The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow
The Lost Television Special by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl
Adapted, Illustrated, and Hand-Lettered by Roger Langridge
Colors by Ian Herring
I’ve been a lifelong fan of everything Henson. From the first time I saw The Muppet Show, to the tenth time I watched The Dark Crystal, Jim Henson has been a major influence in my life. Those films, and Sesame Street, were the building blocks of how I learned, and the basis of how I now consume media. His work was also a primer on how to do things you want to do, how to make your dreams a reality despite the lack of technology, and how to create technology around your dreams.
This is not the first time I’ve heard of a Jim Henson project that was previously forgotten. I remember hearing a story from a friend when I was still going to school about a television series, a bunch of short sketches that featured Henson’s puppets, and one of those sketches captured my imagination, just upon hearing it. (This is all to illustrate how much the man affected me, please be patient.) The sketch detailed a card game between a man and the devil, all created with puppets. When I saw that The Storyteller was available on DVD I bought it immediately, and upon watching the sketch “The Soldier and Death” (not kidding), it lived up to my expectations entirely.
Ok. That was a long introduction for a comic that is not nearly as creepy as most of the stuff I grew up loving from Henson. The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow is an adaptation of a “lost” television special that Henson created in 1961 with collaborator Jerry Juhl. Archaia has done a fine job with the adaptations of other Henson properties, from the Dark Crystal to Labyrinth, and gives the adaptation duties once again to Roger Langridge. (The Muppet Show, 2000 A.D.)
The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow was a holiday special, one that would have aired in prime time and, if it had been made, would have become one that I’m sure I would have watched every year. It centers on a small turkey farming community and a family that is a bit on the edge socially, and their encounters with a group of dinging, bonking, doinging monsters. Yes…it feels like a Sesame Street sketch at points, and yes…you’ll love it.
Langridge has been put to use by Archaia before, helming most of their Henson adaptation books, and his skills have always proved perfect for transferring the visual medium Henson worked in to that which Langridge is a master of. But there’s something else that Langridge can add. Jim Henson had the ability to infuse a little magic into his shows. After thirty seconds of The Muppet Show you forgot that these were felt and glue and sticks, and laughed at the jokes just like it was another zany variety show. And Sesame Street, why, it seems to me that the actual people who lived on the street, Bob and Maria and Luis, (dating myself there) were the blessed few who had the chance to live on this crazy street, to see the Snuffleupagus for the first time. (He was imaginary at first folks.) Henson infused that into his shows. Langridge, with his art and the way he pays homage to the Henson ideal, does the same. The book has a cartoonist’s touch, but so did those other shows, and Archaia is doing the Henson vision proud with this book.
This comic is vintage Henson. It was written in 1968, only a year before Sesame Street and a short decade after Kermit the Frog was introduced to the world on Sam and Friends. The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow would have been the Thanksgiving Special on any or all of the major networks, and would be ranked and bundled with Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in holiday DVD collections. Archaia and the great talents of Roger Langridge have brought this to beautiful life, and now we can have a little more Henson, just a little more magic.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.