On Wednesday, August 25th, comic book stores everywhere began selling The Muppet Show Comic Book #9. You’ve probably already made up your mind as to whether or not you want to read that story for a couple of reasons. First, August 25th is now a full week ago, so you’ve had plenty of time to buy it. More importantly, though, this is the eighteenth issue of The Muppet Show Comic Book, including the pair of four-issue miniseries and the special #0 issue which preceding the ongoing series.
If you aren’t reading the book by now, you certainly aren’t going to start with a story that has “Part 2” in its title, and nothing I could say would convince you otherwise. If you are, you probably came to this article having already read the comic and looking to hear a second opinion. I’m assuming, then, that either a) you already know all of the SPOILERS or b) you do not care about being SPOILED and are simply a devoted Tough Pigs fan who reads everything on the site. If you fall into the third category – fans of the comic series who simply haven’t read this issue yet – continue at your own risk, knowing that SPOILERS lie ahead.
Still here? Then let’s take a look at what makes this particular issue work, not only as a comic book but as a story about TV’s loveable Muppets. It is my belief that The Muppet Show Comic Book is the single funniest, truest-to-the-characters Muppet project in at least a dozen years. Writer/Artist Roger Langridge started strong from the very first issue, with sketches and songs that felt very much like something out of an episode of the show.
In this issue, we find a perfect example in the Muppet Labs’ Anti-Aging Treatment sketch. I heard Dave Goelz (as Bunsen) and Richard Hunt (as Beaker) in my head as I read it, and the punchline is so ideal that I was surprised it was never done on the show. In fact, I bet that years from now I’ll have a false memory of that exact altered Beaker, certain I saw it in puppet form.
Similarly, this issue gives us the second installment of “Link Hogthrob, Monster Smasher”, featuring the “Pigs in Space” trio as Kolchak-style detectives. It isn’t much of a stretch from their usual antics, but it allows them to have different adventures while retaining the same dynamic they always had. This installment doesn’t take advantage of the comic book medium as well as the sketch in #8 did, but it does give Langridge a chance to show off his crack comic timing, particularly in the gang’s realization that they don’t have to wake the mummified aliens.
The series has grown over the course of its existence, showing an evolution similar to the one experienced in the first two seasons of the show. Early issues featured hodge-podges of largely unrelated sketches in between segments of a backstage plot. Lately, the entire issue has been moving to a logical conclusion, incorporating both sketches and the backstage story. With the current storyline, Langridge is taking that trend even further.
The comic book is very much like one of the show’s “theme” episodes such as Vincent Price or Lynn Redgrave. Every gag relates to the monster-inspired theme of the issue, in this case mummies and aging. Langridge isn’t just telling Muppet-y jokes anymore. He’s taking a theme and telling every single joke about it he can think of, while keeping all of those jokes true to the voices of the Muppets. It’s an impressive feat, especially since he keeps coming up with new variations on that theme right up to the last page.
But all of the Muppet Show-type formatting in the world wouldn’t matter if the characters didn’t seem like themselves. Luckily for the readers, they always have. In this issue, Langridge even begins to develop them in new, surprising – but perfectly logical – ways, starting with Statler & Waldorf.
After creating a city full of lookalikes, and then casting the pair as God-like beings, Langridge returns them to their natural habitat in this issue. However, he explores their relationship in greater detail than usual as they turn their insult-slinging powers against one another. We’ve seen them bicker before, of course, but here their ever-escalating jabs imply that this happens to them all the time. By the time they engage in the big tomato-throwing contest at the end, I was convinced that this is what they do for fun every weekend.
That storyline also gives Fozzie an absolutely perfect moment, when he occupies Statler & Waldorf’s box while they’re on stage. He has just one line in the sequence, but it reveals so much about his character. I could easily imagine a scenario in which Fozzie heads upstairs to give the two old men a taste of their own medicine. But when he finds out how hard it is to see from the balcony, he gets distracted and heckles that view instead. Later, of course, I’m sure he’ll be upset with himself for missing his chance for revenge. In that one panel, Langridge implies an entire story.
Another character to get a great moment is Piggy. She gets her first genuine dramatic moment of the series when she decides it’s time to make a move on Kermit before she gets too old. Of course, this is something she does all the time, whether she’s aging or not. But in Piggy’s mind, it’s a grand dramatic gesture every time, and Langridge superbly captures her attitude during the moment. In true Muppet Show fashion, however, the drama ends up segueing into a sublime bit of physical comedy.
Unfortunately, Piggy regresses later on in the issue, when she sees Kermit in bandages and cries that she turned him into a mummy. She isn’t Link Hogthrob, and I don’t believe that she’d be naive enough to make that observation. This is a minor quibble, though, as it really is my one complaint about an otherwise terrific issue.
With issue #9, The Muppet Show Comic Book feels more like The Muppet Show the TV series than ever before. All Muppet fans really should be reading it. It’s been terrific for a solid year and a half now, and this issue continues its upward climb. I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.
Click here to over-analyze funnybooks on The Tough Pigs Forum.
by Anthony Strand