Before I get started on this issue, I want to make sure everyone knows who Jim Henson is. Puppeteer, artist, inventor, cartoonist, screenwriter, director, and producer, Henson touched lives, changed childhoods, ushered the world into the next generation of entertainment. From Sesame Street to Labyrinth, The Muppets to The Dark Crystal, this man has done more than most for the pop culture world.
The Storyteller was a British live-action/puppet TV series that aired in 1988. Created and executive produced by Jim Henson, this series was based off European folk tales. An older storyteller would sit by a fire and tell his dog (and the viewers) a story. This is exactly how the comic book series works, too.
I’m a huge fan of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller books. I think what I like most about them is that the overall concept is simple and super adorable. An old man is sitting by a fire, telling his dog stories. Can a story get any cuter?
As a matter of fact, it can. This issue (and every issue of the series) is a frame story. This means that there is effectively a story within a story. The bulk of this issue is about a boy who was born from a giant peach. In turn, he grew up to become a giant, too. The townsfolk hated and feared him, demanding that he leave town. But when a neighboring village comes by to tell their solemn story of how their home was taken over by ogres, the giant boy offers to get it back.
So, he starts off on a journey. Along the way, he makes some friends (a dog, a bird, and a monkey). Together, they defeat the ogres and reclaim the village for their newfound friends. The dog comes home with the boy, the monkey gets a treasure, and the bird gets a crown back, since he is a king. Everyone in town learns that the giant is a nice boy with good intentions, so they ease up on him and regret their earlier actions. Bottom line is that there’s no place like home. The issue ends with the old man (storyteller) and his dog sitting at home together in front of the same fire, eating peaches and peach pie.
There are a lot of concepts in this issue that resonate with me. First and foremost, friends are important. The giant had size, yeah, but without his animal friends, he wouldn’t have been able to run the ogres out of their stolen village. He brings home the dog, which is absolutely precious, wanting nothing more than rice cakes in return for his loyalty and help. The storyteller’s dog is also a friend. Not only does he spend time with his owner, but he goes and picks fresh freaking peaches for the guy! He talks to him, comforts him, gives him company, etc. This is one of the purest, most magical relationships I’ve seen in a comic book. Any story with this much character interaction done this well is a good one by my standards.
The dialogue is pretty straightforward. There aren’t many extraneous words, phrases, or speech bubbles anywhere. The script tells just the story, and that’s more than enough to entertain readers. Much like the TV show, this series is written in simple language adhering to a traditional style of writing so as to keep with the tone of the folk tales that the stories are based off of.
Nolan’s illustrations really help set the tone and ambience in the issue. In the first two pages alone, we can see the homey, comfortable, and inviting atmosphere surrounding the storyteller and his dog. The shading is done so perfectly that we get a sense of mystery, suspicion, and intrigue. The characters show a lot of emotion, but they aren’t too detailed. Environments are more detailed than characters, like the reflections in water or leaves on a tree. It’s pretty simple artwork, but has enough detail to keep us engaged the whole way through.
This story is perfect for anyone who enjoys not only a moralistic folk tale, but a story with a lot of imagination. Readers of all ages will enjoy this beautiful story of the value of friendship and the comfort of home. This issue was just released today, so make sure to head out to your local comic book shop (comicshoplocator.com) and give it a read!
Written & Illustrated by: Conor Nolan