Let’s recap, shall we? Earlier this week, we talked to Bryce P. Coleman and Michael DiMotta (writer and artist of the Gorg story in the latest issue of Fraggle Rock) and even earlier in the week, we talked to Grace Randolph and Whitney Leith (writer and artist of the Doozer story). But just to keep things interesting, we’re gonna break from our two-in-one trend and bring you a Q&A with just one dude. And the dude in question is Tim Beedle, the Managing Editor for the Fraggle Rock comics!
Tim Beedle has had a decent history with Muppets and comics over the years. A few years back, he edited the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth manga comics from TokyoPop, and more recently he wrote the Muppet Robin Hood comic book. If only he worked on some sort of Sesame Street comic, he’d have the Henson hat trick!
We’ve got a lot of pressing questions for Tim, so let’s get started! And away we go…
ToughPigs: When we last spoke, you were writing Muppet Robin Hood for BOOM Kids, following your job as editor for the Labyrinth and Dark Crystal mangas at TokyoPop. How did you get involved with Archaia? And is it a coincidence that you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve worked on so many different Henson-related properties?
Tim Beedle: There have been a lot of them, haven?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t there? I like to think that I just possess a greater understanding of the puppet mindset than the average comic book guy. Or maybe I just really have a thing for talking frogs. Actually, the truth is that Gobo Fraggle and I go way back and he has a lot of pull over at The Jim Henson Company. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m not above calling in a few favors, especially when all that?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s wanted in exchange are a few radishes.
Nah, the real answer is that I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve had a relationship with The Jim Henson Company since my time at Tokyopop. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a relationship that I think really grew out of the passion I have for the characters and worlds that Jim Henson created and that his company has carried on. And it was something Joe LeFavi, Henson?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s former Director of Publishing and Development, picked up on really quickly when we started working together on Return to Labyrinth and Legends of The Dark Crystal. When Archaia signed their licensing agreement with Henson, Joe suggested to them that I might be a good choice to edit some of the books. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d also met with Archaia?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Christy, earlier in the year and he had read the Labyrinth and Dark Crystal mangas, so I think everything just sort of fell into place.
TP: How did your work on Muppet Robin Hood prepare you for working with Fraggles?
TB: Well, it certainly helped me prepare for dealing with the really hardcore fans! I mean, some of the bruises are still healing from the reviews a few of you gave Muppet Robin Hood.
Actually, my roles in the two projects are pretty different, and the projects themselves are pretty different as well. However, I did learn that you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re never going to please everybody, so there?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s really no point in trying to. I think if you do, what you wind up with is very watered down entertainment. I started learning that at Tokyopop with the work I did not only on the Henson titles, but also with Warcraft, Star Trek and even some of the Japanese books. But I really noticed it with Muppet Robin Hood. A lot of fans didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t feel like it felt ?¢‚Ç¨?ìMuppety?¢‚Ç¨¬ù enough and I felt bad about that until I read some of the reviews elsewhere which were positively glowing. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve really enjoyed some of the Muppet comics that have come out since and have been pretty lukewarm about others, and what it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s told me is that when dealing with characters that have the history that the Muppets do, what?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the Muppets are to one person they may not be to someone else. That?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s true to some extent with the Fraggles as well. Fraggle Rock was such a rich show and it contained so many layers. One writer could write a Fraggle story about ecology, another could write a story about friendship, a third could write about creativity and a fourth could write about juggling pies and they could all be completely appropriate. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s one of the reasons why I think the anthology format works.
TP: As the editor for the Fraggle Rock comic book, what does your day-to-day job entail?
TB: It entails far more conversations about the precise color of tail fur than I ever wanted to have!
As an editor, you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re the one responsible for keeping the project on schedule and moving forward, which is a real challenge when it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s an anthology and you can have over a half dozen stories in various stages of development all at one time. It begins by helping the writers develop their stories, then working with them to ensure Henson?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s concerns are addressed. Obviously, script editing is a part of it as well, but you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re also responsible for making sure the art is on model and the visual storytelling is clear. And of course, it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s your responsibility to make sure the lettering is right. Writers don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t want any of their theres written as they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢res. That sort of thing.
TP: Many of the writers and artists we interviewed cited you as their gateway into working on the Fraggle comic. How did you go about finding and hiring these talents?
TB: That?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the fun part. Some of them were people I had worked with before at Tokyopop or elsewhere, a few were people that were recommended to me, a couple were artists that I scouted at conventions and one of them was someone who saved me from the goblins and whom I owed a favor. (I hope we?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re square now, Humphries!)
Really, they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re all just artists and writers who I admire and who I knew were fans that would bring their all to the project. And I can?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t take credit for all of them. Some of them were brought on by Paul Morrissey or Joe LeFavi. Actually, Tough Pigs can take pride in the fact that you introduced me to Katie Cook! The first time I ever saw her art was on your site.
TP: How did you first become a Fraggle Rock fan? And what form does your fandom take today?
TB: Well, I was a fan of all of Jim Henson?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s work. My parents introduced me to Sesame Street and The Muppet Show when I was a child, so when I heard about Fraggle Rock, I was very interested. Unfortunately, I didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t have HBO, so I really didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t get a chance to watch the series until years later when I was in college. And I didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t truly get a sense of how much was actually going on in the series until I was asked to revisit it by Tokyopop to determine if it might be a license they wanted to pursue along with Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
These days, my fandom mostly takes the shape of all the cool Fraggle drawings I have on my wall. And of the series DVD set I keep trying to convince Henson to send me.
TP: Who are your favorite characters? Least favorite?
TB: I seem to be the only Fraggle Rock fan on the planet who absolutely adores Mokey. She?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s by far my favorite of the main five, though I do also really like Wembley as well. I think it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the Hawaiian shirt.
No character stands out as my least favorite to me, but I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m not a big fan of the Doozers. They?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re cute, but the fact that they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re always working cuts a little too close to home for me. Plus, that ?¢‚Ç¨?ìYes, We Can?¢‚Ç¨¬ù song of theirs always gets stuck in my head when we play the Fraggle Rock soundtrack at signings. My God, that one?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s an earworm. Adrianne Ambrose told me that she was singing that song for weeks after she wrote, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìWhere Have All the Doozers Gone??¢‚Ç¨¬ù
TP: What sort of creative criticism have you had to give to the writers and artists?
TB: Not really all that much, to be honest. Scale has been a problem in a few stories. ?¢‚Ç¨?ìA Visitor From Outer Space?¢‚Ç¨¬ù comes to mind. Everyone wanted to draw the cat much larger than it really should?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve been. I had to ask Jake Myler to scale it down in several panels, but he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s not the only one. Katie Cook drew a really cute concept for her issue #2 cover that we loved, but didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t ultimately go with in part because the scale was way off and we didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t think the concept would work as well if we corrected it. On the writing side of things, I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve had to push some of the writers to add a bit more humor. We definitely want the lessons of the TV show to be in our comic as well, but we don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t want it to be at the expense of our jokes! Fortunately, we have some very funny writers working on this. I just think a few of them tend to err on the side of caution since they know Fraggle Rock isn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t an out-and-out comedy.
TP: If you had to name a favorite Fraggle Rock story from the comics, which would you choose?
TB: Oh man?¢‚Ç¨¬¶you know I can?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t answer that! You get in trouble as an editor when you answer questions like that! Ha ha!
I can say that I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve enjoyed every single story we?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve run in the series, all of them in different ways. I have lots of favorites. However, the one that may have surprised me the most is Bryce P. Coleman?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s backup story in issue #3, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìTo Catch a Fwaggle.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù Bryce is a great writer and is a big Jim Henson fan, but I know that Fraggle Rock wasn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t a series he had grown up with. I wasn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t sure if he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d want to pitch ideas for it, but he was interested in part because he wanted to write a comic that he could share with his two young daughters. When he actually pitched me his story idea, he seemed unsure of it. Like he wasn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t sure if it would be good enough, which was absolutely nuts because it was one of the strongest Gorg stories I had received. I was genuinely moved when I read the end of it. I think he does a phenomenal job of summing up Junior?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s personality and motivations in six brief pages in a really great way. Considering how new Bryce was to the series, I was extremely impressed.
TP: Have you started production on the next round of Fraggle Rock comics yet? If so, can you give us a tease on what we can expect?
TB: Yes, Volume 2 is underway! The first issue is scheduled to release in October to coincide with the debut of Fraggle Rock on the new Hub channel.
We?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re still finalizing everything so there?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s not a lot that I can say about it, but I can reveal that the first issue of the second volume will have a lead story written by Grace Randolph, the author of Muppet Peter Pan, and drawn by Chris Lie, the illustrator of Return to Labyrinth. I think people are going to be surprised by Chris?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ work on the story as it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s going to look pretty different from the manga style he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s been using on Return to Labyrinth. The first issue will also feature a backup written by his Return to Labyrinth cohort Jake Forbes and a hilarious short story written by Joe LeFavi. The man?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s such a huge Fraggle Rock fan that it only made sense to have him contribute some stories to our series and he wrote a great Wembley short that I think everyone?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s going to love. Oh, and one of our covers will be drawn by David Petersen, though I think you already know that!
That?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s just the first issue of the second volume. You?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll have to follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook to learn who will be working on the second two issues!
TP: Are you still writing comics in addition to your editing duties? Where might readers find that work?
TB: Oh yes, my goal is to continually balance both. However, the projects I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m focusing on right now are all creator-owned projects unlike the licensed work I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve done in the past. Well, mostly. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll be writing a Mokey backup for Volume 2, so look out for that. (All right, so I guess I gave you one more Vol. 2 creator?¢‚Ç¨¬¶but it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the last you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re gonna get today!) However, outside of that short comic, I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m hoping the next two projects you see from me will be based on my own ideas. One of them is an illustrated novella I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m working on with the ridiculously talented Whitney Leith that we?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re calling Coin-Operated Boy. And the other is a humor comic called Checked Out that my good friend Nichol Ashworth has offered to draw.
I can?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t tell you where to find either of them yet. Stay tuned for news on that. However, they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re both moving ahead, slowly but surely.
TP: Lastly, is there a message you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d like to pass along to the Fraggle Rock fans out there?
TB: Certainly. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve found that Jim Henson fans are some of the most interesting, intelligent and flat-out remarkable people I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve ever met and I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m convinced it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s because the work he did when he was alive was shaped by a strong belief in leaving this world a better place than it was when you arrived. That ideal is visible in everything he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s done. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s left its mark on everyone who grew up with the Muppets, the Fraggles, Jareth, Aughra, Big Bird and everyone else. And it has never been more crucial than it is now. Continue to spread the good word about Jim Henson?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s work, but don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t forget to spread his ideals as well. We can still leave this world a better place. Man, do we ever NEED to.
Many thanks to Tim Beedle and everyone at Archaia Comics!
Click here to worry about the precise color of tail fur on the ToughPigs forum!
by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com