Muppets and Fraggles: Licensed Kids’ Comics Reviews
Fraggle Rock #1
The Fraggles return in a new licensed three-issue miniseries from Archaia, the first publication stemming from their deal with the Jim Henson Company announced last year. The comic is in the square format also used by Mouse Guard, and this first issue contains three color stories for $3.95 US.
The main story, by Heather White and Jeff Stokely, features faithful likenesses, but there’s a stiffness to them, a sense that we’re watching still photos of puppets instead of moving creatures. Kids likely won’t notice, since the Fraggles look so much like the TV show, if kids are even familiar with that. If they’re not, then they’re cute little weirdos.
The story features Red daring Gobo to spend the night in the Gorg garden, in order to prove he’s really a brave explorer. The structure allows lots of basics of the Fraggle world to be (re)introduced: the dog in the kitchen with the hole that opens to the Fraggle world, the Gorgs, the five main Fraggle characters, Uncle Travelling Matt, and so on. We even see the trash heap that serves as the voice of responsibility, reminding the characters of the virtues of teamwork and friendship.
There are two backup stories, one each written and drawn by Katie Cook and Jeffrey Brown. Katie’s is more cartoony, which I preferred, since it looked more like a comic than a storyboard for the show, while Jeffrey’s is distinguished by amazing, near-psychadelic colors by Michael DiMotta. Katie’s has a lovely lesson about not being bound by time or pushed into racing competition. There’s also a “how to draw Doozers” page.
Overall, these stories are typical of works for kids: the lessons sometimes take precedence over the entertainment value. That’s to please the parents, who control the pocketbook. I never found the Fraggles as entertaining as the Muppets, anyway; the Fraggles seemed created to tell these kinds of lessons instead of just having chaotic fun. So perhaps this comic is even more faithful than I thought! Either way, this is more of a kids’ comic than a truly all-ages one, with less to interest adults who aren’t Fraggle completists.
For collectors, there are three alternate covers, a 1-in-4 art alternative by Jeffrey Brown, a retailer summit cover, and a photo cover. I don’t understand why companies feel the need to put these chase covers on kids’ books, but so long as the sales keep the titles going and they reprint all of the art in the eventual collection, I can’t gripe too much about it.
The Muppet Show #4
Writer: Roger Langridge
Artist: Amy Mebberson
Boom! Kids, $2.99 US
Roger Langridge turns over art duties temporarily to Amy Mebberson with this issue, but if I hadn’t known to be looking for it, I’m not sure I would have noticed, since the characters have the same wonderful likenesses and movement. Although shorter than Fraggle Rock (24 pages at a lower price to Fraggle’s 32), The Muppet Show is so jam-packed that the reading value is similar, at least for me.
The concepts are still as bizarrely entertaining, with the book beginning with Statler and Waldorf cast as gods, playing chess with the other characters. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of gags, puns, and other random comedy, from Sam the Eagle doing Shakespeare to Muppet Labs doing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Whether or not you get the references, there’s plenty of funny of all kinds, keeping all ages entertained and amused. Some of the jokes require close attention, playing out in the background over several pages, providing good re-read value.
The structure of a variety show allows for plenty of scene changes and inclusion of favorite bits, like “Pigs in Space” and Gonzo’s ridiculous stunts. Most excitingly to me, this issue features the introduction of Skeeter, Scooter’s twin sister. She’s a welcome balance to the male-heavy standard cast, and she provides some deeper emotion as Scooter deals with jealousy due to her abilities.
This is the best licensed comic out there for taking the original and making new stories that are completely faithful and yet totally new, with something for everyone.