The Guide To Bongo ComicsSubmitted by Achim Reinschmidt
NOTE: This guide was created in 1996 and remains archived here for historical reasons. For more up-to-date information, see The Simpsons Comics Guide.
Steve and Cindy Vance used to publish something called Simpsons Illustrated, which "was a quarterly fan magazine" and had "all sorts of tasty bits, including shots of the studio, trivia and other information" on the Simpsons (quoted from Gavan McCormack's now-defunct alt.tv.simpsons FAQ). They then went on to form Bongo Comics Group with their old pals Matt Groening and Bill Morrison. After a one-shot Simpsons Comics And Stories issue, Bongo started (in late 1993) publishing four titles: Simpsons Comics, Radioactive Man, Bartman and Itchy & Scratchy Comics.
Following below is an issue-by-issue guide to the comics published so far, divided into three parts: the first one is Bongo: Year One, and covers the one-shot, the Radioactive Man mini-series (6 issues), the first six Simpsons Comics issues, and the Itchy & Scratchy and Bartman runs (three issues each).
The second part, Bongo: Year Two, includes the Simpsons Comics issues 7 through 12 (the first ones of the post-Vance era), as well as several one-offs and mini-series published between late 1994 and late 1995. These are the Itchy And Scratchy x-mas special, the three-part Krusty Comics mini-series, issue #1 (the only one so far) of Lisa Comics, the Radioactive Man special, the second Bartman mini-series, and the Halloween special.
The third part, Current Issues, so far only includes Simpsons Comics #13, and will be updated as frequently as possible (I know, I know - there was a six-months gap between the last update and this one. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up a bit more regularly in future...).
The break between Parts One and Two is a natural one in so far as two decisive things happened to Bongo in late 1994: not only did Steve and Cindy leave, but Bongo was apparently also acquired by Marvel (what if any effect this will have remains to be seen). The story about the Marvel acquisition goes something like this: Marvel bought 51% of Welsh Publishing Group Inc., which apparently helped Bongo get out and published in return for a guarantee that they would deliver 18 issues to them (the ones in Year One), but were not actually mentioned anywhere in the books. According to Jason Grode, managing editor of Bongo, Matt Groening owns Bongo 100% and can re-negotiate with Welsh and thus Marvel (I got this from Combo #1, a comics magazine). I guess the fact that Simpsons #7 took quite some time to come out indicates that they did re-negotiate, and it still doesn't say either Welsh or Marvel anywhere on the cover or inside. (At the time of writing this latest revision in October '95, nothing has changed from these comments made earlier in the year.)
In an interview in Overstreet Comic Book Monthly #7/Nov. 93 (one of those collectors' mags that publish pages upon pages of price guides for rare and old comics), MG talks about how he was introduced to comics at the age of 6 in his elder brother Mark's secret clubhouse, "a treasure trove of some of the greatest comics of the 50's" such as Mad, EC horror comics and Superman. The writers and artists at Bongo definitely know their comics history: Radioactive Man is full of references to and parodies of especially superhero comics through the ages. It's also very funny that of all people the rebel Bart is a caped crusader, and that he "would worship a hero named Radioactive when Radioactive Man is obviously Bart's father" (M.G.)
In general, Simpsons Comics goes along the lines of the TV show, with all the usual characters and running gags. Bartman also features these, but is a bit more surreal and actually looks like what's going on in Bart's imagination (maybe it could be compared to the Halloween episodes on TV, which also are a bit removed from the normal Simpsons reality). Radioactive Man is (as it was on TV in episode 7F21, "Three Men And A Comic Book") simply Bart's favourite comic and the issues published by Bongo pretend to be the real McCoy: there are issues from every decade/ superhero era, and they are numbered accordingly. However, the stories are much more satirical than your normal Superman comic (RM is a bit of a doofus, just like Homer). Itchy & Scratchy Comics translates the mayhem from the TV clips onto the printed page, but goes beyond this by showing the off-screen lives of the actors: they exist in a world where everyone else, including the director, is an animal character (Roger Meyers, who is the CEO of the I&S production company on TV, does not appear). All these are what in the comics world apparently are known as different "universes", and in a parody of sales-boosting tactics by comic book publishers, Itchy And Scratchy #3, Simpsons #5 and Bartman #3 form a continuous story called "When Bongos Collide".
Information pertaining to all titles (unless stated otherwise in individual entry):
Finally, I regret that I can offer no really useful hints on how to obtain back issues - or even current ones - if you're living in Europe. In the U.S., there are plenty of comic stores and mail-order firms that have back issues available, and here in Australia there are also a few good stores in the capital cities, although prices for first issues of any Bongo title here tend to be quite steep - around 10 to 15 dollars Australian. There is a guide - posted to rec.arts.comics.info - to comic stores around the world, maintained by Jeff Mason, editor of indy magazine (email@example.com), which might help you.
Bongo have also published three "trade paper-backs", that is, bound collection reprints of old Simpsons Comics. The first one, Simpsons Comics Extravaganza collects/reprints issues 1-4, the second, Simpsons Comics Spectacular 6-9. There is also Bartman - The Best of the Best, collecting the first two Bartman issues as well as the three-issue "When Bongos Collide" series (that is why Simpsons #5 is not in either of the first two TPBs). All three TPBs are 10 dollars US, have 128 pages, and should be available from comic stores. At the moment, there is also a shrink-wrapped pack around that has all six Radioactive Man issues in it. Not sure how much this costs, but it would be excellent value just for getting all issues. I think it's made to look like a "real" remaindered issues pack (another comics in-joke, I assume).
HTML document created January 14, 1996 by Gary Goldberg.
Update: Bongo Comics in 2002
1440 S. Sepulveda Blvd. 3rd Floor
Los Angeles California 90025
ph: 310 966 6168
Karen Bates, Rick Reese and Art Villanueva
Jason Ho, Mike Rote
Thanks to Art Villanueva for the update! -JP
Last updated on June 19, 2002 by Jouni Paakkinen (firstname.lastname@example.org)