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May 23, 2010

My 2nd Week with Fraggle Comics Day 1: Neil Kleid & Fernando Pinto

Filed under: Feature — Tags: , , , — Joe Hennes @ 11:33 am

Day 1: Nick Kleid & Fernando Pinto
Day 2: Adrianne Ambrose & Joanna Estep

Day 3: Leigh Dragoon & Jake Myler

Fragglecomic2bLast month, we got all overexcited about the Fraggle Rock comic book and featured five Q&As with the talent involved with the first issue. Heather White, Jeff Stokely, Joe LeFavi, Jeffrey Brown, and Katie Cook all chatted us up about being Fraggle fans and working on the comic book. And now that the second issue is on its way (in stores Wednesday, May 26!), we’re celebrating with another week full of Q&As!

Over the next few days, we’ll be presenting six interviews with the writers and artists of Fraggle Rock #2, paired up for your convenience. First up is writer Neil Kleid and illustrator Fernando Pinto, whose short story “The Convincing of Convincing John” appears in the latest issue of Fraggle Rock.

Be sure to head back here in a few days for more Fraggle comic Q&As!

ToughPigs: How did you first become a Fraggle Rock fan? And what form does your fandom take today?

Neil Kleid: Well, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m an old-school Fraggle Rock fan from way back, having caught the very first episode in my Underoos back in ’83. We’d just gotten cable TV in my house and that meant HBO for both movies and Fraggles. I was an avid watcher of the show and though the mists of time and age have ruined my memories of episode details, DVDs and an interested two year old in my house have now brought Fraggles, Doozers, Gorgs, Trash Heaps, Minstrels and radish-flavored towers back with a vengeance. It’s a testament to the show that when first watching Bob the Builder with my son, my gut reaction was, “So… he’s a Doozer?”

TP: What sort of research did you do in preparation to write for Fraggles?

NK: Besides the usual internet trawl, catching up on characters and relationships, I sat down for a marathon DVD session?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùpartly with my son, partly alone?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùand really considered themes and lessons from every show. You’ve got to be in a specific state of mind to write for Fraggles, I think… every episode contains some sort of lesson you can apply to life and you need to think about the interlocking relationships the many races surrounding Fraggle Rock can share. Sesame Street and The Muppets are a blast, sure, but they’re set up anthology-style where every show has a handful of short sketches and stories, but each episode of Fraggle Rock has a beginning, middle and end and allows you to really explore the personalities of each character.

TP: How did you get the job to write for Archaia Comics?

NK: Persistence combined with hard work, mostly. I’ve known the Archaia gents for years now, stretching back to before my first book hit the stands. I’ve been pitching them projects in one form of another for the last 5-6 years and nothing really came together. I went on to do my own work for other publishers, showing the finished products to Archaia?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s editors, and when I heard they were partnering with Henson I set a meeting with then Director of Development Stephen Christy at the San Diego Comic-Con to find out how to get involved. A few sketches and springboards later, and here we are.

TP: Your bibliography contains mostly original comics with small independent presses. Was it difficult writing for a preexisting property with so much history like Fraggle Rock? cj3

NK: Not really. I’ve done a number of comics based in existing universes?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùfrom the X-Men to Dungeons and Dragons to some upcoming stories still in development stages. Like with any licensed property, it’s all in the research. When I was invited to pitch X-Men, I hadn’t picked up an X-Men comic in four years…so one night, I sat down with a stack of trade paperbacks and crammed years of history into my head (I think I pushed a few things out, like how to drive and how tOO TIPe!). What it really comes down to is respecting characters, histories and personalities, making sure not to forget what’s come before while trying to build something new. Fraggle Rock, like most Henson properties, has a loyal and vocal fan base and when crafting stories for them; I’m very careful to make sure the “voice” of the piece is one they can recognize even if the format or presentation is uniquely my own.

TP: Who are your favorite characters? Least favorite?

NK: I dig both of Jim Henson’s alter egos on the show, Convincing John and Cantus the Minstrel. To me, they represent two sides of a single personality?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùone forceful and preachy, the other calm and indulgent, each trying to teach us lessons but using their own unique style to do so. I’ll also admit affection for every last little Doozer you’ll see, Large Marvin and Boober?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùboth of whom I relate to in ways that are often too frightening to admit. Least favorite? I’m not a Mokey fan, but then I’ve got an Eric Cartman-esque anti-hippie streak running through me.

TP: Which characters have been the most difficult to write?

NK: Traveling Matt. I like the man, would gladly provide him with pen and postcards to continue his quest through outer space, but Gorg help me, I couldn’t craft one of those weird little encounters with us silly creatures if I tried. Red’s another tough cookie because it’s always about one-upsmanship and I’m the most non-competitive person you’ll meet, so it always ends up being about raw, seething, ugly jealousy?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùnot exactly the kind of story you hope to nurture from a Fraggle.

TP: What has the response to your work from Archaia and The Jim Henson Company been like? cj4

NK: Really excellent so far. All of my Henson feedback has come directly through managing editor Tim Beedle and Archaia but they seem really happy with the story Fernando and I crafted, so much so that we’re discussing more, longer stories should the series warrant future volumes. It amazes me to think that via Archaia I’m working for Henson ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùa name that embodies creativity and fun and childhood?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùand that I can make my mark on a property I’ve always loved, putting words into the mouths of characters I grew up with. I really don’t need any more… but truth be told, I’d kill for a chance to play in the Henson creature shop for a day, and would I say no to my very own muppetized Neil Kleid? Of course not.

TP: What do you think is really beyond the Gorg?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s castle? Do they really rule an entire universe, or does the world just end?

NK: Oh, the world ends all right. But at its end is another, larger rock filled with other, larger Fraggles. The Gorg’s castle is THEIR Doozer tower. And one day, those Fraggles are gonna get hungry.

TP: Can you give us a tease of what to expect from your story?

NK: Basically, the little six-page story I dreamed up with my pal Fernando Pinto is the secret origin of Convincing John, couched inside a lyrical life lesson. Brush up on your convincing music, because you’ll want to read the story to the tune of our man John’s unique, inimitable musical score…!

TP: Where else can readers find your non-Fraggle work?

NK: I’ve got a little interweb bunker set up at www.rantcomics.com that showcases the books and work I’ve done, announces upcoming projects and leads to my ill-updated blog. You can do a quick Amazon search for my books or check me out on Twitter at www.twitter.com/neilkleid where I’m usually found discussing upcoming work, thinking up rejected G.I.Joe code names, dreaming about barbecue and sometimes doling out tips on how to make it in the comics industry. Honestly, though, it’s mostly barbecue.

TP: Lastly, is there a message you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d like to pass along to the Fraggle Rock fans out there?

NK: So, last week I was flipping through Entertainment Weekly and was hit face-first with an article that reminded me it’s been TWENTY years since Jim Henson passed on. Twenty. Years. And, man… do I feel old. But if you really consider how much his legend and legacy has grown the last two decades and the fact that older fans gave way to newer fans and so on, you start to realize how much joy Jim, the Henson Company and the various characters they’ve created brought into the world. With the resurgence of Muppet/Fraggle interest the last few years and availability on both DVD and the web, I can introduce my son to something that made me happy two decades ago and watch as it does the same for him. It’s been 27 years since Fraggle Rock first aired, 20 since Jim passed, and the joy and lessons and happiness both brought to legions of fans have only grown and multiplied. Would that we could all impact the world that way. I’d like to try, and that’s why I’m thrilled to do my part with this little story. Here’s hoping you’ll all let me do more.cj1


ToughPigs: How did you first become a Fraggle Rock fan? And what form does your fandom take today?

Fernando Pinto: I was a big fan as a kid of Fraggle Rock and everything else that came out of The Jim Henson Company. Those people are geniuses. There?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s such a sense of wonder and innocence in everything they do, but nothing they?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve done has ever patronized their audience in any way, shape or form. That has always amazed me.

TP: What sort of research did you do in preparation to draw Fraggles?

FP: Google search is the comic book artist?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s best friend these days. I also watched a bunch of YouTube clips of the show to get a sense on how the characters should move, and tried to incorporate it into my pages. Also the help of my great managing editor, Tim Beedle, providing me with reference material was very, very appreciated. Thanks, Tim!

TP: How did you get the job to illustrate for Archaia Comics?

cj5FP: My friend Neil Kleid was writing the story, and he suggested me to the editors. They checked out my work online and shot me an e-mail to see if I was interested. I definitely was!

TP: Your short story involves Convincing John. Did you have any trouble capturing his essence since he only appears in a few episodes of Fraggle Rock?

FP: It was a bit of a challenge, but after some trial and error I think we came to a convincing representation of him. Pun OH so fully intended… sorry about that. Nah, not really, puns rule!… OK, sorry.

TP: Who is your favorite character?

FP: I always really liked Wembley ?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢cause he was just so goofy and insecure, but always ends up doing the right thing. And Hawaiian shirts always look cool, I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t care what anybody says.

TP: Which characters have been the most difficult to draw?

FP: Probably Convincing John and the Fragglettes, because of the lack of reference material available. They need to make some toys of them. Not only as a reference for artists, but they would look so cool next to my drawing board!

TP: What has the response to your work from Archaia and The Jim Henson Company been like?

FP: They seem to be pretty happy with the work. I hope they invite me to play with them again soon.

TP: If you had powers of persuasion like Convincing John, what would you convince people to do?

cj6FP: I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d probably either convince them to try and better themselves for the good of mankind, or have them embarrass themselves by doing stupid stuff for my amusement. Hmm?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ haven?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t decided yet. Probably the latter. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m a simple man.

TP: Can you give us a tease of what to expect from your story?

FP: A really great story written by the amazing Neil Kleid with art by me… and tons of singing!

TP: Where else can readers find your non-Fraggle work?

FP: You can check me out on a short story (also written by Neil) for Image Comics?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ Fractured Fairytales coming out in July. You can also check out the weekly updates of my online original graphic novel called Warped! at www.warpedcomic.wordpress.com. And to see what else I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve done you can see the rest of my stuff at www.fernandopintoart.com.

TP: Lastly, is there a message you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d like to pass along to the Fraggle Rock fans out there?

FP: Stay in school. Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t do drugs. And read Fraggle Rock ! Also, I wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t taunt a cop if he pulls you over. That?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s more of a rule of thumb than a message, but I think it never hurts to hear it. They got taser guns, you know?cj2 Many thanks to Neil Kleid and Fernando Pinto for agreeing to chat with us! Head on back here for more Q&As throughout the week!

Click here to be convinced to buy the Fraggle Rock comic book on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com



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