Writer: Roger Langridge
Artist: Roger Langridge
Collects: The Muppet Show #1-4 (2009)
Published: Boom Studios, 2009; $9.99
I’ll be the first to admit that when I heard Boom Studios was planning a comic series based on Jim Henson’s legendary franchise, I thought it was a terrible idea. I’ve been a huge follower of the Muppets since childhood, from Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock to feature films like A Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. And although I never watched the original version of The Muppet Show on television, I’ve familiarized myself with it by way of the excellent DVD sets that Disney has been releasing for the last few years. No matter where or in what format the Muppets appear, they always bring with them the same contagiously fun and energetic spirit.
Luckily, Langridge understands that completely, and his writing and drawings perfectly capture the essence of the Muppets. Each of the four issues collected here plays out like an episode of the actual TV show, with a series of brief skits and comedy sketches that revolve around a central, offstage plotline. Langridge spotlights a different character in each issue, with Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy each receiving their own story. Kermit’s is by far the most emotionally resonant, with the character’s feelings of homesickness for life in the swamp giving way to a genuinely moving song at the end. It’s worth mentioning, in fact, that there are quite a few songs and poems throughout The Muppet Show Comic Book (much like the original show), all of which are exceptionally well written.
The Gonzo issue is a bit of an oddity: it centers on the question of what exactly Gonzo is, the same question that was answered over ten years ago in the Muppets’ last theatrical movie, Muppets from Space. Langridge could have any number of possible reasons for ignoring that story, not the least of which is that it’s one of only two Muppet movies (the other being The Muppets Take Manhattan) to which Disney does not have the rights. Anyhow, it’s not really a criticism so much as an observation.
I also really enjoyed the Fozzie issue, in which the hilariously unfunny bear finally realizes that the audience can’t stand his jokes. This leads to him trying out a number of other acts, including a Shakespearean performance and a vaudeville number, all of which manage to go horribly wrong. The Miss Piggy story is decent, but far less memorable; it has to do with her becoming angry with Kermit after a bogus psychic leads her to believe Kermit has fallen in love with someone else. It’s territory well trodden, and since Miss Piggy isn’t one of my favorite Muppets anyway, I probably would have preferred to see a different character in the lead role for that issue.
The sketch sequences translate surprisingly well into comic book form, and they include such long-time favorites as “Veterinarian’s Hospital” and “Pigs in Space.” Langridge’s typical method is to cram an entire sketch into one page, sometimes two, as if it were its own extremely short, self-contained story. Even the really corny sketches (such as a pun-filled conversation between the houses on a neighborhood block) benefit from this method, and are done so self-consciously that they’re still quite funny. Statler and Waldorf – the two old hecklers in the balcony – do wonders to salvage otherwise lame scenes as well by frequently breaking the fourth wall to point out the relative stupidity of their own comic book.
Included at the end of the book is Langridge’s original proposal for the series, in the form of around a dozen pages of fully penciled and colored pages that were originally intended for the children’s magazine Disney Adventures. The art style is a bit sketchier and more off-model than the one used in the main series, and I think I actually like this initial version better. Both styles are excellent, though, and the one that Langridge opted for in the end is undeniably the slicker and more commercially viable one.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the Muppets, you have every reason to buy this book: it’s just as fun and funny as any of their movies or TV shows, and it’s only $9.99. Boom Studios has followed this collection up with several more by Langridge, as well as a few that adapt classic children’s stories and fairy tales (Muppet Peter Pan and Muppet Robin Hood, for example). Best of all, none of these books cost more than ten dollars, an exceptional achievement in a world where four-issue collections released by most other comics companies rarely retail for less than fifteen. In short: highly recommended.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5