Jan 3, 2012

[Comics] The Simpsons / Futurama Crossover Crisis

I picked up this compilation during one of the holiday says over at Fully Booked. At 20% off for most titles, it seemed the best time to venture into graphic novels that I wouldn't normally pick up at full price.

To be fair, I have a history for collecting Bongo Comics, so this purchase wasn't totally unrealistic. Back at the height of my comic book collecting period, I actually snagged the first few issues of The Simpsons comics, Itchy and Scratchy and Radioactive Man, given my love of The Simpsons. I had always found the comics to be a wonderful translation of the sensibilities of the animated show, so I was pretty sure the writing behind this piece would be somewhere in the same neighborhood.

If anything, we've all come to appreciate how the Matt Groening products employ a particular brand of humor that is never afraid to cross the boundary into meta storytelling and of course a lot of satire of current events and popular culture. And in this particular crossover epic, they made sure to explore a lot of different comic book tropes along with all the usual gags and antics that we already associate with these characters.

In other words, it was pretty fun.

The Simpsons / Futurama Crossover Crisis is actually a compilation of two separate comic book crossovers between the two franchises. The first being the Futurma / Simpsons Infinitely Secret Crossover Crisis and the other being the Simpsons / Futurama Crossover Crisis II, which were released nearly three years apart. Both were written by Ian Boothby for Bongo Comics.

The kick of this meta crossover story arc, we are first introduced to a bizarre election in Springfield with Mayor Quimby up against Snowball II (the cat) in an election. But this story just turns out to be a comic book that Futurama chracter Fry is reading whole he and the rest of the Planet Express crew make their way to Nerdanus XII to have the biggest comic book collection in the universe sealed in liquid diamond in order to preserve its value forever.

Cover of issue #1.
Image via Wikipedia
Once there, the crew are attacked by the nefarious Brain Spawn, who are still using the same stupification ray from the Futurama episode "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid". As much as Fry remains immune to the effects of the ray, he's unable to prevent the Brain Spawn from dropping him and the Planet Express crew in the issue of The Simpsons comic that he had been reading during the trip. Now the team needs to find their way out of the fictional comic book world of Springfield before they're forever trapped. And the fact that being transported into the comic book has also triggered a case of temporary amnesia isn't helping things either.

This collection include the different issues that make up the story arcs and a number of bonus features like concept art by various guest artists in the theme of the series along with a sample of how the panels develop from initial concept to final inked result. Also, the set came with a separate copy of The Simpsons issue #1, which was kind of a cool thing to find in this innovative box set.

The actual story of course is just a blatant excuse to get the characters of the two shows in the same place only to see how they'd all interact. And there are some obvious parallels between the Futurama and Simpsons properties that make for instant points of interaction (e.g. Homer and Bender drinking, Fry trying to be as hip as Bart, etc) that did work out pretty well. But what I really loved was how the series really opted to go meta here and there such as the British Invasion and the inevitable inclusion of major comic book superheroes, albeit hidden in shadow to avoid copyright infringement issues.

Given all that, don't expect some amazingly tight and coherent plot. One scene won't exactly flow into the other and the only real achievement here is the fact that the two stories still make sense when put alongside one another. As much as the original comic book story arc ended with a gag image that was eventually retconned in the second series to make it real, it's not like we really expected things to connect from one point to another as well as it did. Thus one can only appreciate that bit of creative maneuvering and how they got all their ducks in a row.

I appreciated the fact that they made sure to include some of the comic books mentioned in the story as separate stories. Thus in the first arc, we do get to find out how Snowball II was able to become a valid mayoral candidate and the second arc features its own sub-story involving Chief Wiggum as he goes on a animal spirit journey after eating some viciously spicy chili. These bonus features helped flesh out the story more and had us constantly trying to reinforce where the lines between the realities lay. And I admit that does become a bit trickier as you go through things.

But to be fair, The Simpsons / Futurama Crossover Crisis is a great collection that makes for a worthwhile addition to the library of any fan of both animated shows. And as much as all sch comic book crossover events are often silly ways for publishers to try and make more money off of us, this book doesn't pretend to be anything other than that and sort of revels in that irony. Thus the whole collection gets 4 crazy British celebrities involved in the British Invasion out of a possible 5.

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