Fred, Mugwhump & More: Talking to Roger Langridge
Talking to Roger Langridge
Nominated for numerous awards for his series Fred The Clown, the New Zealand-born Roger Langridge has broke new ground in recent years with several critically acclaimed shorts in the Marvel Universe featuring Fing Fang Foom amongst others. He first came to be known in comics for his work in Judge Dredd Megazine, making him a cartoonist working on both sides of the pond. But what we're talking to him about today is another side of the pond – or is it more than the pond? – the web. Langridge has long been publishing comics online, and his newest strip, Mugwhump The Great, is scheduled to debut this month on Act-I-Vate.Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us, Roger. So what can you tell us about the new webcomic Mugwhump The Great? Roger Langridge: It's set in a vaudeville/music-hall environment at some unspecified point in the past, or possibly in a world where those things never really went away -- I'm happy to keep that vague. The central figures are Mugwhump the Great (an ironic title if ever there was one) and his ventriloquist's dummy Billy Woodentop, who has a mind of his own, and a mouth to match. They have a kind of doomed relationship with one another -- they can't really stand one another, but each knows that without the other they'd be nothing. So that's really the tension that drives the strip. It's sort of inspired by the central dynamic in Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's classic sitcom Steptoe and Son, where Harold and Albert Steptoe are trapped in this hateful father-son relationship which neither one of them can bear to leave.
I'm planning to ease into it gently, with a few weeks of character stuff to set the mood, before jumping into a longer story about a new manager suddenly showing up at the theatre at which Mugwhump is resident Master of Ceremonies, replacing Mugwhump's performer friends with his own creepy artistes and essentially pulling Mugwhump's world out from under him. I'm going for a Muppet-Show-directed-by-David-Lynch kind of thing, or at least that's the starting point I'm trying to build from. I expect it will turn out to be nothing of the kind as I start to work it through and insert my own sensibilities into the details. I want it to be funnier than anything David Lynch ever did, for a start. NRAMA: Does this tie in to any of your other comics work? RL: I've done one previous Mugwhump story which appeared in the Comics Journal last year, although it was already about ten years old by that point. It's available online here. Billy Woodentop wasn't in that one. It kind of picks up where the original story left off, with enough time having passed for the status quo to have moved on a bit. NRAMA: You're no stranger to webcomics, Roger. So what made you come and set-up shop at ACT-I-VATE? RL: They were kind enough to ask, that's basically the reason! It was really good timing, actually -- I'd just finished a short Doctor Sputnik continuity on my website and was getting ready to start Mugwhump when Simon Fraser contacted me and asked if I could be persuaded to join them. So it worked out rather well. NRAMA: You've got a lot going on, Roger. Artwork in the upcoming Giant Size X-Men First Class, doing the book with Danny Fingeroth and you're also doing some Muppet books for BOOM! Studios. How are you feeling right now with all the work coming in? RL: You missed the Fin Fang Four backups I'm currently working on with Scott Gray for Marvel! NRAMA: Doh! RL: Obviously, it feels great to be in demand, it's a very nice position to be in, although I'm not really any busier now than I usually am -- it's just that a lot more of the work I'm doing now is in the American comics field as opposed to UK comics (like Doctor Who Magazine) or the illustration work I've been doing in recent years. So it just seems to a US audience as if my name is popping up more often, I guess. I suppose the most gratifying part of the current popularity I'm enjoying (if that's what it is and not just dumb luck) is that, apart from the Rough Guide to Graphic Novels, where I worked on a script by Danny Fingeroth, most of the comics work I've got going on at the moment is as a writer-artist and not just as an illustrator -- which is how I think most people in the industry thought of me for the first 15 years or so of my career. Somewhere along the line -- I suppose in the wake of my Fred the Clown book, which was the first substantial chunk of writing most people had seen from me -- I seem to have crossed over to being thought of as a writer-artist, which is pretty much where I wanted to be all along. So that feels really good. I actually feel like a proper cartoonist at last!