Talking Comics with Tim | Roger Langridge

Recently I was lucky enough to see a preview of Roger Langridge's Snarked! #0, his all ages series for Kaboom where the writer/artist uses Lewis Carroll's "Walrus and the Carpenter" poem (from Through the Looking-Glass) as a springboard for his storytelling. For every consumer that railed against the cancellation of Langridge’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger, here’s your chance to support Langridge again. For every pundit and website commenter who opined that Thor would have flourished, had it not been caught in the deluge of Thor titles that dashed any chance of it succeeding, take note.

A quick look at the CBR front page reveals a full court press for every new DC #1 coming our way in September. And we should be covering the DC relaunch, don’ t get me wrong. But I am fearful that some great books coming out around the same time, say this one, for example, are going to get overlooked. Roger Langridge’s Snarked! should not be overlooked. This is the comic that non-comics reading parents are looking for when they wander into a store seeking something to give their kid. This is a fun comic. This is a funny comic. This is an intelligent comic. This is a comic with puzzles, mazes and word searches. This preview issue is only a $1. This is a project that I hope to see on many folks Best of 2011 lists (I know it will be on mine).

Langridge chatted with me briefly in this email interview, and Kaboom was kind enough to give us a preview of Snarked! (provided at the end of our discussion). While the preview is not on sale until August, of course it is in Previews this month, with orders due June 30 [Diamond Code: JUN110963]. I can count on one hand the number of active creators that write and draw as engagingly a story as Langridge. If that does not win you over, the book stars a talking walrus (Wilburforce J. Walrus, as noted by Kaboom: "that's right, the same Walrus that inspired the Beatles song "I Am the Walrus" is now in Roger Langridge's merry, mad hands") for the love of God. Check it out, I think you'll agree it should be on everyone's must-read list, no matter your age. To paraphrase Langridge fromthis interview, I hope this project is something that people will want to re-read many times--and if that's not the definition of a great comic, I don't know what is.

Tim O'Shea: How long have you been a fan of the work of Lewis Carroll?

Roger Langridge: It's tempting to say "since I could read"; I'm sure it can't have been quite that long, but I know I was very, very young when I first read the Alice books. And I've gone back and re-read them every couple of years since then, pretty much. They're that rare thing, books which hit you in one way when you're a kid, and in a different (yet equally powerful) way when you're an adult, when you appreciate some of the really black humor and the general pricking of pomposity. They reward repeated re-readings more than most.

O'Shea: I love the look of your characters--when and how did you decide that Clyde McDunk needed an underbite (as opposed to an overbite)--and does he just have two teeth?

Langridge: Thanks! I'm playing fast and loose with the teeth - if a particular expression requires it, he might find himself with a full set for a panel or two - but the underbite was pure instinct, it just felt right. I suppose the Walrus technically has an overbite with those tusks of his, so I didn't want to flog it to death!

O'Shea: In addition to the core story in the first issue, you include games and puzzles (something lacking in most kids comics). Was that your idea or BOOM!'s?

Langridge: Mine. I grew up on that stuff in my comics - not just in British humor weeklies, which usually had extra features like pull-out booklets or make-it-yourself board games, but also in the DC 100-page Giants of the 1970s. I always liked them, I thought they made the comics I bought seem like I was getting more value for my money because they engaged me for longer, so I thought, heck, SNARKED is my baby - why not? The series proper will probably integrate the activities into the story itself a bit more; but for the preview, a separate and distinct puzzle section seemed entirely right to me.

O'Shea: With Carroll's Hunting of the Snark, which runs in the back of the first issue, you include Henry Holiday art (commissioned in 1874). Did you track down that art, or how did it come to be in the issue?

Langridge: I have the book in a couple of different editions, both with the original illustrations, so I didn't have far to look. I thought, if we're going to be referring to the poem throughout the series, it would be helpful to have a primer for those who aren't familiar with it. Plus, it's great!

O'Shea: How happy are you to be swimming in the creator-owned waters?

Langridge: Deliriously so! Of course, I never really left them; even during the time I was working on the Muppet books and Thor: The Mighty Avenger I was still plugging away at my web strip, Mugwhump the Great, on ACT-I-VATE. But it's very satisfying to actually be earning a living from my own creations, something that I've been able to do all too rarely.

O'Shea: I love how you strike a balance of innocent facial reactions mixed with knowing more mature knowing glances in terms of the emotions with the children of the Snarked cast. How hard (or easy) is it for you to draw and emotionally frame the children in your storytelling?

Langridge: Well, I have a couple of kids of my own, so first-hand reference is never far away. And that's pretty much how they are - one moment giggling and running through the house without any pants on, the next giving you a look that makes you blush. Or laugh out loud!

O'Shea: Thanks to your work in the past few years you have elevated your level of recognition and popularity. So when you decided to do more creator-owned work, I am sure you were courted by many publishers. What prompted you to work with KABOOM!?

Langridge: I hate to break this to you, but I was approached by exactly two publishers, and only one of them was interested in me developing a concept of my own - that was BOOM!. The other one was really only interested in some sort of movie tie-in, and even then I was unable to come up with any pitch that grabbed them enough to take things further. That said, even if I'd been approached by a dozen publishers, BOOM! would have been high on my list, as they've been very good to me. I'm delighted that my working relationship with them continues.

O'Shea: I was fortunate enough to see some of your pages in black and white (as well as many in full color). How important was it to you to do this in full color?

Langridge: I'm not someone who thinks of colour as essential to comics, having grown up on black-and-white stuff like 2000AD, as well as Australian B&W reprints of Marvel and DC comics - I consider black-and-white to be "normal"; that's kind of my default setting. That said, I'm aware that the market seems to favour colour books, so I'm happy for Snarked! to be in colour if that will get more people looking at it - and I'm thrilled with the work being done by Rachelle Rosenberg in that department. Really original and interesting colour choices - I'm confident her work will make the book stand out.

O'Shea: I love looking at the lettering in this preview issue, how did you settle upon what kind of lettering to employ to help set the tone and narrative of Snarked?

Langridge: Thanks! I wanted to do the lettering myself - not because of any dissatisfaction with other letterers I've worked with, but just because this thing is my baby. Though I'm a hand-letterer from way back, I decided to go digital, mainly for speed and ease of editing - and my ideal for comic lettering has always been Abe Kanegson's work on The Spirit. If I could letter like anybody, it would be him. So I thought, why not make a font from his lettering? A few Spirit scans later and some digital jiggery-pokery, and hey presto, Kanegson is back in business! I like the retro quality it has, and the lively, springy feel it brings to the work. I think it's a good fit - my own lettering tried to imitate Kanegson's for many years, so now it looks like I always wanted it to.

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