Amongst the first Boom! Studios comics licensed through Disney, Roger Langridge’s Muppet Show No. 1 was released last month, garnering nearly universal critical acclaim. Ostensibly a children’s title, Langridge’s work on the Muppets has already drawn considerable support from an otherwise adult fan base, providing Boom! with a certified all-ages hit.
We recently spoke with Langridge about the pressures of working with a set of iconic children’s characters, as well as to what fans can expect in the future from the Muppet Show franchise.
Interview by Daniel Crown
Now that you’ve got an issue of The Muppet Show under your belt, what does it feel like to have added something to the Muppet canon? Were you a fan of the Muppets before obtaining the gig?
Roger Langridge: Isn’t everybody? Actually, I thought I was a Muppet fan, but once my involvement with the project was announced, a lot of really hardcore fans came out of the woodwork and I realized I was just paddling in the shallow end — if that isn’t too mixed a metaphor for you. As to whether I’ve added anything to the canon, I don’t know about that. As far as I’m concerned, the original show is the only canon that matters. I’m just playing with the toys, really!
The idea of translating an iconic variety show to the comic book format, at first, seems slightly audacious. Yet after reading the first issue of The Muppet Show, not only does it work — but it also seems as natural an adaptation as there can be. In essence, what you have done is taken the basic framework of a variety show and used it to intertwine a number of traditional comic strips, each with their own set ups and gags. How did you come to develop this basic schematic?
Langridge: A lot of it was instinct on my part, I think. I felt this was the right way to do it. Partly, it was a way to play to my strengths — I tend to be better at short pieces than longer narratives. Partly, I suspect it’s due to my fascination with old-time newspaper comics, where that was essentially the standard format — one-page strips filling a comic section.
The British humor weeklies I grew up with continued that tradition. Comics and vaudeville shared a very close relationship in the early 20th century, to the point where revue shows were built around the conceit of the show being a comic section, with each turn being a different strip. So it’s really nothing new. I just happen to be enough of a newspaper strip/vaudeville nerd to remember it!
Did Boom! Studios specifically approach you about the Muppets due to your traditional comic strip background? I remember reading somewhere that you were already attached to the project before Disney decided to license their franchises.
Langridge: I did a few pages of Muppets material for Disney Adventures Magazine just before it was cancelled. Only one page got published. But presumably the pages I did were circulating behind the scenes and somehow caught somebody’s attention when the decision to launch the Boom! title was made.
You earned your chops with such creator-owned strips as Fred the Clown and Mugwhump. Considering your background, how hard is it to work with licensed characters — especially with characters as iconic and richly developed as any in children’s entertainment over the last 30 years?
Langridge: Well, the nice thing about working on the Muppets is that their sensibilities and mine coincide rather nicely. I don’t think I’d be a good fit for most licensed properties, but the Muppet Show is very much in line with the kind of thing I do anyway.
Did you draw any influence from previous Muppets iterations, or did you more or less just apply your intrinsic style to the characters as it came naturally to you?
Langridge: I’m learning as I go, really! I have looked at some earlier Muppet artwork and incorporated a few elements here and there into my own interpretation, but generally, when there’s a conflict between a lively interpretation and an on-model drawing, I’ll go with the lively. So I imagine my Muppets are a bit odd-looking to some people!
Finally, what can we expect with The Muppet Show moving forward? Any surprises or anything particular to look forward to?
Langridge: Right now I’m just having fun playing with the skits I remember from my younger days — anyone remember the Talking Houses? — and coming up with a few of my own. Look out for the adventures of Gonzo playing Gumshoe McGurk, Private Eye.
Longer-term, there’ll be some stronger subplots, which take the gang on a bit more of a journey. That’s a challenge — Boom! has asked for “story arcs,” so that’s what I’m trying to deliver within the show format as it stands. But I think I’m finding ways to make it work. Hopefully you’ll agree!