And now a comic that needs no introduction.
So what am I doing here? I guess I better do something.
The Muppet Show helped propel Jim Henson's puppets (and puppeteers) into the limelight of American pop culture, and that's where they've stayed ever since. Kermit, Ms. Piggy and the whole crew have made small in roads into the comics form, but it wasn't until this year that they really arrived – with the BOOM! Studios' comic book miniseries The Muppet Show. Written and illustrated by Roger Langridge, who had done some Muppet strips in the past, it quickly became a critical darling with Langridge's skill at putting on a sketch comedy show – with puppets – seamlessly into the comics form. At Comic-Con International, Boom! announced that it was being expanded from a miniseries to an ongoing – and ongoing it is, starting this November.
This month's issue of The Muppet Show will be a special #0 issue, containing a "Pigs In Space" one-shot from Langridge, and will lead directly into a new story-arc in December entitled "On The Road". With the collection of the first miniseries, Meet The Muppets, on the shelves now and the series launch this month, we talked with Langridge about the book and its success.
Newsarama: Congratulations on the success, Roger. With The Muppet Show transforming from miniseries to ongoing, will you be able to continue writing and drawing it?
Roger Langridge: That's the plan, although I'm going to be pulling back a little from the amount of work I've done this year - maybe have an occasional fill-in artist, or an inker. My current workload is wiping me out! But I intend doing as much of it as I can without having my family forget what I look like.
Nrama: This has quickly gone from a unique title to an unbridled success, both critically and commercially. Have you had time to soak it all in?
Langridge: To be honest, I've missed most of it - the Muppet titles aren't available here in the UK [Newsarama Note: Due to international licensing issues], so as far as my peers and British fans are concerned, I might as well be working in a bank or something. It seems about as real as anything else I've only heard about on the internet, like those nice people in Nigeria who want to give me a million dollars.
Nrama: Have you had the opportunity to talk with any of the people involved with the original television show about the comic you're doing?
Langridge: Nope! Jim Lewis, a Muppet writer who looks over the scripts, occasionally says "Good job" or "Sweetums hasn't talked like the Incredible Hulk since 1972", but that's about the only contact I've had with any actual Muppet persons - and even that is second-hand, filtered through the Boom! editors. When I was in San Diego in July I met a woman who once worked as an intern at the Henson workshop; I don't know if that counts.
Nrama: Re-reading the issues so far, I was amazed by your decision to draw the puppets - as puppets - form the waist up in most cases, not trying to make them fully animated as real things. Why'd you decide to go that route?
Langridge: Partly because I'm trying to evoke the show, where they all looked like that; partly because it's a character-based humour book, not an action-adventure thing, so paying more attention to facial expressions and gestures serves the material better; and partly because I tend to overwrite the dialogue and don't leave myself enough room!
Nrama: Doing a comic about a sketch comedy show gives you a myriad of possibilities. Has there been any ideas you've second-guessed yourself on as being too "out there" for The Muppet Show?
Langridge: I don't know if anything is too "out there" for the Muppet Show. I remember watching Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles a few years back and thinking that, apart from the fact that it was a bit scatalogical and there was some sexual content, it was pretty tame compared to the actual show in terms of surreal invention.
Nrama: With the immense quality of work you're doing with this series, do you have any fears you might be pigeon-holed as "The Muppets cartoonist"?
Langridge: Bring it on! No, I'm not too worried. I have been pigeonholed as a lot of things in my career and I'm still around. A couple of years ago, people were saying that anything I did after Fred the Clown would never
measure up. Before that, everything I did was living in the shadow of Knuckles the Malevolent Nun. People's memories aren't as long as everybody thinks they are.
Nrama: How do you manage to keep track of all the various characters, their looks and personality, with this book?
Langridge:It helps that they're as well-known as they are - it's not like I have to create their personalities from scratch or anything. Their voices are already pretty well established. The looks were a bit of a struggle to begin with - I have a huge, groaning reference folder of pictures of the cast, and now I'm a few issues in I can just about handle the main characters without looking up reference every two seconds. Some of the more obscure ones I still have to work at - and, of course, obscure characters are a big part of the book, so I'm far from out of the woods yet!
Nrama: And finally, who would you say would be the most obscure character you can think of that'd be a challenge?
Langridge: I'm going to have trouble trumping the Talking Houses. I could almost hear the sounds of jaws dropping across the Atlantic when I wrote that one!