Why We Need More Comics Like ‘Jim Henson’s The Storyteller’ Anthologies

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Jim Henson's The Storyteller - But Why Tho?

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller was a short-lived television show from the famous puppeteer in 1987-88. It has seen more comic book issues now from BOOM! Studios’ imprint Archaia than it had episodes of television. But one need not have any recollection or fondness towards the TV show to appreciate the excellence of the comics. Having just completed its eighth anthology in The Storyteller: Tricksters, the series has completely captured my affection through its demonstration of different cultures’ interpretations of the same themes.

As an avid lover of myth, legends, and folktales, this series is important to me because it can be a gateway into two incredible worlds: the worlds of the different cultures whose stories are told, and the worlds of the storytellers themselves who contribute to these anthologies. While admittedly the series could be even more diverse in its stories and voices, and I hope that future volumes continue to demonstrate the wealth of stories from places beyond Europe, its precisely the marriage of familiar and popular tales, the inclusion of stories readers may not have heard of, and the delivery of original takes on each classic tale that makes the series so special.

No matter which direction you approach it from, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller is ripe for bringing new readers to new stories. Looking for a new take on Loki? You’re also in for a story about Eshu. Excited to read a story by your favorite author of 2020? You’ll also be introduced to other award-winning authors providing unique takes on timeless tales. The series’ ability to hook you in from any direction and spin you off into a dozen more is rare in comics.

It’s particularly poised for introducing readers to new authors and cultures because it’s grounded in real-life rather than a long-standing series or insulated fiction. While those are valuable anthology forms in their own right, there’s something special about sharing in stories that are personally significant or meaningful. Especially when they’re significant to the creators themselves.

The Storyteller: Tricksters has done the best job of the series so far of bringing in creative teams representative of the stories they tell, and I hope the series continues to employ teams of writers and artists from diverse backgrounds and parts of the world to share stories significant to themselves. The series is at its clear best when the eponymous Storyteller isn’t just speaking on behalf of other cultures but rather sharing in others’ cultures. In real life and in the pages of the comic, it shouldn’t be white folks’ jobs to share others’ stories for them. The series is a perfect opportunity for folks to share their own stories for themselves, in the book and in real life.

Going forward, I do hope we see fewer stories from European cultures and more from throughout the world; although, the occasional fresh take on a famous European character is a welcome way to lure in wide audiences while subverting their typical structure. The Storyteller: Tricksters #4 for example is a story about Loki and Thor where Thor puts on a wedding dress to trick giants into giving him his hammer back. Rather than the typical depiction of this story where Thor is too machismo and resentful of the dress, here, he embraces it completely and declares how beautiful it makes him feel.

This entirely different approach to the God of Thunder, combined with the way that Thor and Loki are simply drawn very pretty and effeminate, is another reason I love the series. Using familiar characters and circumstances to change reader’s perceptions of those stories and impart new lessons and themes is great. It lets audiences enjoy stories they already know and love while imparting modern morals to classic stories.

Whatever comes next from Jim Henson’s The Storyteller anthology series, I’m excited for it. It’s a great series for introducing readers to knew cultures and creators through stories that are meaningful to them and new and important takes on classic tales. There’s nothing like sharing in shared myths, legends, and folktales, and this series truly does it the best.