Last week saw the release of Muppet Robin Hood #1, and this week — Wednesday, June 3rd to be exact ?¢‚Ç¨‚Äú will be the release date of The Muppet Show Comic Book #3. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a great time to be a Muppet fan who can read. If you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re a Muppet fan who can?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t read, you should ask the guy at the comic book store to read the issue to you. He?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll do it. He?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a nice guy.
Issue #3 is once again written and drawn by Roger Langridge, who previously told us a Kermit story and a Fozzie story and now gives us an issue focusing on Gonzo?¢‚Ç¨¬¶ although it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s interesting to note that Gonzo?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s not really the protagonist, but rather the source of conflict in the story. Well, I thought it was interesting, anyway. Maybe you think it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s incredibly boring.
Langridge?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s designs for the Muppet characters have not been embraced by all fans, and his Gonzo in particular drew some criticism for being off-model. I think it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s recognizable enough, but if you hated the way Gonzo looked in the first two issues, you might want to avoid this one, because he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s all over it.
But I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m getting ahead of myself, so let?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s start at the beginning. Issue #1 began with the Muppet Newsman, and Issue #2 kicked off with a Statler and Waldorf bit. The new issue starts with everyone?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s favorite permanently squinting old guy, Pops the doorman, as he greets a newcomer to the Muppet Theater.
This works really well because Pops?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s original role on The Muppet Show was to open every episode of season five by greeting the guest star at the door. Not only is it funny, it feels right. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m going to make a prediction right now and say that a future issue of this comic will start with Scooter knocking on a guest star?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s door as he did in seasons two through four.
But that guy?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s not the guest star, he?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Osbert J. Smedley, an insurance agent visiting the theater for some risk assessment. This seems exactly like a backstage plot from the TV show. Smedley reminds me of Dave Goelz’s Inspector LaBrea character from the Dizzy Gillespie episode, and as I read the issue and played the usual “Which performer would this be?” game, that’s the voice I was hearing.
For medical purposes, Smedley needs to know identify the species of every Muppet Theater employee. (It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a very specialized policy.) There?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s just one problem: Nobody?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s sure what Gonzo is.
Wait a minute! Didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t Muppets From Space establish that Gonzo is an alien? Well, it did, but come on — Who likes or cares about Muppets From Space? I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m actually really glad the Muppet people let Langridge do this?¢‚Ç¨¬¶ Honestly, the Muppets don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t have continuity. Sometimes they begin a production as strangers to each other, sometimes they all live together in a boarding house, sometimes they all live in a hallway. Nothing is set in stone.
And anyway, I hated the revelation that Gonzo was from another planet. So I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m totally in favor of applying some Wite-Out to that and saying Gonzo?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s heritage is still a mystery. In this story, it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s up to Scooter to figure it out, and it won?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t be easy. This is almost as much a Scooter story as it is a Gonzo story, and it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s nice to see the guy get so much screen time.
That?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the backstage plot. As before, there are lots of fun onstage acts sprinkled throughout the issue as well. There?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a chicken musical number, there?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a Pigs in Space sketch. There?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s also a brand-new segment starring Gonzo, called ?¢‚Ç¨?ìGumshoe McGurk, Private Eye!?¢‚Ç¨¬ù It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a neat idea, but it doesn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t quite take off. A Muppet spoof of detective story clich?É¬©s is a setup full of potential, but as it plays out it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s just not that funny. There?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s really nothing here that?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s even specific to Gonzo?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s character ?¢‚Ç¨‚Äú you could pretty much plug any other Muppet into this bit and it wouldn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t make much difference.
On the other hand, a Gonzo bit called ?¢‚Ç¨?ìTwinkle Twinkle Little Rat?¢‚Ç¨¬ù feels a lot like something from the first few seasons of The Muppet Show. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s nuts. And hey, it has Rizzo! Rizzo was barely a character in the final season of the TV show, but in this issue he plays a pretty substantial role, with his real personality and everything, and it works quite well.
I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m going to go ahead and make the bold statement that The Muppet Show Comic Book #3 is better than #2 was. The jokes are funny, the familiar Muppet characters are plentiful, and the Gonzo story has a satisfying resolution. Also, it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s still fun to spot the British turns of phrase that pop up in Langridge?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s dialogue. Scooter even says ?¢‚Ç¨?ìNo offence?¢‚Ç¨¬ù at one point, spelling it with a ?¢‚Ç¨?ìC?¢‚Ç¨¬ù just like that.
There?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s not one number in particular that makes innovative use of the comic book layout this time around (like ?¢‚Ç¨?ìThe Ubiquitous Quilp?¢‚Ç¨¬ù in #1 and the car song in #2), but Langridge continues to take advantage of the medium by letting the Muppets do things they can?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t do on TV. For example, we almost never get to see the Gonzo puppet do a full-body tap dance.
Speaking of Gonzo, it’s nice to see him doing silly daredevil acts again. That’s the guy he was created to be, but with the last few Muppet productions taking place way outside the variety show format, he hasn’t gotten to act so much like himself. Here he gets to be the Great Gonzo again.
And here once again we have a lovely new episode of The Muppet Show, all between two staples and available for less than the cost of a venti mocha latte. Next month is the Miss Piggy issue?¢‚Ç¨¬¶ Here?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s hoping it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s up to Piggy?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s own lofty standards.
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