This June marks the 30th anniversary of Labyrinth, Jim Henson’s fantasy film featuring young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) pursuing her stolen infant brother into the magical realm of Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie).
Although a critical and commercial disappointment at the time of release, Labyrinth has accumulated a significant cult following in the years since. So to commemorate the anniversary, BOOM! Studios’ Archaia imprint, in collaboration with The Jim Henson Company, is releasing three comic book tributes this year: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Special in August, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Tales in September, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Artist Tribute in November. The Henson Company will also be celebrating the anniversary with a limited run theatrical re-release in September, followed by a souped-up Blu-Ray.
EW spoke with BOOM! editor Sierra Hahn about organizing the project and reflecting on Labyrinth‘s legacy. Check that out below, along with pages from the 30th Anniversary Special by Cory Godbey and an exclusive promotional image from illustrator Steve Morris above.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you run through the differences between these three Labyrinth comic specials?
SIERRA HAHN: In August we’ll be releasing the Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special, which will be 48-page comic book comprised of some short stories based on some of the ancillary characters of the world: Sir Didymus, Ludo, Ambrosius, Hoggle, some of the iconic figures that Sarah came across in her journey through the labyrinth. Sarah and Jareth are not part of those stories. Those were done by a mix of artists who had done them for Free Comic Book Day issues we’ve been publishing for the past several years. We had wanted to take those issues, put them under one cover, and allow fans who maybe hadn’t gotten them before, who had missed out on the opportunity during Free Comic Book Day, to have one definitive collection of that material. Most of it is previously published, and then we’ll have two brand new short stories: one by Jonathan Case and one by Gustavo Duarte, who’s done silent cartoons and comics previously. He’s a big fan of the Henson world and I’m hoping he’ll do a really cool silent comic for us. Those are gonna be packaged in more of a deluxe comic book format — heavy card stock paper, some spot gloss, and foil — to dress them up and make them a very special, collectible item for comic readers.
The one that will come out next is called Labyrinth: Tales. It’s sort of a children’s book format, square-bound picture book style featuring short stories by fantasy and children’s book illustrator Cory Godbey. Some of those stories are also featured in the 30th Anniversary Special, and some of it’s just different material, reformatted. We wanted to created something that was a little more kid-friendly, that had placement out in the book market so you could find at Barnes & Noble and things like that, whereas the other one will only be at comic book stores.
The artist tribute will come out in November, and that’s gonna be an oversized art book. So, it will have single gallery images from different artists in the industry paying homage to the film that inspired their work. That’s gonna be a big book for us, and will have artwork from comic book luminaries like Mike Allred, Dave McKean, Eric Powell, Jill Thompson, David Mack, Faith Erin Hicks. It’ll be a really good mix of different styles and approaches to the world, from cartoony to more painterly fine art, which will be really fun. We felt really cool too because Henson allowed us to reach out to people who created fan art based off the Labyrinth world. I kind of got to play around online, finding some of my favorite pieces that people have done and tracking down those artists who had just created pinups or posters because they’re fans of the material. We’ve given them a new opportunity to showcase their work and fandom as well.
What was your role in overseeing this project?
I’ve always been a fan of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, so it was a huge honor and very exciting to dabble in this world a little bit and work with the Jim Henson Company on some stuff. We realized, my assistant editor and I, that the 30th anniversary was this year. We were like what do we have, what can we do to celebrate that and create meaningful content for that fanbase and that audience? As a fan myself, I wanted to generate material that I knew that I would want. That’s where the Artist Tribute came from. I wanted to see my favorite artists, not telling new stories but seeing the world through their eyes in a lovely coffee table-style book. And then looking at what we had published previously, I felt like as a fan I had never had access to all these short stories they had done for Free Comic Book Day, and I felt that was a shame. If that stuff hadn’t reached me, and I worked in the comic book industry, think of all the other people who haven’t had a chance to experience it. So we just thought about new ways we could repackage it in a new way and get it out there.
Any particular reason you focus on the ancillary characters?
We hope in the future to do stories featuring the two main characters, Jareth and Sarah, but right now we focused on the ancillary characters because we didn’t want to mess too much with the continuity that’s been established in the film. We’re always looking for new ways to play in the world that doesn’t mess with the continuity, and until we figure out what that story is, that doesn’t change things or reinvent things for fans, we’re not gonna go there yet.
Thirty years later, what sticks about Labyrinth?
I think it’s the ideas of growing up, struggling with who you are and family dynamics. Sarah is someone who feels neglected by her parents. She’s lost her mom, we don’t know how or where, and now she has this new step-mom and baby brother to contend with, and the only thing that helps her get through feeling abandoned and maybe unloved is this fantasy world she can escape into. That’s something that continues to resonate thematically. You have this huge lush world. No one had ever really made a film like this. Whether it was successful at the time or not, it was unlike anything else you were gonna see in theaters, and then you put someone like David Bowie in there singing those songs and wearing those amazing costumes, it was such an iconic visual that just will never go away I think.
What’s the fun part of illustrating these Henson puppets?
I think the fun is getting to work in Jim Henson’s world and play with those characters in a meaningful way. We have an incredible partnership with them, and are able to talk with them everyday about ‘can we do this’ and ‘what do we do with this?’ They throw ideas out too. It feels very collaborative and honest. We really want to pay respect to the Henson legacy and the legacy of these characters and what the fans have bought into emotionally for all these years. The advantage is getting to delve into the Henson world firsthand and have access to things that not everybody else gets to see on a daily basis.
What was your favorite thing you saw over the course of this?
There’s still a lot more to delve into. I’m very excited about new programming we’ll be launching in the next couple years. But right now, having any involvement with Labyrinth has been really special. Being able to go to artist colleagues of mine and say “I know you’re a big fan of Labyrinth, do you want to draw Jareth and Sarah at the masquerade ball?” And have those artists squeal with delight and do some of their best work because they have so much care and respect for that world, that’s been tremendous fun to share that level of enthusiasm, and not be alone in it behind my desk every day.
In a macabre coincidence, this year is not only the 30th anniversary of Labyrinth but also the year of star& David Bowie’s death. Did that add a special resonance to this project for you?
Absolutely. Some days, as someone who’s a fan of David Bowie’s work, let alone this film, I’m looking at pieces of art with his face on it everyday and studying him. I think it makes us want to take extra care and be really thoughtful about how we present the material, and pay respect to the legacies of all these brilliant artists, be it Jim Henson, be it David Bowie, be it what this film was to that entire crew that Brain Froud and Jim Henson put together. So yeah, it’s been emotional. It’s been hard. It’s something you wish he could’ve participated in and have a voice in. It’s heartbreaking that he can’t, but I think we’re creating something that fans of his on either side of his art will appreciate.