It’s no news to say that I’m a big fan of the Muppets, but it’s more accurate to say that I’m a fan of Jim Henson. These two ideas are not necessarily the same. A great many people love the Muppets, Sesame Street, and the Fraggles without every appreciating or “get”ting Dark Crystal. And that same crowd has almost certainly never seen Henson’s experimental film “Time Piece.” If you’re honest with yourself and think of yourself as more of a Muppet fan than a Henson fan, Tale of Sand is is not something you should buy simply because Henson’s signature is writ large on the front cover. Tale of Sand is decidedly non-Muppet.
Briefly, for those unfamiliar, Tale of Sand was co-written over a seven year period, starting in 1966, by Jim Henson and Muppet head writer Jerry Juhl. To put it in perspective of Henson’s career, during that time period Henson was guest appearing regularly on a variety of television shows (Jimmy Dean, Ed Sullivan, etc…), developing the concept of Sesame Street, and producing television specials featuring the Muppets telling fairy tales. With all of these projects going, Henson and Juhl were also looking for money to make Tale of Sand. At some point they stopped shopping it around, and it ended up forgotten in a file drawer until recently. Henson Associates decided it would make a good graphic novel. The weren’t wrong.
Story-wise, this is straight forward in a convoluted way. Basically a man is on the run. Neither he nor we as an audience find out why. The disorientation, seemingly surreal events, and betrayal that occurs is actually reminiscent of The Prisoner. Even through the end, there’s no clear answer to any question a reader will have. There isn’t much dialogue so the bulk of the story is carried visually.
At first glance, Ramon Perez’s style is similar to Jeff Smith’s in RASL. His figures are fluid and distinct. There’s a nice realism that verges just this side of caricature. From his novel layouts, I cannot imagine that it was easy translating the screenplay and it’s multitude of descriptions and scene changes. As a final nice touch, pages of the screenplay are visible in the gutters between each panel. Perez and company made the best choice in avoiding coloring everything in the book. The minimal coloring in this book keeps the layouts and visuals from being too busy. This is a truly stunning book to look at.
This is a great book for students of the graphic novel form; the visual story telling here is phenomenal. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’d warn again, this isn’t a Muppet book. If you can wrap your brain around that, it’s a great piece of art and Jim Henson history.