Roger Langridge wants readers to fall in love with a snowman who's anything but abominable. His Dec. 17-launching four-issue series "Abigail and the Snowman" from BOOM! Studios' all-ages imprint KaBOOM! focuses on a girl moving to a new town and befriending a yeti named Claude. Unfortunately for the new friends, Claude happens to be an escapee from a nearby facility that wants him back. To keep her new pal safe, Abigail and Claude go on a journey to find his home.
Langridge had solid runs on "Judge Dredd: The Megazine" and "Doctor Who Magazine" before gaining prominence for his creator-owned series "Fred the Clown." In 2009, he kicked off "The Muppet Show," an acclaimed series that helped rejuvenate the property as well as all-ages comics at BOOM! Studios -- leading to subsequent kid-friendly fare at the publisher like Langridge's Eisner Award-winning "Snarked." A few years later, he moved over to Marvel and wrote the beloved "Thor: The Mighty Avenger," which ran for eight issues. More recently he worked on projects at IDW Publishing, writing "Popeye" and "The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror" and drawing "Rocky and Bullwinkle." Now back at BOOM! Studios, he has a pair of projects in the works.
In addition to "Abigail and the Snowman," Langridge will also return to characters created by Muppet maestro Jim Henson in "Jim Henson's The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow," scheduled for release in October under BOOM's Archaia imprint. Like Archaia's "Tale of Sand," "Turkey Hollow" is based on an unproduced screenplay co-written by Henson. Intended as a puppet and song-filled Thanksgiving special, the screenplay was shelved and placed in the Jim Henson Company Archives.
CBR News talked to Langridge about his creative process, the budding friendship between his title characters in "Abigail and the Snowman," where "Turkey Hollow" fits on the Jim Henson spectrum and the changing stature of all-ages comics.
CBR News: When you get an idea for something like "Abigail and the Snowman," what's you're process like for fleshing it out? Do you keep it in your brain until you're ready to write and thumbnail, take lots of notes or something completely different?
Roger Langridge: I tend to be quite verbally-oriented for a cartoonist. I envy cartoonists who work things out visually, but unless I've got words in front of me spelling the story out I can't get it clear in my head. I have a terrible sense of direction, too, and I suspect the two are connected: in both cases I need a map to know where I'm going. So, once I have a germ of a story to build from, there tends to be a lot of writing. Once I actually start to write, the ideas tend to come much more easily. I hardly ever have ideas before I begin; I sit at the keyboard at set times every day and make them happen by the act of writing itself. That's always been my process... dragging the stuff out by sheer force of will!
That idea of scheduling time to write seems to be a common one for writers. Do you have similarly scheduled times when it comes to drawing the project?
Well, the drawing side of things is way more time-consuming than the writing, so I have to treat that as my full-time job, really, and put the hours in every day, or it would never be possible to produce the work to a deadline. So I get my writing done in the first couple of hours of every day, and then I spend the rest of the day drawing. I've been doing that for so long now that I scarcely know who I am withoutÂ a piece of paper in front of me and a pencil or a brush in my hand.
This book finds Abigail moving to a new town where she doesn't know anyone. What's her attitude about the move and how do her new classmates treat her?
She's not exactly excited about moving. The backstory I worked out is that she's been here before many times. Her dad is not the most successful man in the world and we can infer he's had a bit of trouble holding down a job and paying bills in the past, hence their being thrown out of wherever it was they were living before, probably not for the first time. So she's a bit fed up by the whole business.
As far as how her classmates treat her is concerned: she's an only child, so she's quite used to amusing herself, which means she can take or leave the company of others; but that lack of neediness on her part is interpreted as indifference by her peers, so they respond in kind. So she's a bit lonely to start off with. Wishing people noticed her a bit more. Ready to make a friend.
Why do you think the "new kid in a new town" framework allows for such fresh material to be built around it?
Part of that is just story mechanics: if Abigail is thrown in to a new situation, the reader is finding out about it at the same time as Abigail, so you're immediately empathizing with her. Also, it gives a bit more weight to the new friendship she makes if she's not already surrounded by existing friends. It makes it that much more of a big deal for her.Â
While in this new town, Abigail befriends an escaped yeti. What can you tell us about this creature and his captors (without giving too much away, of course)?
The yeti -- "Claude" to Abigail, "Specimen 486" to the authorities -- is on the run from a government compound run by the secretive Ministry of Unusual Phenomena, where he's been kept since he was a cub. In the first issue Claude tells us they fed him, clothed him, educated him and kept him prisoner, which is about all you need to know right away, although I'll be fleshing that out a bit later on. What it means to us is that Claude is a very well-spoken and well-dressed Yeti indeed. Tweed jacket. Pipe. And, of course, the government want him back... which will be a big part of the story before we're done.
As far as this world is concerned, is it like ours in that the existence of Yetis is questioned by large sections of the population?
It's pretty much our world in that respect, yes. Without giving too much away, there's a thread about how kids find fabulous things easier to believe than grownups which runs through the story.
When you work on something original like this, do you watch or read stories that have the kind of feel or themes you're going for? If so, what were those for this project?
I don't really do that. In fact, I actively try to avoid doing that in case I'm overly influenced by other things, although there's a tradition in comics of the kid who has an "imaginary" friend, like "Barnaby" and "Calvin and Hobbes," so I suppose there might be echoes of those strips here, but not because I've actively pursued them. In fact, I've been putting off reading Fantagraphics' "Barnaby" collections for a while so I don't unconsciously steal from it, which is agony, because I love that strip! For this story, a lot of the tone came from just having kids of my own and seeing how they behave, how their friendships develop, how they cope with an unfamiliar environment.Â
You've done a lot of work at BOOM! before and have been working with a variety of other publishers lately. What made BOOM! the right place for "Abigail and the Snowman?"
They asked me nicely; it's really not much more complicated than that. BOOM! invited me to submit a number of ideas and "Abigail and the Snowman" was among them. They liked it enough to ask me to flesh it out and turn it into a book. BOOM! have a reputation for making good all-ages comics, which is what "Abigail" is, so I'm hopeful that they'll ensure it finds an audience where another publisher might not be geared up for that particular market in quite the same way. Ideally that will translate into the book being read by as wide an audience as possible -- which is, after all, why I make comics in the first place. We can but hope!
You also have "Jim Henson's The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow" coming out on Oct. 1 from Archaia. What was it like bringing one of Jim Henson's unproduced screenplays to life in comic form?
It was quite a responsibility for my somewhat less-than-manly shoulders! An honor to be asked, of course, but a lot of people are going to be bringing some extremely high expectations to the book, so I put a lot of thought and a lot of hours into it in order to try not to disappoint. It's a lovely little story and I hope I did justice to it.
Where would you say "Turkey Hollow" lies on the Henson spectrum? Is it more "Sesame Street" or "Tales of Sand?"
Somewhere in between, I'd say. There's little of the formal ambitiousness that characterized "Tale of Sand." "Turkey Hollow" is a much more straightforward story, more emotionally direct I suppose, so I tried to keep the narrative fairly direct as well, without too many fancy tricks, although there are a few formal experiments I'm proud of in there, too -- but all in the service of the story. It's sort of a folksy fable, really, so that directness probably has more in common with "Sesame Street" than "Tale of Sand," if those are the yardsticks we're using. There was more to Jim Henson than those two poles, of course.
Finally, how would you say the all-ages comics market has changed since you started in the business?
It's funny, when I was a kid everything was all-ages unless it was an out-and-out underground comic. Then they kind of disappeared for a while. When I started out they were well and truly on the wane. Now the pendulum has swung back again and they're everywhere. I suppose the biggest change is the places you find them now: libraries and bookstores more than newsstands, although "Tintin" and "Asterix" were always in the libraries and bookstores. And the production values are higher now, particularly the graphic novels, because I guess they're competing with children's books more than other comic books. We're in interesting times, everything's in flux. I like that there are plenty of comics my kids can read right now without digging into my precious, crumbling "Uncle Scrooge" comics from the 1960s!
"Abigail and the Snowman" #1, written and drawn by Roger Langridge, hits stands on Dec. 17 from BOOM! Studios' KaBOOM! imprint. "Jim Henson's The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow" arrives Oct. 1 from Archaia.