-By Cory Godbey

Another world, another time, in the age of wonder. A thousand years ago this land was green and good — until the Crystal cracked. For a single piece was lost; a shard of the Crystal. Then strife began.

The Dark Crystal (1982).

Wonder of wonders, how often does this happen? My regularly scheduled Muddy Colors post coincides (Great Conjuction? Hm!) with the release of my new book, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Tales.

Faithful readers of Muddy Colors will remember a post from March showcasing the cover reveal of the book. That post featured an in-depth look at the creation of the cover and a bit of background on the project.

As I mentioned in that original post, this was a terrifically challenging book to write. While Labyrinth Tales was a hardcover collecting three of the unrelated Labyrinth short stories I had written and illustrated over the years, there was an opportunity with this follow up book to write three individual stories meant to be read together as a whole. But how to write three stories, stories with characters who can not have met before the events of the film, and have a thread that weaves through and ties them together?

That proved to be the real journey.

To start, this book would follow the same format as Labyrinth Tales, three stories. As I thought through what I wanted to draw (because that’s the real benefit of writing the thing as well, isn’t it? Writing the characters and locations you’d actually like to draw!) I knew I wanted each of the stories to feature a certain mix of Dark Crystal favorites.

Initially, I wanted a Skeksis story, a Jen and Mystic story, and a Kira and Fizzgig story.

Other than that, I had no idea. As I look back, I was intimidated by how much I love The Dark Crystal. Somehow, silly little Labyrinth stories come easy to me. The characters are big, larger than life, and to sit and ponder just what do they all get up to on a Tuesday felt natural. The themes of The Dark Crystal land with me. They strike a chord. Thra and its inhabitants feel wonderfully, impossibly real. And to be offered a chance to write about that world? Well, that gave me pause (much longer of a pause than my editors were comfortable with, I’m sure).

Above. Story scribbles.

It really is thanks to Fizzgig that I finished this book. Out of the three stories, when I began, only his story was clear in my mind. I had a very loose idea for the Jen story (inspired by the wonderful “shapes of kindness” line from the film) and truthfully no idea for the Skeksis story.

But once I finally got pencil to paper and began to hash out the Kira and Fizzgig story (Fizzgig’s Mighty Quest) it began to suggest branching, interweaving paths for the other two stories.

It’s a lesson I am obliged to learn again and again: you must spend ideas to get new ideas. When you begin, at last, to put scribbles out into the world they will take on a life of their own. Gently, sometimes very quietly, they will tell you where to go. You just have to trust them.

As I said on my previous post, I wanted to write stories that meant more, stories, that while fun, reflected the themes of the film and were braided together to tell a larger tale than each individual story. Yes, the heart of the world is cracked but piece by piece, every act of kindness goes towards the healing.

Here’s a look a few more pages and spreads from the 48 page picture book.

And since it wouldn’t be Muddy Colors without a series of process images, here’s a look at one of my favorite spreads, start to finish.

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Tales is out today!