1/12/2010. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: Titan Books. 128 page graphic novel. Price: GBP 8.99 (UK), $14.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-84856-519-7.
check out website: www.titanbooks.com
Obviously, 'The Simpsons' isn't Science Fiction or fantasy literature, but this volume of stories draws deeply on various myths, legends and fairy tales and as such has its own particular appeal. From the Ancient Greeks to the plays of Shakespeare, there's a good deal of source material here that Matt Groening has drawn on to create new situations for his characters to inhabit. But while their habitat might have changed from Springfield to the ancient world, the characters remain the ones we're familiar with and there are lots of fun anachronism thrown in as well - look out for the Israelite slot machine!
As always with 'The Simpsons', this comicbook work on two levels, relatively simple situational humour on the surface but with a more knowing subtext underneath that requires some literary knowledge to fully understand. So while the story 'Julius Caesar' is partly slapstick comedy with lots of puns, there are also more subtle gags involving Shakespeare's play, the persecution of the Christians and the famous love affair of Antony and Cleopatra. Likewise, 'Noah's Ark' doesn't just goof around with the biblical story, it throws in some jokes about evolution and extinction of the dinosaurs as well.
While Groening started out as a cartoonist, given the success of the 'Simpsons' brand, it won't be a surprise to know that most of the graft is done by other writers and artists. Nonetheless, the quality is high, up to the usual 'Simpsons' standard, and hidden about are lots of little visual gags that supplement the storytelling. It's impossible to know how much of this comes from Groening and how much from the rest of the team, but that's par for the course with these sorts of TV tie-in comicbooks.
Not everyone likes those episodes of 'The Simpsons' that take place outside Springfield and those folks probably won't enjoy 'Simpsons Comics: Get Some Fancy Book Learnin'.' But anyone else who enjoys the exploits of the Simpson family and their friends will probably find this book worth reading. It's slightly more literary feel adds to its weight and while the book doesn't have the same depth as, say, the best 'Asterix' books, this is still a fun and entertaining read.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA