Friday, August 6, 2010

Return to Labyrinth - Jake T. Forbes Interview!

Jake T Forbes, the author of the New York Times best selling series Return to Labyrinth, was kind enough to do an interview for the launch of the fourth volume in the series. Here's what he had to say:

How many times did you have to visit the Labyrinth while you were researching the Return to Labyrinth series and how did you escape?

The movie Labyrinth as been on my video playlist since I was a kid. I first saw it in the theaters after having watched the making-of documentary on HBO countless times. It was those behind-the-scenes looks at the puppetry that made Labyrinth my must-see movie that year. “The biggest puppet ever made,” “remote-controlled facial expressions” – I just couldn’t get enough of it. They were bringing fantasies to life. The movie debuted on VHS at a time when you couldn’t take for granted that a movie would be available at retail, and for whatever reason, Labyrinth was late to that party, only becoming really affordable with the advent of DVD. So through my pre-teen years, I had to rent the video every few months. I got a lucky break when my family video store went out of business and sold of their stock, which gave me total access to the movie until the DVD came out years later. In recent years, I still put the movie on once or twice a year, and a few of Bowie’s songs are on regular rotation, but unless I was looking up a particular scene for reference, I’ve cut back on viewings, but not for lack of love. It would be a lie to say that Jareth has no power over me.

Who is your favorite character from the Labyrinth? Least favorite?

Favorite is definitely Sir Didymus. I think it’s apparent in Return to Labyrinth, with Didymus being the only supporting player to appear in all 4 volumes. He’s like a pint-sized Don Quixote with a tail. As for least-favorite, that’s harder to say. I guess I’d say the one chubbier-faced Fiery (from the “Chilly Down” scene). There’s one extreme close-up where his tongue lolls around his mouth and it sort of makes me wince.

How did you get involved writing the Labyrinth series?

In 2005, I was still an editor at Tokyopop, where we editors were looking at various media licenses that would make a good manga. I aggressively pushed for Labyrinth. By coincidence, the company ended up hiring a former Henson a couple months later who helped make the introductions, and as it turned out, the Henson folks totally loved the idea of Jareth as a bishonen (Japanese for “beautiful young man”). The deal came together quickly. Originally I was slated to be the editor, but at that point in my career, I decided that I wanted to pursue life as a freelance writer instead. Before leaving my position as Senior Editor, I pitched my take on a sequel to Labyrinth and the Jim Henson Company liked it. So equal parts opportunity, perseverance and luck.

What challenges did you face when writing volume 4, the final book in the Return to Labyrinth series?

The biggest challenge came in making sure that the final volume was truthful to the series as a whole. From the start, Return to Labyrinth was one big story. Many details changed along the way, but in the end, the resolution stayed pretty much intact. Knowing what I know now, I would have absolutely done some things differently in pervious volumes, but that’s not a luxury you get (unless you’re George Lucas), and for better or worse, the organic evolution of a storyteller’s voice is something I appreciate in books that I read, so I have to imagine that there are readers who enjoy my own evolution. In the years between Return to Labyrinth vol. 1 and vol. 4, I held three full time jobs, moved into a whole new industry (games), moved from LA to San Francisco, got married and changed my life in many other ways. My head was in a different place when writing volume 4 than it was when writing volume 1. It’s funny, but Return to Labyrinth has been the main constant of the last 5 years of my life.

You also have a story in volume #2 of the new Fraggle Rock comic book series. What can you tell us about your Fraggle story?

It’s about Boober. He washes a shirt. It’s also an epic musical number. Really, there’s nothing more to say about it than that. It’s all about the execution. I can tell you that the artist, Mark Simmons, has done a phenomenal job brining the story to life. Mark is someone I’ve known for about a decade, mostly as a Gundam expert (he’s the master of the Gundam story bible for Bandai and the keeper of the Gundam Official website). Discovering his artwork in the last year has been a revelation. He’s amazing. Check out his work at

Who is your favorite Fraggle?

It’s a tie between Boober and Wembly. I love the episodes that focus on the two of them and their respective neuroses. As for supporting Fraggles, Cantus, hands down. That Henson-voiced musician moves me to tears.

If you lived in biblical times and you couldn’t be a scribe or a prophet, how do you think you would earn your living?

As a cheesemaker. I hear they live blessed lives.

What is your magic power and do you use it for good or evil?

The power of hindsight! I can see through the walls of time to recognize mistakes in the past! As I don’t have the matching power to change history, I don’t see the power as particularly good or evil. It’s more… lawful neutral.

What is your favorite time period in history?

Probably ancient Rome, but I’m definitely biased by the rose-tinted goggles of I, Claudius. If I could fan-fic my life, I would travel to first century Rome and have a conspirational relationship with Tiberius Claudies Caesar Agugustus Germanicus in which we avoid murderous madmen by day and fill scrolls with silly puns by night.

What contact did you have with Jareth while working on Return to Labyrinth?

We… we used to be close. But I had to put a restraining order on him. The obsessive songs of longing were affecting my personal life.

If you had to spend an afternoon with William the Worm, Hoggle, a Firey, The Wiseman or the Wiseman’s hat, who would you choose and why?

The hat! I’m sure he would be a stimulating conversational partner. He’s also the only Labyrinth character I feel comfortable sketching.

You’ve written for Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock and Star Wars. What other iconic franchise work do you wish you could contribute to?

That’s a tough one. Those are three of the most influential properties of my youth. Transformers was another favorite in those formative years, but it’s no longer stirs much in me beyond nostalgia. Nostalgia alone isn’t enough – a franchise needs to have vitality to it. This might be a bit weird, but if I could revisit one untapped fantasy world of my youth, I think I’d go with Disney’s Gummi Bears. I’d also love to play in the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but at this point, it’s hard to compete with all the Picard memes on youtube.

What’s your dream gig?

Writing stories, which is what I’m doing already. I just need to keep writing and not give up when a few people say no.

What are you working on currently?

A couple of comics stories and a couple of YA novels. Fingers crossed I can share more before the year is out. I’m reluctant to say more until a project is sold or I’ve solid plans to self-publish through digital channels. It’s a great time to be a creator in that it’s easier than ever to get your work out there, but at the same time, the people who will pay you for said work are tightening belts. It helps to be an entrepreneur, and I’m grateful for my freelance work in the facebook gaming space for opening widening my understanding of content delivery. I still wince a bit at creative arts being lumped together under the utilitarian umbrella of “content,” but as long as I focus on writing for myself and for real readers, and not anonymous demographics, it’s all good.

Tell us about your website?

It’s located at The site has been running for just shy of three years now. Currently the site is focused mostly on Return to Labyrinth, but in the next month or so I’ll be giving it a facelift to refocus the site as a general writing and reading blog. Readers who enjoyed my personal posts won’t notice much of a difference, but if you’re only looking for news on Jareth, I’m afraid there won’t be much to report right now (not that I won’t work in the Labyrinth sandbox again, but my current chapter in that world is closed). I also hope to get back to a regular posting schedule and build up a blogroll with friends and fellow manga and Henson creators. I hope you’ll check it out!

Thank you Jake!


  1. Good interview, but I wish Jake would drop that damn restraining order already. Ever since he filed it, Jareth's been calling me non-stop asking if I can get him back in Jake's good graces and saying he's going to keep trying to get in touch with Jake even as the world falls down.

  2. What a nice interview
    Hey i am also a great fan of Labyrinth series.I must watch this movie.
    Current Transformers

  3. It can't be said enough. Volume 4 was incredibly enjoyable. I don't care what the angry shippers say, LOL. Mr. Forbes, you kept the spirit of the movie and "got it". Great job. -- Another Kelly

  4. Tim - I am indignant that there are other people stalking you besides me.

    Another Kelly - I totally agree. I don't think a lot of people understand that when you are writing a piece for a franchise, you do not have carte blanche to writer whatever you fancy. You must write within the parameters of what the owner of the property set up for you. I think Mr. T. Forbes did a brilliant job with volume #4 and I'm sure the Henson Corp is pleased.