A (Graphic) Novel Idea – Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand
It’s time to meet the Authors!
- Written and Lettered by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl
- Penciled, Inked and Colored by Ramon K. Perez
- Additional Coloring by Ian Herring
- Lettering by Deron Bennett
- Published by Archaia
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name.
One of Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl’s earliest works, Tale of Sand was a screen play that was eventually scrapped and turned into a graphic novel. It apparently was the only feature-length screenplay that Henson was never able to publish during his life.
In the story, we meet an unnamed protagonist. He is hurled into a race against his own death, and is constantly hounded by a man with a goatee and eye patch, as well as a beautiful blonde woman. The story takes place in the desert, and throughout the entire book, it seems like the hero is less worried about surviving than getting a light for his cigarette. It is a bizarre ride with several twists at the end that will leave you either mind-blown or scratching your head.
So, two cowboys walk into this bar …
I had to read this several times to fully wrap my brain around it. On my first read-through, it felt like I had just watched an M. Night Shyamalan film with the number of twists at the end. I won’t spoil it; just know that weird stuff happens at the end, it’s not really explained, and it will leave you questioning what the hell just happened.
On my second read-through, I slowed down and took my time. By the end of my second reading, I still had no idea how or why things were happening, but I just enjoyed the ride. There is not a lot of dialogue, so the pictures tell most of the story. The few lines that are thrown in don’t go out of their way to explain things or do so in a minimal way.
Within the first few pages, we meet the protagonist; he is given a hero’s send off and told he has a ten-minute head start. After that, everything goes crazy. Our main character traverses through the desert, running from the man with the goatee that inexplicably wants to kill him. Many cartoonish things happen, like running across a seemingly deserted highway only to nearly be killed by a sudden onslaught of motor vehicles. In another scene, a truck of nitroglycerin is stolen and then explodes after a crash.
How do you make the desert look interesting? It’s the desert …
Okay, so I’ll say a bit more. The art is clean and does the heavy lifting for the entire story. Since the dialogue is so sparse, everything needs to be communicated through the pictures. The style switches from monotones to a full range of colors. If this were a movie, each scene in it has its own unique palette. Some look like ink drawings, while others incorporate a more modern coloring scheme, and still others blur the line between the two. The facial expressions come across clear, without being overly detailed. Bits of the script are used as background elements in some of the panels, a nice touch.
Honestly, the art is what kept me reading this, as the story is so disjointed. If the illustrations were a single, set style, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. Because of the sweeping changes in art, the reader can recognize a shift in scenery, or a new plot point entering the fray. Even though the story takes place mainly in the desert, the flora and fauna all come alive in the nooks and crannies of the panels. Also, there is a hippopotamus. Enough said.
It’s not easy being a graphic novel
Mild violence, a tiny bit of nudity, and wacky antics. While not for children, a teen could read this. The warning I have is this story has no set structure. It is like a dream, jumping from one moment to the next, with few connecting elements running through the entire story. If you can stomach this, it’s worth it–if you want a novel during which you can just turn your brain off and watch two dudes punch each other senseless, this is not for you.
The Final Word
Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.
When my good friend told me about this, I knew I had to investigate. Being a big fan of Jim Henson, I was instantly curious. You can tell that this is clearly one of his earlier works, as it lacks the fantasy elements of, say, The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. While elements of comedy can be found, it is a much more cerebral humor than The Muppets. It is currently in hardcover, and the end does contain some nice sketches of the characters, as well as notes as to which actors they should be modeled after. It might be a bit expensive, but worth checking out!