Rich Kreiner: Simpsons Comics Presents Bart Simpson #53 by Carol Lay and others

Posted by on July 6th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Bongo Comics; 36 pp.; $2.99; Color

Over the past year Bongo Comics has been rewarding readers who’ve paid attention to the creative rosters of the company’s books. The last Treehouse of Horror was the traditional guest star extravaganza as wrangled by editor Sammy Harkham and featured the likes of Kevin Huizenga, D. Zettwoch, C.F., John Kerschbaum, Ben Jones, Jordan Crane, Tim Hensley and Jeffrey Brown. After that Sergio Aragonés took over a pair of comics, Simpsons Comics Presents Bart Simpson #50 and Simpsons Comics #163. All three comics have appreciative reviews from me somewhere around here in the electromagnetic ether, but that’s not the point.

The point is that with Simpsons Comics Presents Bart Simpson #53, Carol Lay joins the House of Bongos. Lay, particularly with her syndicated strip Story Minute, has proven herself a concise weaver of — on occasion — tall tales of — on occasion — resonance and purpose. It’s the same with this comic’s lead story.

Lay has a quirky sensibility and twitchy sense of perception. It’s limiting but not wholly inaccurate to say it includes a feminine perspective (I am no longer able to confidently divine where a formal feminist point of view is directed). Exhibit A within this comic is how effectively Lisa Simpson commandeers the story from titular brother Bart.

Part of the treat of established artists taking over established characters is seeing the fresh stylistic wrinkles added to the model sheet, fresh interpretation of personality and fresh imaginings of behavior. Lay is capable and willing to render the familiar figures close to their established appearances (which is not easy, especially given how readily pinprick pupils swimming in bulbous eyeballs lend themselves to a crazed look even when not intended). By way of “Easter eggs,” Lay seeds the student body with cameos of kids who appeared once during the animated show’s long run specifically to accommodate celebrity guest voices.

Better, though, are the liberties taken in plot and manner. This “Mystery of the Pesky Desk” shows Lisa at her most enterprising in order to solve the whatdunit. But it also has her ranging far from her well-known patterns of behavior, including becoming popular, wearing a functioning astronaut’s suit and mooning her class. As those acts would suggest, this is a pretty fantastical — and fast moving — story (who would have otherwise guessed that Bart was so uncommonly accomplished with drywall?). Still it remains no more madcap and implausible than anything in the TV show from, oh, the seventh season on.

But best are the little jokes and asides that Lay secrets throughout the story as both high and low comedy. My favorite involves Ralph Wiggum who, upon hearing Lisa received a test grade of F, blankly intones “I hear the hoof-beats of four enormous horses.”

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One Response to “Rich Kreiner: Simpsons Comics Presents Bart Simpson #53 by Carol Lay and others”

  1. MrJM says:

    Anyone who can write a worth-while Simpsons tale that has Lisa at its center — as opposed to the “what’s Lisa whining about now” stories — is dearly welcomed.

    — MrJM