“The Muppet Show” has always been a singular, pretty much unrepeatable piece of television history. Simultaneously it was a sketch comedy show, a variety show, a guest star showcase, and a children’s show, all while managing to weave a narrative thread through every episode. It’s difficult enough to replicate this formula in other television shows, but adapting it to another medium is even harder to imagine. It would probably be easy to turn it into an anthology book where many different creators told short vignettes about various Muppet characters. That undoubtedly could be a fun and charming book. It may even be the form this book eventually takes someday. But the real force behind “The Muppet Show” was Jim Henson, whose humor, sensibilities, and creativity infused nearly every aspect of the show’s production. The greatest strength of “The Muppet Show Comic Book” is that it has bestowed the same responsibility on the obscenely talented Roger Langridge.
Boom! has given Langridge an empty stage on which to pay homage to “The Muppet Show” and translate it with his own well established skills as an almost vaudevillian cartoonist. Langridge’s work has always been heavy on gags both visual and linguistic, and his visual style has always captured an immaculately detailed stage. It’s difficult to imagine a more suitable creator to choose for a “Muppet Show” adaptation. While there are no shortage of highlights in Langridge’s long career, you couldn’t fault someone for thinking this might be the one book best suited to his talents.
His versatility allows him to stage any number of different settings and characters, and relentless skills as a cartoonist allow him to create a Kermit and Miss Piggy and Gonzo that are just as alive as Jim Henson and Frank Oz made them. There are also touches, though, that are firmly cemented in the cartoonist’s art. Gags like Sam Eagle’s ponderously boring book collection and tons of background character antics just as captivating as foreground ones make “The Muppet Show Comic Book” not just a well illustrated translation of the television program, but a fun and lively book that somehow captures the madcap enthusiasm of a “Muppet Show” episode but what one would have been like as a free wheeling comic book. It even features a set of guest stars: a take on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards with a sharpness of wit not seen since Mick and Keef stumbled through Estarcion in Dave Sim’s “Cerebus.”
Special mention also should be paid to the great color work of Digikore Studios who perfectly nailed the color scheme of the Muppet Show set and characters. The show’s tone owed just as much to those deep reds and oranges as it did to the steadfast charm of Rolf and Fozzie. If the colors were even a few shades off, the book would have just felt inauthentic.
Speaking of inauthenticity, there has actually been a bit of an uproar against some die-hard factions of Muppet Fandom (yes, seriously) about the liberty Langridge has taken with some of the Muppet’s designs. It’s hard to really understand the complaints, as each character is completely true to the original puppet, only translated to the fluidity and shape necessary to facilitate a cartoon. But in a reverent and charming touch, Langridge draws nearly every character almost exclusively from the waist up.
It’s unfortunate that there’s nothing on television now that can capture the unique experience that was a “Muppet Show” episode, and there probably never will be. But for just over twenty pages, Boom! has given Roger Langridge free reign to give us what is truly the next best thing. A singular and immensely talented creative mind whose goal is solely to entertain. In that respect, what’s most remarkable about this book is that instead of being quick cash-in, it has turned out to be one of the most appropriate and fitting comic adaptations ever published.