Talking Comics with Tim | Roger Langridge
Close readers of this weekly interview column will realize that I have interviewed Roger Langridge a couple of times. And I never tire of chatting with Langridge about his storytelling approach. Next Wednesday, November 2, marks the release of the second issue for his Kaboom! creator-owned Snarked series. The series has been building its audience, first through the $1 #0 issue,and then Snarked 1 sold out of its first printing–warranting a second printing. In addition to discussing Snarked, we also got a chance to discuss his recently released The Show Must Go On (BOOM! Studios) as well as his writing the Marvel five-issue limited series, John Carter: A Princess of Mars. If you want evidence why I love interviewing Langridge, the man revealed a slight connection between his work and musician Robyn Hitchcock’s The Soft Boys. After reading the interview, please chime in with which current Langridge projects you’re enjoying the most.
Tim O’Shea: What was the most enjoyable aspect, in the run-up to Snarked’s premiere, of building up the potential reading audience through the Snarked website (Snark Island)?
Roger Langridge: Partly just to see if I could do it, and to try to be creative about what could be done with it. I’m planning to continue putting content up on the site each time a new issue comes out, so it’ll be a constant, evolving thing – but mainly, I wanted to do a letters page, and having somewhere to direct people so they could e-mail us was essential. It helps if there’s some other stuff to look at when they visit, of course!
O’Shea: CBR reviewer Greg McElhatton praised issue 1, in part, noting of The Walrus and the Carpenter “Langridge is careful to keep either of them from being evil; they’re just devious and keeping themselves out of ruin”. How hard is to develop a con man like the Walrus, and still make him endearing to the reader?
Langridge: Well, it’s partly that there’s a tradition of loveable rogues in popular entertainment – Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields and Chaplin all played bums or scoundrels, sometimes both at the same time, and my all-time favourite comic characters were all deeply flawed individuals (Scrooge McDuck, Wimpy, Barney Google etc.) – so there’s a lineage. Also, it gives me somewhere to take the characters – something I’m hoping to achieve as the series goes on is to show the Walrus discovering his (few) redeeming qualities through sheer force of circumstance, as he finds himself with no choice but to rise to the occasion. Starting him off as a scoundrel makes that journey a lot more interesting.
O’Shea: When I interviewed you back in June, you were praising the “original and interesting colour choices” by interior colorist Rachelle Rosenberg. What were some of your favorite choices that Rosenberg made and why?
Langridge: Well, the “why” you’d have to ask her, but I like the fact that the palette isn’t always obvious – it’s often quite unrealistic, but striking, and it gives the whole book a bit of extra zing. I don’t know enough colour theory to tell you why it works, but I just know it does!
O’Shea: How early in the development of Snarked did you realize that Princess Scarlett would be a major character in the series?
Langridge: Pretty early on. In observing other popular kids’ franchises, there’s nearly always child characters bang in the centre of it, so it made sense from a commercial point of view; and with spinning off the work of Lewis Carroll, the way a child sees the world is so central to the whole atmosphere he creates that it’s something you can’t really get away from without losing something essential, I feel (Tim Burton obviously disagrees!). Basically, I felt that if I was going to attempt an epic kind of quest story, I needed a character to go on a life-changing journey as part of that – and I don’t think the Walrus and the Carpenter are wired to change in major ways. I expect them to be largely the characters they started out as when we reach the end – maybe with moments of insight gained along the way, but essentially unchanged. Whereas Scarlett’s whole life will be turned upside-down by the end. Ooh, spoilers!
O’Shea: You’re the kind of storyteller that other storytellers respect, do you get satisfaction when creators like Kurt Busiek praise you?
Langridge: Yes, of course, though I have to admit I don’t quite know what I’m doing that people seem to respond to; I feel like I’m still learning as I go to a large degree. But yes, of course it’s gratifying to hear people say nice things about your work, especially when, as in the case of Mr. Busiek, it’s someone who’s written many things I’ve enjoyed myself over the years.
O’Shea: Last month saw the release of The Show Must Go On, I must ask–did the song and dance of Frankenstein Meets Shirley Temple come to you in a dream?
Langridge: I’m not much of a one for remembering dreams, I’m afraid – but the way I was writing back them definitely had a large dollop of stream-of-consciousness built into it. Nice of you to notice!
O’Shea: Sorry if this question has been asked of you numerous times, but in The Show Must Go On, one of the characters is Leppo. Was that character named partially inspired by the Marx Brothers?
Langridge: Actually, I swiped the name from the Soft Boys song (from their 1979 album A Can of Bees) called “Leppo and the Jooves” – Robyn Hitchcock never physically describes Leppo in the song, but that was the mental picture I saw whenever I heard it. (Which isn’t to say that a lot of other things in that story weren’t partially inspired by the Marx Brothers!)
O’Shea: How hard is it to shift gears from writing Snarked to writing John Carter: A Princess of Mars? Would you agree this is a departure from the type of stories you’ve recently been known for writing?
Langridge: Yes, although there are similarities between Carter and Thor: The Mighty Avenger – where one was about a mysterious being trapped on Earth, the other is about an Earth man trapped on a world of mysterious beings, so they’re almost mirror images of one another. And there’s a love story at the centre of both books. So, a departure, yes, but not a totally un-navigable one. I do enjoy the variety of writing different kinds of things – as I said, I feel like I’m learning all the time as a writer, and it’s good to stretch different writing muscles to see if I can do it, and what I can get out of it.
O’Shea: I am not asking to brag about yourself, but how proud and surprised were you when you realized that you have now won back-to-back Harvey Awards?
Langridge: In a way I’m kind of glad I didn’t get this kind of recognition early on in my career, because I’m sure I would have been completely insufferable! As it is, twenty years in, I’d reached the point where I’d pretty much given up on ever winning any awards, so when they happened I think I had a better sense of perspective – grateful, yes, and very surprised, but hopefully not too big-headed about it. I realise it’s a bit of a lottery and I’ve probably had my lot now! I’m extremely thankful to everybody who voted for me. When I told my Dad, he said he was proud of me (this coming from someone who never thought I’d even be able to make a living as a cartoonist!) – which means a lot.