Happy Birthday to Roger Langridge

I’d like to wish a loud and boisterous (or quiet and dignified, depending on what he prefers) birthday to Roger Langridge, who’s a jolly good fellow (which nobody can, or will, deny). If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate something on the 14th of February, but hate the Cheez Whiz of Valentine’s Day, this could be it!

Here are some of my favourite Langridge moments, by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully a fun one.

The cover Roger Langridge created for The Comics Journal no. 284, July 2007. Orbis terrarum est mei! (Which, as far as I can figure it out, means “the world is mine”.) A bored-looking Fin Fang Foom (he must not like flowers) presides over assorted Langridge characters frolicking in the windows below. Note the malevolent nun (Knuckles!) in the middle window.
From « The Bald Truth » by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge, published in Fin Fang Four Return (Marvel, 2009), a hilarious – yet heart-warming – one-shot comic. “There was a time when giants walked the Earth! Monstrous creatures! Products of science gone mad!!! FIN FANG FOOM! ELEKTRO! GOOGAM! GORGILLA! Once they were great and terrible, and all trembled in their wake! Now, reduced to human size, they must live in the modern world and earn a buck. So what happens when the freakish foursome tries to play nice?” You can ignore the typical over-the-top Marvel description with lots of exclamation marks; this comic is surprisingly subtle. In 2012, Langridge decided he didn’t want to do work for Marvel anymore.
« The Bald Truth » by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge, published in Fin Fang Four Return (Marvel, 2009). The moral of the story, as summarized by Fin himself: « Men need to grow brains, not hair. »

Our man of the hour has also written and drawn quite a few stories for « children », most of them published by KaBoom!, or their tot-friendly division, Boom!. I think there should be a special category for books that are fun for children, but even more entertaining for their parents (or the nulliparous amongst us). For instance, are the Muppets purely child-fare? Sure, little ones enjoy their madcap, sometimes surreal humour, but adults are often as smitten by it, if not more. I think it takes a special talent and superior intelligence to write stories that appeal to youngsters, but are complex enough to give their older relatives something to chew on. Throw a spirited sense of humour into the mix, and you’re all set.

Roger Langridge’s wonderful sense of humour is particularly suited for the comic book version of The Muppet Show, which he wrote and illustrated for BOOM! Studios starting in 2009 for a total of 15 (magnificent, by the way) issues.

To quote a perceptive review by Ryan Dosier (read it here),

« Once again, Langridge has beautifully captured the unhinged feeling that each of us enjoyed watching on the original Muppet Show. Zaniness reigns supreme, random Muppets hang out backstage, and we can once again feel like the show never ended. Roger Langridge has captured the Muppet spirit of writing in a way that is more than reminiscent of the Jerry Juhl days of The Muppet Show. He has a complete grasp on every character. Everything in the comic works, and it’s because of the quality of the writing that this is true. When there are, not one, but five chances for Fozzie to deliver a pun-filled monologue (each in a different comedic style) and hit each one out of the park (relatively speaking), you know the writing is top-notch. »

I don’t normally buy Disney products – Disney bought the Muppets intellectual properties from the Jim Henson company in 2004, but I made an exception and purchased The Muppet Show Omnibus (2014), and I am not regretting this decision.

This wasn’t the last time Langridge worked with the Muppets.

Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, October 2014, published by Archaia. This is based on a lost television special originally written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl (respectively, producer and head writer of The Muppet Show) and (lovingly) adapted by Langridge for comic book form. Henson and Juhl wrote the script in 1968 (Henson was inspired by some footage he had taken of his daughters scampering through some trees during what must have been a particularly magical October), but nobody was interested in actually filming it, and so the story languished in the Jim Henson Company Archives until now. Langridge was a natural fit for this project, given that he had been the writer and main illustrator of Boom! Studios’ excellent The Muppet Show comics between 2009 and 2012.

Among more recent adventures undertaken by Mr. Langridge and his lucky readers is Snarked!, his take on Lewis Carroll’s topsy-turvy world, Abigail & the Snowman, and the Baker Street Peculiars, written by him but illustrated by someone else. All of the aforementioned comics are life-affirming *and* vocabulary-expanding.

Snarked! no. 5, February 2012. « Presenting a fresh and incredibly modern “Langridge” spin on an already-warped classic, SNARKED starts here in an epic adventure featuring the Red Queen’s children, Princess Scarlett and her baby brother Rusty, as they set out in search of the missing Red King. And who better to help guide the way than the Walrus and the Carpenter from THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. »  (description from publisher) Snarked! is also published by Kaboom.
From Snarked! no. 11, August 2012. Would a child be able to appreciate the concept of “Aunt Fanny’s Leather Euphonium”? I don’t think so. An euphonium is a musical instrument, by the way, similar to a tuba in appearance.
Page from Abigail and the Snowman no. 1, December 2014, published by KaBoom!. Claude is an erudite yeti on the run from evil scientists who want to continue experimenting on him.
Abigail and the Snowman no. 4, March 2015. Yetis run better without shoes, that’s why the car is gaining on them.
A splash page The Baker Street Peculiars no. 3, May 2016. Written by Langridge and illustrated by Andy Hirsch, with colours by Fred Stresing. Langridge-the-writer sometimes get paired with people who couldn’t draw if their life depended on it, and it’s a hideous waste of talent. Hirsch’s art is not quite as distinctive, but it fits the story well.

Wishing Mr. Langridge many happy returns, many productive collaborations, and above all the time and financial support he needs to pursue his solo projects.

~ ds

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