Let’s Judge Books by Their Covers: Snarked! #1

This month, we at NFNT turned our critical eyeballs to the artwork in Roger Langridge’s new ongoing series Snarked!. This is a great example of a comic in which the artwork tells the story as much as the writing does, particularly when it comes to character design.

In a faraway kingdom, the Red King has gone missing, leaving behind his children to deal with a trio of crooked royal advisors who want to rule the kingdom themselves. Fortunately, the children have allies to help them search for their father, including the enigmatic Cheshire Cat and the comical duo of Wilberforce J. Walrus and Clyde McDunk, a couple of con-artists with big hearts, “even if they don’t know it yet”.

Langridge’s singular style walks a fine line between old fashioned and modern, reminding fellow NFNT reviewer Allen Kessinger of E.C Segar’s Popeye and Max Fleischer cartoons. Like these, the artwork is both stylized and loose. It’s a neat blend of influences when you add Lewis Carroll to the mix, whose stories and characters crop up throughout the events of the series.

While characters are well established through text and dialogue, most of what we know about them comes from their appearance and body language:

The royal advisors are all disfigured in different ways, from warty noses to extreme overbites. Their faces are not designed for smiling. They are literally crooked, and clearly up to no good.

The Cheshire Cat’s face is designed for smiling. This is an instance where Langridge is putting his own spin on familiar characters, and the results work well. The Cheshire Cat in Snarked! is friendly-looking without losing the mysterious cool cat attitude of the original character. Aside from his famous grin, he has round eyes and a big huggable body. His power is conveyed through his size and confident body language, but he does not appear menacing.

The children, Scarlett and Rusty, are both bold and vulnerable. Scarlett stomps around with confidence and purpose, but she is still tiny. Rusty is too young to speak, but his facial expressions and body language communicate plenty without any need for words. The children are not overly sweet, pretty or helpless; but they are still recognizable as children. We know that they have the guts and the smarts to be the heroes of this story, but that they will also need help along the way.

The Walrus and the Carpenter, Wilberforce J. Walrus and Clyde McDunk, are probably the most fun to look at. They combine elements of both the good and evil characters; being both con artists but also decent guys. They are both less than beautiful in their own ways: Clyde McDunk is missing most of his teeth while Wilberforce J. Walrus is, well, a walrus, complete with tusks and fur. They do not appear ugly, however, because they are designed to be round and symmetrical, a look that is naturally appealing. The Walrus may scowl and put on airs, but he’s downright cuddly to look at, and his pompous bluster just makes him all the more endearing.

Langridge also does something clever with this character, which is to show him doing something selfless every time he says something selfish. He insists that the children will never get a warm welcome from him, while simultaneously crafting a tiny teddy bear and tucking it into bed with Rusty. This is a fun illustration of the Walrus’s true nature, while allowing him to maintain the surface behaviors that will keep his character funny and engaging.

Note: All images are from Snarked #1 from the complementary review copy provided by BOOM! Studios.

Snarked! #1
By Roger Langridge
BOOM! Studios, 2011

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