Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Betty Boop by Roger Langridge and Gisele Lagace

I have no idea why someone said, in the year 2016, "Hey, what this world really needs is a Betty Boop comic book!" It seems like an odd and unlikely thing to say, even if one happened to work in licensing for an entity that happened to own the rights to Miss Boop.

But it must have happened, because that comic book did come out, in four issues, and they were duly collected under the simple and obvious title Betty Boop. (Because, even if this isn't the first Boop comic ever in the history of the world -- though it may well be, for all I know -- there's no possibility of confusion in the marketplace with all of the other Boop collections.)

Luckily, whoever the person who had the brain-spasm in re Betty had the good sense to hire Roger Langridge to write the Boop comic. Langridge has previously translated musical comedy into comics both in his own works (The Show Must Go On, for example) and licensed properties like The Muppets. Since I can't think of anyone else who has even attempted musical comedy in comics form -- most people think not being able to hear the music is an insuperable obstacle, which has never stopped Langridge -- he was clearly the best and only choice for the job. The fact that he also has a love for old bits of popular culture, particularly cartoons and comics (see his work on Popeye for another example) is only lagniappe.

There may be people out there who can speak learnedly to the Boop milieu -- who will know precisely how canonical her job as a waitress at the Oop-a-Doop club is; when her friends/co-workers Bimbo, Sal, and Koko the Clown first appeared; her tangled relationships with boss Mister Finkle and bandleader Scat Skellington and villain Lenny Lizardlips and her Grampy; what tunes the songs in this book are to be sung to and any relationship those songs have with the historical Betty Boop. I am not one of those people. So I'll point and say that all that stuff is in this book.

(By the way, the cover is actually a variant from issue 1 by Howard Chaykin and doesn't quite look like the Gisele Lagace art inside. It also implies a relationship between Betty and Koko that in no way appears in the book.)

I know Lagace's work mostly from her sexy webcomic Menage a 3, but others may have seen the work she's done in comics (for Archie properties mostly, I think). Either way, she has a known expertise for drawing attractive girls, but she's also just fine with the cartoonier aspects of Betty's world -- and, since this is a Depression-Era world, there's a lot of cartoony elements. She also manages to keep Betty's ridiculously oversized head look reasonable and consistent, possibly through secret black arts.

Again, I have no idea why anyone thought a Betty Boop comic would be a good idea, or if this one made more than ten cents total. But it's a lot of fun, in a not-entirely retro style, and it has the feeling of those bouncing, singing old black-and-white cartoons on the page. It's a massive success at something weird and unlikely and quirky, which is the kind of thing I like to celebrate.


Anonymous said...

Musical comedy in comics - see Neil the Horse by Arn Saba.

lane said...

Making the world safe for Musical comedy was it's Tagline. I highly recommend Neil the Horse.

Roger Langridge said...

I adore Neil the Horse, and would say it's an influence here for sure.

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