This week, a whole new audience of kids are being introduced to the clever characters of Lewis Carroll thanks to Snarked!, the new all-ages title by writer/artist Roger Langridge.
For Halloween, participating comic book retailers are giving trick-or-treaters a variety of kid-targeted mini-comics from publishers like Archie, Dark Horse and Archaia. Snarked! is the trick-or-treat offering from Kaboom, the all-ages imprint launched earlier this year by Boom! Studios.
Snarked! is an ongoing, original series that draws from the works of Lewis Carroll, yet remixes Carroll references with new settings and stories. The comic, which launched with a #0 issue on Free Comic Book Day, has won critical raves, and it's #1 issue sold out of its first printing. The second issue of the comic comes out this Wednesday.
For fans of Langridge's creations — from his cartoon work on the Muppets Show comic to his all-ages Marvel title Thor: The Mighty Avenger — it's been magnificent to see the artist given freedom to play with beloved characters like the Walrus and the Carpenter. And for people who haven't discovered Langridge's work, the Halloween offering from Boom! follows up its Free Comic Book Day promotion to market the all-ages title to as many people as possible.
As kids are being introduced to the series today (while others anxiously await its second issue), Newsarama talked with Langridge to find out more about Snarked!.
Newsarama: Roger, you've got such a great style to your writing and artwork. What comics or creators have influenced your work in general, and your work on Snarked in particular?
Roger Langridge: I grew up reading British humor weeklies, where I was exposed to some really great, funny cartooning from the likes of Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale on a weekly basis; and, on the American side, I'm a huge fan of the old newspaper and comic book cartoonists of the early 20th century — people like Carl Barks, E.C. Segar, Billy DeBeck, Floyd Gottfredson, Jack Cole, Basil Wolverton, Kurtzman and Elder. In a lot of ways, Snarked! is like a great big soppy love letter to them. Particularly Barks and Segar.
Nrama: What prompted you to work with Kaboom and write something for a kid-targeted imprint?Langridge: I like to be read by as many people as possible, so I try hard to make whatever I write something that will connect with a wide age range, regardless of whether it's for a kid-targeted imprint or not. I hope the big themes of Snarked! are fairly universal and don't require you to be a specific age to get something out of them. Also, I have two kids of my own, aged six and eight, and a part of me felt that if I was ever going to write something specifically for them to enjoy, it had better be right now, before they're too old to appreciate it. Plus, Kaboom! asked me very, very nicely.
Nrama: The comic uses characters that many people are already familiar with, yet introduces them within a new premise. For people who haven't picked up the issue, how would you describe the story people will read in Snarked?
Langridge: Snarked! is a very, very loose reinterpretation of the works of Lewis Carroll. Our main protagonists are the Walrus and the Carpenter, and the pint-sized Red Queen, Queen Scarlett, and her little brother Prince Rusty. Their father, the Red King, has gone missing on a sea voyage; Scarlett is convinced he's alive and is determined to find him, and she and Rusty somehow are thrown together in achieving this aim with the Walrus and the Carpenter, who are amiable scoundrels and, not to put too fine a point on it, abject cowards. The quest begins and, one hopes, hilarity, thrills and adventure ensue!
Nrama: What inspired you to create this story? Are you a Lewis Carroll fan?Langridge: I'm a Lewis Carroll nut from way back, having read the Alice books and The Hunting of the Snark many, many times. A lot of the things I was playing with in the Muppet Show comics — rhyming text, human and animal characters bumping into one another, a generally surreal sense of humor — were already present in Carroll's work, so it seemed to be a good fit.
Nrama: There are certainly a lot of characters to choose from in Carroll's work. Why did you land upon the Walrus and Carpenter as central characters for Snarked!?
Langridge: I have a fondness for great comedy double-acts like Laurel and Hardy, and I've done quite a few of them over the years in my comics, so I thought having the Walrus and the Carpenter filling that role would be a lot of fun. And it's always more fun to write scoundrels than it is to write noble characters. Having the Walrus act nobly despite his best efforts to do the exact opposite has been one of the great pleasures of writing the book.
Nrama: The language in Snarked has such a unique feel to it. Your own sense of wit shines in these reinterpreted characters. What inspires your writing style and the tone of the dialogue on the title?Langridge: I'm glad you think so! Again, it's partly the great comedy acts of days gone by.
Nrama: Yeah, I can completely see Laurel and Hardy in there now that you've pointed it out.
Langridge Yeah, there's a bit of Laurel and Hardy in there, maybe a bit of Groucho and Chico Marx — and I'm finding, occasionally, on very good days, the banter between Scarlett and the Walrus reminds me of the kind of dialogue you used to get in Howard Hawks movies between Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, or in Preston Sturges films between anyone and anyone. Only occasionally, mind, and not every day — but it's something to strive for. There's more than a little of W.C. Fields in the Walrus, as well. I only steal from the very best!
Nrama: There's tons of bonus material included in the first couple issues — like small stories, puzzles and games. Why did you decide to put those types of extras into it?Langridge: I grew up reading comics in the 1970s, which had that sort of extra material as an matter of course — the British humor weeklies would routinely include cut-out board games or mini-comics, and the DC 100-page Giant comics were filled to the gills with games and puzzles and quizzes of every description. Apart from giving the reader a lot more value for money — you could be occupied for hours with those things! — I think they give the readers a feeling of being more involved with a comic, which in turn inspires loyal readers who'll be back for the next issue. So the short answer to why I put the extras in is: greed. Pure, untrammelled greed.
Nrama: The second issue of Snarked comes out this week, and it's an ongoing story, which is great to see in a kid-targeted book. What can you tell fans about what's coming in future issues of Snarked?
Langridge: Spills, chills and great beasties! Our heroes are going to be up against the terrible Gryphon, a bounty hunter with a heart of coal; an island tribe of wild birds whose diet is, shall we say, not strictly vegetarian; and... is that a Jabberwock? Yes it is! No it isn't! Yes it is! No it isn't! ... Who is Big Norman? Who is Professor Cube? And why, why has Scarlett got a bowl of fruit on her head? There's going to be laughs, thrills, and the Walrus shouting at people out of thesauruses! Who could ask for more?