This March, IDW Publishing revives an animated classic when it launches “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” a four-issue miniseries by “Groo the Wanderer” writer Mark Evanier and “Muppet Show” artist Roger Langridge. The book also features “Dudley Do-Right” back-up strips by Langridge and Evanier, mimicking the anthology format of the original “Rocky and Bullwinkle” animated series, which ran from 1959-1964.
Evanier and Langridge recently spoke with CBR News about “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” revealing details about their first adventure, which classic shows they’d like to adapt next, what new project will have Langridge’s “Muppet Show” fans smiling and more.
CBR NEWS: RogerÂ and Mark, what’s your first “Rocky and Bullwinkle” story about?
Roger Langridge: Our first outing is about a tycoon who falls in with a phony psychic (actually Boris Badenov in disguise) who tries to bamboozle him out of his millions. Our heroes get involved, and Bullwinkle has an accident that… well, let’s say it gives him a different outlook on the situation. I shouldn’t say much more than that; I don’t think spoilers are an issue, really, as this is the sort of book you read more for the gags and the overall tone, but if anybody’s going to spill any beans, it really ought to be Mark.â€¨â€¨
Mark Evanier: That’s about all I want to say about the story except that if you don’t like it, you can just look at the pretty picturesÂ RogerÂ drew.
RELATED: Marvel Preps Langridge’s “The Muppets Omnibus”â€¨â€¨Were you fans of the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” animated series growing up?
Langridge: I grew up in New Zealand, and I don’t believe the show was ever broadcast there. But I did get the Gold Key comics of the 1970s, which I liked, and later on I discovered Al Kilgore’s wonderful, funny and beautiful newspaper strip. Really, the art in those is breathtakingly good. So I was a fan through the comics. I’ve watched a bunch of episodes since landing this assignment, too, so I’m reasonably on top of it all now!â€¨â€¨
Evanier: I grew up, to the extent I grew up, in front of a TV set in West Los Angeles. I am quite sure that I watched “Rocky and his Friends” (the original name of the show that featured Moose and Squirrel) the first day it was on and most days after — so yes, I was quite familiar with it. Later, I got to know Bill Scott, who was the producer, head writer and voice of Bullwinkle and many other characters. In fact, we were working on a “Dudley Do-Right” project when Bill passed away. And I knew Jay Ward and a great many members of his crew — so I feel like these characters are part of my life. I have a very odd life.â€¨
Great cartoons always have great foils, too. What’s your take on villains Boris and Natasha?
Langridge: I guess they’re what in the UK we call “pantomime villains”, baddies you just love to boo and hiss because you know when they walk onto the stage things are going to get entertaining. I think, if nothing else, you have to admire their persistence! There’s something almost heroic in their dogged refusal to simply go away or retire after the endless string of defeats they’ve suffered. We should all be so determined.â€¨â€¨
Evanier: Yeah, I like how relentless they are. No matter how bad a drubbing they get in one cartoon — and they’re often well-drubbed — there they are again in the next one.â€¨
Do you think it’s important to try and mimic the look of the original animated series when drawing an adaption?
Langridge: To a certain extent that’s not something that’s up to us, because there are licensors in the background ensuring that that is the case! But I think both Mark and I would be trying to capture the spirit of the show even without those eyes looking over our shoulders. Not necessarily in the specifics — for example, there are gags about the action being in a comic book that wouldn’t work on screen — but in terms of tone and aesthetic, yes, I think we both agree that aiming for something closely resembling the screen version is the way to go.
â€¨â€¨Evanier: Yeah. I can’t recall ever liking a comic book version of a cartoon or comic strip that didn’t look reasonably like the cartoon or comic book. I mean, the wayÂ RogerÂ draws these characters — that’s what they look like! I’m sure he could come up with a great-looking squirrel but it wouldn’t be Rocky. The Rocky he’s drawing looks like Rocky.
â€¨How do you get in the headspace to write a classic cartoon adaptation like this?
Evanier: Oh, I have these characters embedded in my brain. I did go back and watch some episodes but I didn’t have to. Rocky and his cohorts are a part of my childhood and I’m so familiar with the particular rhythm of their voices and also of their stories. There’s a certain energy in the cartoons as to how the tale is told and the trick here is to try and replicate that energy on a comic book page where I don’t have a breathless, fast-talking narrator. Also, I should mention that I’m good friends with June Foray, the voice of Rocky and Nastasha. I even collaborated on her autobiography. When you’re around June, it’s a little like being in a Jay Ward cartoon.â€¨
Is each issue structured like the unique anthology format of the TV show?
Langridge: The basic pattern is a “Rocky and Bullwinkle” chapter ending in a goofy cliffhanger, a “Dudley Do-Right” interlude, and then the conclusion to the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” story. So yes, there’s certainly a structural nod in the general direction of the show.â€¨â€¨
Evanier: RogerÂ said it. We didn’t want to do stories continued from issue to issue because readers today often have short-term memory issues. We figured though that they could read a “Rocky and Bullwinkle” chapter and then remember what happened it all the way through a four-page “Dudley Do-Right” story.â€¨â€¨
So the “Dudley Do-Right” features are stand-alone stories?
Langridge: The “Dudley” stories are their own, stand-alone thing, like in the show; but I’m drawing them as well.
â€¨What other classic characters would you like a crack at reviving?
Langridge: Me, I’d love to do a “Barney Google” comic book. Or maybe the “Katzenjammer Kids” or “Happy Hooligan” or another early newspaper-strip character. None of which have the slightest commercial potential, so I’m not holding my breath! What else…? “The Pink Panther” might be fun if done without dialogue, like the cartoons. I could see myself doing that. Or… what about a “Laurel and Hardy” comic?â€¨â€¨
Evanier: I was going to say “None, because having gotten to spend some time with “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” I think I’ve handled all my childhood faves.” Then I sawÂ Roger’s mention of “Laurel and Hardy.” I don’t like anything in this world of an entertainment nature as much as I like “Laurel and Hardy.”
â€¨What other new projects do you have coming up?
Langridge: I’ve got a creator-owned thing lined up for some way off in the future, an all-ages book for KaBoom! — but that won’t be ready to go before 2015. Before that, I’ll be doing a graphic novel for Archaia, which I’ll be jumping into as soon as I’m done with “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” It’s quite an exciting project and it’s frustrating not to be able to reveal much more than that! All I can say is that fans of my “Muppet Show” comics will likely be very pleased. That’s coming out towards the end of this year.â€¨â€¨
Evanier: Well, Sergio Aragones and I have a mess of new “Groo” projects coming out including the long-awaited “Groo vs. Conan” miniseries and a “Groo” maxi-series that I think will get us back on the racks on a monthly basis for a while. Mostly these days, my new ideas seem to get funneled into the television business, which is not as much fun.
“Rocky and Bullwinkle” #1 from IDW Publishing is out this March.