As we previously announced, Jesse Blaze Snider is handling writing duties for the upcoming Muppet Snow White comic book, due in stores in April from BOOM Studios. Lucky for us, Snider is a class act and reached out to us for a chat about his Muppet fandom and what it’s like writing for the Frog.
ToughPigs: You mentioned to me earlier that you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re a hardcore Muppet fan. How did that start for you? And what is it about the Muppets that you love so much?
Jesse Blaze Snider: Well, I was born in ?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢82 and The Muppet Show was already in repeats and my mom was a Muppet fan and she used to put it on for me and used to just laugh and laugh at the tv, I thought it was hysterical. Of course, I don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t remember this I was just a baby, but I loved the Muppets and my parents got me Muppet stuffed animals, and puzzles and I had all the Muppet movies on VHS and I used to watch them religiously. As I grew up my love for the Muppets remained and tried hard to recapture some of those memories, with the help of my then girlfriend (now she?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s my wife) I tracked down the then hard to obtain ?¢‚Ç¨?ìBest of the Muppet Show?¢‚Ç¨¬ù DVD?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s and then when I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d gotten every DVD there was to buy, went after out-of-print VHS tapes of anything Muppet and Jim Henson I could find.
Around that time I started reading about Jim and found him to be one of the most admirable people I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d ever heard of. The concept behind Fraggle Rock alone floored me?¢‚Ç¨¬¶world peace. The idea of creating a show that could lead to world peace is so huge, so ballsy, brave and important. You couldn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t help but admire the man. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve been a diehard Jim Henson and Muppet fan ever since.
What I love about the Muppets is that they aren?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t afraid to make mistakes and while that sometimes leads to some groan humor, its very endearing and it makes you want to laugh with them, even when you should probably groan. You?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re rooting for them, you want things to work out for them, because you know they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re never gonna give up trying. And that makes you admire them. That?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s why I love them, I think that?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s why most people love them, whether they realize it or not. The Muppets are the ultimate underdogs and everyone loves an underdog story.
TP: Which characters would you say are your favorites? Do you have any favorite Muppet shows/movies/specials/episodes?
JBS: Oh, I have loads! I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve always had a soft spot for Sweetums, because he kind of looks like my dad. Which sounds funny, but back in the 80s he was the lead singer of Twisted Sister and if you were to put their pictures next to each other of him all done up and Sweetums for comparison, you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d kind of see what I mean. As a kid, he just sort of reminded me of my dad, who was away a lot of the time.
But I have a hard time picking a favorite Gonzo, Rizzo, Bobo, Pepe, Fozzie, Beaker, Crazy Harry, Big Mean Carl, The Elvises, Rowlf, Sam, Animal, Link, Floyd, Dr. Teeth, Marvin Suggs, Clueless Morgan, Thor, Piggy, all the Frackles and bigger monsters, the list goes on.
I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m really HUGE fan of Muppets Tonight. That show took a minute to find its feet, but the later half of it, was really hysterical. Bobo and Pepe survived that show and have gone on to have bigger parts, but I really want to see more of Big Mean Carl, the Elvises, Thor, Clueless, Johnny Fiama, Ernst Stavros Grouper, Behemoth and Spamela. All of those characters actually have a part to play in Muppet Snow White some larger than others.
I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll say that Bill Barretta has done very little wrong since he joined the Muppet crew, I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve found that every time there is a new character who I really like, he is the puppeteer.
As far as favorite movies or specials go, I love The Muppet Movie, Muppet Treasure Island, the Muppet Christmas special with Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, The Great Santa Claus Switch, Christmas Toy, Muppets From Space, Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Hey Cinderella! Uh?¢‚Ç¨¬¶look, I could go on, but this interview is gonna get really long.
I really enjoyed the Jim Henson Hour as well, dispite the fact that I didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t really connect with most of the new characters, I have tried to incorporate a number of JHH characters into this book including Beard, Codzila and the Ultra Gorgan!
TP: Taking a look at your background, you have a mostly musical past: Your father is Dee Snider, you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve done lots of work with MTV and VH1, and you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re a musician in your own right. How has your career in music prepared you for writing Muppet Snow White?
JBS: Well, normally speaking, I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d say not at all. Working in music really has very little to do with working in comics, it just so happens that I am pursuing a career in both completely independently of one another. They rarely cross paths, but?¢‚Ç¨¬¶
In this instance they did A LITTLE. You see my original title for this book was ?¢‚Ç¨?ìSnow White and the ELECTRIC MAYHEM!?¢‚Ç¨¬ù The Muppet people wanted to keep everything uniform, so the title got changed; I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m still very fond of the original title though. Anyway, The Electric Mayhem were cast as the seven dwarfs and when that happened ?¢‚Ç¨?ìThe Seven Dwarfs?¢‚Ç¨¬ù were born!
A struggling rock ?¢‚Ç¨Àún?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ roll band that toils in the mines by day and rocks out in the clubs by night! So, some amount of my experiences playing in the local music scene, auditioning a new band member and dealing with bad management (Scooter) were definitely mined from, but normally speaking this would not be the case.
What really prepared me for this project was all my time watching The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, The Jim Henson Hour and every other Muppet thing I could get my grubby little hands on. So, I mostly have my mom to thank. But my dad got me into comic books, so I guess I wouldn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t have one without the other.
TP: You?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve recently written some popular characters for Marvel Comics with the Hulk, Thor, and Deadpool. What sorts of challenges have you come across when trying to adapt someone else?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s creation into your own original stories?
JBS: Well, I tend to have very big Earth-shaking ideas and I often have to scale it down a bit to get my books approved. I want to cover new ground and go places where no one has gone before and they don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t often give that much freedom to newer, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìuntried?¢‚Ç¨¬ù writers. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s definitely getting easier, as I prove myself to more editors and employers, they are trusting me to do a good job, without me needing to completely explain every little detail of what I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d like to do. If they know that I am going to treat the characters well and not ?¢‚Ç¨?ìburn the house down?¢‚Ç¨¬ù when they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re not monitoring me, it definitely gives me some more wiggle room, but its really tough to stand out and be noticed when you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re forced to paint on such a small canvas, so that?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the hardest thing and doing that is the only way to get to the big canvas.
TP: Your Toy Story miniseries with BOOM Kids just began. How has writing for the Toy Story franchise helped you to prepare for Muppet Snow White?
JBS: Well, I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve worked with large casts before, but not quite so large as Toy Story or the Muppets. So, Toy Story is a great precursor, because there are a lot of characters to juggle, but still not quite as many as the Muppets. Had I started with the Muppets, I might have had a harder time juggling them all. And since I had just come off a horror/romance title for DC it was a good bridge to get used to writing a comedy. Muppets are way funnier and zanier, but Toy Story was a good stepping-stone in their direction.
TP: Looking at the upcoming Muppet Snow White miniseries, what is it about the Snow White story that you think fits with the Muppets?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ mentality so well?
JBS: Well, there is nothing funny about it, which makes it ideal for mockery. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s very heavy and serious, especially the original Grimm?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Fairytale version, which we are mostly following. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s hard to do a comedy or parody about something that is funny, but something that is especially unfunny is really a breeze. The Muppets really take this from serious to silly in seconds, as hard as they try to play it straight.
Plus, the central theme is ?¢‚Ç¨?ìjealousy?¢‚Ç¨¬ù and with Miss Piggy as the Queen you know that jealousy is going to go to some unhealthy places and seeing as she is supposed to be the ?¢‚Ç¨?ì2nd fairest of them all?¢‚Ç¨¬ù ?¢‚Ç¨¬¶well, lets just say that the other Muppets aren?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t going to go along with that delusion so easy.
Plus, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìthe Electric Mayhem?¢‚Ç¨¬ù made PERFECT sense as the dwarfs! The original ?¢‚Ç¨?ìseven dwarfs?¢‚Ç¨¬ù leader was ?¢‚Ç¨?ìDoc,?¢‚Ç¨¬ù ours is Dr. Teeth. You don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t get more ?¢‚Ç¨?ìHappy?¢‚Ç¨¬ù than Janice. Zoot?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s long nights of playing gigs have made him quite ?¢‚Ç¨?ìSleepy.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù Floyd Pepper has always been sarcastic and maybe a little ?¢‚Ç¨?ìGrumpy.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù Lips has never really gotten the chance to develop a personality as a late arrival to the band and played by Steve Whitmire, who never really got comfortable with him, so he is pretty ?¢‚Ç¨?ìBashful.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
Then Animal could have probably made a good ?¢‚Ç¨?ìDopey,?¢‚Ç¨¬ù but it was funnier having him walking around sneezing all the time, so he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s ?¢‚Ç¨?ìSneezy.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù And at the beginning of our story, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìScooter?¢‚Ç¨¬ù is their terrible manager who they call ?¢‚Ç¨?ìDopey!?¢‚Ç¨¬ù But he quickly gets fired and they go on the hunt for a proper Seventh member. Who I will tease is originally from The Jim Henson Hour! And no it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s not Clifford, I kinda hate him. Anywhew. (Hope some of you get that reference and if you do, you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll understand why I hated Clifford on Muppets Tonight, every time he said that I wanted to cut my ears off! ?¢‚Ç¨?ìAnywhew!?¢‚Ç¨¬ù Bah!)
TP: From the first cover, we can see some of the primary cast. Can you tell us why the characters revealed (Piggy as the Queen, Kermit as the Prince, the Electric Mayhem as the dwarfs, Fozzie as the mirror) were chosen? More to the point, why was Spamela Hamderson chosen as Snow White?
JBS: Spamela was the PERFECT choice for Snow White really and I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll tell you why?¢‚Ç¨¬¶
Spamela is the evolution of Annie Sue Pig from The Muppet Show, but unlike Annie Sue she is a legitimately attractive looking Muppet, she?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s everything Piggy wishes she was except she?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s pretty stupid. She was never played as a foil for Piggy on Muppets Tonight, but it was really a missed opportunity.
Anyway, this book is a story about a jealous Queen desperate to kill the ?¢‚Ç¨?ìfairest of them all?¢‚Ç¨¬ù so she can be the most beautiful. To tell that story I needed someone worthy of Piggy?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s jealousy and Spamela is it. If this were a movie they would have cast a real live actress in the part of Snow White and Piggy would have been trying to kill her, but since that wasn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t an option I need a Muppet who was a real threat to her.
Also, the role of Snow White ISN?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢T a particularly beefy one. She is the focus of a lot of attention, but she doesn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t do much except run away, clean a cottage and make a lot of stupid decisions, which allows the Queen to almost kill her THREE times in the book! All Snow white really needs to be is ?¢‚Ç¨?ìfairest of them all?¢‚Ç¨¬ù and unusually trusting, the other character really make the story worth reading, she?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s just the centerpiece.
Kermit is the Prince, because having Snow white?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Prince be Miss Piggy?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s man is going to cause even more jealousy.
Fozzie and Piggy are really great foils for each other, Fozzie just wants to get the laughs and the moment they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re anywhere near Piggy?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s expense she gets to flip out and make him think twice about actually being funny.
There are four major character omissions from the cover and that is our ?¢‚Ç¨?ìnarrators?¢‚Ç¨¬ù Gonzo and Rizzo who play ?¢‚Ç¨?ìThe Brothers Grimm?¢‚Ç¨¬ù the original compilers of a number of classic fairytales. They just work great as a duo, this role tends to neuter Gonzo a little bit, because he has to play the straight man to Rizzo, but Gonzo is so endearing that he still comes across. I think, anyway.
Then Pepe and eventually Bobo are part of the main cast playing Snow White?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s ?¢‚Ç¨?ìTalking Animal Companions!?¢‚Ç¨¬ù Every modern Disney Princess has them and why should SW. Pepe and Bobo add a lot to every situation, they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re two of my favorite Muppet characters and having them around almost at all times, added a lot of humor to every scene.
There are a lot of other beefy cameos, but I think by now you can imagine what kind of Muppety goodness I am going to be whipping out and I don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t have to tease.
TP: Which characters have been the most fun for you to write? Which have been the most difficult?
JBS: Most fun, Rizzo, Pepe, Bobo, Fozzie and Piggy. I love the characters and they all bring a lot of great humor to the table. I really like Dr. Teeth and Floyd as well. Animal’s fun, but he usually just screams random words, half the fun is giving him the oddest words to shout.
I had a little bit of a hard time writing Bobo initially, I love the character, but I can?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t figure out exactly where he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s coming from. I managed to feel him out and I think I got him right, but I still don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t exactly have a handle on what makes him tick, short of trying to do the right thing, but coming up just a bit short in the brainpower department. Though, I guess maybe that?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s him in a nutshell.
I also ended up using a character as my top-secret seventh dwarf because I loved the way he looked on ?¢‚Ç¨?ìThe Jim Henson Hour.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù His personality was never particularly well defined, but he didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t have too many lines so it wasn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t a big deal.
TP: Have you seen Shelli Paroline?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s artwork yet? How has it been working with her?
JBS: It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s still early on, but so far so good! I was definitely excited when they told me she was my artist, if you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve seen Muppet Show #0, you know that she is more that awesome!
TP: Can you hint at any more surprises for the fans to look out for in Muppet Snow White?
JBS: Lots of fourth wall breaking, guest appearances by loads of underused characters from The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, The Jim Henson Hour and others, like The Great Santa Claus Switch! Lots of in jokes and continuity and overall a book that is completely in line with and true to the characters that Muppets fans love.
I think that true-blue Muppet fans are really going to be pleasantly surprised by the ending, which holds fast to one of the most important rules of Muppet writing, ?¢‚Ç¨?ì?¢‚Ç¨¬¶if you can’t get out, you just either blow something up, or you eat something, or you just throw penguins in the air.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù The ending is as Muppety as you get and there will be LOADS of cameos that I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m sure most fans never thought they?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d see!
TP: Lastly, do you have a message you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢d like to pass along to the fans?
JBS: Look, I am the biggest Muppet Fan going and I refuse to dishonor Jim Henson?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s legacy. I came to Boom Kids! to write the Muppets. I jumped at the Toy Story writing gig, just so I could prove that I could write?¢‚Ç¨¬¶so I could write the Muppets. The Muppets. I love the Muppets and I promise you, if you like the Muppets than you will LOVE Muppet Snow White?¢‚Ç¨¬¶or as I like to call it, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìSnow White and the ELECTRIC MAYHEM!?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
Click here to audition to be the seventh dwarf on the ToughPigs forum!
by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com