Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow
As part of Archaia’s continuing line of Jim Henson-related works — such as their publication of Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand and Fraggle Rock comics — they’ve put out Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, a print version of a never-produced Thanksgiving TV special written by the puppet master and Jerry Juhl.
The adapter and illustrator is Roger Langridge, a talent who’s previously demonstrated how well he understands Henson’s creations in his work on The Muppet Show comics, which were outstanding.
This is a simpler fable than that multi-layered show, but charming all the same. It’s set in 1968, giving us a reminder of a simpler time, and making the kids’ hobby of folk music a bit more sensible. Timmy and Ann like to play guitar in the woods, but an evil neighbor covets their land and chases them away with a pitchfork. He’s the wealthiest turkey farmer in Turkey Hollow and a bully. (His characterization is not subtle.)
Timmy goes to practice one day only to find himself accompanied by odd-sounding harmonies. The musical monsters, seven voyagers from space of different furry shapes, help him get the songs right. Portraying music in comics is difficult, and Langridge handles it both by lettering lyrics and having display text float through the panels, punctuated by drawn musical notes, as shown here.
Timmy’s new friends cause trouble as they follow him to school, and when the bad guy sees them, he riles up the townspeople to drive out the “demons” among them. There are accusations of theft and fear-mongering and the problem of dealing with those different from us, until everything wraps up neatly as Thanksgiving is celebrated with friends and feasting and music. Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow isn’t a deep or challenging book, but it’s a comfortable one, suitable for all ages, and a holiday pleasure to read.
The book opens with an explanatory note by a Henson Company archivist, giving the history of the project, and a photo of Henson’s daughters with the original puppets, built but never used. It closes with biographical sketches of the creators and some insight into the development process. Finally, there’s an amazing drawing of what it might have looked like to see the puppets being operated, creating in me a closing fondness for the genius and talent of Jim Henson. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)