Adding a brand new series to its list of Jim Henson-inspired comics, BOOM! Studios' Archaia imprint introduces Labyrinth: Coronation—an exploration of the wonderful world of Labyrinth (one of the most beloved cult classic movies of all time) that focuses on the story of a young Prince Jareth. To celebrate the book's release, and the lasting importance of David Bowie's turn as the Goblin King Jareth, I chatted with writer Simon Spurrier and some of the editors behind Labyrinth: Coronation about expanding the lore of such an iconic property.
For Spurrier, the experience of working on a Labyrinth comic has been a dream. "Both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth were such a huge influence on me as a youngster—I still see their tendrils looped around everything I write today—that it's a dream come true to play in those sandboxes," he said. "As with all work in a cherished license, the trick is to tread the tightrope between adoring fanfic and bolshy iconoclasm.There's a lot riding on it."
When Spurrier says "there's a lot riding on it," he isn't kidding. This isn't just your standard popular property; Labyrinth carried a specific significance for a lot of young viewers. "So many young minds had their sense of fantasy and wonder—not to mention creepiness—triggered by that one movie," he said. "And that's before you even get into the coming-of-age/sexual awakening stuff that bubbles below, if you choose to see it."
But that's before even getting to what may be the biggest challenge of the project. "The nerve-wracking cherry on the cake: writing scenes with a character eternally associated with the late David Bowie," Spurrier said. "So, yes: readers are inevitably going to go into an experience like this with some very loaded expectations and concerns."
BOOM! Senior Editor Sierra Hahn expanded on the responsibility that the company felt with this project. "On the editorial side, you always feel pressure to deliver on a number of fronts—for the fans as well as the Jim Henson Company," she said. "What Jim Henson would have wanted versus what a fan may want doesn't always align, so you find yourself in a unique position deciding on how to deliver the goods and how to effectively 'kill your darlings.'"
Hahn isn't exactly coming at this from a novice's point of view, however. "That said, I'm both an editor and a diehard Labyrinth fan, which affords me a unique perspective that can—I hope!—equally represent both sides," she said. "Learning how many incredible storytellers take inspiration from this film made fellow editor, Cameron Chittock, and my job a bit easier too. We found people we could really trust with this world in hiring the best with Simon, Daniel, and Fiona Staples, Rebekah Isaacs, and Sana Takeda on covers."
In the end, it seems as though Hahn feels as though she found the right recipe to satisfy her fellow diehards. "My inner fangirl is losing her mind right now!" she said. "I've no doubt that the pressure we all shared in creating this series has made a Labyrinth book everyone will be delighted by."
Spurrier was tight-lipped when asked what he was most excited about playing with in the Labyrinth universe, though he did let a few things eke out. "I don't want to give too much away, for obvious reasons, but part of the beauty of the world of the Labyrinth is its wonderful ambiguity," he said. "It doesn't behave like a 'real' world, per se. It probably has no fixed form, but evolves and distorts according to the hopes, dreams, desires and fears of those within it."
He continued, "I say probably because, by the same token, we absolutely don't want to just go ahead and declare that the Labyrinth exists solely in the mind of, say, a pubescent American girl in the 1980s, or, in our case, a working class mother in late-18th century Venice. It's more nuanced than that—a reactive and plastic environment which one senses exists in part just to present challenges to those who get lost within it.
Spurrier found a way to sum up the inherently complex notion of the Labyrinth: "In other words, a large part of our approach to this project lies in establishing the boundaries of our own splendid hazy uncertainty," he said. "The Labyrinth is a place of sheer creative chaos, but it follows rules."
Exploring the background of Bowie's iconic Jareth the Goblin King was a huge draw for Spurrier and his collaborator Daniel Bayliss. "There's no limit to the additions you can make to the lore," Spurrier said. "In our case we're fascinated by how Jareth came to be where he is. What's emerged is a dynastic melodrama revolving around the previous ruler of the Labyrinth—a dark and mysterious entity known only as The Owl King—and his attempts to steal a human child as his heir before his notoriously fickle goblin subjects get fed up with his authoritarian ways and rise up in revolt."
But then comes a new element to the story: "The one thing he hadn't counted on was the determination of the baby's mother," Spurrier said. "And of course, this being the Labyrinth, there's a lot more going on than meets the eye."
As for what Spurrier is most excited for fans to see in the comic, he whet our appetites with this detailed description. "I think, right now—having just seen the colors for #1—I'm most excited by the sneaky moment when the goblins start emerging from the shadows to whisper to our heroes in the real world," Spurrier said. "It's our comics-centric version of the scene in the movie when Sarah keeps almost seeing cackling monstrosities on the very corners of her vision, and we've done it in a way that you really couldn't in any other medium. Daniel's nailed it, and I can't wait for everyone to see how."
For BOOM! Studios editor Cameron Chittock, it's all about the ongoing story. "My real excitement comes from knowing how little moments in the first issue set up what Simon and Daniel have in store for the rest of the series," Chittock said. "What seems innocuous now might gain greater significance as Maria continues her journey. So I recommend fans take their time reading #1, as you never know what could end up being important in the Labyrinth."
Labyrinth: Coronation #1 comes out on Wednesday, February 28th.
Images: BOOM! Comics
More news from the Hensonverse!
- Labyrinth is coming back to theaters!
- Will the next Muppets reboot get it right?
- Watch Adam Savage tour the Jim Henson exhibit at the MOMI