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The Muppet Show: The Treasure Of Peg-Leg Wilson
posted May 10, 2010
 

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Creators: Roger Langridge
Publishing Information: Boom!, softcover, 112 pages, February 2010, $9.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781608865048 (ISBN13), 1608865045 (ISBN10)

imageI read all of Roger Langridge's comics efforts with the Muppets last week in preparation for moderating a panel with the cartoonist at last weekend's Toronto Comics Art Festival. I was unable to make it to the panel, so I wanted to partly make up for that by reviewing one of the books here. Luckily, it's a pleasure. This second volume collecting Langridge's work on a Muppet Show mini turned ongoing proves to be everything one goes to an adaptation of a beloved property to experience: it's executed with class and a high level of craft, it's recognizable as both a Muppets comic and as an effort from Langridge, and it's mostly a lot of fun. Its greatest achievement is that in almost every case -- I'd say the dance floor sketches are the exception here -- Langridge has found a way to communicate the general feel of a television show that was divided between backstage shenanigans and onstage performances. The structure of the comic mirrors the essential structure of the TV show in the same way Langridge's designs capture some truth for the characters and their designs. It's a little bit like what Dave Sim used to achieve when he really got cooking with one of his frequent parody-character intrusions into the Cerebus plot. It's close enough to getting more work from the original source that you can treat it as anything but, and enjoy the sequence in question for its multiple, surface pleasures.

I like this second volume more than the first and the individual issues I've read since because I think it's here that the overriding, above-the-title plot line about a treasure in the theater where the muppets perform, best fulfills the role that the television show guest stars used to play. The subplot provides those backstage scene with a functional, deliberate focus. Instead of knocking on Sylvester Stallone's door, Beaker engages one of the rats turning over the place in search of the money. Because the show is safely ongoing and commented upon, Langridge has the freedom to get a bit weirder with his B and C plotlines, involving a Kermit lookalike and Animal, the drummer in the band, respectively. And because the big finish works both onstage and off he can push the more individualistic plots toward more idiosyncratic ends.

The Muppet Show is one of those properties that for me personally falls under the Green Lantern Rule: I was a passionate fan when it was on, and the movie prequel that came mid-run had to be the only G-rated for which I ever spent money on multiple viewings. Two beers into any evening you give me a movie property, I can name its muppet cast. That said, the last of their movies I saw starred Charles Grodin and the last time I saw the show was at least two decades ago. All of that self-indulgence is to preface a note that I have no idea what the audience is here. It never occurred to me that there was a need for more of this material, although appetites vary. From another vantage point, it's odd to see a 30-year-old property reborn with such fealty: pleasing, but odd. I hope there's still a place for it with new fans. Langridge's solo comics work has elements that are closely enough related to Henson's virtues that you kind of know going in that Langridge's Fozzy Bear will be equal parts funny and sad, his Statler and Waldorf will have their share of best lines and he'll find be one or two characters that will pop off the page in surprising fashion (so far it's Sam The Eagle). I just hope it's appreciated.

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