Between work as both a writer and artist on The Muppet Show for BOOM! Studios and the author of Thor: The Mighty Avenger for Marvel, Roger Langridge has distinguished himself as one of comic industry's most notable producers of high-quality all-ages material.
Langridge's latest work is one of his own creation: Snarked!, a humorous adventure series for BOOM!'s kid-friendly "kaboom!" imprint. It draws upon the work of Lewis Carroll — specifically the poem of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" from Through the Looking-Glass — and features Langridge on both writing and art duties.
With an issue #0 out in August and a proper #1 scheduled for October, Newsarama talked with Langridge via email about adapting classic literature into comics (something he's also doing with John Carter: A Princess of Mars for Marvel, starting in September), the importance of all-ages comics, and what the Walrus and the Carpenter might have in common with the Muppets and Thor. (For a four-page preview of Snarked! #0, click here.)
Newsarama: Roger, the first sneak peek of Snarked! was seen back in February of this year. How long has this project been in the works, and what can you tell us about the conception of the story?
Roger Langridge: Well, funnily enough, February was about when I put it together. Things moved very fast - Boom! had asked me if I had any all-ages ideas knocking about that I might be interested in submitting, and I spent a few weeks coming up with a series of dead-ends before I hit upon Snarked! — which I duly wrote up and submitted. To my great relief, they were all over it and it was announced to the world pretty much within the week - just as soon as the ink on the contract was dry, really.
As for the conception of the story, I'd been looking at a number of possibilities for something to work on post-Muppets. At one point I'd thought I might have to go back to illustration work, so I was planning on a web strip to run alongside that, and the Walrus and the Carpenter were candidates for that (I'm a Lewis Carroll fan since childhood). I'd also been thinking about attempting a graphic novel adaptation of The Hunting of the Snark, until I realized that Mahendra Singh had only just done one (which is very good, by the way!). And I was quite keen to attempt a long adventure story of some kind, using some of the lessons I'd learned writing Thor: The Mighty Avenger, which was my first attempt at writing something that would theoretically hang together over twelve issues; this seemed like a new, fresh challenge that might prove rewarding, though I didn't have a clue what that new long-form story might be. It was quite late in the day that it occurred to me to roll all of these things together into something new. And so Snarked! was born.
Nrama: Your two most prominent recent series have been The Muppet Show and Thor: The Mighty Avenger. But with this, you're back to working on your own creation. Had you been looking to get back to that type of storytelling?
Langridge: Very much. I don't want to criticize anybody who finds it rewarding carrying on strips started by other people, but if I could only do that for the rest of my life I'd probably gnaw my own leg off with frustration. I regarded those series as a rewarding, profile-enhancing detour, not as a wholesale change in the direction of my career - I did enjoy the challenge of making other people's ideas work, but I'm much happier working on my own stuff. And I was continuing to work on my own creations on ACT-I-VATE.com during that time. I can't imagine not doing that.
Nrama: Snarked!, does, though, take inspiration from the work of Lewis Carroll. Is there any unifying element in Carroll, Thor and the Muppets in what you find appealing about all three sources?
Langridge: I don't know if there is! As I mentioned, I've been a Carroll fan all my life, and there's definitely an element of Carrollian nonsense in The Muppet Show, so that's a common thread - and of course both of them use a mixed-up cast of humans, animals and weird creatures. And there's poetry and songs in both. Thor was exercising a very different set of writing muscles to those I'd been using on the Muppets, so I was pulling that from a different place. But I think of Snarked! as being a synthesis of what I was doing on Thor and the Muppets — a long-form adventure story with weird creatures, poems and surreal humour. It seems to me like the next logical step after working on those two series.
Nrama: You're actually working on two comics right now inspired by classic books to varying degrees, between Snarked! and A Princess of Mars. Classic literature and comics have a long history — dating back to 1941 and Classics Illustrated — do you think there remains a lot of untapped potential in melding the two mediums?
Langridge: Like anything, it's all in how you do it. There's a publisher here in the UK called Self-Made Hero who have been doing some fantastic literary adaptations lately — beautifully illustrated and smart and worthwhile. There are also some really awful ones out there. I do think there's a lot of marketing sense in making new works out of familiar characters - there's a certain amount of what we might call "pop-culture traction" which gives those projects a small advantage in terms of reader recognition. Then all you have to do is make the book really, really good!
Nrama: Obviously there's humor, but it looks from issue #0 like there's a lot of potential for adventure as well. How would you describe the tone of the book?
Langridge: Humourous adventure sounds about right. I'm greatly inspired by the works of Carl Barks and E.C. Segar, who mined this kind of crossover territory brilliantly — as did Herge and countless others. It's a great tradition. All of those cartoonists had characters – Scrooge, Wimpy, Captain Haddock — who, on the face of it, had few redeeming qualities but whom you couldn't help liking once you got to know them. I'm hoping to continue that tradition with the Walrus.
Nrama: Snarked! is listed as an ongoing series. Is the story open-ended, or do you have a specific length in mind?
Langridge: The initial adventure will run for 12 issues. I haven't planned beyond that at this stage, but if there's enough interest to allow it to continue, there are certainly more stories to be told with these characters. I don't want to get ahead of myself, though, planning epics I'll never get a chance to finish because sales don't warrant it — I've been burned before!
Nrama: Between Snarked!, Thor and the Muppets, you've shown a real dedication to all-ages comics. How important is it to you that there's quality material of this nature out there?
Langridge: It matters a great deal to me, particularly at this point in my life, when I have a couple of kids of my own. Any working cartoonist will tell you that you have to work long hours, and sometimes your family life can suffer as a result. I very much want to have something I can share with my kids to show for my labours - even if I wasn't with them, I can at least prove that I was thinking about them. When I told my eight year old daughter that one of the protagonists of my new comic was an eight year old girl, her eyes lit up and she got this huge smile on her face - kind of makes it all worthwhile when that happens.
Apart from the personal reasons, it's blindingly obvious that the next generation of comic readers has to be cultivated and nurtured before all the current ones die of old age. If I can play some small part in that, I'm very happy to do so.
And last but not least, given the current sales of comic books, I think it makes all kinds of sense to keep my comics as accessible as possible to as wide an audience as possible. I don't want any barriers between me and a potential reader. I've always felt my work can appeal to anybody, of any age, so let's see if I'm right!
Nrama: One of the most fun things about Snarked! #0 is the extensive back matter in the comic. What was the inspiration for that? And will that continue to be a part of the series?
Langridge: The inspiration was twofold - one, I grew up reading comics that had all manner of special features (British humor weeklies routinely had pull-out booklets, or board games, or puzzle pages; Kurtzman's Mad, which I devoured reprints of as a kid, did similar stuff, as did the 100-Page DC Giants of the 1970s), so I wanted to revive that tradition in my own small way. Two, the preview issue has eight pages of story and there were a whole lot more pages to fill up! As the series continues, the separate back matter will probably fall by the wayside (although we will be having a letters page!), but I'd like to try and integrate some of that approach into the stories themselves. I've always valued a kind of formal playfulness in my comics (both those I read and those I make), so Snarked! will proudly carry on that tradition.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!