Jim Henson’s The Storyteller

by Doug Zawisza, Reviewer |

Sat, December 17th, 2011 at 10:18AM (PST)


“A storyteller is not only a teller of stories, but a collector of them as well.” The collector represented within and by these stories is eclectic, charming, and enchanting.

Based upon the short-lived Jim Henson-created live-action series of the same name, “The Storyteller” is an anthology of folk tales collected from across the globe as well as across time. There’s a wide array of comic book talent represented in the nine stories delivered here.

This collection ends with a full-length twenty-two-page story based upon an unproduced Storyteller teleplay. That tale, written by Anthony Minghella, Susan Kodieck, and Anne Mountfield, adapted by Nate Cosby and drawn by Ronan Cliquet and Adam Street, adapts a Russian folk tale about a young prince and his ravenous - - in appetite and greed - - sister, who is depicted as a steel-toothed witch baby. The sister lays waste to the kingdom, a land the prince never felt in tune with. It’s an uncommon and unsettling tale, but one that is nicely delivered by Cosby, Cliquet, and Street.

Some of the other folk tales preceding the finale are more familiar. That familiarity slides between intimately familiar (tales you’ve heard, read, or told) and subconsciously familiar (stories you might not recall hearing, reading, or telling, but you just know).

Those stories range in length, from Ron Marz and Craig Rousseau producing an eight-page Japanese fairy tale titled, “Momotaro the Peach Boy” to the eleven-page “The Frog Who Became an Emperor” story by Paul Tobin with art by Evan Shaner. Marz and Rousseau make their tale out to be less like a traditional comic and more like a scroll, with Rousseau using Canson paper and colored pencils, like his fan-favorite commissions. Shaner and Tobin’s tale, by comparison, is as classic a comic book as can be. Katie Cook delivers a sparsely-worded, dreamily-watercolored interpretation of “The Crane Wife” over eight pages while Roger Langridge puts a more classic comic book style -- in words and images -- story to work in the seven-page “Old Nick and the Peddler.” Colleen Coover’s seven-page, cartoon strip-influenced style “The Milkmaid & Her Pail” is a fast-moving tale that really has me pining for more of this story from her. Soon. Chris Eliopoulos and Mike Maihack share a story of cats and dogs told by the Storyteller’s pooch, based on a Romanian tale and titled, “An Agreement Between Friends.” That installment has a simpler, almost coloring book appearance to it. Jeff Parker’s script and Tom Fowler’s artwork relays the story of “Old Fire Dragaman.” That Jack Tale feels the most like a Henson Production to me. Marjorie Liu puts a nice spin on “Puss in Boots” that Jennifer Meyer turns into precious, ethereal artwork that could easily be a depiction of the swirling imagery into the mind of a young girlie girl as she dreams of princes, unicorns, and scheming ogres.

Interspersed between tales are a fine collection of poster-commissionable illustrations by Dennis Calero, Ronan Cliquet, Katie Cook, Chris Eliopoulos, Tom Fowler, Mitch Gerads, Roger Langridge, Janet K. Lee, Mike Maihack, David Petersen, Evan Shaner, and Adam Street.

This is a fine collection, something that can be picked up, set down, and picked up again. It begs to be shared with a friend or family member, preferably near a fireplace with the warmth of that fire comforting you as much as these stories comfort your soul. Archaia continues to find new ways to produce bookcase and coffee table worthy stories, and this collection would be equally so regardless of the creator’s name emblazoned upon the cover. The fact that all of the writers and artists are clearly inspired by the dreams of Jim Henson just makes this book all the more worthy of being read, enjoyed, and shared. Storytellers don’t just tell stories, after all, they collect them. Perhaps it is time for you to become a Storyteller.