One final—and unfortunately slightly belated—interview from this year’s SPX. Roger Langridge was sitting toward the front of the floor at this year’s show. There was no Disney banner above of head, and, at least when I swung by, no line long of wide-eyed children waiting to shaking his hand. In fact, aside from some fan sketches, there was nary a Muppet to by seen on the cartoonist’s table
Nope, the Landgridge at SPX was the one who had worked for Judge Dredd Megazine and given the world the vaudevillian Fred the Clown, the silent strip star whose adventures he self-published before collecting the material for Fantagraphics.
It’s a Langdrige far more at place at a small press show than in the packed Hollywood friendly aisles of a San Diego Comic Con.
You’ve been to SPX a few times.
Yes I have. The last time I came out for it was 2007. This year’s been a bit crazy. I don’t come out American shows that often, and this year I’ve been to five. It’s not always planned that way. my publisher has dragged me out to a few. I love the others ones, but this one’s for me. This one’s the one I’m doing for the sheer enjoyment.
You’re promoting your own self-published work?
I’m plugging my own stuff, it’s partly that. And it’s partly that it’s the material I’m interested in reading. These are the kind of cartoonists that I feel I am, deep down.
You come as a fan?
A little bit, yeah. Absolutely.
You walk around and pick up some some books.
Yeah, I’ve picked up a few things.
I’ve noticed that the books on the table are primarily your work. You’re not selling the Muppet books.
No. I think that would be sort of crass almost, at this show, to sell the Muppet stuff. Because it’s obviously corporate, and this isn’t a corporate kind of show.
Everyone loves the Muppets, though.
Well, sure. I’m doing sketches and that sort of thing. But also, the Muppet stuff is really easy to find. You can go to Amazon and find it really easily. I think the focus of a show like is the stuff that you can’t find easily.
How did the Muppet work come about?
I initially was doing some work for Disney Adventures Magazine, before that was cancelled. I was approached on the strength of that.
Were you doing character stuff? With licensed properties?
No, I wasn’t working with licensed stuff. I had a contents page illustration, every issue. I would work all of the names of the staff into a design, a different style, every month.
Yeah, a masthead, and I would do it in the style of a comic book or a board game—there was one that was in the style of a school locker, with all of the printed stuff and notes stuck to it. I’d been doing that sort of thing.
But some of the people at Disney Adventures knew my other work, and they knew that I was interested in this vaudeville material with my own personal stuff. So they approached me to do a version of the Muppets, and I did about 15 pages of that. And one page was published, and then the book was cancelled.
By the magazine.
Yeah, it was the very last issue.
So you were a bit disillusioned by the whole thing.
Yeah, I thought that that was it for me and the Muppets. I thought that that was my last chance. But I guess that the Muppet stuff had been circulating behind the scenes at Disney, because when Boom acquired the Pixar license, the Muppets were included in that deal. They then approached me on the strength of the scene that appeared in Disney Adventures. They must have had that one their desks, even if it never saw print.
It’s interesting that your entry into the Muppets book was actually vaudeville. Were you a Muppet fan?
Yeah, I watched the show, growing up. I was the right age for it. I was about 10, when it started coming out. I’d got this kind of vaudeville thing going on in my comics, and I strongly suspect that it’s the Muppet Show that influenced me, in that respect. So it’s kind of come full circle.
Did you read a lot about vaudeville in the interim?
It’s the silent film thing. A lot of the comedians I’m influenced by got their start in vaudeville and musicals. Spike Mulligan and Peter Sellers got their influence in vaudeville. W.C. Fields was vaudeville, Buster Keaton was vaudeville, the Marx Brothers were vaudeville. They’re all huge influences on me.
If you’re renting a movie for the weekend, will you generally pick up something by a Buster Keaton?
Well, I don’t have to rent them, because I have all of the box sets. But yeah, I do rent that stuff for fun, definitely.
Do you watch newer stuff, as well?
Oh yeah, yeah [laughs].
A lot of people are classicists who don’t really appreciate anything after a certain time period.
Yeah, I’m not totally disinterested in modern films, but I’m very choosey. I tend not to go to the blockbusters and things like that.
Are you actively watching silent films for inspiration?
I don’t think I really start to think about that until it’s time to really sit down and do it. With Fred the Clown, I did that as a weekly strip for a long time. That was a sort of vaudeville thing, broadly. But he sort of turned into a catchall character who could do anything I felt like.
In the search for ideas, I was adapting stuff from radio and attempting to make radio ideas work visually, without any sound, things like that.
For yourself? For practice?
Partly to amuse myself, partly because I had a weekly mark that I had to hit, and I had to come up with an idea somewhere.
But you were using existing ideas?
No, no, no. For example, there was a quiz show, where they did a board game on the radio. It was people making stupid jokes about a board game. Rather than take idea, I tried to make a board game visually, with the same sort of—not the same gags, but the same sort of vibe to it, the same sort of feel to it.