Jim Henson’s Labyrinth returns to comics…

So, any Labyrinth fans out there?

I can finally announce that Archaia’s new Labyrinth graphic novel will be hitting stores in 2012. It’s written by the imaginative duo of Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin, Polly and the Pirates) and Adrianne Ambrose (Fangs for Nothing, Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice). Bringing Jareth and the Goblin Kingdom to life through his amazing watercolors will be Cory Godbey (Flight). I greatly enjoyed working with both Cory and Adrianne on Fraggle Rock, and I’ve been wanting to work with Ted for years now, so this is all quite exciting.

Also, if you’re a Labyrinth fan, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on Archaia’s 2012 Free Comic Book Day offering. They’re releasing a free hardcover (yes, you read that right, a free HARDCOVER) that contains original stories from some of their biggest releases, including Labyrinth.

Their press release is below, if you’d like more information on the upcoming FCBD book. For more information on the Labyrinth graphic novel, stay tuned…



Los Angeles, CA (December 2, 2011) – On May 5, 2012, Free Comic Book Day Gold Sponsor Archaia Entertainment will make history when it offers an all-ages, original graphic novel hardcover completely for free to fans who flock to their local comic book stores. The 6” x 9”, 48-page, full-color book will contain all-original stories—not reprints or excerpts from upcoming releases — from Mouse Guard, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Cursed Pirate Girl, Rust, Cow Boy and Dapper Men, announced Archaia President and CEO PJ Bickett.

Officially titled Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories, the offering will be a shining example of Archaia’s commitment to produce high-quality graphic novels, despite its free price tag.

“We’ve offered single issues for past Free Comic Book Days but Archaia’s specialty is producing beautiful, hardbound collections,” said Bickett. “Offering a hardcover book for Free Comic Book Day is our way of helping to drive more potential customers to comic book stores on what has historically been their busiest sales day of the year. But it’s also a way to educate readers on what Archaia is all about: high-quality graphic novel collections of stories they can’t get anywhere else.

“On Free Comic Book Day, be sure to get to your local comic book shop early because this special book is guaranteed to run out fast and become an instant collector’s item!” said Archaia Marketing Manager Mel Caylo.

Below is the complete solicitation for Archaia’s 2012 Free Comic Book Day offering:

Original Graphic Novel Hardcover
2012 Free Comic Book Day
Retail Price:
Page Count: 48 pages
Format: Hardcover with no dust jacket (paper over board), 6” x 9”, full color
UPC: 811514010689 00311
Country: U.S.

Written by Jeremy Bastian, Nate Cosby, Royden Lepp, Jim McCann, Ted Naifeh and David Petersen
Illustrated by Jeremy Bastian, Chris Eliopoulos, Cory Godbey, Janet Lee, Royden Lepp and David Petersen
Cover by David Petersen

This Free Comic Book Day, Archaia offers readers the chance to experience history in the making with a FREE, gorgeous, 48-page, 6” x 9” full color hardcover original graphic novel featuring all-new material! David Petersen returns with an all-new Mouse Guard tale that’s guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings! Lose yourself once again in Jim Henson’s amazing world of Labyrinth, featuring a fantastical story from Eisner Award nominee Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin) and Cory Godbey (Fraggle Rock). Get a new perspective on Jet Jones in Royden Lepp’s critically acclaimed Rust, with a short story seen through the eyes of younger brother Oswald Taylor. Jeremy Bastian’s acclaimed Cursed Pirate Girl hits the high seas in this whimsical, swashbuckling tale of wonderland journeys and unimaginable dangers. Nate Cosby (Pigs) and Chris Eliopoulos (Franklin Richards) present Cow Boy, a comedy/western that tells the tale of a young bounty hunter determined to send his entire outlaw family to jail. And Jim McCann and Janet Lee follow up their Eisner Award-winning Return of the Dapper Men with an all-new short story that leads into the upcoming sequel, Time of the Dapper Men. Witness the origin of a new, major character! And…the return of 41?!

About Archaia Entertainment

Archaia Entertainment is a multi-award-winning graphic novel publisher with more than 50 renowned publishing brands, including such domestic and international hits as Mouse Guard, Return of the Dapper Men, Gunnerkrigg Court, Awakening, The Killer, Days Missing, Tumor, Syndrome, Artesia, The Engineer, and an entire line of The Jim Henson Company graphic novels, including Tale of Sand, which is based on an unproduced screenplay discovered in the Henson Archives. Archaia has built an unparalleled reputation for producing meaningful content that perpetually transforms minds, building one of the industry’s most visually stunning and eclectic slates of graphic novels. Archaia was named Graphic Novel Publisher of the Year according to Ain’t it Cool News, Graphic Policy, and Comic Related, and was honored with nine 2011 Eisner Awards nominations. Archaia has also successfully emerged as a prolific storyteller in all facets of the entertainment industry, extending their popular brands into film, television, gaming, and branded digital media.


The first annual Comikaze Expo is this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and I’ve been assisting the organizers with some of their programming. I’ve put together three exciting and very different panels for the show, and I’ve been invited to participate in a fourth. In addition, I have two Fraggle Rock signings at the Archaia booth.

Yes, it’s going to be a busy weekend.

If you’re going to Comikaze—and if you’re not you really should be—here’s where you can find me.

Saturday, November 5th

10:00-11:30 a.m. – Archaia Booth (#1709)

I’ll be signing copies of Fraggle Rock, discussing the upcoming Dark Crystal graphic novel series with fans and singing selections from Les Miserable and Jesus Christ Superstar. Well, maybe not that last bit. (That is, unless you want me to. I mean, it’ll be first thing in the morning, I’ll be signing on my own and will probably be hurting for company. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re actually at the show that early and come by to see me, we can talk about or do whatever the hell you want.)

1:00-2:00 p.m. – Room 4

Darkness Rising: New Voices in Horror Comics

Do the things that once gave us the shivers still have the ability to terrify? How many times can we be startled by zombies, vampires and psychopaths before they lose their shock value? What can a genre that’s existed for centuries do to remain relevant to a generation of readers who grew up watching Freddy, Ghostface and Jigsaw? Join Dan Fogler, R. H. Stavis, Jackson Lanzing, David Server and Nicole Sixx as we discuss the process and practice of writing horror comics and figure out how to offer up a fresh serving of fear in this era of Paranormal Activity and The Human Centipede. If you’re a fan of horror or a writer looking to work in the genre, this is the panel for you!

I assembled the above panel and although I’m not mentioned in the panel description, I’ll be serving as moderator. It’s an eclectic, lively and very bright batch of panelists who are sure to have interesting things to say on the subject of scary stuff. If you’re a fan of horror comics (or horror in general), be sure to stop by.

4:00-5:00 p.m. – Room 306AB

Spotlight on Womanthology

Originally devised by Renae de Liz as a way to give women creators of all abilities a chance to be published, the Womanthology project has become one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever. This anthology graphic novel has gained the support of virtually everyone in the comic book community and the first volume, HEROIC , remains one of the most highly anticipated comic book properties in some time. In this panel, various contributors will discuss the development of Womanthology, their individual roles in the project, and the legacy they are building. With Cat Staggs, Bonnie Burton, Kimberly Komatsu, Jenna Busch, Jody Houser, Amanda Deibert, and Mary Bellamy. Moderated by Nicole Sixx.

I won’t be appearing on this panel (for rather obvious reasons), but I did help pull it together and will be out in the audience showing my support. This will be the largest Womanthology panel held since the project was announced, and will be the first panel to show art from the project. As far as I’m concerned, that makes this one a can’t miss.

Sunday, November 6th

1:00-2:00 p.m. – Room 2

How To Make Comics (Great For Kids!)

Everybody’s talking about how comics are growing up, but have we (gasp!) forgotten about the children? With a bunch of publishers starting kids-oriented imprints and many educational programs introducing youngsters to reading through comics, is this audience finally getting proper recognition? Join Tim Beedle (Muppet Robin Hood), Neo Edmund (Zenoscope’s Silver Dragon books), Kazu Kibiushi (Amulet), Paul Morrissey (Casper the Friendly Ghost) and Heather Nuhfer (Strawberry Shortcake) as they chat about what makes “all-ages” awesome, what titles hooked them in the first place as kids and what
downright fun it is to make comics the whole family can enjoy. Moderated by Tom Pinchuk (Unimaginable).

I was invited to participate in the panel on all-ages comics, and of course I was very happy to do so. I’m a firm believer that we need more comics for kids in the market, and an industry-wide system of support to ensure that they reach the readers they’re intended for. Everyone on this panel is a friend of mine and an extremely talented creator. It should be a good time for the whole family, provided I can remember not to swear.

2:00-3:00 p.m. – Room 306AB

Fraggles, Froud and a Frog Named Kermit: Bringing Jim Henson to Comics

For over 75 years, the work of Jim Henson has entertained and inspired viewers of all ages and won him millions of fans worldwide. Today, the legacy of this creative genius has expanded into a new medium—comic books! Join Tim Beedle (Muppet Robin Hood, The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths), Paul Morrissey (The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock), Joe LeFavi (Fraggle Rock, Return to Labyrinth), Jeff Stokely (Fraggle Rock) and Ian Brill (Farscape) as we discuss and dissect all the ways that The Jim Henson Company and Disney are putting puppets to paper. Learn how classic fantasy movies such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth along with beloved TV shows like The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and The Storyteller have been brought back to life by the writers, artists and editors responsible. Plus, discover how this new medium is allowing The Jim Henson Company to bring life to some of Jim Henson’s unrealized projects, such as the upcoming A Tale of Sand.

I did a version of this panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair, but we have a different crew of panelists this time around, as well as the ability to show art from the books we’ll be discussing. If you’re a Jim Henson fan, you’re going to want to be there, especially if you’re curious about some of the new Henson comics that Archaia will be putting out this year.

3:30-5:00 p.m. – Archaia Booth (#1709)

I’ll be wrapping up Comikaze with a group Fraggle signing in the Archaia booth. I’ll be hanging out with Joe LeFavi, Heather Nuhfer and Paul Morrissey, and we’ll be signing copies of Fraggle Rock while dancing our little bums off to the show’s soundtrack. If you’ve never experience a group Fraggle signing before, they’re usually a lot of fun. And considering we’ll be coming down off of a weekend of con craziness, I’d say anything could happen!

This is Comikaze’s inaugural year, so hopefully you can make it down on Saturday or Sunday to ensure they get a good turnout. LA could use a good comic convention, and the people running Comikaze clearly have their hearts in the right place. Plus, Elvira is one of their special guests. How cool is that?

Hope to see you there!

The People Behind the Puppets: Jake T. Forbes

After the success of the first volume of Fraggle Rock, we naturally began asking ourselves what we could do to make the second volume even better. One of the ideas we embraced was bringing on some talented writers and artists who had worked on other successful Jim Henson Company comics. Naturally, Jake T. Forbes was at the top of that select list.

Jake is the writer of Return to Labyrinth, the New York Times bestselling manga series that also serves as the official sequel to the seminal 1986 fantasy film. He’s also a respected expert on manga in the United States and an experienced video game designer. And yet, Jake still manages to keep a low profile, spending his time writing and cooking from his home in the Bay Area.

With a variety of projects in the works, we’ll see how long that low profile lasts…

Jake, when I first met you, you were one of the most respected editors over at Tokyopop, and I was a freelance copy editor just learning about manga. However, what astounded me was that you were a few years younger than me at the time. How did you manage to become one of the most widely respected manga editors and authorities at such a young age?

It largely boils down to being at the right place at the right time. When I applied at Tokyopop, fresh out of college, the company wasn’t well known as a book publisher. I didn’t even realize I was applying for a manga editing position until I was at the interview — I assumed it was a junior editor position at the magazine or website that I was applying for. When I got the job, I was excited to have a grown-up job in a real office — it was great. Tokyopop employed close to 100 people at that time, of whom only six people worked on manga. Everyone else was devoted to the magazine, the anime line, soundtracks, toy importing and, most of all, the website. The company wasn’t Tokyopop; it was Tokyopop.COM.

Prior to being hired, my knowledge of manga and otaku culture was pretty low. In high school and before, I had friends who were more engaged in that nascent scene and so I was familiar with Ranma, Evangelion, Akira and Lone Wolf and Cub, but I didn’t bring a lot of expertise to the table. What I did have, however, was enthusiasm and a deep respect for fan culture and I dug into the secret language of otakudom with relish. At first I was just trying to figure out what was popular with those ahead of the curve, but in time I started to understand why things were popular and form my own educated opinions as I fell in love with the stories and creators I was exposed to. I made a lot of mistakes that first year, but I learned a lot and made many friends and contacts in the fan community.

Less than a year after I started, the company underwent a major shift in focus. Most of the staff moved on as the company dropped the magazine and web content and focused on localization. Suddenly, with just one year of experience, I was the localized manga authority in the office and found myself promoted to Senior Editor. Yikes! Any “authority” I earned came from keeping my eyes and ears open and trying to do right by readers.

Through all the work you did at Tokyopop, on such series as Fruits Basket, Chobits, Priest, Samurai Deeper Kyo and Rave Master, just to name a few, was a goal of yours to eventually move into writing full-time? Why did you leave editing?

I was truly blessed to work on so many amazing and high-profile titles, and I really did enjoy the work, but increasingly, I found my desire to create stories wasn’t being satisfied by localization, where fidelity is the ultimate aim. I was also frustrated by my inability to make the books I was working on better. Part of this was due to cost-cutting measures that caused retouch, lettering and image reproduction quality to shift radically volume to volume, partly it was my butting heads with the zero-tolerance policy on retouching sound-fx, and, perhaps most of all, I was looking for change. The opportunity to write an original series definitely helped me commit to leaving, but I wasn’t completely sure if writing was what I wanted to do full time.

Some people would say you got out at just the right time. I’m not going to ask you to comment on Tokyopop’s current problems, but did you foresee the decline in manga’s popularity? Was that something you’d say was inevitable? And do you still read manga today?

I won’t claim to have predicted manga’s decline at the time. After all, shortly after I left, I went on to lead production at manga upstart GoComi. Part of that was me falling back into a comfort zone, and part of it was my pride compelling me to try and fix the issues I had with quality at Tokyopop. It wasn’t until about a year later that warning signs started going off for me; but by that time, there was already a fair amount of doomsaying. As for reading manga, I do pick up titles from the library, but mostly these days I just read the Viz Signature titles like Children of the Sea, DMC and Urasawa’s stuff, but I’ll pick up the occasional shonen or shojo title to see what’s popular.

You certainly chose an ambitious gig for your first comic book writing project: scripting the official comic book sequel to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, a film with no shortage of opinionated fans. Was it intimidating?

At the time I suggested Tokyopop pursue that license, I knew that Labyrinth had fans, but I had no idea how opinionated the fans were. I considered myself about as hardcore as Labyrinth fans could get, but it was a personal obsession that I shared with friends and family only. I wasn’t aware of the size of the community who shared that passion. Any intimidation I felt — and there was a lot! — came from working for the Jim Henson Company, as Henson was and is one of the people I most admire. It wasn’t until Comic-Con, where the series was first previewed to a standing-room-only crowd of 200+ fans, that I knew just how big this was.

The cover to the first volume of Return to Labyrinth, beautifully painted by Kouyu Shurei.

How does one go about creating a sequel to such a beloved work of fantasy? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do, or did the idea change and evolve as you went along?

The story definitely evolved as I went along. The initial outline was much heavier on action and adventure, but the more time I spent with it, the more the series shifted towards melodrama. If the volumes had been scheduled back-to-back, I probably would have stuck to a more action/comedy format, but with six months of downtime between volumes, I ended up getting very introspective and wanted to know more about the characters. I was also finding my voice as a writer.

Did you think about how long the project was when you started? I mean, you were working on it for nearly five years!

The series was originally contracted to be a trilogy. After volume 2, Tokyopop had a major wave of troubles that led to layoffs and the series’ fate was in limbo. I don’t think the executives at Tokyopop realized until after the fact that Return to Labyrinth had become one of the publisher’s best-selling titles! When we finally renewed the contract for volume 3, I convinced them to do another volume so that I could expand the story.

A spread from Return to Labyrinth Volume 1. Yes, that is Travelling Matt making a cameo appearance in the lower left, which technically makes Jake the very first Fraggle Rock comic book writer since the 1980s!

Are you pleased with how it turned out? Is there anything you would do differently?

I’m very pleased with the series as a whole. I hope that the original characters, like Skub, Moppet and Mizumi, will be remembered for years to come. Certainly, there are some things I would do differently in retrospect, and there were a few scenes that got trimmed that I wish could have stayed in for the final volume, but overall, I’m proud of the work that Chris [Lie, the illustrator] and I did. It’s a book created with enthusiasm and love, and I think that sincerity comes through. In my future work, I hope that passion continues, albeit with a little more discipline that comes from experience.

While I know that Return to Labyrinth has plenty of fans — some of them pretty obsessive, actually — not all of the fans of the movie have embraced it. Why do you think that is? Does it bother you?

When you’re working with beloved source material, opinions and emotions invariably and understandably run high with readers. I definitely don’t take it personally if there are Labyrinth fans who don’t embrace Return to Labyrinth.

A page from Return to Labyrinth Volume 4 featuring Moppet, one of the original characters created by Jake for the sequel comic.

At four pages, your Fraggle Rock story was one of the shortest in the book, and yet I felt it was paced perfectly. It didn’t feel like you were trying to cram in too much, which is a common problem with the shorter stories. Was it at all difficult to write something so short and concise after working on such a longer series?

It was tough! I had to trim and trim and trim to make it work. Having a song as the foundation helped, as it helped me focus on what was most important. While writing Return to Labyrinth, I had a tendency towards indulgent dialog. The Labyrinth books are very talky. In the script I’m writing now, I’m really trying to keep dialog short and sweet and less expositional.

Your short is one of the very few Fraggle Rock stories to attempt to incorporate music, which was such an important element of the TV show. For all its strengths, the comic book medium is not a very good one for music. How do you add an audial art form into a medium that’s entirely silent?

I agree, it’s tough to sell lyrics in the comics format. Nine times out of ten, when I read song lyrics in print, it doesn’t feel particularly musical. As a writer, when you put lyrics to the page, you’re counting on the reader being able to turn the text into a song, but for most readers, I have a feeling it’s looked upon as (bad) poetry and glossed over. In the case of Return to Labyrinth, I think the song worked because Bowie’s ballads are so ingrained in the readers’ minds that it’s not hard to imagine the words coming from Bowie cum Jareth. In the case of Fraggle Rock, it was a little easier as the song is more whimsical verse. Verse is a lot easier to sell in print, provided it’s in the right context.

Why did you focus your story on Boober? Can you relate to him?

I mentioned this in another interview, but I admire Boober more than I relate to him. The Fraggle I relate to most is Wembley. Wembley stories sort of stress me out, whereas Boober stories always make me smile.

A page from “Boober and the Ghastly Stain,” Jake’s Fraggle Rock short.

You’ve now written two projects for The Jim Henson Company. Do you see yourself working with the Henson Company again, or are you ready to move on to something else?

As I said up above, Henson is a true hero. My earliest TV memories are of watching Fraggle Rock on HBO. The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan were favorite childhood films (for whatever reason, I didn’t get into the original Muppet Movie until adulthood). I loved both Storyteller series, the fantasy films, and any Creature Shop work in other movies. Being able to work with the Henson Company is a dream come true. Would I work with the Henson Company again? In a heartbeat, if there is an appropriate story that I felt needed to be told and the Henson Company wanted to share in its creation.

As you’ve been writing these projects, you’ve also had a successful career in video game development. Do you feel video games and comic books have much in common?

Console games and super-hero comics have much in common in that these aging, mostly male, communities of fans and creators are having to come to terms with their no longer being synonymous with their respective mediums. There’s a lot of overlap in terms of art styles, as many artists work in both industries or are inspired by the other. Both industries are going through major periods of adjustment, but I think games have a definite leg up there as activities monetize much better than content.

How difficult was making the transition from a full-time comic book professional to a full-time video game one?

Having published graphic novels to show at an interview was a big help. My first games job started shortly after Return to Labyrinth debuted, and if I didn’t have that book to supplement my resume, I don’t know that I could have scored a game writing job. To be honest, my games career had a rocky start after my first employer imploded and several contract jobs didn’t amount to much. In the console games space, what titles you’ve shipped and who you know makes all the difference in landing a good job. At this point though, the games industry is much more diverse, and there are more opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds. I’m finally on stable ground now, working with a new company that is getting ready to publish some great social games.

While the comic book influence can definitely be seen in today’s entertainment, it’s a very small industry and market compared to the number of game developers and players out there. Do you feel video games and other forms of interactive entertainment might ultimately be responsible for comic book readership’s erosion?

Comics are such an inefficient medium, taking hundreds of hours of an artist’s time for an experience that is consumed in a matter of minutes. As a means of expression, I have no doubt that comics will continue to thrive. As a serious business, I’m not bullish on the comics industry’s potential for growth, outside of perhaps kids’ comics. I’m not worried about comics — the creators and publishers who have comics in their blood, who create works that matter and resonate with readers, will keep on putting out amazing work. As for the explosion of fandom that continues to grow as children of the 80s and beyond grow up and exert their influence — that fandom we see at the madhouse that is Comic-Con — I don’t think it’s the comics industry that will ultimately benefit from that passion. Games, on the other hand, have huge growth potential as they evolve from $60 console experiences into a multitude of forms. I’m a book fetishist, so I still hope to publish a few more bound books before I give up on the medium, but as a storyteller, I expect I’ll reach a much bigger audience through games.

So what’s next for you?

I wish I had more details to share. Right now I’m working for a company called Making Fun, a new games division of Fox, working on a few games to debut this summer or fall. On the comics front, I’ve got an original graphic novel project with an amazing artist you’ll recognize that I’m looking for a publishing partner for. Check in with me in a month and hopefully I’ll have an update about that one!

And finally, I’ve heard rumors that you’re also a whiz at LEGO construction? Do I smell a potential third career path?

That was a path that I’ve long since diverged from. In college, a friend and I built LEGO displays for toy store windows. I probably have 200,000 bricks in storage right now, and every once in a while I start dreaming about undergoing a major building project again. It’s intimidating, though. Ten years ago, when I was last active, the “Adult Fan of LEGO” community was pretty scattered and the standards weren’t all that high. Since then, multiple LEGO communities have exploded online, and adult creators have shared techniques and refined building practices from the chunky styling I once knew to SNOT (studs-not-on-top) sleek designs. Instead of the eight main colors I knew, there are a good two dozen shades. It’s not that the bricks have gotten more specialized and dumbed down, as happened in the late 90s, but rather the standards are so much higher. It’s scary!

Actually, it’s a lot like the Magic the Gathering scene. Today’s cards are great, benefiting from 15 years of refinement, but for an “old-timer” like me, it’s a little intimidating to go back. I actually dipped my toes back into both LEGO and M:TG waters this past month, having bought the amazing Diagon Alley set to decorate my new desk and participated in a booster draft. If only I had more hours in the week to be a nerd! I’m having a hard enough time getting through my stack of games. And right now, everything takes a back seat to Dragon Age 2.

Well, LEGOs have proven to be a surprisingly fun subject for video games. Do you think there may be LEGO comics in the future?

I don’t see it. The main appeal of LEGO comes from their wonderfully tangible nature. The Traveler’s Tales games like LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Harry Potter do a great job of invoking the look, feel and sound of the bricks. The limitations imposed on their narrative by way of the bricks makes for great comedy in motion. I don’t think it would translate well to comics. Actually, that’s not quite true. The Brick Testament is amazing. For the most part, I think LEGO works best as vignettes and not as a medium for storytelling.

For more information on Jake and his projects, be sure to visit his website, www.gobblin.net.

And check back again soon for more Fraggle Rock creator interviews, including one with another Jim Henson manga creator!