The latest release from Bongo, Simpsons Illustrated #17, was given the alternate title “Runnin’ with the Wrong Crowd.” Inside were three unrelated stories, each achieving different levels of success. Let’s take a look.
“The Simpson Family Circus”
Oftentimes I’ve critiqued TV shows with the simple exclamation, “Simpsons did it first!” (South Park famously did a whole episode on this topic.) But this time it was The Simpsons that lifted a storyline – from Family Guy. Back in season 11, FG did an episode entitled “Ratings Guy,” in which the Griffins became a Nielsen family and subsequently controlled what was shown on TV. “The Simpson Family Circus” was essentially the exact same thing, except that the family also influenced fashion trends as well.
Despite having a rip-off of a storyline, this installment was the strongest and funniest of the issue. Consequently, most of the best bits came from this one, including a lot of spoofs and commentary about modern television programming. I appreciated the “tributes” to Robin Williams, Steve Irwin, and Dr. Seuss, as well as the nods to Conan O’Brien (but when was the last time he was actually on Comedy Central?), the season six Simpsons episode “The PTA Disbands” (“purple monkey dishwasher”), and Matt Groening. Still, I felt it was pretty corny at times and a lot of the jokes fell flat, with several of the lines sounding quite out of character for those involved. (Why did Groundskeeper Willie say, “Where’s me gold?” Is he some kind of leprechaun?
“Ralph Learns a Lesson”
I love Ralph Wiggum. LOVE HIM. But this installment was totally lame. Episodes like “I Love Lisa” and “This Little Wiggy” have proved that Ralphie can thrive as a co-star, but in a sole starring role? Not so much. At least not in comic book form. He was bamboozled by the bullies (Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney) and eventually tricked them back to get even, albeit unintentionally.
My biggest gripe? Although Ralph had a bunch of cute lines, none of them were especially quotable, and none of them made the list. A nice attempt overall, but it came up quite short.
“The Mediocre Misadventures of Martin & Milhouse! Bartless on a Tuesday”
Two Milhouse appearances in one issue? It must be my birthday. And he even managed to stay away from the weakest story. However, this installment didn’t fare too much better. There was a promising split between the Martin/Milhouse plot and the Bart one, but it got a bit shitty with the bit about needing Bartholomew for his skateboard, his insults, and his bully defenses. However, everything came full circle when it turned out Bart & Professor Frink needed Martin and Milhouse for their knowledge of robotics and glasses, respectively. Still, there weren’t enough laughs to keep this one afloat, short of the “Lost Our Lisa” reference where Bart said plastic facial augmentation was “so last millennium.”
1) “You can’t take away my cable!”
2) “TV programmers follow the data we collect very carefully so that they don’t accidentally put on anything that might be new or innovative. Or good.”
3) Three buttons on the oversized remote read: “Turn, Head, Cough.”
4) Milhouse’s lack of attractiveness: “Even the unshaved old men in the park tell me to move along.”
5) “Too ooky.”
6) I always appreciate a good Captain McCallister cameo.
7) Isaac Asimov’s Third Law of Robotics: “A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.”
I’m not a mathematician (or a mathemagician) but one slightly above average story, one slightly below average story, and one average story combines to form an average showing overall. Honestly, I think I would have preferred one great story and two duds, but that’s just me. In the end, Issue #17 is worth a read if you’re a fan and a collector of The Simpsons comics, but casual fans can save their four bucks.