Despite my love of Jim Henson, which largely comes from watching the Muppets at an early age, The Dark Crystal was one of those obscure properties that felt more alien to me than Star Wars. The film gained a cult following after its 1982 release, probably more thanks to the amazing puppetry than its recycled narrative of simple good and evil and a prophesied chosen one. As good a film as The Dark Crystal is, the best thing that came out of Henson’s creation was its expanded universe.
Years before Netflix released the ten-hour prequel masterpiece Age of Resistance, a number of creators have told their own tales set in the fantasy world of Thra through other media. With the return of the original film’s concept artist Brian Froud, Creation Myths is a trilogy of graphic novels that reveal the definitive origins of the Skeksis, Mystics, Gelfling, and the Dark Crystal itself while introducing all new characters in an epic spanning thousands of years.
One of the late Jim Henson’s influences for The Dark Crystal was of the original Grimm Fairy Tales, which would make sense given the scary content of that film. Similarly, Creation Myths is predominately narrated by a cloaked figure known simply as “The Storyteller”. As if we were invited to be told by the Storyteller, the world of Thra began with the Crystal as the bright-beating heart, whilst Aughra is born out of the ground to be both mother and guardian of this world, including the young race of the Gelflings that are innocent, but must learn the harshness of life.
This is certainly not an action-orientated title, and it has to be said that if you are not well-versed in the lore of The Dark Crystal, you may struggle with the book’s alien environments. For those who are fans of the source material, will get a good kick out of the new characters, most notably Aughra’s son, Raunip. Introduced as a friend to all the races of Thra, until the arrival of the urSkeks, who are willing to impart their knowledge to both Aughra and the Gelflings in favor of guarding the Crystal, Raunip’s suspicion grows large. Becoming the unlikely protagonist, Raunip is a compellingly flawed figure who questions everything and that sense of misunderstanding leaves a “Thra-shattering” impact, but is willing to rectify those mistakes, even if it means creating a conflict between him and his own mother, who is just as flawed as he.
With three writers involved, it is surprising how consistent the whole package is, with a great deal of love towards this world as told through a handful of characters, whether it is the Gelfling known as Gyr the Musician or Kotha the Podling. From the Great Division that led to the arrival of the villainous Skeksis and the humble Mystics, to the Gelflings succumbing to the leadership of the Skeksis, the writers find nuance towards all these races that aren’t simply defined by black and white. Many of these characters are driven by their own ideologies, but with the Crystal being corrupted, all of Thra is shaken, leading to conflict and demise.
You shouldn’t expect luscious illustrations like Brian Froud’s in the interior art by Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John. However, they capture the basic idea of Froud’s character designs from the delicate Gelflings to the reptilian Skeksis and are able to expand upon the history of Thra. Drawn in heavy inking and soft coloring, there is an almost painterly quality towards the art. The issue in which Gyr travels across the ocean is the highlight in an artistic standpoint with huge panels showcasing the lonely boating and aquatic creatures.
As the three graphic novels now published as one hardcover collection, there is plenty of supplemental material to look at if you’re a follower of The Dark Crystal. From the sketch art by Brian Froud, who gives insight about the diverse look of each race, to the film’s screenwriter David Odell giving a lengthy reflection on working with Jim Henson, it opens more doors about why The Dark Crystal meant a great deal to its creator, which is incredibly touching.
Creation Myths may be backstory, but it’s filled with great drama and characters to make this alien world a compelling one. If you’re a fan of the original movie or Age of Resistance, this is a must-buy.
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