Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year: The Simpsons by Sergio Aragonés

Posted by on March 20th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

A few weeks ago I drew comfort from the fact that even though The Simpsons was 20 years along it still had the ability to fire the imaginations of “alternative,” perhaps younger, cartoonists. The offered evidence was the most recent Treehouse of Horror annual edited by Sammy Harkham. I should have noted at the same time that Springfield’s most famous family can additionally still inspire at least one seasoned professional.

Sergio Aragonés has done both story and art for two of the clan’s recent comics: last year’s Simpsons Comics Presents Bart Simpson #50 and last month’s Simpsons Comics #163. The first features two longer stories, one involving a rocketship cobbled together by Bart and Milhouse with the help of Professor Frink on the front lawn, and the other about the kids ducking a sanctioned school outing to a Cirque Du Soleil-esque troupe in favor of a “real” circus. The second comic hosts a full-length tale of Homer-induced chaos involving the nuclear plant’s warning system functioning properly and not.

Of course, plot is mere mechanical contrivance. The real reason to read the comics is to watch Sergio render city-wide panic, the riots in the town square, the drinking frenzy at Moe’s, the assault of the media and military on the Simpson manse, the clowns, elephants and three-ring tumult under the big top, and the elaboration and ornamentation and detail that fill each frame.

Animation and busyness is Sergio’s wheelhouse and he does not disappoint. His is a love of the busied hand, of the epic captured in a single panel, a style of visual excitement that came to us recently in Where’s Waldo? from its cartoon origins in Hogan’s Alley. His passing interest is everywhere and everywhere repays ours, from the taped-over name of “Flanders” on the Simpsons mailbox to the fleeing duck in a hardhat.

So you come for the name – Sergio – and stay alert for the art. Like plot, characterization is a vehicle and sure, for sticklers, figuration might seem a bit rubbery. But that’s an easy trade-off to make in favor of the vitality in Aragonés’ full-bore fluidity. Who else lavishes such eased, natural and assiduous attention? Who manifests such unselfconscious, handcrafted curiosities? Where else will you see a bedroom scene with Homer at a domestic distance, brushing his teeth, his mouth afoam, reaching for a bath towel as he talks to Marge? It’s that reach, small, subtle, spontaneous and utterly grace-filled, that lifts the whole tableau from joke to human comedy. When you add in the pattern of the floor-length shower curtain and the flagrantly beaded lamp cord, the frantic foolery elsewhere comes into more rounded perspective as just the more enthusiastic expression of affectionate, generous and profoundly humane humor.

Images by Sergio Aragonés ©2009 Bongo Entertainment, Inc.

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One Response to “Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year: The Simpsons by Sergio Aragonés”

  1. Oh man, I saw the first one in the grocery store a while back and did a double-take – “Sergio Aragones is drawing The Simpsons?” I almost picked it up, but it didn’t quite grab me enough beyond the surprise of the pairing. I’ll have to look for that second one, though; the addition of nuclear hijinks may pry my dollars free.

    I’m not sure if I’d consider him a favorite, but whatever liveliness I manage to bring to drawing springs at least in part from time spent looking at Aragones’ comics in my youth.