This April, Archaia brings back Gobo, Red, Wembly, Mokey, Boober and the rest of the Fraggle Rock gang for a series of new adventures under the steady and able pens of a plethora of Fraggle fans. Leading the charge for the first issue are writers and longtime "Fraggle Rock" fans Heather White, Jeffery Brown and Katie Cook. With a main 20-page story written by White and two backup stories written by Brown and Cook respectively, "Fraggle Rock" promises to be the spiritual successor to the show that fans have been waiting for.
"I am what you would definitely call a Fraggle Geek. I'm going there!" said White. "I've been a huge Fraggle fan since my childhood, and it's only grown as I've gotten older, which I think is something fantastic about the show. With 'Fraggle Rock,' you can watch it now and it's still just as good, but on more levels. To be involved in this project has been like a super-geeky dream come true."
"Fraggles were one of those things that just really hit home, because I grew up when Fraggles were at their peak," said Cook. "I was born in 1981, so I was right at that perfect age when Fraggles were out and I loved it. I ate that up. I actually think that Fraggles and the Muppets had a really big impact on who I am as an artist and how my personality and sense of humor turned out. Working on this project is just amazing to me."
"I am [a huge fan.] Actually, we're watching it right now," continued Brown. "My son is three, and he's been sick, so he's been getting to watch more video than he normally does. Lately, he's been really into the 'Doing the Things that Doozers Do' episodes. It works out, because I'm working my story also, and it's good to have that research on in the background at the same time."
According to White, the basis of her main story was to bring the main five Fraggles back to the forefront for a whole new generation to enjoy. "The basis of it was reintroducing the characters for our newer readers, but not over-explain them or be pandering," White told CBR News. "Give them a great new adventure to bring both the new readers and the old readers back into the world that we all love so much, and have new adventures with the big tasks, because there are so many episodes between the comics and the cartoons and the original series that were coming out with new adventures that everyone would want to read. That's pretty much the crux of the story - we've got some favorite characters coming back, our main characters, of course, and in my story, Junior Gorg actually plays a pretty big role in it. I'm a pretty big Gorg fan. Being able to bring him in was a really, really fun project to write. A big adventure out in the Gorg garden is pretty much the crux of the new story."
Heather White's involvment started at Comic-Con International 2009, where Archaia announced that the "Fraggle Rock" comic would become a reality. "I was at Comic-Con last year at the panel where they announced it, having no idea that I would be involved in it whatsoever," she said. "I was one of the people in the back bouncing up and down, being like 'Hooray! The Fraggles are coming back!' I think they made a really smart move bringing it to comics and doing it the way they are, which is not trying to change the franchise at all, but bringing all the things that we as fans loved about it and what made it so great, which is the characters and the relationships and the storylines and putting it out there in a new medium for both a new audience and us older fans who really loved it to not just be wearing out the DVDs we have of the episodes."
Once White was actively involved in the project, her excitement gave way to the story that will be seen in issue #1. "I was so excited at the thought that I would get to be part of it, but then I was like, 'Oh man, I'm going to be a big part of this,'" she said. "Luckily, at the beginning, I didn't know that [my story] was going to be the first story that came out, or my brain possibly would have exploded. After I got a handle on it and went through and went through my stories and got comfortable with both editors working on it, I talked to them with any concerns I might have had or when I was feeling not as confident as I should. They were really great and made sure I was on the right track. As a fan, the last thing you want is for other people to not think it's good! My intent through the whole thing was to stay 100% true to the characters as I knew them and try to put them in an episode, essentially, that I would want to watch or I would want to read as a fan. I'm really glad - I'm super happy with the final product, and I can't wait to see what Jeff Stokey, the illustrator, does with it. I've seen some sketches, so far, and it looks really great."
While White's story is illustrated by Jeff Stokey, Jeffery Brown and Katie Cook will be both writing and illustrating their respective tales, giving readers three different takes on how the Fraggles look. "There's definitely a little bit of work involved in getting everything just right," said Brown. "Some parts come easy. Getting their noses just right is probably the hardest, especially when you're doing different angles and things. There's lots of loading up the DVDs and pausing them at different parts to check to see if it looks right. Probably the easiest part will be doing the cave backgrounds. [Laughs]"
"The way I draw, I think really lends itself to Fraggles, anyway," said Cook. "I have a very soft line and it's not very angular. I went in and I took a bunch of screen captures and I went and looked at reference online and came up with the anatomy of how a Fraggle works. I like to be really conscious that it's still a puppet and how that puppet works with a hand in it. I'm really trying to keep that in mind when I'm drawing the facial features or the body postures; how would this work if it was still a puppet? It's very weird. I think way too much about it. Going back and looking at how a Fraggle is built, I had to envision it from the ground up. I build puppets and Muppet replicas in my spare time, so I'm kind of used to it. It was fun; you make up your own anatomy for things and realize that this should be drawn this way and their arm joints should work like this. I want them to have a puppet feel to them and still be readable as comic book characters."
"It's just a six page story, but I'm still very excited about it," said Cook of her story. "Basically, something happens that makes the Fraggles very obsessed with the concept of time. That is something that is so un-Fraggle-like that at the end, everyone learns that being obsessed with the clock is awful and it's way more fun to be relaxed and take your time."
Much like Cook, Jeffery Brown had the challenge of telling his story in only a few pages. "It's a really short story, just four pages. It's just a story about Red and showing her personality a little bit," said Brown. "I always think of Red as having lots of ideas, but maybe not having her own way of executing those ideas. My story is about that, and also poking fun at contemporary culture a little bit."
Space constrictions and Muppet anatomy weren't the only challenges for the writers, though. "I had written a few small comics for my own pleasure, but I had never written directly into a comic format," said Heather White, "certainly not in the Archaia 8x8" with a max of six panels per page, which is a completely different challenge in order to create good breaks and [keeping] story concise in a way that it flows really well visually. Again, Archaia is really wonderful about that kind of stuff and were more than willing to guide me through that process. I was really nervous when I stepped into it, being that it was a different medium, but it worked out really well. That's something that I'm so appreciative about Archaia for."
"I guess the biggest challenge for me is finding a way of telling a story that seems really true to the Fraggle Rock universe that hasn't been done before," said Jeffery Brown. "When I first started brainstorming ideas, I came up with some ideas, and a couple of them actually seemed pretty good. But then I went back and started watching some of the old episodes and realized that my story idea was pretty much something they've already done. So coming up with a story was the hardest part for me."
"I think staying true to who I think the characters are is hard, because you want characters to work a certain way to fit into your story and then you have to step back and say, 'Well, they wouldn't say that,'" said Katie Cook. "In my story, Red gets very demanding at one point, and that is part of her character. She is very in-your-face. As much as I want to work Mokey in the story at some point, Mokey would never be very demanding. She'd just be like, 'Oh, that's great!' I live in Ann Arbor, I live in a town full of hippies. There are Mokeys everywhere here. I know exactly what she'd act like. She'd be going to Whole Foods wearing Birkenstocks. That would be what Mokey would be as a human. It's just staying [true] to who the characters need to be. I don't know what any of the other stories are, but I think Tim [Beedle, managing editor of 'Fraggle Rock'] is going to do a really good job editing people and making sure that people stay true to who the Fraggles are."
Much like each of their stories, the writers' favorite characters in the Fraggle Rock universe are varied. While White mentioned she is partial to the sock-loving Boober ("I'm a Boober girl," she said. "I loved Boober. I like to say that on a good day, I'm a Wembly, but most days I'm a Boober. [Laughs]"), Brown said that he was more partial to the always-building Cotterpin Doozer ("She's really funny on the show," he said. "She shows up in my story, although it's not as focused on her. I think she's probably my favorite.") and Cook was all about the large and lovable Junior Gorg. ("He's so childlike, and I have the mind of a five-year-old anyway. I would basically write whatever would come out of my mouth and then add 'radishes' at the end of it," she said. "He's a character that I really truly love.")
At the end of the day, Heather White, Jeffery Brown and Katie Cook are just as excited as other Fraggle fans for the newest installment in Fraggle lore to begin. "I think the characters and how they interacted with each other are what made Fraggle Rock so magical," said White. "We're all very delicate with that and wanted to represent that in a real respectful way. I think and really hope that everyone's excited about the new artwork and seeing their old favorites in a new light. [It] should be really interesting to hear what people think about it."
"I don't know if this'll be true for most fans, but for myself, I'm guessing that a lot of people who grew up with Fraggle Rock are at that age where they're having kids," said Brown. "Just having a comic like that - that I can share with my son - and I think reintroducing this world to a new generation is a nice thing."
"There's something very magical about the worlds that Jim Henson has created," said Katie Cook. "It actually speaks a lot about people that chose to be an artist for a living. I love 'Labyrinth' because of all the little goblins that were everywhere. You love 'Dark Crystal' because of all the subtle beauty and leatherwork on things. Fraggles is no different than that - it was only a bright, colorful version of things for kids that you were totally engrossed in. You had these characters that you grew up with and they were your friends! Every kid remembers 'Sesame Street.' I got a plastic locket from my parents when I was a kid that I was supposed to put something in from my best friend. I cut the feathers off of my Big Bird doll and stuck them in there and carried it around for three years! Big Bird was my best friend, and I didn't think anything was wrong with that as a kid. I think it's that kind of connection that people have with things like the Fraggles or the Muppets that make the properties so great. The fact that you have people working on these stories that love these characters so much is really going to shine through. Fans of comics and of Fraggles are going to get that sense of love through what everyone is doing. You know when you're reading something that everyone really loves."