Podcast: The Show Must Go On

The Virtual Memories Show Must Go On, with Roger Langridge!

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 24 – The Show Must Go On

“We have to decide what sort of comics industry we want before we decide what sort of books we’re going to work on.”

Roger Langridge has become the best all-ages cartoonist in the business, despite (or because of) starting out in a “mature readers” indy-comics environment. He joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about how he found that niche, his work on (and love of) The Muppets, Popeye, and Dr. Who, the responsibility of helping attract the next generation of comics readers, his lifetime love of vaudeville, his upbringing in New Zealand, how he learned to write his own stories, how he accidentally became a pioneer in webcomics, why he decided not to work with Marvel or DC anymore, and the one character from one of those companies that he’d love to work on. It’s a delightful conversation with one of the nicest guys in comics!

“I kept entering competitions to draw Popeye, and the prize was always the Robert Altman Popeye film, so I saw it about six times.”

Bonus: Here’s a piece I wrote about his amazing comic from the 1990s, Zoot!)

Rogerpopeye

“I’m not capable of drawing on model to save my life. I try my best to do that, but it always comes out looking like me.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great stuff! Related episodes:

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About our Guest

Roger Langridge has been producing comics for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has written and drawn Snarked!, Popeye, The Muppet Show and Thor: The Mighty Avenger. In collaboration with his brother Andrew, he drew Zoot! and Art D’Ecco, and his great solo work is the NCS, Ignatz, Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated comic book Fred the Clown. He recently (late 2011 is recent, right?) published The Show Must Go On, a collection of 20 years of his strips. He currently lives in London with his wife Sylvie, their two children and a box of his own hair.

Credits: This episode’s music is Mahna Mahna by Piero Umiliani. The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott during SPX 2013 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing were done in Garage Band. Photo by me.

Podcast: Visible Cities

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 8 – Visible Cities

“My impulse is to break the windows of Starbucks, but I’d get arrested if I did that, so I make comics about people breaking the windows of Starbucks.”

Cartoonist and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship winner Ben Katchor joins us for the first live episode of The Virtual Memories Show (in conjunction with the New York Comics & Picture-stories Symposium). Ben & host Gil Roth talk in front of — and take questions from — an audience of 50 or so about Ben’s career in cartooning, including his new book, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories (Pantheon), which collects his monthly comic page from Metropolis magazine. During the episode, Ben even performs several of his comics. If you’d like to see the comics themselves, you can download Manumission Houses and Lossless Things.

“People ask about influences and where I get my ideas. A lot of people looked at all the stuff I looked at, and they’re doing something else. It’s not like there’s an equation, like you read Saul Bellow and you look at Poussin, and then you make my comics. It’s not an equation. It’s brute force.”

The conversation and Q&A also cover his work process (with a surprising revelation about how he draws!), how book publishing lost its identity, what he learned from working in other art forms (like musical theater), how he teaches cartooning, the allure of new technologies, his one critical audience demographic, the joy of imperfections, whether he has an ideal era for New York, what happened to his History of the Dairy Restaurant book, how fear of shame keeps him productive, how Google can help when you need to draw a Russian prostitute, what he picked up from the Yiddish humor strips he read as a child, which one book the Library of America should withdraw, and how to pronounce “Knipl”! He didn’t win a “Genius” grant for nothing!

“It’s a golden age of art comics. It didn’t exist when I started. Most bookstores wouldn’t carry a comic, or even something that looked like a comic, back then. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a young cartoonist now, when these things are taken seriously and there’s an audience for them.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out our archives for more great conversations!

Ben Katchor on The Virtual Memories Show

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About our Guest

Ben Katchor’s picture-stories appear in Metropolis magazine. His most recent collection of monthly strips, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories, was published in March 2013 by Pantheon Books. Up From the Stacks, his most recent music-theater collaboration with Mark Mulcahy, was commissioned in 2011 by the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and Lincoln Center and was performed at both venues. He is an Associate Professor at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City. For more information, visit www.katchor.com.

Credits: This episode’s music is Big City Blues by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. The conversation was recorded in the Bark Room at The New School in NYC on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. Mr. Katchor’s readings and some of the questions from the audience were recorded on a second Zoom H4n. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by Amy Roth.

Well, my arm’s pretty Thor

I’m having a not-so-good reaction to a tetanus shot I had on Tuesday at my annual physical. My arm & shoulder hurt like a mo’fo’, and I’ve got chills & exhaustion that comes and goes. I’m particularly wiped out in the evening, so I spent last night and this early evening reading Essential Thor, Vol. 1, a cheap b/w reprint of the first batch of Thor comics.

I don’t think I remember how hilariously bad these comics were. Sure, things got pretty insanely cosmic a few years into its run, but the first bunch of stories are just bizarre. It all starts with the wacky premise of an American doctor wandering through the Norwegian countryside. Oh, it’s not bizarre that a doctor goes traveling, but Dr. Blake is lame and walks with a cane, so it’s a bit weird that he’d go meandering through a foreign countryside on his own. Lucky for him, he finds a cane that turns out to be the hammer of Thor, just in time for him to fight off an invasion of aliens from Saturn. It was 1962; that stuff happened.

The collection is all kinds of awesome, even though Thor hasn’t quite started speaking in the mock-Shakespearean mode that Stan Lee would decide makes perfect sense for a Norse god’s speech. Oh, and it’s never quite clear as to whether Dr. Blake and Thor are two different people. If they’re not, then Blake doesn’t seem to have any recollection of, um, being Thor. The thunder god is treated just like any other super-hero with a secret identity. But that’s neither here nor there.

One issue’s plot — mobster wounded during getaway, henchmen kidnap Dr. Blake to fix him up — gets recycled three issues later. In another, mega-powerful shape-changing aliens invade earth and do puzzling things, like paint polka-dots on streets, to confuse mankind and leave us susceptible to invasion. But beyond the awful stories, there are some tremendous passages. At one point, Dr. Blake’s nurse Jane fantasizes about domestic life with Thor. This includes giving him a haircut for summer, ironing his cape, and — I’m not making this up — polishing his hammer.

My favorite moment so far, however, is from the subtly titled, “PRISONER OF THE REDS!” See, American scientists are suddenly defecting to the Soviets, and Dr. Blake suspects something is up. So he pretends to be developing a new biological warfare thing, and gets kidnapped. He goes into his lab to not really do anything and then we see . . .

A photographer reading a newspaper article about Blake’s supposed breakthrough! His thought balloon reads, “HMMMM… THIS DOCTOR BLAKE COULD BE ANOTHER USEFUL SCIENTIST FOR OUR CAUSE!”

The caption above it?

thor1.jpg

That’s right: FINALLY, AFTER DAYS OF FAKE SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTATION…

I’m starting to think Roy Lichtenstein was on to something.

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