Exclusive preview and interview for Jim Henson's The Power of the Dark Crystal #1

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Feb 16, 2017

Ever wondered what happened to Jen and Kira following their epic quest in the '80s fantasy flick, The Dark Crystal? Well, wonder no more.

Boom! Studios' Archaia imprint is resurrecting Jim Henson's 1982 spiritual saga as a 12-issue sequel comic book based on an unproduced screenplay written by David Odell, Annette Odell and Craig Pearce. The February 22nd release of Jim Henson's The Power of the Dark Crystal #1 coincides with the 35th anniversary of cult fantasy favorite, picking up the tale years after the events of the original film and featuring the creative team of British writer Simon Spurrier (X-Force, Six-Gun Gorilla) and artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews (Toil and Trouble).

Read our interview with writer Simon Spurrier and editor Sierra Hahn, who have resurrected this fabled property with a genuine love of the material and respect for its wondrous world-building ... and then enter the lush lands of the planet Thra in our exclusive five-page preview plus variant covers in the gallery below. 

How did this partnership project for Boom!'s The Power of the Dark Crystal come about?

SIERRA HAHN: Archaia has a long history collaborating with The Henson Company and this particular project is one we've been discussing for some time now. Following The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths (a series of prequel stories), we were dying to tackle a sequel to the film. It's such an important piece of the Dark Crystal legacy and having earned the trust of fans with our previous titles, now was the right time to bring this world to life and return to the world of Thra. It was also the right time for our dream team of Simon Spurrier and Kelly and Nichole Matthews to come together to showcase this vibrant world.

Can you take us on a quick journey into the new saga's storyline?

SIMON SPURRIER: The Power of the Dark Crystal takes place in a world whose single greatest treasure is the Crystal: an ancient, godlike relic which radiates its healing power constantly. It’s connected in strange ways to the world itself. As long as the Crystal is whole the planet is lush and fertile, its various tribes harmonious and inquisitive. If the Crystal were ever cracked or broken — something which happened once, long ago — the world is plunged into strife and darkness, with the hellish Skeksis emerging to rule the dark, dying lands. The original movie, The Dark Crystal, documents the Skeksis' defeat and the restoration of the Crystal to wholeness.

Our story begins a century after the Crystal was healed. A century of peace and prosperity, in which strange new societies have blossomed. But all is not what it seems — imperfections have crept invisibly into the world. And now here comes a visitor from faraway lands — our protagonist — who claims her people are dying. A great disaster is imminent. Her name is Thurma. She's a girl made of fire. And she truly believes that the only way she can save her people is to shatter the Crystal. As you'd imagine, she faces rather a lot of resistance.

As for the story of the process itself — how we got to the point that we're making this comic — I'm probably not the best authority on the ins and outs of the middle-phases, but I'll do what I can. The original movie landed in 1982 and caused an immediate stir, being the first live-action flick which featured literally no human characters. I'm not sure the audiences of the day quite knew what to make of it. Critics expected it to fit tidily into the continuum of knowingly comedic Muppetry which had made the Henson name, and couldn't wrap their heads around this slice of totally earnest, unironic adventure which set its sights on nothing less than pure wonder. Is it sci-fi? Fantasy? A kids' flick?
 

Luckily over the decades since, the movie has gained a huge — and hugely loyal — following. Rumors of a proposed sequel have circulated for at least the past 15 years or so. As I say, I'm not the expert on what was going on behind the scenes, but it now transpires a screenplay has been in development for a long time. As is often the way with these things it's gone through various permutations and I believe come pretty close to production more than once. For whatever reason, it never reached principal photography, although there are reams of gorgeous pre-production images, many by the original movie's famed designer (and personal hero of mine), Brian Froud.

Cut forward to the present, BOOM! imprint Archaia receives the license to explore the unproduced screenplay in the comics medium and asks me to be involved -- that last point entirely because they knew I'd pursue them like a hound from hell if they didn't let me. Or, worse, I'd totally sulk. That huge and hugely loyal following I mentioned? I'm a part of that, oh yes. Better yet, I've been allowed to noodle gently about with the screenplay in the process of adaptation. Mostly it's a matter of adjusting perspectives to make the most of the medium and to really lean hard into what I believe is the essence of the franchise: a tacit return to the wonder of childhood, in which everything is new and different. Archaia editors extraordinaire Sierra Hahn and Cameron Chittock immediately proposed the sisterly brilliance of Nichole and Kelly Matthews for art duties and I jumped at the chance. They're a bit bloody good, those two. And that's where we are.

The Dark Crystal has such a cult following. How did you service that loyalty to the original film in this new sequel series?

Simon: As I hinted just now, for me the brilliance of the first film — the underlying reason that I hold it so highly — can be boiled down to two words: childlike wonder. Literally every character in that movie is a version of a child we'd all recognize. From the laid-back mystics — remember that high-functioning kid in every classroom who just stares dreamily out the window all day? — to the petulant and venal bullies of the villainous Skeksis. They're all cast as utterly original monsters, but they're very recognizable tropes once you know what you're looking for.

This was a movie which introduced a whole new world, after all -- not just some lazy Tolkien-esque fantasy rip-off, but a teeming, exotic, alien reality full of impossible life and delightfully weird wonders. The little piece of genius which underlies the movie is that the central characters are experiencing all this craziness for the first time, just like we the viewers. So, the sense of wonder is 100% relatable, earned and palpable, even when it takes the form of some genuinely scary or horrible stuff. In other words, The Dark Crystal succeeds because it forces the viewer to experience the world with the same astonishment, fear, curiosity and wonder that none of us have truly felt since we were kids. It's an implicit return to youth. That's very, very clever.

So, to answer your question: That's been my constant touchstone for the sequel. It's set in the same world but a lot of time has passed and a lot of things have changed. I've adhered to the story in the screenplay pretty closely but the one thing I've insisted upon is that we should experience it all through the eyes of a newcomer. The accidental upshot of that is that a reader of the new comic doesn’t even need to have seen the movie (although of course they should!), since our protagonist is encountering this world and its history for the first time, too.

Were you a fan of the feature film and what do you remember most about it?

Simon: Ha-ha, I think I've probably gushed enough above to answer the first part of that question pretty unequivocally. Too many favorite moments to do justice, but — off the top of my head — the Skeksis will always be horribly memorable. I'm pretty sure the scene where the Chamberlain is attacked and defrocked by his sneering brothers gave me nightmares as a youngster. Oh, and Fizzgig's snarling introduction. Every kids' movie needs a cutesy sidekick pet which is basically a monster whose body is 90% mouth.

How does the artwork from Kelly and Nichole Matthews accentuate and complement your adaptation?

Simon: They're a very savvy choice on Archaia's part, I think. It would've been too easy to go looking for an artist from the same hazy 'beautifully messy' school of creation as Brian Froud, whose aesthetic is most closely linked to the Henson movies. But there's literally nobody who can do that stuff as well, so why bother? It makes far more sense to lean the other way and present this world in a very clean and bold aesthetic. The Matthews sisters are perfect for that. Their art is a perfect stylistic match for the starting position of our story: a world of endless bright exoticism, which conceals some very real — and growing — horror.

What were some of your favorite moments and obstacles encountered in working on this project?

Simon: Probably too early to say, honestly. There are some stunning visuals emerging every day. The opening chapters necessarily revolve around the bizarre cultures and societies which have built up around the restored crystal, and they look stunning. But I'm particularly excited about Kelly and Nichole's take on the teeming exotic wilderness we'll be getting out to somewhere around issue 3. Adaptation's always a challenge, of course. Nobody's capable of feeling truly passionate about a project unless they feel capable of influencing it—there's a very real correlation between enthusiasm and agency. When working from source material, like the screenplay in this case, there are inevitably more authorial interests than otherwise, so one must be prepared to variously compromise and know which battles to pick. The real trick of collaboration is to ensure that what emerges is greater than the sum of its parts. I like to think that working in comics, with its peculiarly immediate creative interactions, prepares a creator for that better than other storytelling forms.

2017 marks the 35th anniversary of The Dark Crystal. Why do you believe its enduring legacy is so strong?

Simon: Whoops! Classic Spurrier interview error there, sorry, in that I inadvertently answered the last question earlier. "Childlike wonder," by way of reminder. Unpacking that a bit more, I think it spoke to me so strongly when I first saw it because it set itself a very precise challenge: presenting a totally new world, which nonetheless has the capacity to make the viewer relate and respond to its characters' interactions. That sounds very simple, but as a storyteller I can reliably report that it's unutterably sophisticated. I've arguably become known, in comic circles, as a world-builder. See The Spire, Six-Gun Gorilla, etc. That proclivity is totally and entirely traceable to this one weird, impossible-to-genre-classify movie. It's this simple: You create an amazing new world and then you push it into the background. You focus on the characters in the foreground and the wondrousness of the creation will look after itself.

Will there be a continuation of the Dark Crystal comics after this 12-issue series is completed?

Sierra: We hope to continue working with The Jim Henson Company for years to come!