The People Behind the Puppets: Heather Nuhfer

Considering she was one of the people responsible for launching the new Fraggle Rock comic, it seemed only natural that we should talk to Heather Nuhfer as part of our look behind the scenes of the comic. Heather Nuhfer (who was credited as Heather White in our book, but has since changed her last name) wrote our very first lead story. What that really means is that her 20-page story, “A Throne of my Own,” was the first new Fraggle Rock adventure to be released after a two decade hiatus.

Facing that sort of pressure would be a daunting task even for a seasoned comic book writer, which is why it’s all the more astonishing to learn that her Fraggle Rock story was Heather’s very first comic book project…ever. Not bad for someone brand new to the medium!

First off, Heather, is it Heather White or Heather Nuhfer? You were Heather White when we worked on Fraggle Rock together.

Tim, you can call me whatever you please! Though, please, call me Heather Nuhfer or I will hit you.

Okay, Ms. Nuhfer, I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve had a pretty diverse career that has taken you up and down the California coast and has included a stint at The Jim Henson Company. Now you’re living in LA. Do you think you’re going to stay here for a while?

I’m completely, 100% Los Angeles-based. You’re all totally stuck with me now! Sorry. It’s great to be here. Finally. I love being closer to my Los Angeles friends.

About when did you start writing? Initially, what was the reason for it?

Well, I started really writing around eleven or twelve. Mainly because I was obsessed with movies and wanted some of them to have sequels. I took it upon myself to write the sequels to many classic films that I deemed worthy, but would never be made. Well, with the exception of the new Lost Boys movies… they should never have been made. Actually, I think we all should forget they exist altogether. Anyway, I pretty much started with fan fiction, and went from there.

How exactly would you define yourself as a writer? You’ve worked in comics and as you pointed out, you’ve written some fan fiction, but you’ve also written screenplays.

Yeah, I really started out wanting to be a screenwriter. It’s something I would still love to do, but I also super duper love writing comics. I tend to think in screenplay format, in terms of ideas and how I visualize things, but comics, to me, are quite similar, since they are both really visual. I find writing for comics more challenging, but in a good way. There are so many little, but hugely important, elements–you know, deciding what the panels should look like, where your page breaks are in terms of telling the story better visually, keeping dialogue short enough, but still making sense–a lot of thinking has to be done. Screenplays are so much easier, technically. I have three…ish of them completed. I’m sure they are pretty awful.

I seriously doubt that! So you see screenwriting largely as a hobby, or do you plan on making a serious effort to develop as a screenwriter now that you’re in LA? And what sort of films interest you?

I’ll always be working on a screenplay. It’s like therapy for me, really. It doesn’t matter if anyone ever sees them, or if I ever try to sell one–though I probably should now that I am here! I love action movies and classics, to be honest, but I generally write dark comedies and quirky RomComs.

As far as writing goes, would you prefer to focus on one thing–like, say, building a comic book writing career–or do you prefer wearing many different hats?

I think that is sort of the curse in comics–as much as most of us would like to have that be our only gig, finances rarely agree. Unless you’re at a major publisher, you have to be writing comics because you LOVE it, because for most of us it’ll never be very lucrative. Generally, I’m happy if I’m doing creative writing work. I’m not horribly concerned with what format it ends up being in. And I look good in all sorts of hats.

Now, all the writing that I’ve seen from you has been very all-ages and kid-friendly. Is that naturally what you’re drawn towards? Do you think you have an R-rated screenplay in you?

I’m a perpetual kid, so writing all-ages comes pretty naturally. I love how relatable those stories can be and the challenge of making them so that everyone can get something out of them. I really want my all-ages stories to have something not only for the kid, but also the adult who’s reading it with them. Alright, confession: I really have a soft spot for uber-violent, bloody movies. I can’t write them though! I wish I could!

A page from “A Throne of my Own,” Heather’s Fraggle Rock lead story.

You wrote the very first Fraggle Rock story in the very first Fraggle Rock comic for Archaia, and it also happened to be the very first comic book you had ever written. That’s a lot of firsts! Was it overwhelming?

It was! Jumping into it the way I did was really scary, but I tried my best to keep a healthy facade of confidence. I feel incredibly lucky that my first comic writing experience was guided by you and Joe LeFavi, and published by Archaia. The amount of support and the level of care that everyone put into it was the best introduction to how the process should go.

As a huge Fraggle Rock fan, how did it feel writing those characters? Was there a lot of pressure to get it right, or did you just have fun and go with it?

Honestly? I seriously stressed about it for a while. These characters have been part of my entire life, you know? Being able to put words in their mouths was a bit surreal, and it freaked me out. Then I realized my nerves were messing up my writing, so I started forcing myself to just have fun with it. I would drink as much caffeine as I could and eat tons of cookies to get all jacked up on sugar, so I could feel like a hyper little Fraggle. I like to think of it as method writing.

More art from “A Throne of my Own.”

There was a moment of panic when we were working on the first issue when you discovered that the idea you had originally pitched was actually used in an episode from the show. Care to elaborate?

Oh, gosh! Yeah… Worst. Day. Ever. I discovered my own foible, too, so I felt like a double idiot. Telling your editors that their lead story is unusable isn’t the greatest feeling. I was sure it was all over after that! You guys were awesome though and helped me work it out. I am eternally grateful! After that, Muppetwiki became my best friend! There were just SO many episodes of the show, dodging similar themes was tricky.

So now that you have that first comic book under your belt, what are your next steps? What are you looking to accomplish in 2011?

More comics! I would love to be writing for more properties and hopefully be able to pitch an original idea or two.

I’ve noticed something about you which is that the people you’ve worked with really seem to take to you. You’ve made a lot of really good friends in the industry in such a short amount of time. What do you think is the reason for that? Are you the nicest person in comics?

Oh, hush! I think I’ve bumbled my way into the lives of some truly amazing folks, and am waiting for them to realize I am not that interesting or cool! Until then, I will enjoy their company and try to be a good friend.

Along the same lines, one of our Fraggle Rock Vol. 2 writers–Katie Strickland–is someone you introduced us to. Did you expect that she’d be following in your footsteps as a Fraggle Rock writer? And what did you think of her story?

It’s awesome that Kate got on board, are you kidding me?! She’s been my best friend for twenty years! She is a glorious, supremely talented writer and I can’t wait to see what she does next. She did such a wonderful job with her Traveling Matt story–his voice is so hard to get right–I was really impressed. One of these days we’ll finish something we’ve started writing together! I have faith!

One of Heather’s recent creations–a fully knitted Wicket. Who says Ewoks aren’t cool?

You also knit and crochet fabulously geeky items like Ewoks, Cthulhus and Sandworms. How did that start? And why don’t you ever sell them? It seems like you could have a cool little side business selling knit items on Etsy.

About 5 or 6 years ago, I inherited TONS of knitting and crocheting supplies and taught myself how to do both. I like to knit more traditional things every once in a while, but it’s SO much more fun to work on my geeky projects. I actually used to have a little craft business called “Harpy” and did a lot of alternative craft fairs. It (like all of my endeavors) was never really cost effective, so I stopped making things to sell and have been creating stuff for my own enjoyment since. I do have an inkling to get some of my newer ideas made and put them on Etsy… well, at least until the licensing folks hunt me down.

Another of Heather’s knitting projects–a pair of Beetlejuice Sandworm mittens. Modeled along with her dog, Einstein.

Where would you like to be a year from now?

Hmmm. Drinking a mai tai, I guess. On my own private island. Possibly on the best terraformed section of Mars.

Okay, I just have to ask, when you were at The Jim Henson Company, did they ever have impromptu puppet shows at the office? Like, maybe between cubicles? It just seems like it would be in the spirit of the place.

HA! There were so many great things just sitting around, but you couldn’t touch any of them! It was torture! I ended up with about 50 action figures on my desk so I’d have something to distract me from the Skeksis or Rygel hanging out in the rafters…

And finally, as a huge Fraggle Rock fan, maybe you can answer this for me. With all the running around and acting crazy that the Fraggles did, do you think they ever accidentally stepped on some of the Doozers? I mean, the Doozers are pretty small and are always around, and the Fraggles don’t exactly look like they’re watching where they’re stepping…

They wear hardhats for a reason, Tim, and it ain’t because Doozer constructions are unsafe.

I’d like to thank Heather for taking a break from the LA sunshine to talk to us. Keep an eye out for some new comic book projects from her throughout the year. And check back again soon for some more Fraggle creator interviews!

The People Behind the Puppets: Grace Randolph

One of the best things about editing the Fraggle Rock comic is that as an anthology, there’s quite a lot of talent that has contributed to it. Its success can’t be pinned on one or two people, but rather a collection of writers and artists who have a clear understanding and love for the property and the skill necessary to create new Fraggle Rock stories that feel as fresh and as “Fraggley” as the original show. As the comic’s editor, I work closely with each and every one of these creators from their story’s inception all the way to print, and it pleases me to say that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. This is a fun crew. Some of the most talented and thoughtful people in the business. The problem is that outside of the Fraggle Rock team, not many people realize this. While a few contributors have had some success in the indie comics realm, many made their comic book debut on Fraggle Rock while others have been working steadily under the radar in comics for years.

In short, these are people that everyone in comics should know about, but not everyone does. So, to celebrate the ongoing release of Fraggle Rock Vol. 2, I thought I’d conduct a few interviews with some of the Fraggle Rock creators. These are the people who brought Jim Henson’s classic creation back to life for a new generation of readers, and will likely be making quite a name for themselves in the years ahead. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them. I’m hoping that all of you will as well.

Let’s start with Grace Randolph. Grace wrote the lead story in the first issue of Fraggle Rock Vol. 2, but that’s hardly the only thing she’s written. She’s worked for both of the Big Two publishers, Marvel and DC, and has recently written comics for Tokyopop and BOOM! as well. And we’re not talking about obscure stuff that came and went, she’s worked on some of the big ones. Justice League Unlimited, Warcraft, StarCraft, the Muppets… And all this while also juggling an entirely separate career as a successful web content writer, producer and on-camera host.

Hi Grace, I hope 2011 is off to a good start for you. It seems like a pretty big year for you, isn’t it? Are you feeling good about it so far?

Yes, I’m very excited about 2011! I’ve been working really hard for a few years now and so of course I’m thrilled to see my career moving forward. But it can also move backward, so I’ll continue to work hard!

Grace, I remember when I first met you. It was at New York Comic-Con, probably around 2007, and I think the thing I remember most about it is that you had been bitten by some bug or something and were having an allergic reaction to it. Probably not the best first impression! Do you remember that?

I sure do! I was watching the Tokyopop Cosplay Fashion Show with my editor at the time and I felt my leg get itchy! Well it turns out that a mosquito had gotten up my pant leg and bit me several times! That’s what I get for wearing long pants to a convention in the spring. Anyway, I’m very allergic to bug bites and so in just a matter of minutes, the bites were all red and swollen! So I took an antihistamine and it made me super drowsy! Fun times… 🙂

The first comic book project I think I saw of yours was a pilot we did at TOKYOPOP called Nemesis: Who Me?. If memory serves, it was actually one of the more popular pilots we ever ran. Then after that, you did a bunch of Warcraft and StarCraft comics for us, something I find interesting because I know you’re not really a gamer. Were those projects a challenge?

Yes, Nemesis: Who Me? — last time I checked — was the most viewed of all the pilots. I was very proud of how it turned out and had been fortunate enough to be paired with a great artist, Elisa Kwon. Sadly the Pilot Program didn’t work out overall, so we weren’t able to move forward despite the good response. As for the Warcraft and StarCraft comics I wrote, I’d say the most challenging aspect was researching the games as I’d never played them before! As someone really into comics and movies myself, I know how important it is to get a world’s mythology right when adding to it. So I was very happy that the stories were well-received.

One of them, “Last Call,” is one of the best comics I think you’ve written. I really love how it takes such good advantage of the comic book medium. I don’t think that story would be as effective as a film or TV episode. Where did you come up with that idea?

My first thought when coming up with a pitch for StarCraft was that I wanted to write something sexy. I think it’s important for a writer to show that they have range. On top of that, I learned about Zerg parasites and how they control their hosts — I felt the idea of a person being forced to spy against her will would be very interesting. That’s where I got the idea to write a traditional espionage drama with a sci-fi twist!

After that, you began writing comics for a variety of publishers including BOOM!, Archaia and now Marvel. Most of what you’ve written has been all-ages. Do you like writing comics for younger readers?

Well, to be totally honest, I must point out that all-ages books are where new writers break in. That said, I certainly enjoy writing all ages books and I try to make them just that — something anyone would enjoy. I feel that writing something specifically for “kids” tends not to work out as you just end up talking down to them. When I was a kid, it was the sophisticated stories that appealed to me the most, and I assume it’s the same way with other kids.

Yeah, that’s something that’s a little different with comic books than with other mediums. It’s hard for a kid’s book to be successful entirely on its own. Most publishers want their books to be all-ages. Is writing for such a wide audience a challenge?

Not at all! As I said above, that’s the audience I want to write for anyway with an all-ages book. It’s like writing a PG or PG-13 movie, and adults love those too!

It seems like most people who know your work, know you from your Muppet miniseries. Why do you think that out of everything you’ve written so far, it’s Muppet Peter Pan that people seem to really respond to? What do you think of your work on that project?

I think Muppet Peter Pan stands out for three reasons. First, because the properties are so well known and loved. Second, BOOM! Studios did a wonderful job getting the word out on that book. Third, I like to think that my pairing of the two brands was a good idea and that I did it well. And since the response to the book was great, and continues to be great, hopefully that is indeed the case.

Your lead Fraggle Rock story, “Wembley and the Great Dream-Capade,” is one of the more daring stories in our collection. It’s flat-out surreal in places. I don’t think of you as the sort of writer that naturally enjoys creating WTF moments, yet your story has a few of them and you absolutely NAILED them. Where did you get the idea? Was it inspired strictly by Fraggle Rock or did it have other inspirations?

I’m so glad you think I got the story right! 🙂 And actually, I love writing surreal WTF moments — you just don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that with all-ages books. But I must admit, Fraggle Rock was the hardest writing assignment I’ve ever had. As I’ve said here, I view all-ages books as just that. However Fraggle Rock has a definite young readers vibe. So I had to find a way to walk that fine line between a story for pre-schoolers — an important message — and one that adults would enjoy — a great story. For the message, I wanted to teach kids how to play and use their imaginations. For the story, I liked the idea of dream-sharing and the freedom it gave me as a writer (i.e. getting out of Fraggle Rock). After fleshing out the structure of the story a little more with you and the Henson team, I was able to run from there. As for the WTF moments, those were actually the first elements of the story I came up with when I sat down to write. I come from a comedy background and, with such a short story, I wanted each dream to focus on a joke that not only was funny but crystallized the personality of the dreamer. Again, I’m glad you liked it and I hope others do too!

Your most high profile comic book lately is probably Marvel Her-Oes. I really enjoyed it, but if I had one disappointment, it would be that it seems to be the latest in a line of girl-oriented superhero books written by female writers that seem to exist in part because the Big Two are utterly clueless when it comes to female talent and fans. Most girls I know who like superheroes and comics are more than happy to read The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Batman, Spider-Man and all the other superhero comics that their male counterparts read. They don’t need books aimed at them. And the girls who DON’T read comics probably don’t read them because they have no interest in superheroes, so a new superhero comic isn’t going to interest them even if it was written for girls. Plus, I think it does a disservice to writers like you who are more than capable of writing regular superhero comics. So why do things like Her-Oes? Do you think there’s a real need for them? I worry that they may turn off male readers, and be ignored by female ones who feel like they’re possibly being pandered to.

Hmm, well this topic is certainly a hot one in the comics community — how to get more women to read comics. I think Her-Oes was a great idea, and I’ve actually had a number of people come up to me at conventions and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed it. One person even said he felt it would make a great animated series. Also, I heard from a friend who works at a comic book store that a little girl came to buy it and jumped up and down when he handed it to her! So I think Her-Oes is a great first superhero comic for young girls — they just don’t know about it. And a lot of that has to do with the reluctance of the comic book audience to let in new demographics. I was told that a lot of comic book stores didn’t even bother to buy the book to put on their shelves. That’s a shame. And a male reviewer dismissed it as “Archie crossed with Super Heroes” and, sadly, made fun of his young daughter’s taste when she told him she liked it. That’s wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to start, so let’s just move on.

Okay, one of the coolest things about you is that outside comics, you have this entire different career as a web host, writer and producer. Can you tell us about that?

I love it, and it’s also a lot of work! But the internet community is really fabulous and it’s great interacting with them on a weekly basis via my two shows, Facebook, etc.

Check out what moviegoers have to say about the new Anthony Hopkins film, The Rite, in a recent episode of Beyond The Trailer, Grace’s web series that lets movie fans have the final say!

How did you get started doing it?

I was doing live improv and sketch comedy at The Comedy Cellar in NYC when I got the chance to pitch a web show. I felt nobody was covering movies in the manner I thought they should, so I decided to give it a go myself!

You’re doing two shows now. Can you tell us about them?

Sure! The first is Beyond The Trailer which I created in 2007 as RevYOU and then in its current format as a Next New Creators program in 2008. It’s a movie news and review show with new episodes every week that I host, write, edit and produce. In January, I’m happy to say BTT got 4.3 million views on YouTube — its best month yet! I also am the new host and writer of’s The Watcher, debuting in November 2010. So far it’s been great and the response from Marvel viewers has been very supportive.

I’d imagine landing that Watcher gig must’ve been a real thrill for a comic book fan like you. How did you get it? Did they approach you or did you approach them?

It was indeed a thrill — and a huge honor!! I originally approached Marvel Digital about a writing gig, and also mentioned that I had some ideas for a comic book web show. They checked out Beyond The Trailer and thought I’d be a good fit to take over The Watcher as the original host was moving out of town. I am having so much fun making the show and still feel like a kid in a candy shop every week when I go over to the Marvel offices to shoot!

How much of The Watcher do you write yourself? Does Marvel have to approve everything? What’s that process like?

I write the entire show, and yes, of course Marvel has to approve everything. I submit a proposed outline the week before for approval, and sometimes Marvel will let me know if there’s something specific they think might interest viewers. Then I write up the script, make any changes that Marvel requests, and we shoot! The entire Marvel Digital team is wonderful to work with, as is Marvel in general. I do a segment called Marvel Fact Hunter where I interview members of the editorial team and everyone is so nice and eager to talk shop! It’s great!

Are you watching The Watcher? You should be! Check out Grace’s latest episode…

Do you know if any of your fans have followed you from one show to the other, or do they tend to stick with one? Do you think one of the shows has won you more fans than the other?

Yes, I’ve had a few viewers crossover from The Watcher to BTT and vice versa, which is great. As for which show might have won me more fans, what I’m most concerned about is creating great content. That’s the most important thing. I think if someone is focused on simply getting fans, they aren’t in this business for the right reasons.

What are your goals for this year and next? And is there anything brewing with either your web productions or your comic book writing that you can tell us about?

I’m a big believer in jinxes, so nope! 🙂

And finally, tell us something about you that you think may surprise us…

I broke my left-elbow when I was four years old impersonating Tarzan and almost lost my arm! Yikes! Don’t jump off furniture, kids…

I’d like to thank Grace for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to talk to us. (It is Oscar season after all, and Beyond The Trailer covers the entire race!) If you’re interested in her work, you can visit her website at

Or check out her two web shows: