By Devin T. Quin
Welcome to the Cartoonist spotlight, where we all learn more about the charmingly deranged chaps and chapeaus who draw those funny books we like so much. This week’s installment features an immense talent who is finally getting the fame and recognition they deserve, none other than New Zealand transplant Roger Langridge!
Roger Langridge is currently the artists, writer, inker and mad thinker behind BOOM! Studios Muppet Show comic book, a position he is knocking out of the dang park! Originally born in the hobbit infested lands of New Zealand, Roger made the move to England infusing his already distinctive style with a love of absurd humor and an esthetics of times gone by.
Roger became an English cartoonist of note through the tried and true method: cutting his teeth on the U.K.’s toughest judge/jury/executioner Judge Dredd. American audiences where introduced to Roger through the pages of Art D’Ecco, the surreal, almost dadaesque black and white indie comic he drew with his brother Andrew tackling the writing chores.
Art D’Ecco, which later became ZOOT! and had a brilliant reproduction collection from Fantagraphics called Zoot Suite, features bizarre, twisting panels playing with the nature of time as well as silly jokes about detectives, a weird twerp shaped like a triangle, Beckett plays and a wide variety of other freakyness. Andrew’s taste for sophistication shines in the writing, but Roger’s art style stole the cake.
Roger’s style is sharp as Vermont cheddar, thin crisp lines that speak of fun, movement and a contagious sense of whimsy! You can clearly see he has mastered the art form, infusing each panel with a grand sense of design and expression. Langridge is also partial to complex patterns, layering a tight nit grid of pen strokes to fill planes with miniscule crosses, dots and spirals. Many artists will fake geometry or difficult textures, but not Roger: Drawing a wire mesh chicken coop rolling down a hill from a tornado is this guy’s idea of a good time.
After ZOOT! caught the eye of the American comics flavor makers he next cropped up doing some interiors as well as small cover illustrations for DC’s Paradox Press series of Big Books, such as The Big Book of Urban Legends, The Big Book of Conspiracies and more! DC couldn’t get enough of this guy, and Roger was soon on a full time book, Gross Point, a now forgotten comic about a group of normal kids who move to a haunted town of monsters and freaks.
Featuring cool collaborators like Dan Slott and Jerky Boy’s album artist S.M. Taggart, Gross Point was a wacky, all ages good time, though it only lasted a few issues. Roger had some success in Dark Horse Presents and kept up his U.K. work with comic strips in several papers and spot illustrations in Doctor Who Magazine. He put out a cult classic entitled Knuckles the Violent Nun which was well received by indie comic aficionados. Still, cult status does not equate to mainstream success. The new millennium found Roger working steady but still looking for that big break.
And so in 1999-2000 Roger vented his artistic frustrations and vast talents by started a web comic called Fred the Clown. THIS was Langridge at his best: writing and illustrating in his detailed yet fluid style the lovelorn adventures of a mute Vaudeville clown. These comics, just as dream like and charming as any work he had done on ZOOT! but with a humor, gentleness and sensitivity previously unseen in his work grabbed the attention of readers. The Fred Strips as well as more Fred material was collected by Fantagraphics in 2004, a collection well worth hunting down!
Roger got regular work from the big boys now, drawing a few issues of Legends of the Dark Knight for DC and co-creating the Fin Fang Four, a team of forgotten Silver Age Marvel monsters lead by everybody’s favorite purple pants wearing dragon Fin Fang Foom. Fin Fang Four combined many of Roger’s strong points. With its dynamic, distinctive art married to a sophisticated yet accessible sense of humor the Fin Fang Four sprang from a one off back up feature into their own strips, one-shot and web spotlight! There was even a Christmas special featuring everybody’s favorite misguided monsters trying their best to control their murderous urges towards humanity while simultaneously attempting to save Christmas from the evil clutches of HYDRA!
Roger was on the map more than ever before, and soon everything was going to change. Roger got the call from BOOM! Studios to begin work on the Muppet Show.
Readers of Roger’s amazing blog hotelfred.blogspot.com (Named after the Hotel Fred, Roger’s previous web endeavor where Fred debuted online) are familiar with the sample pages Mr. Langridge regularly generates to find more work. When a proposal has been shot down he will soon thereafter post the rejected proposals to his blog. Amongst these wash outs have been some amazing Plastic Man material, as well as many a scrap-heaped Muppet project.
With his love of the Vaudeville mystique, brilliant talents at word-play and all ages material as well as an already proven track record of nailing their likenesses, Langridge was the natural choice for BOOM! To launch their flagship Muppet’s title.
The rest is history. Readers of the Muppet book can find the same off-the-wall jokes, sillyness and spontaneous energy of the original show in an incredible art style audiences can’t get enough of. This success has made Roger’s name even larger.
In 2006, hot off the success of Fred the Clown Roger was a special guest of the San Diego Comic Con. It was one of his earliest trips to an American Comics Convention, and certainly one of the first where he was an honored guest. His panels were well attended and received, though many had never heard of his name. Almost everybody in the audience, however, was a working professionals in the cartooning field.
June of 2010 saw Roger as the guest of the Heroes Con in North Carolina , as well as the “Kids Read Comics” convention in Dearborn, Michigan. He is more sought after and acclaimed than ever before, though this success hasn’t changed his work ethic nor his attention to his family back in London.
Recently Marvel announced Roger would begin writing a new Thor series entitled
Thor: The Mighty Avenger, citing his grand vision for fun, lighthearted stories as the right tone in their new “Age of Heroes.”
HOW NOW BROWN COW?
Roger is a cartoonist’s cartoonist, a Harvey, Ignats and Eisner nominee and a rare talent in the business. His success has been earned through good times and bad, and his work will inspire generations of artists as both unique and mesmerizing.
We wish Roger all the accolades, parades, lemonades and joy awarded to a master of his status! Good job, Mr. Langridge. Please keep the good time rolling!