Continuing to dance their cares away and displacing their worries for another day is the Fraggles' stock in trade, and their adventures continue in the second issue of Archaia's "Fraggle Rock" miniseries. Further exploring the popular kids' show from the Henson company, "Fraggle Rock" follows the story of five Fraggles - Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober and Red - through their trials and tribulations surrounding the mysterious caverns of Fraggle Rock, the garden of the Gorgs and the mysterious Outer Space where humans live.
Heading up the second episode of the miniseries is Lulu Award-winning writer Leigh Dragoon and "Undertown" artist Jake Myler. CBR News had a chance to speak to the lead story creators about their collaboration, their favorite Fraggles and some fond childhood memories of dancing their own cares away.
CBR News: Leigh, Jake - how did the two of you get involved with the book?
Jake Myler:I had been working with [Editor] Tim Beadle for a while. Tim brought me in because he had known me before from TokyoPop and he had been familiar with my work. He wasn't my editor, but he had seen my work before and he contacted me because he thought I might be interested and of course I said yes! I had no idea there was a "Fraggle Rock" comic being made, so I jumped at the chance. I'm really excited to be on the project.
Leigh Dragoon: It was kind of the same for me. I had worked previously with Tim on this series of young adult Manga books called the "Fairy Path" books, and he thought I might be the right fit writing-wise for "Fraggle Rock," so he gave me a chance to pitch for it. I came up with a bunch of pitches and I was really happy they went for one.
Leigh, can you tell us a little bit about the story you've written for "Fraggle Rock #2?"
Dragoon: It's pretty much about a cat that ends up going down into "Fraggle Rock" and the Fraggle's attempts to get it out back into what they call Outer Space. I had come up with three or four pitches that got rejected for various reasons, and I spent about two weeks slaving away on this one that was just - some stories write themselves and others are just horrible children. I spent two weeks working on it and I almost got to the point where I thought I could turn it in for Tim to look at it, and I realized it almost precisely matched an already existing episode of the TV show. I had this moment where I was like, "Oh my God, I can't fix it! I can't fix it! Ah!" So, I sat down and I just came up with this other idea off the top of my head. I do a lot of fostering for a local rescue. I decided to write what I know. I know cats, yay! Luckily, that actually worked.
Were there any other pitches that you presented to Archaia?
Dragoon: I did one about this character who wasn't really well-known from the series - but I really liked him - called Convincing John. He's sort of this charlatan who's shtick is that he can convince anyone to do anything. The way they introduced him in the series is that you don't even see him for the first part of the episode, you just see Red and Mokey going to talk to him. They just show them coming back out two seconds later, and I think Red's wearing flowerpots on her hands. In two seconds, he's convinced them to go through life with these ridiculous things. "Oh yes, it makes such wonderful sense when he explains it!" So, the first story I did centered on him, but the thing with that was that they were trying really hard with the first miniseries to reintroduce the core cast. They said that my story might be something that might be better for later, but he was too obscure a character to come out right away like that.
Jake, what was your process for trying to design these characters? Not necessarily from the ground up, but how do you feel your style fits the "Fraggle Rock" universe?
Myler: For me, they're characters that always feel so alive to me. They feel so solid as characters. I didn't really feel like I had to do much designing. The style I was trying to go with was more like a storybook where they look like painted illustrations. I just went with that and tried to make the characters as painterly as possible, and it just seemed to work out with the colorful setting and characters. There wasn't actually that much thinking involved - it just all sort of fell into place.
What is it about the Fraggles that lends themselves so well to comics?
Dragoon: I think they lend themselves pretty well because, just from watching the show, everything on the show even though it's puppets and real, physical things, I thought there was a real illustrative quality in terms of the amount of detail they put into it.
Myler: I agree.
Dragoon: That's one of the reasons I've been such a fan of Henson movies and things like that my whole life. I always feel like they take these puppets and put so much time and effort into them. [Take] "The Dark Crystal," where obviously they went through a lot of effort to make it look very realistic. [Then,] you have a show like "Fraggle Rock" where it's slightly more cartoony type puppets, [but] they seem so alive and so real. I had to watch something like 25 episodes of the show, I was just watching hours and hours of the show to try to get the characters' voices right, and I wanted a Red doll! She's just so cute! So I went online and looked at a bunch of the dolls. I realized none of them looked right, because [the Muppeteers] put so much energy into the way she moves. I think that was what I liked about her - that she really seems alive. I think that is something comics translates. I think that energy can transfer very easily to comics.
Myler: Yeah, I totally agree. I would say about the same thing, that the Fraggles really do seem alive. When you're drawing a comic, it's like you're making a movie, but it's taking place in the readers' minds. It's almost like it's one level away from live action. It always seems what I'm drawing, the characters, they're almost acting by themselves. I don't have to think too hard about how they're moving and stuff, because they exist somewhere and they're working through me almost. It's kind of crazy. I guess that might come from being a "Fraggle Rock" addict. I really do think they translate well into comics.
I'm sure as "Fraggle Rock" fans you guys have favorite characters. Who were your favorites growing up and who are they now?
Dragoon: I think when I was a kid, my favorite character was Gobo. Where I lived, we had limited access to the television, so I wasn't able to actually watch that many shows. I saw enough to be familiar with it, and I do remember I liked Gobo a lot. Rewatching it was such a neat chance to get reacquainted with everything and be able to see the whole thing. Luckily, at the time I was working on that, they put the entire series into Netflix to watch instantly. I think now I really go back and forth. I think my favorite character would really be Red, because she's really outspoken, or Mokey, because she's this artist. It's so funny, I love Wembley. I just got so attached to Wembley, and this wembling nature he has where he can't make up his mind about things is something I could really identify with. He tries so hard to really be a people pleaser, but when his back goes up against the wall, he'll dig his feet in. It's funny when they do a scene where he freaks out, because you kind of don't see it coming. I think he's just a really cute character.
Myler: I don't know, it's really hard to think back about what my favorite character was, it was so long ago. I think it was Red, actually, when I was a kid. I think it was just because she was so animated and I was instantly attracted to that. Nowadays, I think my favorite character is Boober. I don't know, for some reason I really identify with him and his timidness. He takes great joy in menial tasks that are set before him. When I'm drawing comics, I feel a little bit connected to Boober. I'm drawing panel after panel, and it seems like every panel takes so long, but I'm getting a lot of joy out of doing it every day.
As Fraggle fans, what were your favorite parts of the show?
Dragoon: I don't know if there are particular scenes that I like because every episode has something great about it. The writing on that show was just so high quality. What really struck me was that going in I really expected it to be a kids' show. It's solidly G-rated and I would think that it was cute but that's about it. I couldn't get over how funny it actually is. The writing is really sharp and I like that a lot of the [characters have] flaws - I guess that's what I really like. The Fraggles have flaws. They're not these perfect characters. Even Gobo. On a typical show, I think the Gobo character would be the likable underdog that everyone loves or the outgoing guy and he has no flaws whatsoever. What I really like is that Gobo says a lot of mean stuff sometimes. He's kind of this sarcastic cynical character. Not in a bad way, in a really funny realistic way. I really appreciated that. Sometimes, I'd be thinking something and Gobo would say it. I couldn't believe he actually said it! It was awesome. He gets frustrated, and I guess I really like that. They're not portrayed as these perfect people. They get into arguments and they insult each other and get angry at one another, but they make up at the end. I like that they don't present a solution that lies so easy, especially when you're a kid and you know it's not easy.
Myler: I think my favorite part was...I was kind of obsessed about how the whole Fraggle universe is put together. It's so strange how they'll make a racket down in Fraggle Rock and that's the impetus for Doc to work on the pipes and then there's the water and singing fuels tiny micro-organisms that provide the light for Fraggle Rock and all this crazy, almost scientific stuff. It's so amazing how Henson put it all together. It seems like it's a world that he really thought out.
Moving back to the book, what were some of the challenges that you came across when working on your story?
Myler: First and foremost, staying on my schedule. Trying to meet all my deadlines was the hardest part. That's the thing that I'm freaking out about all the time.
Dragoon: Obviously, there's a different set of challenges that comes for people drawing comics. It's a lot more stressful. But for the writing, I think the biggest stress was that I wanted really badly to make sure the characters sounded like themselves and that they acted like themselves and they didn't act like Fraggle-shaped gloves that I was talking through, that they would actually sound like who the characters are. That's the thing I sweated over the most, probably. Sitting there listening to the show over and over again and trying to make sure that what I'd written was something the characters would really say. It was definitely different because I'd had the chance to work on the "Fairy Path" stuff with Tim, and that was low-stress because I didn't have to worry about the story outline. The writer who had created the series would provide the outline, and I would take it and flesh it out and turn it into a script. With this, I knew I was completely responsible for the story. It's something that I came up with and I wanted it to work really badly, but I think it was mostly the characters where I tried to stick my own ego in the closet and let them talk more.
Myler: I wanted to mention that you said you're struggling with keeping the Fraggles true to their own voice, but I really feel like it all flowed pretty naturally. Reading the script, it really seemed like this was an episode of "Fraggle Rock" right here! I'm really happy with the story.
What did you find to be the most rewarding aspect about working on "Fraggle Rock?"
Dragoon: I'm not trying to sound like a hideous fangirl, but I'm going to sound like a hideous fangirl. The Muppet stuff and the Henson stuff were probably some of the biggest influences on me growing up. I just loved "The Dark Crystal," "Labyrinth," my family and I would just watch the "Muppet Movie" on Beta, and the idea of actually getting a chance to work on a Henson project and be able to hear feedback from Brian Henson that he liked my stuff...the day I heard that feedback from Tim, I just floated around the house for six or seven hours. It was just amazing.
Myler: Again, I'm going to have to parrot you. The best thing was just having a chance to work with Henson. When I was working for TokyoPop, I worked on a manga called "Undertown." They just told me that I would be working on a fantasy book. For a second, I thought it might be "The Dark Crystal." I knew that it was being shopped around for different artists, and then I worked on "Undertown," which was great, but at the same time, at the back of my mind, I still wanted to work with Jim Henson somehow! It's a great think to finally do after seven years.
Dragoon: Also, I really appreciated getting to work with Tim again. He's a really amazing editor and has a good understanding of what makes a good story. I always feel like I learn a lot from working with him. That was also one of the pluses for me, to get to work with Tim again.
Myler: I feel like Archaia comics and Jim Henson just seem to be a really great match. Archaia is a comic book company that seems to really want to bring out quality books. Henson is the same way. It's a perfect match and I'm really happy everything is coming together in a perfect way