When I get to the end of 2009 and think back to assemble a top ten list of the year’s best individual issues, the only question on my mind right now is how high upon that list Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #15 will be. Edited by Kramers Ergot maestro Sammy Harkham, this annual event comic is a short Simpsons story anthology featuring an all-star lineup of indie creators, like Jeffrey Brown, Jordan Crane, and Kevin Huizenga. And really, the Ben Jones’ contribution “Boo-tleg” was better than any new Simpson’s episode I remember seeing since before college.
Simpsons licensing has come a long way since its early “Don’t have cow, man” Wal-Mart T-shirt days. The Kid Robot projects like this Ralph Wiggum, mini-vinyls, and Bart Simpson Qees have been particularly impressive. At its best, the Simpsons has always been playfully self-aware of its nature as an industrial IP goldmine of a cartoon, though at its worst its become totally self-consuming by taking such humor a step to far inwards.
Some of the creators in this issue really took the reins and ran, like Matthew Thurber and Kevin Huizenga did in their “Call of Vegulu” story, which is a Cthulu spook focused on the Green industry. Granted that one puttered out in the last two or three panels, but the story qualities overall could have been segments in a better season’s “Treehouse of Horrors” episode. And I’ll be darned if its not the best colored comic I’ve picked up in months, particularly with “Boo-tleg,” a tale about Apu’s counterfeit leading-brand candy starts poisoning the citizens of Springfield and he starts replacing them with bootleg substitutes to avoid suspicion in their murders. Amid that story, Ted May’s writing in “Mo’ Bodies Moe Problems,” and Jeffrey Brown’s unforgettably Jeffrey Brown-infused “Bad Milhouse” story at the end, this is one of the few $5 comics I’ve ever picked up that felt like a deal.