Book of the Month
What did the
Art by Ramon Perez
Size: 152 pages
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.
Dude just wanted a cigarette.
Check out this preview on Graphicly:
You can find Tale of Sand at your local comic shop, bookstore, or Amazon.