||[Jun. 5th, 2010|11:25 am]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#26 THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK #1–4 – Roger Langridge
“A Muppet Show comic book? Oh no, they’re back to corrupt a whole new medium.”
There have been plenty of comics about the Muppets, but this is The Muppet Show Comic Book, which doesn’t just borrow the characters but the entire format of the TV series. It’s a variety show on the page, with skits, recurring segments like Pigs In Space and the Muppet News and even song-and-dance numbers. The transition from screen to page goes surprisingly smoothly – the news sketch usually ends with a mishap related to one of the headlines befalling the newsreader, so when one of his lead stories is that The Muppet Show has been reformatted as a comic the disaster is the page being turned on him. Of course there’s also a backstage plot to each episode, a character-driven story taking place behind the scenes that is handily resolved in the nick of time for a show-stopping finale.
Before working on The Muppet Show Comic Book, Roger Langridge created Fred The Clown, a comic in which horrible things happened to the title character strip after strip. Its balance of vaudeville and surrealism was somewhat similar to the Muppets, which he matches the tone of perfectly. His likenesses of the puppets are mostly spot-on too, though his ragged, crazy-eyed Gonzo is his own take on the character – the personality remains unchanged, however. Gonzo is still overconfident to a fault and will flirt with literally anything, even the show’s props. The Swedish Chef is another character transferred faultlessly, with dialogue that reads like there was an earthquake during a heavy metal convention in Umlautopia and now we’re drowning in the tidal wave of punctuation and accents that follows.
The balcony critics, Statler and Waldorf, are another essential part of the show replicated here. Jules Feiffer once said, “Critics mean little to a play, except life or death.” (Appropriately enough, he quit his career as a playwright and became famous for his comics.) Statler and Waldorf serve a valuable purpose, and they know it. The Muppets perform the kind of low-budget, seat-of-your-pants, learning-experience amateurishness that every performer starts out doing, the kind of stuff that you only get better at by doing and doing often and often doing badly. Early in every artist’s career they have to get up on the proverbial stage and be showered in heckles and metaphorical rotten fruit. Everybody has to be Fozzie Bear at some point. Statler and Waldorf may be cynical, impossible-to-please old fusspots but they keep coming back every night and hogging the best seats in the house.
The series was relaunched later with a different artist, but these four issues are pure fan mail. There’s no need for them to expand on the subject matter; it’s enough that they recreate it and homage it. The Muppet Show Comic Book is fan mail to Jim Henson for creating a show that was essentially fan mail to theatre, and especially to the people backstage who turn the cogs, please the divas and keep the production going. It’s inspirational, really. Possibly even Muppetational.