Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Comic Review: The Muppet Show: Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson TPB/HC (Boom! Studios)

As both a Muppet fan and a devoted comic reader, I was thrilled to come across Boom! Studios The Muppet Show comic book a few months ago. I've picked it up pretty regularly ever since, and now, with the release of the The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson in trade and hardcover format, it's a great time to jump in, if you're inclined. The question, of course, is whether you should take the plunge.

The Muppet Show comic, at its best, feels like an episode of the Muppet show. Many familiar sketches are sprinkled throughout, including At the Dance, Pigs in Space, Bear on Patrol, and Muppet Labs. Every Muppet gets his or her face-time and displays familiar personality and gags, though the book could generally do with a dash more Gonzo. The jokes and gags, visual and written, are thickly spread, and because of this the book feels like a good value, liable to reward repeated readings that will uncover missed jokes. By mirroring the structure of the original Muppet Show the comic is able to utilize many different kinds of humor within a single issue and that keeps it from getting stale. This brings me to what I feel is one of the most important things about The Muppet Show comic book; it would make a great introduction to comics for children.

Kids ought to read more, and more comics, and a quality, funny book like The Muppet Show will talk directly at them instead of down to them-just like the characters that appear in it always have-and children will appreciate and recognize that. Boom! Studios deserves recognition for its attempts to appeal to children through its Boom! Kids imprint. There is, though, an inherent problem with trying to get kids reading the book; the Muppets are hardly the cultural presence they were twenty or thirty years ago. Sure, there have been some TV and DVD releases this decade, but without a steady show or big-screen presence, it's less likely a child is going to have a reason to want this book the way their thirty-to-fortysomething parents might. A real problem with the book, though, is that it relies on familiarity with "The Muppet Show" to understand the jokes and recognize the personalities (especially considering some of the best humor in this collection relies on a Kermit impersonator).

For example, in this collection there is a revival of the classic "Mahna Mahna" sketch from the very first "Muppet Show" episode. However, if one hasn't seen that sketch or doesn't know the music, it falls completely flat. In fact, as I read the collection, I found myself skipping pretty much every musical number. Musical numbers were an integral part of the old show; musical numbers simply don't work on the comic page. Spreading a few little musical notes around the speech bubbles certainly shows us that the dialog is being sung, but without any idea how. Some of the musical numbers are enough to bring an issue to a screeching halt, and after all, how could a comic book implement music?

One last criticism; at times, the Muppet characters seem a little flat. It isn't an easy task to take a puppet and believingly render it as a drawn character in a way that preserves its idiosyncracies. Roger Landridge, the artist, does a fine job, and often draws the Muppets as more human and less puppet. But the magic of watching the Muppet characters, the way they could come alive and obliterate our disbelief, simply can't quite translate to the page.

Ultimately, The Muppet Show: Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson is fun to read. As I said above, at its best, it's like watching an episode of the show. I recommend it for Muppet fans of any age, and especially as a tool for parents (or aunts, uncles, teachers, cousins, siblings) to introduce a child to comic books, but probably only if the child is already somewhat familiar with the characters. While not without its flaws...the musical numbers simply must certainly won't have you grousing in the balcony box with Statler and Waldorf, either.

Dan Ford
Staff Reviewer

1 comment:

Caped Crusader said...

Thanks for the review. As devoted Muppets fan, I've been wanting to check this out, but I wasn't sure how well the characters would transition into comics. While your review doesn't make it seem like a guaranteed hit, it does sound fun. I'll have to pick it up soon.