Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand
Taleofsand-finalcover
Story by Jim Henson & Jerry Juhl
Art by Ramon Perez

Size: 152 pages
Price: 29.95

If you read the descriptions of Tale of Sand, the first thing you’re going to hear is about how this is a graphic novel based on a long lost screenplay by the late Jim Henson, and his writing partner Jerry Juhl. The story behind the book getting made is a great one, and Henson is in the zeitgeist with the success of the new Muppets movie. That should be reason enough to get most readers in the door.

And yet, that’s not the best reason to check out Tale of Sand. In truth, it’s not even the second best reason if you’re fan of great comics. That’s a hook for other people out there in the world to get them interested, and it’s a hell of a hook, no doubt. But if you’re into comics, and you love and appreciate the art form, there’s so much more to this book.

The first and most important reason to grab Tale of Sand is Ramón K. Pérez, plain and simple. This is a comic book tour de force. This is an artist of the highest caliber introducing himself to the world in a big way. He’s done some work here and there, but after Tale of Sand makes its mark, Pérez is going to make a massive leap forward in the ranks, and it’s obvious on every single page of this landmark work. When I was reading this book, I found myself feeling exactly like I felt when I first read Asterios Polyp. That’s not to say it’s like Mazzucchelli’s masterpiece. It isn’t. The art style isn’t similar. The story and tone aren’t similar, but the idea that this is something special, and something we haven’t seen before, that’s there. We don’t get that feeling very much in comics. We get a lot of same. It’s at the point where if I hear something new is great, I almost expect it to just be the same. Or it is different, but that’s the only notable quality. Tale of Sand is something else; something other, but it’s also very good, and we have Pérez to thank for that. Straight away, you can see that he’s a master draughtsman. The cartooning is so clean and so pure. There aren’t any wasted lines. There is exactly what there needs to be on the page. The styles tend to shift around a bit, since the story is rather surreal, but the unnamed main character is rock steady, which grounds us as insanity surrounds him more and more. It’s a style that feels familiar and new all at the same time. That’s how good this book looks. You could flip through the thing, not even reading it, but just looking at the images, and you can tell this is special. The artwork blew me away with every turn of the page, and never let up. The story gets crazier and crazier as we progress, yet Pérez held it down with storytelling that got wilder and more frenetic, where you’re flipping pages as fast as you can let your eyes absorb the images, and yet you never lose track of where you are. Or at least where it seems like you are. That’s the best reason to get this book.

The second best reason to get this book is the design of the whole package. If you are someone who appreciates a fine graphic novel, this is going to be the best looking book you’ve held in your hands in some time. The whole thing is basically shaped like an oversized yellow moleskine, right down to the rubber band. The pages are a heavy, matte that holds the sparse and controlled colors beautifully. The design of the front and back matter, containing pages from the original script, and archival photos of Henson, mixed with the art from the book is gorgeous. The lettering was derived from Henson’s own handwriting! It even smells good. This is a book you want to hold and show off, except you know that it really takes someone who knows about good comics to appreciate it, and those folks are a little hard to find when you’re not talking to people you don’t really know on the internet. You want to touch it and run your hands over it, and take care of it. You don’t want to read this book while you’re eating lunch. The packaging makes you want to make the reading an experience, and not just something you’re idly paging through. Most of all, the packaging compliments the artwork that I couldn’t say enough good things about in the above paragraph. There are many wonderful things about digital comics, but Tale of Sand is a book, through and through, and it would be best to enjoy it as such.

Of course, the reason most people will check out this book is because of the fascinating back story, which is all explained, as well as giving you some historical context for those not up on their Henson history. It’s true. Jim Henson wanted to make a movie from this script, but couldn’t get it made. If you’re looking for Muppets and silly gags, it’s not here. It reads more like an offshoot from Lost, or more so The Prisoner. It’s a fever dream car chase, and a romp of paranoia. Quite frankly, it’s very likely most people outside of film students would ever be able to sit through this thing had it been made. Also, had it been produced in the late 60s or early 70s, the technology and production budget would have left it looking very silly, and not nearly as expansive as what Pérez was able to pull off. There’s no clean or clear ending. There are no character names and there are no explanations. What happens happens, and you’ve got to make the sense out of it that you will. Other than that, I don’t want to explain it to you, partially because I can’t, and partially because you just need to jump in and experience this book on your own. All I can tell you is that it’s worth your time and money, and then some.

After you’ve read Tale of Sand, you will go back through it, flipping around, ogling the images. You’ll see more each time you look at the pages. You’ll appreciate the cartooning all the more. You’ll wonder what the point was, and not care that you don’t know yet. You’ll think about it, and you’ll continue to be impressed. Then, when they finally hand Archaia and Ramón K. Pérez the Eisner award, you’ll think about how you saw that coming from a mile away, like a charging band of Bedouins, a football team, and a tanker full of nitro glycerin.

Josh Flanagan
Dude just wanted a cigarette.
josh@ifanboy.com

Check out this preview on Graphicly:

You can find Tale of Sand at your local comic shop, bookstore, or Amazon.

Comments

  1. Well said, Josh. This book is really something special, and I’m happy to have it on my shelf.

    • jimladdy jimladdy says:

      I finally got around to buying this and let me say what a disappointment.
      There’s a reason this screenplay was never made into an actual movie and that’s because the whole thing is just a rambling nonsense of a story, the art is by far the highlight but the scripting just lets the whole thing down and it all seems like a pointless waste of time in the end, save your money and invest in something like Brian K Vaughan’s Saga instead if you want some real quality from your comics

  2. Joshy Joshy says:

    I’m gonna have to get this the next time I order books, now haven’t I?
    You had me at ‘Asterios Polyp’. The look of it made me think of that immediately , even though, as you said, it’s different.
    But if it’s just as good… there’s no way that I won’t like it.

    And I’m a sucker for those unique book designs.

  3. This was an amazing book to read. The art is jaw droppingly gorgeous and while the story is a bit weird (and clearly unfinished) I had a blast reading it.

    If this isn’t the front runner for ‘Graphic Novel of the Year’ then something is going to have to kick this book’s ass to do so.

  4. Jim Mroczkowski Jim Mroczkowski (@jimski) says:

    How in the hell did he think he was going to film this? Lions and explosions!

  5. Mincer Ray says:

    This looks amazing. Ordering it now!

  6. Wes Wes says:

    The art does look wonderful, but I have to ask: is this one of those books that exists solely to show off art and the actual story is secondary? If so, then I think I’ll pass.

  7. I’m usually reluctant to read stuff that’s been published posthumously—even more so if it has somehow been modified in an attempt to capture the artist’s “vision.” It kind of feels like trespassing. However, I picked up Tale of Sand after reading this review, and I absolutely loved it! Well contextualized and lovingly presented, it was clearly crafted with nothing but respect for the original script. Also: bonus points for the extra sturdy cover and sewn binding! Great pick, Josh!

  8. Ilash Ilash says:

    Wow, that’s some spectacular art. Another one to add to my must-buy pile. Thanks, Josh!

  9. SEChambers says:

    Cracked this open last night. It’s exactly as Josh describes and more. Very happy with it and I’ll be paying attention to whatever Archaia releases.

  10. jwaesch jwaesch says:

    I stopped reading this review as soon as I scrolled down to that first preview page.
    WOW!
    Do I even need to read on? Probably not, but I will continue reading Josh’s praise!

  11. Kmanifesto says:

    If Ramon Perez’s art was bubblegum, I’d buy it all and blow a bubble so big it would surround the earth!

  12. MarkCWarner MarkCWarner (@MarkCWarner) says:

    I am REALLY liking the trend to recommend books that I can immediately get from Graphicly. Is it self servicing from iFanboy?
    YES
    Does that mean it is unfair or limiting, or even questionable in any manner?
    NO
    After you review a book, and post it here, I get excited. I want to immediately purchase the book and add it to my queue, to view later. You reviewed a book sometime ago, that reminded me of Rusty the Boy Robot (ala Geoff Darrow) set in Steam Punk World War I. Love that genre, and it was a preview, but I do not remember the book, and a little frustrated when I could not get it digitally.

    Digital comics is the ONLY way I consume my comics now. I have NO desire to collect long boxes anymore. It is the terms and conditions that I gave myself when I rejoined the comicsphere. More to the point. You guys do a great job in spreading your enthusiam, Graphicly is spending good money in a strong Marketing Dept. I have no problem rewarding that investment.

    • MarkCWarner MarkCWarner (@MarkCWarner) says:

      Over 10 years ago a sleazy Wall Street guy was trying to take some money from me… he gave me a quote that I always remembered. A promise to yourself is the easiest one to break.

      A Graphicly and Word Balloon episode later – I am going to purchase this book

    • ChrisRobinson (@chrisrobinson) says:

      If this hasn’t resolved itself already, the book you were describing is actually titled RUST, funnily enough.

    • MarkCWarner MarkCWarner (@MarkCWarner) says:

      @chrisrobinson Thank you Chris for this, I just received RUST and TALE OF SAND in the mail last night. Going to tackle TOS this weekend, but I could not put down RUST. I really love that book and now like RASL, eagerly awaiting the next volume.

  13. UncleBob UncleBob says:

    My bank account curses you!

  14. okc says:

    I just picked this up for my wife (of course I’ll read it, too). An excellent gift!

  15. Spoons Spoons says:

    I just ordered this along with my pre-order for “Parker: The Score”. So I should be getting two pretty awesome books come early June.

  16. JimAdkins JimAdkins says:

    I’m very interested in this, but to be honest I’m only interested in buying digital. Does anyone know if this will ever be available in just digital?

    Thanks.

  17. Mr.Enigma Mr.Enigma (@EJsingley) says:

    I just picked this up this weekend at MEGA-CON in Orlando!.. Got it for 20 bucks. Since Tale Of Sand came out a few weeks ago ( it sold out of my local store), I started planning my search for it at the convention. It was tucked away behind a wall of wolverine HC’s. All the reviews have been stellar so far and I have been a Henson fan since I was kid.

  18. TomiH TomiH says:

    Not to sound like an ass, but what’s the book about?
    You talked about the packaging and back story and even the smell of the book more than the plot or characters.
    It’s fine if the story is minimalistic and I get that you want us to jump right in, but even a quick synopsis would help. Even the Graphicly blurb says nothing. Thanks.

    • TomiH TomiH says:

      Found it in a bookstore and skimmed through it. Looks like an Uncharted comic with the aesthetic of Asterios Polyp, and that is an awesome combo. I’ll definitely add it to my Amazon wishlist now.

  19. AmirCat AmirCat says:

    I just got this tonight, can’t wait to read it.

  20. JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

    This book is absolutely stunning. I am so glad I got it. if you don’t have this book, stop what you’re doing and buy it right now.

  21. Sensei44 Sensei44 says:

    Man, the art sure is the most impressive part of this book. The way Ramon Perez uses color is just outstanding. The line work reminded me a little bit of Jeff Smith’s stuff. But the color…wow. I don’t even know how to describe how well it was done. Definitely a unique book.

    To be honest, I bought this in spite of Jim Henson’s name. I am not a big fan of the Muppets. I just don’t get it. I’m happy that so many people do, don’t get me wrong. But this is something completely different, and for that, I’m happy.

  22. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    Everything about this books existence and allure is interesting to me from it being a long lost n’ found Jim Henson story to it being ifanboy’s book of the month. I’ve always liked Jim Henson as The Dark Crystal is one of my favorite movies. I saw this book on a solo display at one of my two lcs’s (Green Brain) and had to stop and look at it in person even though I had already read about it upon its preview awhile back prior to its release and now reading nothing but good feedback and it having a great overall book quality package, its going in the Amazon cart or I’m running back up to Green Brain to scoop it. I bought The Incal when it was the book of the month, R.I.P. Moebius, and am not disappointed, I only mention this cause ifanboy picks don’t disappoint. The salt water wash pallet of pastels rich with purples and yellows reminds me of Watchmen and love an abstract color scheme. Tale of Sand, join the collection.