Halloween would not be the same without The Simpsons. For over thirty years televisions longest-running animated sitcom has delivered the laughs and terrors with its annual anthology series Treehouse of Horror.
It is impressive to look back at the Simpsons annual Halloween specials. Starting in season two, this year marks the 31st edition to the series within a series. Though this year’s edition will not air until November 1st, that is one Treehouse of Horror episode for each day of October. With three stories per episode, there are over 90 unique plots and satires. For a total of over 10 hours of content when put together.
These numbers are more impressive when you consider that majority of television shows do not get the chance to put out this much content in their complete runs. And not many of them spawn their own toys or get their own video game.
Though the Treehouse of Horror collection is already substantial, there are over 60 more additional stories to the series that most of us have completely missed out on.
Anyone who has not read a Simpsons’ comic book is missing out. Adaptations of adult animated comedies a secretly some of the best comics on the rack. Recent Rick and Morty comic titles are an even match for what is being accomplished on the show. They can be a treasure trove of unknown artists and writers. Dan Slott who has written more Spider-Man than anyone else who has ever lived got his big break on Ren and Stimpy books.
It also should not be ignored that The Simpsons have a lot of origins tied to the funny books. Creator Matt Groening made a name for himself with his collection of Life in Hell strips. A series that featured anthropomorphic rabbits and the strange homosexual Charlie Brown rip-offs Akbar & Jeff. Groening’s always stayed true to his comic ties managing to produce Life in Hell stories from 1977 to 2012. Later, the famous creator co-founded Bongo Comics to feature his newly popular animated series The Simpsons.
Unfortunately, Bongo Comics closed their doors and concluded the lovable literary adaptations of the beloved franchise in late 2018. The self-titled series wrapped up with an impressive 245 issue run. There were an insane number of spin-offs, including Itchy and Scratchy, a Comic Book Guy mini-series, and many superhero stories featuring Bartman.
Yet, like the television show, Bongo Comics would release a special horror issue annually during the autumn season.
Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror comic books later named The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror was a direct adaptation of the annual television episodes. The first issue was released in 1995 and continued the annual tradition for 23 years, ending in 2017. The anthology-style books followed the shows lead and would include anywhere from 2 to 10 stories, most often 3.
Majority of the additions were satires of famous horror and science fiction plots. The first story in the first issue is a retelling of Little Shop of Horrors and they get crazier from there. Within the comics are parodies of classics from Edgar Allen Poe and masterpiece films like Nosferatu. You will also find some of your favourite pop culture themes revisited in Simpsons style like Ghostbusters, The Walking Dead, and X-Files. And that is not even touching on some of the more unique pieces.
The Treehouse of Horror comic books included their own special tradition to the series. The annual book would feature stories from different writers and artists. Some of the biggest names in comic books like Garth Ennis, Mike Allred, and Marv Wolfman have thrown their hat into the Treehouse cauldron. Even comedians like Brian Posehn and Patton Oswalt, who have both appeared in the show, added their talents to the anthology series.
Even more fun was the rock stars that helped to scribe the unforgettable tenth issue in 2004. Rob Zombie helped to put together a parody of his own feature film House of 1000 Corpses. Alice Cooper wrote and appeared in a “The Legend of Batterface”. And you can find Bart in full Kiss attire in a piece written by Gene Simmons. Hilariously, the final addition to the book was from 1950’s pop sensation Pat Boone.
Not to forget about the artwork, Simpsons’ comic books feature some of the greatest artists of the franchise that never worked on the show. Bill Morrison’s covers are considered masterpieces by Simpsons fans and his tireless efforts on the comic books are one of the main reasons why they were successful. Beyond that, there is an eclectic mix of styles throughout the 23 issues. You will discover some of the greatest Simpsons illustrations out there within the Treehouse of Horror comic books.
There are a lot of horror anthologies out there. Never mind film and television, horror was one of the original genres that helped to establish the funny books. But none of them have accomplished what The Simpsons has with Treehouse of Horror. Between the show and these beautiful comic books, there are over 150 unique stories involving a collection of pop cultures most mystifying tales. Where other horror anthologies can make you squirm with plots about ghosts and monsters, Treehouse of Horror delivers a collection of some of the greatest stories ever told.
Any fan of the annual Simpsons Halloween episode is doing themselves a disservice by not reading these books. Comic stores and conventions are filled with back catalogues and these books and many other Simpsons titles are sitting there available for under a dollar.
The real shame is that many of these books are equivalent if not better than what the show has managed to produce. This annual comic series began during the height of Simpsons’ popularity and quality. Many of the pieces are as memorable, chilling, and lovable as the most classic editions of the television series.
So, while we are all binging on the massive Treehouse collection on Disney+, let us not forget about these horrific and terrifying additions to the series.