In the almost 25 years since his death, Jim Henson has continued to touch the lives of millions of people. Through the efforts of people working to stay true to his spirit, we have been given television programs, movies, and books about the many characters he created. Through the efforts of fans hoping to share the joy he brought us with others, these stories have been shown to new generations and demographics of people the world over.
Now, we have a rare opportunity to enjoy an original story from the creative team of Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl, Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow. Originally a treatment for a Thanksgiving television special, this story has been adapted into comic book form and illustrated by Roger Langridge. This is not Langridge’s first foray into the world of Jim Henson, as he was the author and illustrator for The Muppet Show Comic Book. His script adaptation and illustrations prove he was the right choice for this project as well, since it is easy to see how this comic could have been a television special.
The story focuses on a small town called Turkey Hill, where the turkey population vastly outweighs the human one to the tune of about 130:1. In the 1660s, a meteorite crashed near a brook in the town. Fast forward 300 years, and it turns out that the meteorite was actually an egg housing seven musical monsters.
The hero of this story is a young boy named Timmy, who practices his guitar playing down by the brook and finds himself accompanied by the seven monsters, each of whom has a sound effect for a name. Timmy and the monsters quickly become friends.
Not all is well in Turkey Hollow, however. Timmy’s family has an adversary by the name of Mister Sump. He is, as the imagery his name brings to mind implies, a curmudgeon of an old man who represents the very dregs of humanity. Throughout the comic, Timmy and his family have to thwart one of his schemes after the other in order to save their new friends, their property, and their Thanksgiving.
In addition to his work on Jim Henson titles, Langridge has created his fair share of original comics, including Snarked! and Fred the Clown, in addition to illustrating for titles like Thor the Mighty Avenger and Doctor Who. With all this experience it is no wonder Langridge has the diverse skill set needed to adapt this screenplay into a comic that is so enjoyable. A wonderful feature of this volume is that it tries to show you as much of the screenplay-to-comic process as possible, so you are able to see typed screenplay pages, full of Henson and Juhl’s hand-written notes, with scans of Langridge’s original page layouts side by side.
As anyone who’s ever seen a show with the Muppets knows, musical numbers are a big part of Henson and Juhl’s works. The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow is no exception. The monsters are all named after the sound effects they make, and these sounds form a big part of their characters. One of Timmy’s biggest concerns before the arrival of the monsters is how to improve his guitar playing, and his sister Ann works on a song that is added to throughout the comic.
Adapting musical numbers to comic book form cannot be easy, but Langridge uses floating musical notes and diverse hand-lettered sound effects to recreate the happy air that would be portrayed on-screen. Lyrics will also follow characters through panels to mimic a musical sequence in motion.
Each monster becomes brightly and uniquely colored when making music, a detail changed from the original project proposal photos that Jim Henson took of his daughters frolicking with the musical monsters in the woods. These photos can be seen in this volume. The varying colors are a welcome change, since the black and brown colors of the original monsters would have been less charming and harder to differentiate, despite their differing sizes.
The colors of the rest of the comic, done by Ian Herring, help set the mood and the time for the story. It takes place in 1968, and while the colors are varied, they are still in the muted hues that one would associate with old photographs. This compliments Langridge’s settings and character designs, which are firmly entrenched in the 1960s. This also further highlights when the musical monsters show up, because their sound effects pour out of them in bright colors that take over the page as their music flies through the air. This enhances Langridge’s work on the musical scenes and makes it easier to imagine them in motion.
If you are a fan of Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl’s work, especially Fraggle Rock, then The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow is for you. It doesn’t feature any of the characters we’ve come to know over the years, but it does give us new characters to learn about and it reminds us of why we became fans in the first place: a good story, lovable characters, and the idea that joy can be found even from something like a monster.