Throughout the years, Bongo Comics has run wild with the famous Simpsons characters, bringing them into a wide range of styles and genres. At Comic-Con International 2009, Bongo Comics Managing Editor Terry Delegeane took us on a bizarre trip through a sneak preview of their upcoming releases.
Artist Towe Rodriquez, a relative new-comer at Bongo, spoke about his work and the fun you can have "playing in that world" of Simpsons comics. After a stint on "Radioactive Man" #711 (given out at 7-11 costumed Kwik-E-Marts across the country to promote the "Simpsons Movie") and an issue of "Super Spectacular," portraying Simpsons characters at a comic book convention, Towe saw the need for a more serialized release of Simpsons comics. He and writer Batton Lash then pitched the idea for "The Great, Extreme, Ultimate, and Totally Awesome Radioactive Man Event!" The event, spanning three comics ("Simpsons Comics" #155, "Bart Simpsons Comics" #48, and "The Simpsons Spectacular" #9) is "a brilliant skewing of everything you've seen from DC and Marvel in the last 20 years", Terry explained. "This is really the first crossover we've done with our comics in fifteen years, so, we needed to have a really big event. Towe and Batton came up with a great story where they mocked every idea or crossover and every change of costume and killing of characters and turning them into zombies, (etc)."
Rodriguez went on to explain the story, which involves Krusty the Clown taking over the comic book company that publishes Radioactive Man, and his attempt to increase comic sales through a Summer crossover event. Terry announced their Comic-Con exclusive overprinting of all three crossover issues bound in a card stock cover. "Its not a reprint because its not from the original print run, but its not like a trade paperback collection, we don't really know what to call it." Towe added, "Its the coolest thing I've ever seen." Creative director Bill Morrison pointed out that the cover image is a parody of a Secret Wars cover featuring Magneto.
Terry also announced "Treehouse of Horror" #15, guest edited by Sammy Harkhaam, the first non-Bongo editor to edit a Bongo comic. Sammy produces the Drawn and Quarterly published ongoing series, "Crickets." For this issue of "Treehouse," Sammy asked Simpsons creator, the legendary Matt Groening, to write and draw a page. "When we agreed to do this, I was completely terrified" explained Sammy. "I've never done anything on this kind of scale. I've never worked with properties or known characters and I thought it was an interesting challenge."
He elaborated on the sheer weirdness of Groening's creations, the characters that inhabit Springfield. "Once you are actually drawing these characters, you realize how insanely weird they are to draw. They're very bizarre. You end up drawing big bug eyes and huge mouths. Its a weird thing. If you adjust (their features) slightly, they become terrifying. Just move the jaw slightly or draw the eyes slightly more apart and they become completely terrifying." He went on to talk about the elegance of each character in how they are designed: "Take Ms. Krabappel. Her hairstyle represents her personality," and how their personalities are fleshed out: "Milhouse...is like Larry David."
Sammy described part of the issue which riffs on the theme of bootlegging and the long history of bootlegged Simpsons merchandise. In the issue, selling bootleg candy leads to bootleg versions of Simpsons characters wandering the streets of Springfield. Terry explained Matt Groening's love of bootleg Simpsons merchandise. "Matt loves bootleg stuff. Matt's lawyer does not love bootleg stuff. But Matt, every time he see's something cool, he has to have it to display in his office."
From the beginning of the panel, there was a buzz in the room over the presence of "MAD Magazine" artist Sergio Aragones. "I have been a fan of the Simpsons from the day it came out. I was totally amazed by the humor and quality of the writing (on the show). I became a collector of everything Simpsons from day one." He explained the difficulty of writing new stories for such long beloved characters while staying true to their essence. "I love the characters so much that I don't want to diverse from them. I want to write them the way they are." With Aragones' monthly "MAD Magazine" schedule turned into a quarterly schedule, he was free to be pursued by Bongo's creative director Bill Morrison.
For Sergio, his task of producing single page gags soon evolved into short stories. One involved Bart building a rocket in the backyard, a project that snowballs into a national scandal. "Everyone adjust your eyeballs because this is going to knock them out." said Terry as he clicked to the next slide. The crowd roared in approval as a massively detailed two page spread showed the entirety of Springfield, climbing over and around the Simpsons' Evergreen Terrace household trying to get a glimpse of this rocket. Towe was one of the first to see the piece. "I was blown away. These pages are beautiful." Terry then went into detail explaining the amount of research Sergio put into the two page panel. "Actual types of machinery and rockets, jeeps and tanks, they're all totally drawn from (weapons)."