written by Heather White, Leigh Dragoon, Jeremy Love, Joanna Estep, Bryce P. Coleman and Neil Kleid
Fraggles look a lot like Muppets, for the simple reason that they came from the same creator: Puppeteer and genius Jim Henson, who created the Fraggles in the 1980s and endowed them with a spacious underground kingdom and a variety of companion species—Doozers, who love to work all day; Gorgs, large, unwieldy creatures whose back yard is home to Fraggle Rock; a human named Doc; a dog named Sprocket; and a talking trash heap named Marjory.
The children's show Fraggle Rock ran from 1983 to 1987 and has popped up in reruns frequently since then. There seems to be a pretty devoted fandom, but for those who missed it, this graphic novel starts out with short introductions to the characters and the world of the story, so anyone can follow along.
"Graphic novel" is a misnomer; this book is an anthology of short stories by an extraordinarily talented group of writers and artists who are just beginning to come into their own: Bryce P. Coleman, Leigh Dragoon, Neil Kleid, Joanna Estep, and Eisner nominee Jeremy Love. Anthologies are usually a mix of stronger and weaker stories, but every page in this book sings. The only difference is that some of the stories are quite simple while others are more complex, making for a variety of reading experiences. Although the artists use different styles and techniques, the character designs are consistent across the book, so even new readers will have no trouble telling who is who.
The first story is an excellent introduction to the characters and the overall world of the Fraggles: Gobo, who is sort of the leader of the Fraggles, gets into an argument with Red, the hyperactive second lead, and they dare each other to spend the night in "outer space," the yard outside Fraggle Rock. Their return is blocked by Junior Gorg, who unwittingly places a chair right in front of the entrance to the rock and falls asleep in it. This crisis causes Gobo and Red to argue and split up, and inside the rock, the Fraggles panic, but eventually everyone comes to their senses and, with a nudge from Marjory the Talking Trash Heap, they solve the problem by working together. There is a gentle lesson buried in the slapstick, but it's a soft sell, with the characters acting in a surprisingly realistic way (including the bickering).
Henson's original concept was for the world of the Fraggles to encompass several different groups, each of whom was only somewhat aware of the other and of the ways in which they are connected. The Doozers make radishes into sticks that they use to build elaborate buildings. The Fraggles eat the radish sticks, demolishing the Doozers' buildings in the process. That's OK, because it allows the Doozers to build more buildings, which is their favorite thing to do. The Fraggles don't really get where the Doozers are coming from, and the cluelessness is mutual, but they have found a comfortable equilibrium. In one story, the Doozers ask the Fraggles not to wreck their building, which disrupts the relationship and causes both sides to think a little harder about it. Again, it's not preachy, just a good story, and also a rather wise one.
Fraggle Rock will strike a chord with adults who remember the original show as well as kids who just like a good giggle. Its tone is earnest but never too serious, and the colorful art makes this a very attractive package.