow and blossom on their own?"
Christy wanted to present the novelizations in a context that showed how much effort Henson himself put into making them extensions of the movie.
For example, when Henson was making The Dark Crystal, he was also running his Jim Henson Company, chipping in on the hit HBO series Fraggle Rock, contributing to Sesame Street and still working on The Muppets, according to Christy.
Still, Henson took the time to personally read Smith's novelization manuscript and give him 20 pages of notes instead of handing off the responsibility to an assistant. (The Archaia Dark Crystal novelization will include those notes as well as other extras.)
It elevated the books from being your standard film tie-in tome — a sign of the times — "to something Jim had a really, really personal hand in," Christy says. He saw this as a way to expand the world of what he was trying to create in the movie, and give more depth and more color and more tone than what he could do on screen."
As for the Labyrinth book, it has 16 pages of Froud artwork that was newly discovered in the Henson Company archives from when he was working in the Henson Creature Shop. In addition, head archivist Karen Falk had Henson's journal from when he was hatching the story of the movie, which took a young girl (Jennifer Connelly) to a magical land to save her younger brother from the Goblin King (David Bowie).
Christy thinks the first handwritten page of that journal is especially cool: While on a transatlantic flight, Henson wrote down the words "The Labyrinth" and then drew an actual labyrinth.
"You see how much came to Jim crystal clear. He writes down the name of Hoggle, the people he's going to collaborate with, different things Sarah will encounter in the labyrinth," Christy says.
"As you're reading, you're watching him conceptualize the movie."
And Christy's found more things in the Henson archives that the late puppeteer and creator wasn't able to produce in his lifetime. There will be more projects along the lines of Tales of Sand, the award-winning graphic-novel adaptation of a feature-length screenplay by Henson and co-writer Jerry Juhl.
Archaia is also planning on releasing a special hardcover edition of that original Tale of Sand screenplay with new artwork by Ramón Pérez and never-before-seen sequences that were cut from the script for the graphic novel.
One goal for Boom! is to not overwhelm with new content yet, though it is is coming, Christy promises. In the works is new material from the Storyteller, Dark Crystal and Fraggle Rock franchises, plus the relaunch on Free Comic Book Day in May of a series based on the sci-fi show Farscape.
Fans have also been clamoring for Labyrinth comics for years, Christy says, "and we've finally figured out how we're going to do it. It's going to be the most ambitious project that Archaia and Boom! have ever undertaken in terms of the scope of it.
"It's such a completely different exploration of Labyrinth but still so true to what Jim did."