A Writer’s Commentary: Roger Langridge talks Betty Boop #1, on sale now from Dynamite. cover by the great Howard Chaykin and interiors by Gisele Lagace.
When I wrote this story, I still had no idea who the artist was going to be, but the image I had in my head for the splash page was of a Max Fleischer-style movie poster. Gisele has reinterpreted that idea in her own style, but captured the essence, I think. The “Betty Boop” title lettering definitely helps sell it too.
One of the challenges of bringing Betty Boop to the comics medium was to give her a proper setting and supporting cast; in her animated adventures, her circumstances change from cartoon to cartoon according to the needs of the story, but a four-issue series needs something a bit more grounded. So I came up with “The Oop-A-Doop Club”, where Betty works with her friends – it’s a nightclub, a milieu that works well with the singing and dancing (and prohibition-era booze references!) of the original cartoons ¬– and which gives us a narrative excuse for a few “musical” numbers. I love the period look Gisele has given the joint!
Grampy comes from the later cartoons; I thought Betty should have a home life to round her out a bit. And here we get our first look at the baddies! I have always loved the Beagle Boys from Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comics – a gang of identical ne’er-do-wells – so this is kind of my version of that… except they’re ghosts (as will soon be obvious), because those early Betty cartoons are full of the darn things. Again, how Gisele has drawn the ghosts is not what I had in my head exactly, but all the better for being a bit more original. Love the pointy devil-ears!
Scat Skellington! Using the actual, real Cab Calloway (as happened frequently in the 1930s cartoons) was off the table, unfortunately, so this Scat Skellington character is basically playing the part of Cab Calloway. There’s a bit at the bottom of page 10 where we make it fairly obvious that Bimbo is totally smitten with Betty, which comes straight from the Fleischer cartoons.
I wanted Betty’s cab ride to be complicated, to add tension to her situation, hence the kids in the back and the obstacle course on page 12 (perfectly realized by Gisele here!). And cabbie banter is something you can usually squeeze a gag or two out of. I’ve toned down the attitudes I usually hear in my cab rides for family reading, natch.
The fiend behind the whole plot! I had an idea that there should be some sort of Fleischer-esque nightmarish creature lording it over the ghosts, but the details were very vague – Gisele has done most of the heavy lifting on Lenny Lizardlips here. Again, nothing like what I imagined, but I love it. He looks like the kind of thug who thinks with his neck.
I was pushing it here with the cartoon logic – Betty singing the villain into oblivion – which is the sort of thing the Fleischer shorts did frequently. I think we got away with it!
The whole “Hell” scene was added to the script quite late in the day. It addressed a few things: one, it was the sort of environment I could see in the Fleischer style in my mind’s eye quite clearly; two, it set things up for future stories, so there’d be some sort of narrative through-line over the four issues; and three, it explained (as much as it needed explaining) why the baddies keep bouncing back time after time, as you’ll see throughout the series.
And the whole thing ends with a party! Again, I was using the cartoons as my touchstone, which tended to be pretty carnivalesque throughout. It seemed a good way to leave on an “up” note – and to get in a final “Boop-Oop-A-Doop”. It wouldn’t be a Betty Boop story without one!
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