Thirty years ago today, a wonderfully weird Jim Henson movie was released: 1986’s Labyrinth, starring Jennifer Connelly as a lost young girl on a quest to find her little brother, and David Bowie as the mysterious Goblin King hell-bent on winning her heart. With gorgeous creature and puppet design by legendary artist Brian Froud, the iconic Bowie soundtrack, and a story that inspired strange kids everywhere, Labyrinth is a cult classic in more ways than one. And now, Archaia Comics is releasing a children’s book to introduce the characters and their epic tale to a new generation.
Written and illustrated by acclaimed children’s book illustrator Cory Godbey, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Tales follows a day in the life of plucky guardsman Sir Didymus, along with his pals Ludo and Hoggle. It’s an adorable peek into the world of Labyrinth that will hopefully encourage kids of today to go out and seek out the original film. And not only do we have an exclusive preview of the new book for you to peruse (in the gallery bel0w), we had a chance to speak with Cory Godbey about Labyrinth, Jim Henson, other fantasy films, and fulfilling his artistic dreams.
Nerdist: What first drew you to the world of Jim Henson?
Cory Godbey: I’m sure the first time I saw anything that Jim Henson touched would’ve been Sesame Street. As for Labyrinth specifically, perhaps surprisingly—or perhaps shockingly—I didn’t see it until I was in my mid 20s. I was about the right age for it, but growing up I was only interested in animation. If it was live-action, sorry, little Cory just couldn’t be bothered. Undoubtedly, my first brush with Labyrinth must’ve been through the Muppet Babies episode (animation, you see).
N: Labyrinth is certainly a children’s movie, but a creepy one at that. How do you balance the macabre tone of the film with the (usually) lighter tone of a children’s book?
CG: Truthfully, that’s not something that ever occurred to me while working on the stories. When I’m working on one of them, first and foremost, my main goal is to treat it honestly and respectfully. I bring a lot of myself to these kind of projects and I think somehow there’s been just the right mix of influences at play on my own work. And either way, everyone—children especially—appreciates honesty, and my goal has always been to interpret the film’s complex visual language as honestly and truthfully as I can. I might lean on some of the more silly moments for the stories, perhaps, but it’s just never occurred to me to try and alter or “lighten” the tone of the art or characters from the movie for these stories.
I take the opportunity to bring these new stories to life very seriously and I work hard to be certain that I’ve gathered appropriate reference for the characters and the world itself. At the same time, I can’t help but bring my own style and essence to the work and not lean too heavily on the reference. It’s a delicate balance, trying to create something new while honoring the original work. I’ve been gratified to see the response from fans who have enjoyed my take on these classic characters!
N: When writing, how do you get into character as the lovable Sir Didymus? Did you find yourself speaking more elegantly while you were working on the book?
CG: Ha! Perchance, not out loud… methinks? But while writing for Sir Didymus I certainly do think in more vaulted, florid vocabulary.
N: The Labyrinth is such a rich world of creatures. Were there any smaller characters that you’d like to bring back for another children’s book?
CG: I do love that worm. And I’ve always been fascinated with the Wiseman character and his bird hat. There’s bound to be a tale or two yet for that pair!
N: What’s your process like? What comes first, words or illustrations?
CG: People might assume drawings first but when I do my own stories it’s all writing. Then a few scribbles (which suggest more writing, which in turn suggest more scribbles). It’s a messy process to even get to the drawing stage.
N: If you could write a book, graphic novel, or comic based on any film, what would it be and why?
CG: Without a doubt, my very favorite book is The Neverending Story. I know that the 1984 film of the same name has its fans but I would love the opportunity to bring that book to life in illustrations—by adapting a graphic novel or traditionally illustrated chapter book—in a way that reflects the grandeur and power of original story. Somebody get somebody on the phone for me!
N: What advice to you have to Nerdist readers and aspiring writers/artists?
CG: Don’t wait until you feel like you have the perfect idea or the perfect drawing ability! The truth is, you get more ideas by spending your existing ideas so just get out there and make something. You have a well of creativity inside you that’s meant to give others a drink.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Tales will be released in comic book shops on September 21, and in bookstores on September 27.
Images: Cory Godbey