In October, the duo team up for "Fraggle Rock: Journey to the Everspring," a four-issue miniseries from Archaia that marks Leth's first trip to Fraggle Rock, and Myler's third, as he previously drew "Fraggle Rock" and "Fraggle Rock: Monsters from Outer Space."
Leth and Myler count themselves among the ranks of millions of people who have been affected by the Fraggles, and consider themselves particularly lucky as a pair of fans who have been able to put their stamp on the Fraggles in comic book form. We spoke with the duo about putting their mark on a beloved property, some of the story's finer details and the overall importance of Jim Henson in their lives.
CBR News: Kate, how did you land this gig, and what was your initial reaction to hearing that more "Fraggle Rock" comics were in the works?
Kate Leth: My initial reaction was pretty ecstatic. The previous mini-anthologies of Fraggles were a ton of fun, and I was thrilled to hear it was being brought back! When I was approached to pitch for the story, I took it pretty seriously. The series is so beloved and had such a big impact on so many people, I wanted to make sure we got it right.
Jake, what's it like for you to return to the world of "Fraggle Rock?" Are you working in a different style this time around?
Jake Myler: It's one of my absolute favorite properties to work on, so it's really exciting! And this time around, I am working differently -- although I wonder if anyone would notice. Last time, I thought I was being clever and coloring it without lines, and approached it like a painting. But looking back, it might have been a detriment because in other comics I've done, adding the lines -- or inking -- is where I can correct drawing mistakes and make things shine. So this time I inked it first.
It's crazy to think about now, but there's a whole generation of kids unfamiliar with "Fraggle Rock." How would you explain the property to the uninitiated?
Leth: Well, to be honest, I came to "Fraggle Rock" in reruns. I'm a fair bit younger than a lot of the fans! Younger kids today who aren't familiar with it are, I hope, in for a treat. I think it's an easy -- and delightful -- stepping stone from "Sesame Street," as well as the newer Muppet movies. To anyone who hasn't watched the show: it's a rag-tag group of colorful creatures who live underground, who love exploring, singing and having adventures!
Myler: I think Kate explained it best, but also in some respects, it's really hard to describe it to somebody and give them a clear picture of what it is if they've never seen it before. "Fraggle Rock" is "Fraggle Rock," so I'd probably just say for them to sit down, grab a juice box and watch an episode. Henson is magic in a way that no matter how zany, off the wall it is, you'll just get it as soon as you see those puppets singing!
The story behind "Journey to the Everspring" deals with the Fraggles traveling deep into their world to find water. What can you tell us about that trip and some of the challenges they'll face?
Leth: I can tell you that it's a challenge for a few of the Fraggles! Boober and Wembley are certainly not the bravest of the bunch, and they'll have to overcome their fears to do right by their friends. The series focuses around Gobo, and his struggle to figure out his "talent," or how he can really make a name for himself. It definitely tests the characters we know and love, as well as introduces some new ones.
Myler: I'm so glad that BOOM! and Henson are allowing us to have multiple issues of this comic to pursue a story where Kate has space to get into some character development and give the Fraggle friends time to really go on a grand adventure. They'll explore new worlds underground, see things they've never even dreamed of and make new friends!
This story sounds like you really got to dig deeper into the Fraggles' world. Were you looking more for obscure elements from the show to bring back, or creating new ones for the most part?
Leth: I like inventing new things, for sure, but I love to include elements of the things people love, which is the original series! Jake does a lot of the work on this, sliding things into the background, but I make sure to mention things like the Gorgs and Traveling Matt now and then. It's fun to give a wink and a nod to the superfans.
Myler: It's so much fun! My favorite thing to do is add little creatures into the backgrounds. They're usually a mix of creatures that I make up, and creatures that you see in the show. Also, there's a creature the Fraggles will see in the second issue, and Kate was asking for Bats in the script. Previously, however, I had drawn a Halloween Fraggle Rock comic written by Heather Nuhfer and Katie Strickland, and in that comic, there was a brief appearance of the rare Flying Batworm! So I brought that esoteric guy back since it totally fit. That creature only shows up for about 10 seconds on the show!
Do you the two of you have ideas for further Fraggle stories you'd like to work on?
Myler: I don't know about Kate, but I'd personally want to do a story that delves into a mystery that hasn't been answered for thirty years: Where exactly did the puff on the end of Travelling Matt's tail go? He's the only one who doesn't have one!
Leth: I'd love to be asked back! I had a bunch of pitches the first go around, plenty of which I'd like to explore and be stoked to see Jake draw. I'd love to do a story focusing on Red or on Mokey. I love the music, too, and I could spend forever writing the poems. It's a fun sandbox to play in.
Did you go back to the original series to get a feel for the tone and style of this project? Were there aspects of the show that surprised you watching as an adult instead of as a kid?
Myler: Coincidentally, I got the "Fraggle" DVD Box set a few months before I knew I would be drawing the comics again. One thing I noticed as an adult, that I didn't pick up on as a kid, was how dramatic and sometimes dark they allowed the show to be. Like in episode 17, "Marooned," Red and Boober get trapped in a tunnel, and Boober -- being the pessimist he is -- asks Red what she thinks it would be like to die. I actually cried! (Don't worry, they didn't die.) "Fraggle Rock" always showed a lot of character emotion and growth, and I think that's what we're gonna do in this comic as well.
Leth: Absolutely! Even pitching for the series, I rewatched the whole first season in a week. It's really important to me, when writing, to get the voices of the characters just right. I want you to hear Wembley's indecision, Mokey's cooing lilt, Red's brash enthusiasm. I keep a steady stream of the episodes on as I write, just to make sure it feels how it should feel.
I had always remembered the songs from the show as being some of my favorite parts, but I hadn't really understood just how well they were constructed. I have a lot of love for those production numbers. You can really feel the love that the show's creators had for this strange and vibrant little world.
Jake, I love the variant cover you did with the photo of Jim Henson. Where did the idea for that come from?
Myler: It was our awesome editor Cameron Chittock that came up with the idea, I believe. The Jim Henson Company has been super receptive to helping out, and provided a rare, high-quality photo. My only duty was adding the Fraggles and Doozers. I tried my best to match the focus of the photo, so I made some characters intentionally blurry. There are also some more subtle effects, like making sure that the characters have the same graininess and texture of the photo. It became way more time intensive than I was expecting, but it was also a really cool challenge and a lot of fun. And I really liked the final result!
What other Jim Henson projects were influential to you growing up? How do you think those shows or movies influenced the way you make art today?
Myler: The two big fantasy movies from Henson, "Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth," really had a lasting impression on me. They're still two of my favorite movies. They set the bar high in how original and creative a fictional world can be. I think, in comics I draw, I'm always striving to get to that level of intricate world building. I'm hoping some of the feeling of those movies will seep into the worlds that the Fraggles will find on their new adventures!
Leth: The Muppets! Pepe is still one of my favorite characters from any show, ever. I loved "Muppets Tonight," and of course I have a soft spot for "The Labyrinth," like any true former angsty teen. I think they all had a big impact on my need to tell stories full of heart. I'm pretty sure they helped curate my love of riddles, too.
"Fraggle Rock: Journey to the Everspring" #1 debuts from Kate Leth, Jake Myler and Archaia on Oct. 8.