My name is Roger Langridge. I’ve been a professional cartoonist since around 1990. I’m probably best known for my work on The Muppet Show Comic Book, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, and Snarked!; those with longer memories might also be familiar with my web strip and self-published comic book, Fred the Clown.
The comic I’ll be talking about here, though, is a brand-new story called Abigail and the Snowman, the first instalment of which is coming out on December 31st from KaBOOM! It’s about a little girl who meets a Yeti in the park who only children can see; to grownups, he’s completely invisible due to his peculiar ability to cloud men’s minds (and now you know where The Shadow picked up that trick!). But our Yeti is on the run from a government compound… and they want to take him back! Broadly speaking, the comic is my take on the classic “imaginary friend” trope that’s been knocking around comics—and fiction generally—for decades, in everything from Calvin and Hobbes to Barnaby to Harvey.
I’ve been asked to give a commentary on a few pages from the first issue. So let’s start with page 11. I’ve previously established that this is a Sunday morning in autumn, the weekend before Abigail’s birthday, and her dad, Bob (who has the task of bringing up Abigail on his own), has recently lost his job and now has to prepare job applications or risk losing their home. Consequently, they’re at a local playground instead of taking a promised trip to the zoo, so Bob can prepare job applications while Abigail plays on the swings. It’s very much a consolation prize. At the point where we pick up the story, to amuse herself, Abigail is playing “fetch” with her imaginary (actually imaginary!) dog, Claude…
Here’s where Abigail meets the Yeti. I wanted our first encounter with the Yeti to be very much from Abigail’s point of view, so the page leading up to his revelation is entirely focused on her. There’s a bit of comic-book trickery going on here: realistically, Abigail would be able to see the Yeti before the reveal, but because he’s off-panel and we’ve got the metaphorical fig leaf of a sapling partially concealing his enormous bulk, we kind of go with the idea that she hasn’t properly seen him yet. At least I hope we do; that’s the intention. I think it works.
And… pow! We see the Yeti for the first time. I wanted him to seem really big; I drew him filling most of the page. Abigail stands in for us here: she’s in the foreground, looking up at him, and we’re looking over her shoulder, so we’re kind of getting her point-of-view as the Yeti positively looms over her.
The Yeti’s face is deliberately a bit less realistic than any of the human faces in the book; my natural style is quite cartoonish to begin with, but the Yeti is on another level again. He’s on a slightly ambiguous plane of reality, so I wanted his features to suggest that he couldn’t just be a regular hairy guy. He’s definitely something “other,” albeit in a ridiculous, comical sort of way. The tweed jacket and pipe—which, incidentally, he never lights; the implication is that he doesn’t actually know what it’s for—definitely adds to the comical incongruity here. He’s not meant to be threatening (it might be stretching credibility to have Abigail make friends with him easily if he seems to be a threat), but he’s slightly alarming at first sight. And if he should need to seem threatening before the story’s over—I’m not saying that’s what’s necessarily going to happen, mind you!—then setting him up as amusing to begin with gives me somewhere to go if and when that eventuality arises.
This page is moving things along from an encounter between strangers to our two heroes becoming firm friends, so I’ve taken the approach of having Abigail accidentally wound the Yeti’s pride by calling him a murderer and (even worse!) a “bigfoot”—this lets him defend himself by explaining to Abigail (and by extension to us) that he’s entitled to feel proud of who he is. By a happy coincidence, wounded pride in a big tough-looking guy is somehow inherently amusing, so I’m milking that for all I can get out of it.
The second job this page is doing is letting us know about the Yeti’s mind-clouding abilities. More about that on the next page.
And now we’re getting some proper exposition, to explain why the Yeti thought standing behind a twig would be adequate cover. I desperately wanted to avoid having the explanations become too dry and dull; so, throughout, I’ve tried to present the information as entertainingly and amusingly as possible by delivering it through the filter of the character dynamic between Abigail and the Yeti. I’ve done this chiefly by playing up the Yeti’s exaggerated dignity and pride in his uniqueness (and by showing that it’s slightly misplaced!), and by having Abigail seem thoroughly unimpressed.
Panel three is one I’m quite proud of. I tried this a few ways in the script before settling on having the two drawings be identical; that just seemed to be the funniest way. Any slight difference—one of the drawings having small horns or a tail, for example—would have undermined the gag, said gag being that the Yeti is perceiving differences that don’t actually exist.
The page concludes with the Yeti pointing at Abigail’s dad as his prospective guinea pig.
While this page is to some degree establishing the Yeti’s invisibility to adults, the main thing it’s doing is giving me an excuse to get some laughs out of his attention-getting antics. It makes him seem somewhat childlike, which is laying the groundwork for his friendship with Abigail: despite their physical differences, they’re more alike than not. And Abigail is, for the first time, impressed
Let’s end with this page’s final panel, where Abigail christens the Yeti “Claude,” the name we’ll know him by for the rest of the story. By having Abigail give her new friend his name, she is in some small way placing herself in the role of parent. Each one is now part child and part adult to the other: Abigail is a child because of her small size and her age, but an adult because she names (and will soon shelter and protect) Claude; and Claude is an adult because of his size, dress, and somewhat fogeyish manner, but a child because he will soon be dependent upon Abigail’s protection. Each one now complements and completes the other.
This issue sets out to establish who everybody is and where they’re all at in their lives, to give some idea of the imminent threat from Claude’s pursuers (which we haven’t covered on these few pages, but which is dealt with elsewhere in the issue), to get Claude into Abigail’s life, and—by the time we’re done—to give Abigail a sense that something special and life-changing is starting to happen to her. That’s a lot of ground to cover in a single chapter; I think—I think—I managed to pull it off. Hopefully you’ll agree.
In the next issue we’ll see Abigail and Claude’s friendship blossom, a bit more of the forces that threaten to pull them apart, and a hint of just how dangerous things are likely to get before it’s all over. I hope you’ll consider coming along for the ride.