Based on a lost screenplay, this found treasure from the archives of Jim Henson, penned by him and his frequent co-author Jerry Juhl, is beautifully rendered through the talents of Ramón K. Pérez. The Kafka-like montage of images, characters, and narrative arcs depicts the story of Mac who discovers himself to be a hero in an unfamiliar town in the middle of a desert in the American Southwest.
Before he can make any sense of his situation, Mac is thrown into a horrific, but at times comedic, chase scene armed with several enigmatic items and one unlit cigarette. He soon realizes that he is the focal point of the chase, the prey of a conglomerate of people and beasts attempting to kill him. Mac’s overall goal, other than surviving, is to light that cigarette and smoke it. This simple goal is thwarted at every step, turn, and page.
The beautifully packaged tale is a mostly wordless comic embellished by the use of a highly effective colour scheme which reverberates with, and compliments, the fast-paced frenetic action on the page. The pulsating and wide-ranging use of colour by Pérez and Ian Herring, and the eclectic layout, exemplifies the absurdist mood of the tale, taking the reader on a journey that has no rules, no constraints, is possibly endless, and makes very little sense but is extremely satisfying at the same time. Perez’s cartoonish but distinctive characters and settings elaborate the absurdist humor and comic timing of the original script. Henson’s script also plays a role in the composition of the book itself. The font for the sparse dialogue is based on Henson’s actual handwriting and pages of the original script form the background for several of the pages, including the foreword and introduction.
Jim Henson’s daughter Lisa offers her thoughts on the achievements of Perez’s illustrations and the publisher’s attention to detail and form in the Afterword. This is truly a work of love, attention to detail, and a worthy homage to the creative spirit of Henson. It is also not a book intended for young readers, as it contains a lot of violence, some swearing and some nudity. The book concludes with several pages of sketches of the main characters.
There has been an overwhelming amount of support for this project demonstrated by the three Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards it won in 2012: Best Graphic Album-New, Best Publication Design (Eric Skillman), and Best Penciller/Inker (Ramón Pérez). It also won the 2012 Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Comic Book Cartoonist, ForeWord Review’s Gold Award for 2011 Graphic Novels & Comics Book of the Year Award, and was nominated for three Harvey Awards: Special Award for Excellence in Presentation, Best Graphic Album Original, and Best Single Issue or Story.
Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand
by Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl
Art by Ramón K. Pérez
Publisher Age Rating: Teen/13