You know what doesn’t sound like it would make the transition into a comic book adaptation very well, if at all?
The Muppet Show.
Just look at the name. A Muppet is the type of puppet used by Jim Henson and his crew in the many brilliant works they created over the decades, a type in which the puppeteer is heavily involved in not only making it move, but in really performing it.
And it was a type of show; originally a television show, but they transitioned to film quite easily.
So when you remove the Muppet and the show from the concept of The Muppet Show and then try to give it a go, it really doesn’t sound like it should work at all, does it?
And it might not, if the Muppet characters weren’t so thoroughly developed over the decades to the point that the can exist as characters, regardless of whether they’re just voices on a John Denver album, or animated characters in a cartoon, or, now, characters drawn into a comic book.
And if cartoonist Roger Langridge wasn’t the guy writing and drawing Boom Studio’s new four-issue miniseries, The Muppet Show.
The Muppet Show #1 is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of The Muppet Show, it is, in fact, literally a comic book version of the show. Langridge draws a whole show almost exactly as it would have been seen on TV (or now on DVD); all’s it’s missing is the theme song and sound.
Langridge divides the issue up between back-stage gags and drama and the “show” as it appeared on the stage, with various formal skits and performances, and the characters interacting on their way on and off the stage.
The Muppet newscaster guy, a musical number by some toads, an episode of Pigs in Space and The Swedish Chef (I found the translation of his Swedish-accented gibberish into a lettered cartoon bubble particularly amusing) perform, those cranky old men on the balcony heckle and, meanwhile, a plot unfolds with the Muppets behind The Muppet Show.
Kermit is feeling more blue than green, missing the swamp he left behind for the preserved-in-amber version of a vaudeville theater he runs. His friends and co-workers try various ways of cheering him up, none of which really work, until his nephew Robin convinces him to get it all out with a banjo performance.
In a rooftop discussion between the frogs, Kermit discusses the feeling of not being able to go home again (to that time in his life more than that specific place) and how different his life is now. Not necessarily worse, just different.
The same holds true for the comic. It’s a very different Muppet Show, not necessarily deficient, but not exactly The Muppet Show either.
How well it works will likely depend on the particular reader. I was somewhat surprised to see Langridge recreate the show as it existed in my childhood (which I got a more recent reminder of, thanks to the first DVD collection I watched a few years back), rather than incorporating the characters or concepts of more recent Muppet outings, like that short-lived Muppets Tonight show or the made-for-TV movies they make these days, and wondered how and if it would appeal to kids in the way it might appeal to thritysomethings who grew up with the Muppets (it bears a Boom Kids logo, and will be part of their new kids imprint that has secured newsstand distribution).
If you do value that show or not though, Langridge’s ability to recreate it, essentially acting as the entire staff for an episode LL by himself, is both remarkable and admirable, and I particularly enjoyed his interpretations of the designs (they all look like puppets, despite the fact that Langridge was free to, say, not make their mouths fold in quite the same way, or their arms move differently) and the way he performed them.
In essence, he re-builds the puppets in his imagination, puts them into ink on paper, and performs them behind the panels as a puppeteer might have were they actual, real-world puppets and not drawings of puppets. Damn, the more I think about the comic, the more impressed I become with Langridge’s efforts on it.
It truly is inspirational. Not to mention sensational, celebrational and, of course, Muppetational.