November 2018 will be the first month without a Bongo Comics publication since 1993. Disney acquired The Simpsons earlier this year and while I'm sure we'll be seeing plenty more Simpsons comics in the years to come under its new owner Disney, an era has definitely come to a close.
They first premiered in the midst of the 90s comics boom, and as the quality of the flagship show dropped off after season 7 or 8, the comics have been the only real place to enjoy pre-Season-7-or-8-quality Simpsons fare for anyone looking for it.
The sad news has occasioned some wonderful tributes, such as this by Gail Simone - a writer who got her start at the company - or this good-lord-this-is-what-I-wanted-to-read-for-years-about-Bongo overview/ farewell/ oral history at filmspringfield. Anyone seeking substantial information about the company should go to either of those posthaste; what follows is nowhere near as visually and textually informative.
But if it's random asides and pics of the comics I took from my phone you're looking for, let then let us proceed apace, arms-akimbo.
The first Bongos I ever picked up were in 2002:
|"Kif, I have made it with a woman. Inform the men."|
The occasion was a visit to the since-closed Atomic Comics near my then-new apartment. I'd seen Simpsons comics at supermarkets and what not (Bongos and Archies being the only comics you could find outside of comics shops by this point) but never picked any up. Seems weird in hindsight. Like many, I lived in a Simpsons bubble for most of the 90s; how did I never pick any up, even accidentally? But outside of The Sandman and assorted Alan Moore or Grant Morrison projects, I bought few comics altogether in the 90s. (I say this often enough where I can't tell if I repeat myself everytime comics come up or if it's actually relevant information. Anyway: I've made up for it - and how! - since.)
I enjoyed them, particularly Futurama #14:
|First, the set up.|
Great set-up! A comic you can read 7 times (1 for each character and then all the way through) is pretty much the opposite of how comics are made in the decompressed era. This appeals to me in general. And added throughout is an intermittent 7th panel of Scruffy, the USS Planet Express Ship's janitor.
|I did not include each and every one. But you get the idea. Inevitably:|
|Anti-punchlines like this almost always land with me.|
I was not a regular reader from that time on, although these 4 issues, but when I heard the news they were closing up shop, I made a conscious effort to pick up at least all the Simpsons-related material they they were putting out in their final months. Problem was, my local wasn't really keeping up, so I ended up having to order a lot of it. And once you order one, well - now I've got them lying in stacks all around the place and keep bothering my wife with "look at this panel!"s and various Simpsons voices. I've been totally Cuckoo for Bongo Puffs these past few months.
Speaking of which, the voices-in-your-head (ahem) aspect of these things is one of the best parts about Bongo. I have LLOL more times than I can mention reading these things, and often it's because you can't help reading certain things in the distinctive voices of the Simpsons cast. And this definitely improves the jokes. Take this last panel of "Judge Dredd-neck," for example, (Bart's and Milhouse's unauthorized entry into The Springfield Redneck Zone drags them into a blood feud between Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel's clan and his Cousin Merle's) from Summer Shindig #7.
It's funny just as a Cletus thing to garble but also as the sort of amusing mash-up of character/setting humor and subverted reference (in this case Dredd's catchphrase) that 90s Simpsons did so well. Twas a time (Cletus voice again) of less discriminatin' taste.
I took most of these pictures from my phone, which is a first for the Omnibus. I'm working on streamlining the process. It was more successful in some spots than others.
|Still working out some lighting issues.|
One of the first four Bongos I bought up there was a Bongo Super Heroes. I was at first reluctant to engage with this side of the Bongoverse. I think it was just the jawline similarities with other characters on The Simpsons. But then I started looking at it like an alternate universe to the Simpsonverse, with if-not direct counterparts (although this is explored in Simpsons Super Spectacular and elsewhere) then just broad visual strokes. Sort of like Futurama. I'm glad I got over it, because there's a lot to love here. The amount of intelligent parody and loving attention to comics history in Radioactive Man alone is worth the price of admission.
|If 1963 and Futurama had a baby, it would look like Simpsons Super Spectacular.|
Ian Boothby wrote a great many of the company's stories, but he was certainly not the only one. You can see Ty Templeton's credit up there and along with the aforementioned Miss Simone Bongo published work by Max Davison, Sergio Aragones, James Lloyd, and so many others. (Apparently Batton Lash is a real person? I always thought that was a psueodnym for Groening or something.) Please don't take my Labels as a comprehensive list. But a special chapeau to Ian Boothby, who wrote many of my favorite stories, including the Futurama / Simpsons Crossover Crisis.
|This isn't from the crossover, just one of Bootby's many great moments.|
|He and his wife do the horror comics from The New Yorker now.|
Starting in 2012, Bongo began releasing one-shots of individual characters from the Simpsons-verse, the first of which, Ralph Wiggum Comics, now commands a heftier price than all the others. As a result I haven't picked that or a couple of others yet, but this series more than any, perhaps, conveys the Bongo appeal. Always funny, always with something like a pair of 3-D glasses or bumper stickers that say "DON'T BLAME ME - I VOTED FOR KODOS" and loaded with great illustrations parodying the best of all media:
|Like Octopussy. Or Garbage Pail Kids. Or other Gen-x-childhood-y media too numerous to mention.|
I haven't read a bad one of these yet, but Duffman Adventures was a particularly unexpected delight.
|Later that issue: "Case closed, huh Duffman?"|
|Best Duffman joke ever.|
ALL GOOD THINGS...
Simpsons #245 wrapped up the Bongo Era of Comics in fine fashion, with a tale that had more than a few sly references to its own history as well as the show's.
|This gag below fittingly referenced the events of the very first issue.|
|The plot centers around a mutated rabbit that Lisa gets from the pet shop (All Creatures Great and Small and Cheap) that gets violent every time it sees a Bongo logo.|
|Lisa must solve the mystery, but it comes down to Maggie to save the day.|
|I don't know if this was a reference to some internal-Zardoz-inspired gag with the Gibbon Gone thing or just a Zardoz reference. Either way, though, it was not expected and very appreciated.|
|Thank you, Mr. Kane. I will miss The Bongo Beat.|
|It's funny, I never had time for these sorts of things as a kid but as an adult I feel this curious pull to clip them all and mount them in protective plastic and album display. I am resisting this pull... successfully, so far.|