Review by Frank Plowright
Wondering how to repay his Patreon sponsors, in late 2019 Roger Langridge decided to produce a daily four panel strip featuring whatever came to mind. From very early on little anecdotes about family life and the world as Langridge experiences it tumbled into being, and the strip was well established when in March 2020 the world took a wild turn into lockdowns and deaths on an unheard of scale when covid-19 manifested. Completely by accident Langridge may have stumbled on his ideal form of expression in the four panel gag strip.
What differentiates memoirs is the unique voice and observations of their writer, while in comics the art is also a factor, and more commonly tends toward sketching, the very necessity of daily publication a determining factor. Langridge doesn’t take that path. He simplifies his compositions certainly, but supplies four fully formed panels, created in 90 minutes according to his introduction. Such is his confidence with the form, each is perfectly paced. When work commitments intervene shortcuts are taken, the same four panels of art used with different dialogue, for instance, but few days are missing, and everyone’s entitled to Christmas away from the computer or drawing board. The infusion through necessity of fictional henchman Pyles opens a door to opportunity, though.
Langridge also has that unique voice. It’s the gentle humour of uncertainty that’s most common. Is he doing the right thing? It manifests with his teenage children, and with concerns about covid-19. He’s reassuringly old-fashioned, noting December 4th to be the final day for an item posted in the UK realistically ensuring it’ll arrive in New Zealand before Christmas. Buying online isn’t mentioned, despite it being the method of choice during lockdown.
A collection reveals repetition that probably wasn’t as obvious when Langridge was uploading the strips at 24 hour intervals online. A few too many strips about his dog’s unsavoury habits occur, but then some along those lines are laugh out loud funny. If other domestic diarists have featured an unwilling family member, they’ve skirted around the reality, but early on Langridge’s teenage daughter announces she doesn’t want to be featured except in specific circumstances, and he confronts it head on. She relents, but doesn’t appear often afterwards.
A general optimism about muddling through prevails, and the only real anger is reserved for the deceit of politicians, who’re only seen in moderation. Probably just as well. The Plague’s the Thing is ideal for anyone who likes a dose of gentle observation accompanied by great cartooning, and the good news is that a second collection titled Infections, Injections & Insurrections covers 2021.
This isn’t available via traditional booksellers, only via Langridge at shows or his Hotel Fred website.