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DF Interview: Roger Langridge introduces Abigail to snow biz
By Byron Brewer
Abigail is a nine-year-old girl with a huge imagination who moves to a small town where she's the new kid at school, struggling to make friends. Let’s face it: most of us have been there.
All that changes when she meets a Yeti named Claude who has escaped a top government facility. Abigail and Claude become best buds, but to make sure he can truly be free from the “Shadow Men” chasing him, they must go on an adventure to find Claude's real home.
And with that, you are off into a wonderful take of all-ages comic book imagination by writer/artist/letterer Roger Landridge. Dynamic Forces followed some tracks in the snow to Yeti Town and got the 411 from the scribe on the new book from BOOM! Studios.
Dynamic Forces: Wow! Holy Jim Starlin, Roger. You perform every duty on this book but put in the staples! Is that your usual method as a cartoonist?
Roger Langridge: Doing everything myself is certainly my preference, yeah. My cartoonist heroes – Barks, Eisner, Crumb, Kurtzman, E.C. Segar et al – all tend to be people who write and draw their own stuff. For the first few decades of the 20th century that was the normal way to do comics, and the best cartoonists since then have generally been people who can do the whole lot as well. You'll notice I'm working with Fred Stresing on Abigail and the Snowman; he's doing a bang-up job on the coloring and I'm really happy with how it's looking, but in a perfect world I'd be doing that as well. But there are only so many hours in the day!
DF: Is Abigail and the Snowman a one shot or will their adventure continue beyond #1?
Roger Langridge: It was originally pitched as a self-contained graphic novel, but BOOM! in their wisdom requested that I break it down into four issues to be collected into a single volume when it's done, so that's what's happening. But it will be one single story with a definite beginning, middle and end.
DF: Tell us your approach to handling an all ages book such as this one. How does the process differ from other genres you do?
Roger Langridge: For an all-ages project, I usually just try to write the kind of comic I think I would have enjoyed as a kid. If the story is more or less kid-friendly at a conceptual level, my job tends not to be so much leaving out anything that might be inappropriate for kids as it is putting in a bit of emotional weight for the adult part of the audience – because, ultimately, it's got to work for adult-me too on some level, or else I'd just get bored. I think that's the real meaning of "all-ages": not that it's only suitable for children, but that it's going to offer something to both children and to adult readers. Pixar movies, or great newspaper strips like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes, are good examples of a gold standard for all-ages entertainment. (Not that I'm putting myself on that level, but let's aim high!)
DF: So tell us a little about Abigail, her frosty friend and their story.
Roger Langridge: Abigail is a little girl who meets a Yeti in the park, "Claude" by name. He's an educated Yeti – he wears a tweed jacket, has a pipe clenched in his jaws (which he never lights, but he likes the look of). Claude is invisible to adults, but children can see him just fine. They become firm friends – but Claude has escaped from a government facility and the government wants him back. So ... adventures ahoy!
DF: There has to be conflict, even in all-ages. Who is the de facto "big bad" in this book?
Roger Langridge: The government agents who are trying to break up Claude and Abigail and take the furry Snowman back are our story's fly-in-the-ointment. Initially the guys who have been assigned to the job are somewhat bumbling and ineffectual – but then someone much nastier and tougher is dropped in to take the job over and things get a lot more dangerous. Claude and Abigail will have the fight of their lives on their hands before we're through.
DF: Has Writer Roger been pleased with the panelgraphic abilities of Artist Roger? Are there any changes either one would like to have made?
Roger Langridge: I'm always frustrated at my limitations, but I think that's normal. I try not to think too hard about what I'm asking myself to draw when I'm writing. I don't think it does me any harm to have to stretch myself a bit when it comes time to draw the thing. Similarly, Artist Roger sometimes thinks of things Writer Roger ought to have thought of, and a part of the process is being able to tweak things and improve them as I go. This is the nature of cartooning, though; this is how it works. You are always pushing against your limitations and trying to be a better cartoonist, always trying to balance the different aspects of the craft to create something that hangs together as a cohesive whole. And the only way you get better is by challenging yourself as often as possible.
DF: Anything you can tell us about Claude that will not breech spoilers?
Roger Langridge: I guess he's kind of a big kid in a lot of ways, despite his enormous bulk, which is why he and Abigail get along so well. Similarly, Abigail, though a small child, is capable of acting quite grown-up. So they complement each other really well. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book has been exploring the way they play off one another and grow and blossom as the result of one another's company. I think Claude would be an amazing friend.
DF: Was there any particular inspiration, personal or from media, for this great story?
Roger Langridge: There's a bit of the classic "imaginary friend" trope that's been a staple of comics, and fiction more generally, for decades, in everything from Calvin and Hobbes to Barnaby to Harvey. This is sort of my take on that idea. There are little bits from all over the place in the story, though; I've drawn inspiration from everything from Laurel and Hardy movies to The Shadow to the UK's version of Dennis the Menace (from the Beano comic). I think all cartoonists are ultimately beachcombers of ideas they can throw into the blender and make their own thing out of. The final flavor of the smoothie is what you'll remember, if I've done my job right (and if that isn't too tortured a metaphor!).
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Roger Langridge for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. Abigail and the Snowman #1 hits stores December 31st!
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