Review Date: Friday, December 19, 2008

Welcome back to Bongo Congo!  That's Entertainment owner Paul Howley recently informed me that in addition to the 1960's Saturday morning cartoon show, our Good King Leonardo had his own Dell comic book.  That interesting fact made me wonder how current t.v. cartoon shows were faring in today's printed comic book world.  As such, this week's Bongo Congo reviews features two comic book versions of a popular modern-day television cartoon sitcoms:

Futurama Comics #40
Publisher: Bongo Comics
Eric Rodgers: Script
Mike Kazaleh: Pencils
Dan Davis: Inks

     Futurama is the cartoon sitcom created in the 1990's by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening.  For those of you not familiar with the show or the comic book, the main character is Philip J. Frye, a couch potato of a New York City pizza deliveryman who is accidentally frozen on New Year's Eve 2000 and wakes up in New New York (not a typo!) on New Year's Eve, 2999.
            The series plots revolve around Frye's new job as an interplanetary deliveryman for Planet Express, run by his elderly descendent, the eccentric inventor Professor Farnsworth.  Other characters among Frye's friends and co-workers include Leela, who is Frye's unrequited love interest (she's also the one-eyed mutant Planet Express ship's captain), alien lobster physician Dr. Zoidberg, Amy, Hermes and the foul-mouthed, cigar-chomping, booze-guzzling robot Bender (Frye's best buddy, of course!).
            Futurama Comics is published by Matt Groening's Bongo Comics line.  Issue #40 is scripted by Eric Rodgers with art by Mike Kazaleh (pencils) and Dan Davis (inks).  The story, entitled "Robot Santa's Little Helpers," is a timely Christmas season story with several holiday sub-plots, including robot Bender becoming an obnoxious store Santa, and the Planet Express gang having comedy adventures delivering stuff to Robot Santa's planet.  This is a comic book spin-off on the t.v. show premise that Santa Clause in the Year 2999 is a psycho killer robot that people avoid like the plague on Christmas Eve.
            What I was hoping for in reading this comic was a comic book version of the t.v. show, and I wasn't disappointed.  Rogers and the art team capture the basic zany humor, Futurama world characterization and the art of the show very well, particularly including many of the little futuristic sight gags and riffs that makes watching a half hour of the t.v. show always fresh and enjoyable.
Only two minor criticisms, here.  First, the comic issue consisted of a single 25-page story.  The one story felt a little too long, most likely because I remember t.v. cartoon show-based comics back in the day publishing multiple shorter stories in each issue.  Secondly, this issue didn't include a mainstay of the t.v. show, namely the bottled talking heads of famous 20th century personalities who survive and function in 2999 New New York.  I know it sounds a bit creepy, but nothing's funnier than watching the bottled head of Richard Nixon running the world of 2999 as President of Earth.  Guest heads on the t.v. show are often voiced by their real life counterparts, such as Pamela Sue Anderson or Lucy Liu.
However, I'm sure that other issues of this comic prominently feature the missing talking heads.  So that aside, issue #40 was a lot of fun, and worth reading either as spin-off entertainment for t.v. show fans or just as a stand-alone comic book.

Simpsons Comics #146
Bongo Comics Group: Publisher
Eric Rodgers: Script        
Phil Ortiz: Pencils
Mike Decarlo: Inks 

     Our second cartoon comic reviewed this week also comes from creator Matt Groenig.  Simpsons Comics is obviously based on the long-running television show, which I mentioned in a previous column is the longest running sitcom, live or animated, in television history.

      Issue #146 is scripted by Eric Rodgers, with pencils by Phil Ortiz and inks by Mike Decarlo.  The story is entitled "A Skate With Destiny!" and centers around The Simpsons family mom Marge joining a local professional roller derby team.  Marge has her work cut-out for her in trying to win over her much younger, hostile teammates, making daughter Lisa proud of her and hopefully leading the "Springfield Spitfires" to the league championship.

      As with the Futurama comic reviewed above, I hoped for the same enjoyable experience of viewing the cartoon t.v. show in comic book form, and again I wasn't disappointed.  One consistent element that makes the t.v. show a classic is Groening and Company's ability to deliver each episode as a mix of basic cartoon fun with a serious, often-moving life lesson.

      The life lesson in issue #146 is a sub-plot involving Marge meeting her now-aged roller derby idol from childhood, "Mary Tyler Maul," and stealing her professional name and persona to become a local sports hero in her own right.  How both Marge and her sports mentor react to and resolve the situation provides us with the right mix of life message and poignancy that makes The Simpsons a beloved classic in t.v. or comic book format.

      Again, just a quick constructive criticism in that it seems to be a Bongo Comics policy to publish one long story in each of their comics, or at least in the issues reviewed for this week.  It would be more fun to have at least two shorter stories in Simpsons Comics; perhaps the second story could star one of the huge cast of supporting characters from the show, such as Groundskeeper Willy, Marge's twin sisters or the infamous Sideshow Bob! 

      So there you have it this week, two t.v. cartoon-related comic book reviews.  Good King Leonardo has thanked us for choosing a comic book publisher named after our good Kingdom.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that Bongo Comics isn't named after Bongo Congo, but instead is named after Bongo, one of creator Matt Groening's rabbit characters from his early comic strip entitled "Life In Hell."  I leave it to Crown Prince Itchy or True Blue Odie to break the news to our benevelont Lion King! 

Contest Announcement! 

No one entered our last contest to submit your favorite work of comic genre-related fiction.  So let's go back to our ongoing Comic Issue Of The Decade competition.  Last time we covered the decade of the 1990's, so this time let's try that "Back To The Future" decade of the 1980's.  E-mail me at Gordon_A@msn.com, telling me your favorite individual comic book issue of the 1980's and why you like it so much.  There was some great stuff published in the 1980's, such as the now classic Watchmen, early issues of Paul Chadwick's Concrete and, of course, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight, just to name a few.  So put on that "Back To The 80' thinking cap and enter the contest! 

Happy Holidays and see you back Here In Bongo Congo next week!


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