Archaia Plans Original Graphic Novel from Jim Henson Script

Calvin Reid -- July 30th, 2010

If you love the Muppets creator, the late Jim Henson, and you also love graphic novels, then you’re going to love this. Archaia, an independent L.A. graphic novel publisher, is planning to release a hardcover graphic novel based on a never-before-seen-nor-produced screenplay developed by Henson and his longtime collaborator, the late Jerry Juhl, more than 30 years ago. The book is called A Tale of Sand and it will be released in late Summer 2011.

The production of the book will be overseen by Henson’s daughter, Lisa Henson, CEO of the Henson Company, which entered into a multi-year co-development deal with Archaia in 2009 to produce graphic novels and periodical comics based on Henson material as well as create original co-branded Henson works. Archaia editor-in-chief Stephen Christy, who will also oversee the book’s production, said the book was announced at the recent San Diego Comic-Con and we were able to talk with Christy to get a few more details. Archaia is close to picking an illustrator who will work with with him and with Lisa Henson to create the work. The name of the illustrator and preliminary artwork will be revealed at the New York Comic-Con in October.

The book was originally developed in the 1960s and Christy says it went through numerous drafts but was “too expansive to be produced as a film at that time. It’s the last piece of Jim Henson’s legacy and no one’s seen it outside of the family. It’s the first original work by Henson to be published since his death.” According to conversations with Lisa Henson, Christy said the Tale of Sand was “an idea that was in Henson’s head since the 1950s. We have 3 or 4 versions and we’re going to base the book on a 1974 draft.”

A Tale of Sand is a feature length screenplay, Christy said, that tells the story of a young boy kicked out of a dusty town in the middle of the desert. “There’s nothing but sand in every direction,” Christy said, “and he embarks on an oddball journey.” Christy said the screenplay is “dark and very weird” and was done before Henson made films like Labyrinth and Dark Crystal.

Christy said the process of adapting the screenplay will be helped by a script that “is very descriptive, Henson says what the characters are doing and feeling. It’s very much like a comic book script and there are a lot of margin notes in all the drafts.” Archaia will also have the memories of Lisa and of Juhl’s widow, to help them, but “the text we have is very rich and we can see Henson’s creative process,” he said. Archaia hopes to eventually publish a companion volume to Tale of Sand that will replicate the raw script pages full of marginalia.

The graphic novel will not be turned into a movie. “Lisa has said that it won’t be a movie since he isn’t here to do a film himself. But she’s comfortable with a graphic novel as homage to her dad and to get some idea of what the film might have looked like visually,” Christy said. “This kind of project is what this partnership with the Henson Company is really all about.”

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