When most comics publishers put out annuals they usually coincide with the summer months, to take advantage of the increased buying of comic fans, or the Christmas Holiday season which allows them to create a nice holiday tie-in. For Bongo Comics, the publishers of the "Simpsons" and "Futurama" line of comic books, the big holiday they like to tie-in with is Halloween.
For eight years now Bongo has published a series of comics inspired by the popularity of the "Simpsons" Halooween specials called "Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror." Over the years the title has attracted big names in comics like Sergio Aragones, Mark Hamill, Mike Allred, Jill Thompson, Garth Ennis and many others. The specials have even been nominated and won a variety of Eisner Awards.
This year's "Treehouse of Horror" hopes for some of that same recognition and offers another impressive line-up of talent. Coming in September is "Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #8," a 48 page, full color comic featuring work by Hilary Barta, Ty Templeton, Scott Shaw!, Gail Simone and Jill Thompson. CBR News caught up with Bongo Comics Creative Director Bill Morrison to find out a bit more about this latest edition of Bongo's annual event.
"Our main goal every year is to take the opportunity to work with creators we really respect and admire," Morrison told CBR News when asked about the goals they hope to accomplish each issue. "We give them (pretty much) free reign with our characters and it's really a blast to see what they come up with. Although we're always working to improve all of our books, I don't think we really make a conscious effort to one-up ourselves with 'Treehouse.' It just seems to work out that way. However, I think the guest artists and writers are inspired by what has gone before and they may be trying to out-do the previous guest stars."
This issue of "Treehouse of Horror" includes four different stores.
"Ty Templeton wrote and drew a story in which Grampa accidentally kills the Simpsons family. A number of characters try to claim the Simpsons house but have to deal with the ghosts of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.
"Then Scott Shaw! did a story (in his own inimitable style this time!) about a demon-possesed clown car called 'Krustine' which comes into Homer's possession and turns him into a homicidal hot-rodder." When CBR News spoke with Shaw! he described it as a cross between Ed "Big Daddy" roth and Stpehen King's "Christine." Talk about when worlds collide!
"Hilary Barta's contribution isn't really a story, but a demented trip through the alphabet. He and Stephen D. Sullivan came up with 24 gruesome limericks with incredibly great and really gory illustrations to match.
"Finally, Gail Simone wrote a tale about demonic breakfast cereal mascots that come to life at The Simpsons kitchen table. This one is fully painted by Jill Thompson! Jill won an Eisner Award for writing 'Dark Lisa' for 'Treehouse of Horror #5.' Unfortunately she didn't have the time to do the art as well. We're really excited to finally see her artistic take on 'The Simpsons.'"
For Simone and Thompson, the opportunity to work together is one they've been looking forward to for a while.
"They had been looking for a project to do together for a while. Actually, Gail and Jill were working on a project for Marvel that fell through, so when we asked Gail to write a story for this issue, she suggested that Jill do the art. Of course, we thought that was a pretty swell idea."
Fans of Thompson's "Scary Godmother" shouldn't expect to see that character anywhere in this story, even in the background, because as Morrison joked, "If she did, Fox would probably claim ownership!"
One of the unique aspects of the "Treehouse" books is that the artists are allowed to create their stories in their own style and don't have to strictly adhere to the 'Simpsons' style as is done with the rest of the Bongo Comics line.
"When we invite someone to do a 'Treehouse' story they have the option to draw, paint, sculpt...whatever. It's up to the artist. The only rules are that the characters should retain the bulgy eyes and overbites," said Morrison.
You might think that a book like this would be a big seller consdering the number of fans of the television show there are, but getting the word out has proven difficult for the publisher. As is true with most every comics publisher, the money just isn't there for marketing.
"Because of our incredibly high page rates, we have very little budget for promotion or advertising at Bongo. Therefore we tend to ride on the popularity of the TV show. For the 'Treehouse' books we basically do our usual full-page Diamond ad, but we try to make the names of our guest stars as big and eye-catching as possible. I hope it's working or else we'll have to resort to nudity in our ads."
Finally, fans may remember Morrison published his own comic, "Roswell, Little Green Man" a number of years back through Bongo. A hectic schedule hasn't allowed him to return to the character as quickly as he'd like, but he does have plans to get there some day.
"Well, I'm working on a five issue story that I'm really having fun with. It's a time-travel tale that sends Roswell and Jasper to Europe during World War II where they meet up with a younger version of Julienne. It'll be a while before it's published though. I've been super busy with Futurama and with my usual Bongo duties. Then most of my free time is spent giving interviews, so...."
"Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #8" costs $3.50 US and will ship to stores this September.