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Simpsons Comics. Written by various. Illustrated by various. New York: Bongo Comics/HarperCollins.

Series includes:

Simpsons Comics Extravaganza
Simpsons Comics on Parade
Simpsons Comics Simps-O-Rama
Simpsons Comics Spectacular
Simpsons Comics Strike Back
Simpsons Comics Wingding

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Humor, popular culture

Adults, teens, kids; pretty darn clean.

Extravaganza and Spectacular were seen. These trade paperbacks collect four issues apiece of the Simpsons comic book. Each issue had two short stories of 20-22 pages. The books also have one or two full-page funny ads (e.g., "The Drunken Sailor Tattoo Parlor"), and they reprint both the cover of the main comics and the "covers" for the individual stories. Stories in the volumes seen (collecting issues 1-4 and 6-9 respectively; don't ask me what happened to issue 5) include, among others, "The Amazing Colossal Homer," "Cool Hand Bart," "Krusty, Agent of K.L.O.W.N.," "The Gnarly Adventures of Busman," "The Greatest D'Oh! on Earth," and "The Purple Prose of Springfield." Most stories focus on the Simpsons, while some deal with supporting characters like Barney Gumble and Edna Krabappel. Although one or two of the stories appear to have been partially written by Matt Groening and/or Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer), most of the writers are people you've never heard of. Matt Groening appears to have overseen the production of the comics, and he contributed introductions to the books.

Sample story synopsis: in "The Purple Prose of Springfield," Bart stumbles upon Lisa's diary and, after "pepping it up," sends it into a publishing contest for a laugh. But he quits laughing when Principal Skinner, who's running the contest, offers Lisa a book contract. Later, as Lisa signs copies, Marge takes a peek at the book, and is shocked by what she reads. Lisa is also startled, and Bart confesses his misdeed. Lionel Hutz offers to buy the rights for $45,000, and they snap up his offer. The success of the diary turns Lisa into an egotistical literary snob and prompts the rest of Springfield to write their own tell-all books. Disgusted with herself and the way everyone is now behaving, Lisa attempts damage control by confessing that the book is a fraud, only to be sued by Troy McClure for supposedly plagarizing his diary.

With comics like these, two primary questions must be answered: 1) are the stories as funny as those on the animated series, and 2) are the characters true to their established personas? In both cases I have to answer "No." As a longtime Simpsons fan, I'm well versed in how the show is written, and except for one or two of the short stories, I think I would view all of them as inferior episodes. A telling point is that immediately after I finished a book, I'd forgotten what I'd read. These stories are unmemorable. Now, maybe the absence of the voices (which add an awful lot to the animated series) is coloring my perceptions, but as I read the stories I tried very hard to plug in the appropriate voices. Also, the stories suffer from the more static medium of comics; the Simpsons, for me, just work better in animation.

As for the characters, although they weren't entirely wrong, they said or did enough out-of-character things to disturb me. For example, in "The Purple Prose of Springfield," Marge snatches the $45,000 check out of Lionel Hutz's hands, thereby giving tacit approval to the book she's been railing against. I just don't think she would do that (I would have expected Homer to do so), especially considering that a few pages later, she yells at Bart for taking money to lie on TV.

The art is true to the series, though it really does work better as animation. Hey, we all know The Simpsons didn't get famous for its art.

I can't tell how popular these books are. I got one of them (and saw several of the others) in a remainder store. However, they had several enthusiastic reviews in Amazon. They're certainly appropriate for all but the smallest kids. Given the show's continuing popularity, especially among kids, it seems wise to have several of these on hand in a library, though for pleasure reading I can't recommend them. Go rent a video or watch a rerun on Fox if you need a Simpsons fix.

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild



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