Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

It’s Time to Play the Music…

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 23rd, 2009

The Muppet Show #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Roger Langridge
Colors: Digikore Studios
Letters: Deron Bennett
Editor: Paul Morrissey
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom Kids imprint
Price: $2.99 US

This is a big comic. I just have a feeling about it. I suspect this new release, as well as this week’s The Incredibles #1, will make a wider audience of comics readers take notice of Boom! Studios. This comic book will bring cartoonist Roger (Fred the Clown) Langridge to the attention of new readers and new fans. And the high quality of this comic book has the potential to really impress readers of all ages, those who grew up with the variety show upon which this is based and even those with only a passing familiarity with Jim Henson’s Muppets. As I read this, I smiled, even chortled a bit. I was impressed with the visuals and surprised by a slightly melancholy quality in the plot as well. I was struck by the feeling that Langridge’s take on The Muppet Show was just special, capturing the kind of magic and mirth that have made these characters icons of pop culture.

It’s time for another Muppet Show, and Scooter, Piggy, Robin, Gonzo and everyone else is scrambling to offer a theatre full of people another rousing and entertaining variety show. But tonight, something’s a little bit off. The gang’s fearless leader, Kermit, isn’t quite feeling like himself. His head’s stuck in the past, and when Kermit has an off night, the entire cast is going to have an off night. Everyone pitches in and tries to cheer Kermit up, but only one Muppet knows just what Kermit needs to do to snap out of his funk.

Roger Langridge isn’t a completely stranger to the world of work-for-hire comics and telling stories featuring well-known characters. He’s done work for Marvel that was a lot of fun, for example, but The Muppet Show is leaps and bounds beyond what super-hero fans have seen from him before. He captures the look and spirit of the Muppets incredibly well, but he still brings his own interpretation to bear as well. He brings a much more organic look to the Muppets. They don’t look like puppets, but like cartoony creatures. It’s most apparent when one looks at his take on Gonzo. There’s a certain flair and personality at play that puts me in mind of Sergio (Groo) Aragones’s cartooning as well.

Langridge’s script is a lot of fun, and at times, he’s a genius when it comes to handling these characters and their inherent humor. I laughed myself silly as I read — aloud — his dialogue for the Swedish Chef. The ending is schmaltzy, yes, but it’s effective and consistent with what we’ve seen from these characters at times in the past. The story’s climax and denouement will no doubt put some of us older readers in mind of The Muppet Movie and “The Rainbow Connection.”

Langridge does an exceptional job here, especially when one consider that he reproduces the classic feel of The Muppet Show without the benefit of music, a laugh track or the customary “guest host.” On the latter point, I think it’d be fun if a future issue managed to incorporate such a host, and since this is a comic book, maybe Boom! could strike a deal with another comics publisher who could allow another character to join the Muppets on stage.

At a time when a lot of comics fans are lamenting Marvel’s and DC’s decisions to bump up prices of many of their monthly comics to $3.99 US each, you have to give Boom! Studios credit for pricing its new kids line at $2.99 when most of its individual issues ring it at $3.99.

Maybe I just gave in to an overwhelming wave of nostalgic warmth. Maybe memory has blinded me to the notion that this is just another ordinary comic book. But even if that’s the case, I would imagine others will be similarly moved and tickled as well. Expect the first printing of this issue to sell out quickly, so make a point of getting a copy as soon as you can — not for potential investment, but simply because you really shouldn’t wait to indulge your inner child. And for those who still have that outer-child shell, you shouldn’t wait to introduce them to the weird world of Kermit and his cast at the Muppet Theatre. 9/10

13 Responses to “It’s Time to Play the Music…”

  1. Brian Burkart Says:

    As a longtime Muppet fan I was wary of this title but I’m very glad to read your positive review. I’ll be adding the title to my pull list.

  2. Jonas Says:

    I liked The Muppet Show as a kid, but I find this comics version oddly…unexciting. Without the voices and movement, puppets are pretty dull. I realize Disney is trying to make a buck off these old guys, but maybe it’s best to leave the dead alone, eh? Other revivals have been attempted, only to fail miserably (Muppets From Space, Muppets Wizard of Oz, that boring Xmas special….really, what’s it gonna take to convince the people behind those antiques that maybe it’s time to put them aside and let Jim rest in peace??)

  3. Brian Woods Says:

    In the comic’s favor, Kermit will still have Jim’s voice in my head. That makes me happy. :)

  4. Jason Says:

    This is the second great review I’ve read about this book. Definitely going to check it out.

  5. Justin Says:

    Thanks so much for this review Don. It wasn’t even on my radar but after reading your review and checking out the review at CBR I am all over it. Looks great!

  6. Cb Robinson Says:

    Yeah I’m pretty glad that this title is going to be a success, I think it’s really important that the next generation of readers gets into comics, and while I think established IPs are going to get kids to pick books up, the only think that’s really going to get a kid into comics, is well….good comics. Sounds like they hit the mark with this one, I’m actually going to go pick it up this afternoon.

  7. Lee M. Says:

    I saw this at my local comics shop, picked it up, looked it over…and put it down. Come on, Don. The art is terrible! And the writing? Well, it was cornball…I guess it’s all right, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    Frankly, when it comes to all-ages comics, I’ll take Image’s Lions, Tigers and Bears over the Muppet schlock. It’s got great art, it’s truly imaginative, and it’s original. The Muppet Show comic, quite frankly, sucks.

  8. Don MacPherson Says:

    Lee wrote:
    Come on, Don. The art is terrible! And the writing? Well, it was cornball

    Hey, it’s no problem if The Muppet Show #1 wasn’t your thing, but don’t make it sound like I’m off my rocker. Among notable critics, this comic has received almost universal critical acclaim. That doesn’t mean you should have enjoyed it, but you ought not dismiss others’ opinions while expressing your own.

  9. Jay Says:

    Love the Muppets, and the art looks great. I do wonder about Boom’s brand identity, though. They’ve got all these great kid-friendly Disney properties, but I just read the awful preview of Mark Waid’s Irredeemable at Newsarama and was surprised it wasn’t called “Garth Ennis’s Irredeemable.” Have we just given up on all-ages super-hero fare?

  10. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jay wrote:
    Have we just given up on all-ages super-hero fare?

    Not at all, but comics publishers have to be cognizant of its current market, and that’s adults. There are a few all-ages super-hero comics out there — the Marvel Adventures line comes to mind. And one should give Boom! credit; it’s just expanded its line to include the Boom Kids imprint. That’s a new development, and given Boom’s announcement of a newsstand-market deal, it’s aggressively reaching out to an all-ages market. Just because it’s continued with its comics for adults doesn’t mean it’s ignoring younger readers.

    As I noted in my review, there’s something special and important about The Muppet Show comic. It looks like it’s a breakthrough book for both Langridge and Boom.

  11. Jay Says:

    Adult target super-heroes are unsustainably absurd, and the industry continues to shrink its audience by pursuing this foolishness. It’s not accessible, and it’s not good.

    My “problem” with the Boom line is that it’s not all-ages. It’s for kids (which is fine) but it’s not all ages. I’ve been re-reading Amazing Spidey, up through the Ross Andru issues (such good stuff) and it struck me that all-ages doesn’t mean “for kids,’ it means enjoyable for kids through adults. Stories that are suitable for kids, with enough adventure to hold them, but with just enough depth to interest an older audience. Instead we have boom which epitomizes the either/or philosohpy thta’s bad for comics.

    Sorry, I got super off-topic here. Thanks’ for highlighting the Muppets book. I didn’t know about it and will certainly pick it up.

  12. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jay wrote:
    My “problem” with the Boom line is that it’s not all-ages. It’s for kids (which is fine) but it’s not all ages.

    I disagree. I loved The Muppet Show #1 and enjoyed the first issue of the new Incredibles mini. I’m not a kid (but I am a kid at heart). So far, Boom Kids has proven to be an all-ages line, in my assessment.

  13. Randy Lander Says:

    Lee, I’m always a “your mileage may vary” type of guy, but…

    You want to say The Muppet Show comic wasn’t your thing, that’s cool. But the art is *objectively* not terrible, and saying something “sucks” is begging to be dismissed. Especially when so many online voices who have spent years examining comics with a critical eye are arguing, with far more convincing rhetoric, that it’s great.

    That’s the camp I fall into as well, in case anyone was wondering.