Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to illustrate (and write) within the worlds of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. I’ve always loved getting the chance and I’ve enjoyed my time immensely. It’s a special challenge to take something as wild and beloved as those two movies and try to offer an experience or look outside of the films themselves.
Well, that’s where comics come in. In fact, that’s where comics shine. I’d even go so far as to say that they are the best medium to explore new stories in the Henson world. (And, as it happens, my first project with Henson and Archaia was a Fraggle Rock comic!) Now I say that because one of the things comics can do amazingly well is take a reader on journey of words and pictures. Like film and TV, it’s an inherently visual medium. However, it’s not a passive thing which moves past you, it’s an active undertaking which asks you to engage with it to move through the story yourself. It’s a medium uniquely suited to carry a reader beyond the established world of a movie or show and roll back the edges to give a farther glimpse of just what’s out there.
One such example is a series of comics is based on Jim Henson’s The Storyteller.
Jim Henson’s The Storyteller was a TV series which ran in the late 1980s. It retold a collection of fairy tales and folk tales all with that particular Henson humor, charm, and puppets. The “storyteller” himself was played by the late John Hurt and each episode featured the storyteller and his dog hanging out by a fireplace telling stories. It’s the perfect set up (and a conceit which lends itself particularly well to sequential storytelling).
The last few years Archaia has produced a series of themed comics all following the formula of the original show. They’ll take an idea like, giants, for examples, or dragons, and a wide variety of artists and writers will tackle the theme with original fairy tales or adaptions of existing fairy tales.
The most recent series is all mermaid themed, sirens. I had the chance to do a series of connecting covers for the upcoming issues and we’ll take a look a the first one here.
This was an interesting challenge because the goal was to have four covers which make up one single image. Which is to say, I had to have overlapping elements on each of the covers. In any case, I’ll hold off on posting the full rough sketch of all four covers here until the entire run is out so as to not spoil anything. Only the first issue is out at the moment so, again, that’s what we’ll focus on here.
I drew the main mermaid figure and fish and then scanned them. You know, I’m still not 100% sure what she’s doing, playing with her hair or something. In my early notes and scribbles I think I had her combing her hair or playing a harp. It’s kind of a weird pose but I liked it and no one asked me to clarify so I just went with it.
Here’s the first pass at the color stage. It’s simple, mostly local color. I knew I’d end up going for some strange underwater lighting effects so I wasn’t too concerned with the color at this point. I knew that I’d be changing it up once I got into the final.
The biggest change you’ll notice is the addition of a big sea serpent wrapping around the image and framing the figure. That’s actually the tail of the mermaid creature from the second cover and it continues across the series of covers. To finish things up I drew a separate background of rocks and watercolored some underwater looking “atmosphere” then started to assemble the image. It’s really clicked once I got the lighting going.
And lastly, here’s a look at the dressed cover (which, actually, seems like the wrong word to use here).
This was a really fun series of covers and once the whole set is out maybe we’ll revisit the collection and take a look at all four.