Off the Shelf

“Mirror Mask”

By Marcus Pan

There isn’t much I can say about Neil Gaiman of course, the master of the macabre fantasy worlds of Neverwhere, Stardust, Smoke and Mirrors(1) and, of course, Sandman. This time, Dave McKean has once again hooked up with the author to create an upcoming Jim Henson film called Mirror Mask. A dark and strange alternate universe is portrayed here, as lead character Helena gets drawn into her own creations while her mother goes through life altering surgery. A child’s attempt to rationalize the horror of her own world by building something moreso in the next, perhaps?

Filled with riveting imagery of unique and unusual places, Mirror Mask is modeled after the Labyrinth and Dark Crystal movies. The movie itself is expected out this summer and the book that was sent to me by Harper Collins is the unedited film script, with McKean’s graphic elements and signature pencil-sketch style. Scenes since deleted from the final cut of the movie are included in the script as well as some very interesting correspondence between Neil and Dave as the movie was developed from thought to final form.

Essays from each of the two creators about working with one another are included as well as an introduction as this book was coming to fruition. The book itself is beautiful – hardcover, animated fold out, scenes from the making of the movie in two full color sections inside with panels for all of the scenes of the movie from Dave’s mind as he illustrated the script. A beautiful piece of art indeed, and large as well – coffee table size.

The story is brilliant, taking elements of childhood personas and warping them into a beautiful alternate universe with a Dark and Light Queen presiding over their various kingdoms. The daughter of the Dark Queen is an alternate version of our heroine, Helena, who runs away from her home in the dark palace. As she leaves the alternate world, our world’s Helena is drawn through the fabric into hers while the Dark Queen searches for her lost runaway daughter to find Helena herself – good enough for the queen. They look the same, at least.

The strange creatures you’ll encounter, as good as any from influential films like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, are unusual and brilliant. The monkeybirds, or the Sphinx cats for example are just realistic enough to be believable, but just distinct enough to be appropriate in the world of Light and Dark. The script is written wonderfully with little in the way of cliché lines and phrases and it is here I find a huge similarity between Sarah (Labyrinth) and Helena (Mirror Mask) with their actions and attitudes.

Overall this is a brilliant book and would go well on any coffee table. It reads quickly, being a script treatment, and on the whole it’s top quality – Harper Collins after all. The Jim Henson group will be knocking Mirror Mask out to theatres this coming summer, so watch for the latest moody brilliance from author Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean in the near future. The trailer for the movie, available at www.mirrormask.com, will perk your interest just as much as mine I’m sure, and Gaiman will be bringing out his next novel, Anansi Boys, in September of this year as well.

“Mirror Mask” by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
Copyright © 2005 by The Jim Henson Company
A HarperCollins Book
ISBN: 0-06-079875-0

(1) All of these were reviewed in Legends #115.

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