It’s only on for half an hour once a week, and if you misprogram the VCR, well, ”D’oooh!” as Homer Simpson would say. But never fear, unsatisfied sojourners to Springfield: TV’s The Simpsons has spun off onto the colorful – and always accessible – comic-book page.
In December, the Bongo Comics Group (formed last spring by series creator Matt Groening) released the premier issues of its four debut titles: Simpsons Comics (featuring the fab five family members); Itchy & Scratchy Comics (with Bart Simpson’s favorite, ultraviolent cat and mouse); Radioactive Man (starring Bart’s favorite superhero); and Bartman (about Bart’s super alter ego). A new comic will appear every three weeks, with issue #2 of Simpsons Comics – in which Bart meets his dread-locked nemesis, Sideshow Bob – hitting newsstands this month.
Groening’s latest offerings (he oversees as publisher; the books are written and drawn by Steve and Cindy Vance) mark a return to the paper chase for the cartoonist, who achieved fame with his lugubrious comic strip Life in Hell. Bongo’s comics also mean humor for a genre sorely lacking in yuk-yuks for grown-ups: ”The comic-book market is dominated by pubescent male power fantasies with superheroes,” says Groening. ”What we’re trying to do is change the pubescent male power fantasies into pubescent male and female humor fantasies.”
Judging from its debut, part of Bongo’s beat will be satirizing superhero fare: In the first issue of Bartman, for example, Bart and Milhouse come across the comics Z-Babies and The Unwieldy Z-Men, parodying the rapidly proliferating X-Men comics.
So, is anybody laughing? Bongo managing editor Jason Grode thinks so. ”After only one issue each, our titles are already top 50 comics,” he says. Observes retailer Mitch Cutler of St. Mark’s Comics in Manhattan: ”They’re blowing out of every store. They appeal to people for the same reason the show does-the characters, the insight, that smart-mouthed sensibility.”