Yeah, I guess I did.
The first issue of the new Muppet Show Comic Book was released last Wednesday, and publisher Boom! Studios has reported that they’ve already sold out and will be doing a second printing. The people have spoken, and they are hungry for Muppets.
Now, it’s worth noting that this publication is exactly what it says it is: The Muppet Show Comic Book. It’s not about the Muppets having adventures between shows; they’re not going to a haunted house or the moon, or becoming superheroes, or anything like that. It’s really just an entire, brand-new episode of The Muppet Show in comic book form. That seems like a simple enough idea, but I don’t think anybody’s ever done it before.
I’ll admit I’d read almost nothing by writer/artist Roger Langridge before this, but now I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. It starts with a Muppet Newsflash, as the Muppet Newsman delivers a few typical gags, then warns us that The Muppet Show is making a comeback as a comic book.
And already we’re off to a good start. This is clever stuff, and I can absolutely hear the Newsman doing these jokes. (Although he’d probably say “pants” rather than “trousers.” There are a few other turns of phrase that pop up that sound a bit odd, but I’ll allow it because Roger Langridge is from New Zealand.)
Turning the page, we get a nearly two-page spread full of Muppets under the Muppet Show logo, so this is clearly the start of the show. Langridge even throws in Nigel, George the Janitor, the “You Are My Sunshine” guy, and J.P. Grosse. This guy’s not messing around. (But why does Scooter have teeth?)
Then there’s a Statler and Waldorf bit, followed by a backstage scene. The only thing missing is a guest star, but that’s not even a problem. I’m sure I’m not the first person to point this out, but in many of these panels, the Muppets are only seen from the waist up, which is, of course, the way we see them on the show. I don’t know much of a deliberate choice that was on Langridge’s part, but it’s a nice touch.
Hey, you know what seems like a terrible idea? A musical number in a printed medium. I mean, it’s ridiculous, really… but ridiculous has never stopped the Muppets from doing anything. And so we get this lovely thing:
And this is not just a musical number, it’s a musical number about (spoiler alert!) a bunch of Muppets exploding. The timing’s good, too. It doesn’t get much more Muppet Show than this.
I guess if you were looking for things to complain about, you could say that those toads don’t really look like Muppets, and that’s true. They look like cartoon toads. And some of the characters in the comic are drawn a little looser and more exaggerated than you might expect. But they’re all recongizable, so who cares if Fozzie’s nose is a little long, or Robin has eyebrows? When we see these guys on our TV screen, it’s the puppeteers’ performances that bring out the characters, but in a comic book there’re no voices and no puppetry, so Langridge uses the art to let the Muppets express themselves.
I don’t want to give too much away here, but I will say that there’s a backstage story that runs throughout the issue, and it’s about everyone trying to figure out why Kermit is feeling sad. It’s all wrapped up satisfyingly by the end, and there are some sweet moments between Robin and Kermit. My biggest critique of the issue would be that Robin sounds unusually mature here… I guess he’s always been a little precocious, but at times here he sounds more like Kermit’s therapist than his five-year-old nephew.
But it’s fun to see Scooter get as many lines in one issue as he’s spoken in the last 17 years, and a sketch with the Koozebanians, and an appearance by the Swedish Chef, whose dialogue doesn’t make any more sense in word balloon form:
Yep, Muppet-on-Muppet violence. That’s a nice balance to the sweetness of the Kermit story, and that kind of balance is one of the hallmarks of the Muppets at their best.
It’s tempting for me to just list all the stuff I liked about this comic, but I’m not going to do that because I think you should buy it and discover it for yourself. But the point is, I liked it. Next month’s issue will be a Fozzie-centric story, followed by a Gonzo issue, and so on. Starting in late April, Boom! Studios will be also be publishing a four-issue series called Muppet Robin Hood. Which is cool, I guess, but honestly I’d could do with or without the literary adaptations, just as long as we get more Muppet Show comics.
And yet, as much as I dug this comic, I should point out that I do not want to see a new television series called The Muppet Show that takes place in the Muppet Theater. Whenever I hear fans or semi-fans say, “They should bring back The Muppet Show!”, my response is, Well, no, they shouldn’t. I’m all for the Muppets returning to series TV, but to attempt an exact duplicate of the series that was the apex of Jim Henson’s career… That’s just not a good idea, and it would only invite unfavorable comparisons: Scooter doesn’t sound like Scooter! The Miss Piggy puppet’s not as pretty! The new “Veterinarian’s Hospital” sucks without the original performers! And so on.
But with this comic book, none of that matters. As I read Scooter’s word balloons on the page, he sounded exactly like Scooter in my head. Roger Langridge’s cartoon version of Miss Piggy looks like a cartoon version of Miss Piggy, so I wasn’t thinking for a second about whether the puppet’s wig was too short or too long or too curly or too flat. If they tried to produce this issue’s script as an episode of a new TV series, I don’t think it would work as well. But for 20-odd pages, we have the chance to enjoy a new Muppet Show, and that’s good news for Muppet fans.
Click here to talk about exploding toads on the Tough Pigs forum!