Roger Langridge’s new kids’ comic is based on the Lewis Carroll poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter”: The story is about Wilburforce J. Walrus (an anthropomorphic walrus) and Clyde McDunk (a carpenter), who live together in a little fairy house near the beach, in a little fairy town ruled by a fairy king who’s lost at sea. In the meantime, the kingdom rests in the hands of his two little kids, the princess and her little brother, the prince. There are oysters, too.
If you’re familiar with Langridge’s work at all, it won’t come as a great surprise to you that he nails it in the “charm” and “craft” departments. The material is neat, harmless fun, and there’s a good chance that it’ll make you smile a couple times even if you’re not, you know, a kid. Delightfully, in the spirit of Carroll, Langridge opted to forgo the need for easy and heavy-handed moral lessons. If anything, his story says that it’s okay to be a little bit of a scamp, as long as you don’t overdo it—and even if you are overdoing it, you may still get lucky.
Rather than to hammer home the author’s idea of ethical behavior, the material appeals to the reader’s own ethics: Hey, why is Mister Walrus blaming Mr. McDunk for his own mistakes? Why is he lying? That’s not right… right?
Which isn’t just a more effective way of making a point, but also more fun to read.
On the other hand, I think it wouldn’t have hurt for Walrus to have some redeeming features. At the end of the day, he’s the one who gets the most screen time, after all. It’s faithful to Carroll’s version, certainly, but while making the protagonist a lazy, stealing, lying, at times even outright cruel meany with no empathy for anyone may work for the duration of a poem, an ongoing comic is a different matter.
Also, and I realize I’m the biggest dork on the planet for bringing this up, I wanted to know what kind of a living arrangement it is that Walrus and McDunk share here—not necessarily in a werthammy kind of way, but in terms of story logic. Why is a Walrus living with a carpenter? And why is the carpenter carrying a hammer that he evidently never uses?
Hey, the kids want to know!
But this is only an eight-page teaser, of course (plus 14 pages of sketches, games and prose that tie in with the story, including a reprint of the Carroll poem), and as such it’s a perfectly fine story. We’ll be finding out more about this little town as the series progresses, surely, and we already know it’s in good hands with Roger Langridge.
There’s every chance the kinks and reservations will be hammered out before long.