We recently encountered Roger Langridge, while in the produce section at the supermarket, and here’s what happened:
Q: What’s the latest chapter of the Roger Langridge story?
A: Ooh. This week, I finished writing Snarked! #12 – the final chapter of the story arc I began in the first issue – and am feeling pretty pleased with it. Now all I have to do is draw the darn things… I’m thinking about what’s next now, but not before I take a few days off from getting up at 5:15am every morning to write. I think I’ve earned a lie-in or three.
Q: The Muppets are riding high again, thanks to your highly entertaining Muppet comicbooks, and the new Muppet movie. How did you come to be involved with the Muppet comicbooks at Boom and Marvel?
A: Well, I haven’t been involved with any of the Marvel stuff – but the Boom! gig came about because, a year or so earlier, I’d done a bit of freelance work for the now-defunct Disney Adventures magazine and they thought it would be a good idea to have me draw a few Muppet comic strips. They’d had a guy named Glenn McCoy draw some Mickey Mouse stuff for them in a grungey, off-model style, and it was enough of a hit that they were looking to do something else along those lines, so they approached me, knowing my work already dealt with that vaudevillean world and had a similar sense of humour, and thinking it would be a good fit. Unfortunately, only one of the pages I drew for them was published before the magazine got cancelled, so I assumed that was the end of it – until a year or so later, when Boom! approached me out of the blue and invited me to pick up where I left off. I guess the pages I drew for Disney Adventures must have been circulating within Disney or something. Anyway, I took the gig and the rest is geography, double French and P.E.
Q: Who is your favorite Muppet?
A: Probably Gonzo. He’s got hidden layers. He and Miss Piggy both have that deluded sense of greatness that belies the truth and which, paradoxically, makes them great as characters – they’re a bit like Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces in that regard.
Q: How well is the comicbook industry in Great Britain these days?
A: I wouldn’t say the patient is as well as all that – not likely to be discharged any time soon – but probably a lot healthier than it’s been in a while. The days of making a living by making British comics are gone for any but a lucky handful, but if you’re prepared to work for peanuts and earn your real living elsewhere, there are a lot of opportunities now thanks to publishers like Blank Slate Books and Self-Made Hero, and brave attempts at serial comics by the likes of The Phoenix. If the industry is on life support, the medium itself is in rude health, I reckon.
Q: Who are some of your favorite contemporary British illustrators in today’s comicbooks?
A: Mark Stafford should be drawing every comic in the world, right now if possible. I love Dave Shelton’s gentle, wry stories – the Ealing Comedies of comics. Dan McDaid is like the bastard love-child of Frank Robbins and Jack Kirby – gloriously retro and alarmingly modern at the same time. Mick McMahon continues to show everybody how it’s done, with bells on. I’m really enjoying Ian Culbard’s stuff. Rob Davis is terrifyingly good. Darryl Cunningham is doing some fascinating work lately. Paul Grist keeps improving every year, and he was brilliant to begin with. Ade Salmon’s attitude to his craft is a continuing source of inspiration. Oh, I could go on all day. Warwick Johnson Caldwell – where the hell did he spring from, fully-formed like that? Blimey. Just getting into Sarah MacIntyre recently. Too many talented people!
Q: Tell our readers a little about Fred The Clown? And will we be seeing him again anytime soon?
A: I used to describe Fred the Clown as “The Thinking Man’s Idiot”, which, as pithy taglines go, I’ve yet to improve upon. He’s basically a one-character genre of his own – “Comedy of Disappointment”. The strip was basically an excuse to drop this kind of blank-slate character into any situation or genre or art style I felt like playing with and, er, play with it. So, stylistically and formally, Fred the Clown was intentionally all over the place – and I guess it’s still the work I’m proudest of. As for seeing more of him, I’ve been thinking very seriously about that lately. I sort of had the Steve Coogan/Alan Partridge problem with him – after I stopped working on the strip, I felt like I couldn’t go back to it without it being some kind of admission of defeat, unless I had a success or two outside of Fred the Clown first. I really wanted to avoid being seen as a One Hit Wonder. Now I feel like I’ve had a couple of other critical successes, so going back and doing more Fred seems like less of an issue. So, yeah. Definitely looking into that.
Q: What are you reading?
A: Lately, it’s been Barney Google, by Billy DeBeck. The original newspaper strip ran from 1919 to 1942, when DeBeck died; for many years it’s been a mission of mine to track down newspaper clippings and get a complete set. Well, I’m pretty close to that now, at least as far as the daily strips are concerned (Sundays are another issue) – there are still a few strips from 1934 missing, and a handful of strips from the first year or so, but apart from that I’ve got the lot. So I’ve been actually reading the darn things. It’s a hobby, I guess… or an obsession. Anyway, the cartooning is sublime.
Q: What music are you listening to?
A: When I’m working on anything that requires concentration I listen to a lot of stuff with no lyrics, like classical music, or Bill Frisell, or Brian Eno. Something that can wash over me and not distract me – when I’m not listening to nothing at all, which is sometimes all I can handle. When I’m doing something that requires very little conscious thought, like inking, I tend to binge on particular artists – lately it’s been The Divine Comedy. I don’t listen to much new music. I’m kind of disengaged from the whole business these days.
Q: Do you have a favorite comicbook shop? If so, which one, where is it, and why is it your favorite?
A: I heartily recommend Gosh! Comics in London to anyone who lives there, or visits there – or, hell, anyone who wants to make a special trip just to see the place. It’s my favourite because it’s got a bit of everything – it’s super-supportive of alternative/independent work, but it’s got all the Usual Suspects from the mainstream as well. It’s pleasantly laid out, well-lit and welcoming, the staff are informed and friendly and, frankly, I don’t get in there nearly often enough (the price of working all hours and having a family).
Q: What is the wildest thing anyone ever commissioned you to draw?
A: I don’t do a whole lot of commissions (no time!), but I do a lot of convention sketches, and I’ve had the odd doozy in that context. But if you ask me what the wildest one is, I’m not sure I could tell you. When I’m sketching at conventions, they all tend to become a blur after a while. And when somebody asks me for something really bizarre or challenging, my natural inclination is to make a stupid gag out of it anyway – so it’s usually less wild by the time I’ve finished with it (though hopefully funnier).
Q: Your Abe Sapien story in Hellboy Weird Tales #4 was a lot of fun. Who is your favorite member of the B.P.R.D., and why?
A: I’m supposed to say Roger, aren’t I? Please tell me we haven’t come to this. Have I found your level, Hourly Planet? Have I? Well? Have I?? I quite like Abe Sapien, but.
Q: What is the wildest thing you ever witnessed at a comicbook convention?
A: Wildest? I dunno. Some of those costumes at San Diego are pretty wild (if body paint and sequins count as a costume). But I’m quite dull, really. I rise early and I’ve got kids. When the mad parties are happening, I’m usually about ready to go to bed.
Q: What is the best piece of advice that anyone ever gave to you?
A: Personally: We’re all pretending to be grown-ups – none of us really has a clue. Professionally: The writer with less talent who admits from the outset that writing is difficult and is prepared to work at it will write better material in the long run than the writer with more talent who thinks it’s easy.
Q: Where is your favorite vacation spot?
A: I don’t really care, as long as once I get there I can just write or draw or read. I don’t particularly want to go anywhere where I have to actively go and do things. I work ridiculous hours 99% of the time; a holiday should be a holiday, dammit.
Q: You’re from New Zealand originally. What is it like there? Is there a comicbook scene there?
A: I like New Zealand a great deal as an occasional visitor, much more than I did when I was living there – which, in those pre-Internet days, felt more like an obstacle to my career than an opportunity. These days, I guess the reverse is true; a cartoonist can work via internet long-distance while enjoying a lower cost of living. Now I’m just an occasional tourist, it’s grand. There has always been a strong comics scene in New Zealand; part of its strength, I think, comes from the fact that there’s no industry as such, and no living to be made from making comics, so everybody who makes comics there is 100% committed to the medium as a medium, not as a stepping stone to a lucrative career. There are no lucrative careers to be had. So the comics that are produced have a wonderful purity about them. And the cartoonists have an overwhelming stench of poverty.
Q: When you aren’t busy illustrating comicbooks, what do you do for kicks?
A: I’m a comedy nerd, I like to get out to the odd stand-up show. I’m hoping to catch Daniel Kitson later this month; I keep hearing he’s the best comedian in Britain, but he doesn’t do telly or release DVDs, so you can only experience him live (or listen to the audio clips he occasionally puts up on his website). I read a lot. I picked up a couple of John Steinbeck books recently that I haven’t already read, so they’re next in the pile. My wife and I try to see a film once a month or so that doesn’t have a talking animal in it (with kids, that becomes your cinema landscape after a while and it can become a bit stultifying). I love old comedies from Hollywood’s golden age – I’m a huge Keaton and Fields and Marx Brothers fan, and anything with Cary Grant in it or directed by Preston Sturges or Ernst Lubitsch gets quite a bit of play around our house.
Q: Settle a bet for us? Who is the cutest blonde in Marvel Comics?
A: Oh, definitely Warren Worthington III.
Q: A stranger hands you $17,000.00 in cash, and the walk away, never to be seen again. What do you do with all that money?
A: I stop ghost-writing corporate properties for dead men and commit myself to my own creations 100% (until the money runs out).
Q: What was the single most exciting thing to happen in the comicbook industry in 2011?
A: I’m kind of disengaged from the comic industry, so a lot of what happens passes me by – you get your head down producing your work, and the rest of the industry whizzes around your ears and over your head without you really noticing. As a reader, I think the single thing I was most excited to see was Fantagraphics’ new Carl Barks books. That material should never be out of print and should always be available cheaply to children. Barks is our Hergé. He’s hugely significant, and significantly great. He deserves to be read.
Q: Hamburger or hot dog?
A: I’m a vegetarian. You can keep your processed pig clippings, sir!
Q: What’s next for Roger Langridge fans in 2012?
A: In addition to more Snarked!, I’m writing a new Popeye series from IDW. And I’m sure there’ll be other stuff as well (he said mysteriously).