I’m trying to imagine how Leather Underwear would’ve read when it dropped in 1990, one of the first comics from then early twenty-something creator Roger Langridge. The comic is entirely a riff on religion, specifically Christian, more specifically Catholic, starting with a strip about the Catholic abortion service run by one Sister Knuckles. She’ll be back later, after the opening story… Professor God and Doctor Jesus.
They’re a father-and-son comedy team. They’re hanging around Heaven, experimenting on the humans, bickering, smelling the Holy Ghost. It’s a quick mood setter for the comic, with Langridge getting to do some physical reaction humor with the characters. The Sister Knuckles strip is almost too confrontational a way to start the comic, too jarring without context; God and Jesus come through.
Until someone farts, anyway.
The second story is about Sid Bicycle going on a Divine Comedy-esque adventure, starting with seeking enlightenment from a heathen on a mountaintop. Sid ends up in the afterlife, rightly or wrongly, and meets God—who Langridge writes a little harsher here than, say, Ennis will do in Preacher—and then goes off for tea and crumpets with Satan. It’s the best-written story in the issue, just because Langridge is going all over the place without having a strong character to fall back on if the story thins down.
Not a problem with the following story, which is the promised Knuckles the Malovent Nun feature. Knuckles has broken out of her original convent and is setting a new religion with herself as Pope. Langridge finds the right balance between obscene and funny. He never makes too extreme a joke if he can get by with a tamer variant, so when he does unleash, it’s always justified. Knuckles is a lovably loathsome character who finds immediate success and fame and fortune because it’s religion.
Then comes a Noah retelling, which is fast and funny. It’s not quite an illustrated prose piece, but closer to it than a comic. Langridge still has a fine sense of layout, though. While it’s interesting to think about how Langridge would develop after this book, there’s a lot of great art in it, even if his lines are a little thicker. His expressions are already dead-on. So such good faces.
Speaking of, the next comic is a single-pager written by Cornelius Stone: Clockedin Facehead in Face Value. It’s six panels of contrast humor, some better than others. It’s fine.
Then Professor God and Doctor Jesus are back to close out the issue in a few pages. One of them cheats at Scrabble. Poorly enough to get caught. It’s very funny and a nice way to close the issue.
Finally, inside back cover, another one-pager written by Stone with a couple characters writing in a Book of Destiny and making things happen. The end’s a little pat, but the pace is better than the other one-pager. The problem with both strips is the setup’s fine, but there’s not enough for six or eight panels.
It’s a really good comic. You can see where Langridge changed and where he grew since, but Underwear stands up just fine on its own.