If you’re between the ages of 30 and 50, The Simpsons’ annual Treehouse of Horror special was likely an important facet of your childhood. In fact, we have argued that it’s important, period. It’s always fun to revisit each anthology episode, but what if I told you there are hundreds of pages of Treehouse of Horror comics? That, and it comes in an affordable extra-sized hardcover out this week!
The first ever Treehouse of Horror omnibus is now available, and it’s quite impressive. Collecting stories from 1995 onward, there are 23 comics originally published by Bongo that make up this 416-page book of horror delights.
Utilizing the anthology format of the Treehouse of Horror episodes from The Simpsons, the stories within this collection range from horror adaptations of Lord of the Rings to incredibly twisted and dark slashers with familiar characters killing other familiar characters. It’s a collection any Simpsons fan would adore, but it’s an easy recommendation for fans of comics as well.
It’s impressive just how many different tales there are in this collection. It’s easy to understand once you see how many comic and celebrity icons filled the pages with art and stories. We’re talking Michael Allred, Sergio Aragonés, Eric Powell, Stan Sakai, Kyle Baker, Kelley Jones, Evan Dorkin, Jeffrey Brown, Jill Thompson, Gail Simone, Mark Hamill, Jeff Smith, Thomas Lennon, and Patton Oswalt, to name just a few. Of course, Matt Groening supplies stories too.
There are so many comic greats involved that the book comes with a much-appreciated creator index at the back. You might find yourself looking through the list and thumbing backward to read their story, or simply opening the book at random to get a horror fix with stories that range from a few pages to comical one-page house ad spoofs.
The book is organized by theme, starting with “Invasions From Beyond”, then “Technology Run Amok”, “Trick or Terror”, “Chilling Killer Thrills”, and “From the Shadows”, before wrapping things up with “Parallel Parables”. You might have guessed that each section gives you different horror themes like aliens and the dangers of technology.
Beware parents who may remember the cartoon being fairly tame as this book goes pretty hard and graphic with its stories. Not every story is like this, of course, with many as tame if not more so than the animated series. Mark Hamill’s story “Catastrophe in Substitute Springfields,” for instance, utilizes Comic Book Guy in a fun way as he attempts to use a special ray to duplicate highly rare comics for resale. This goes terribly wrong as the machine eventually reprints a worthless comic. Drawn by Bill Morrison (who supplies the art for many tales), the story is hilarious due to it understanding of The Simpsons and comic nerds so well.
Stories like Eric Powell’s, on the other hand, are as edgy as any horror comic you’ll read in modern comics. Titled “Willie: Portrait of a Groundskeeper,” this story mixes in the horniness of Bart and Millhouse with incredible violence and worse. We’re talking Groundskeeper Willie waking up with an animal after making love to it and Marge being cooked and served like a meal! If you enjoy his iconic The Goon series, you’ll delight in the art style Powell delivers and the edgy humor. It’s a fabulous story drawn by Morrison. It captures the heart of what makes The Simpsons so fun and what makes comic nerds so obnoxious.
Paul Dini’s story “The Cask of Amontillado-D’oh” features a darker edge. In this case, Moe changes up his patrons who don’t pay for their drinks. Dan Brereton draws the story, which is dastardly, macabre, and truly indie in feel. Many stories in this omnibus feel like they don’t belong within the antiseptic-looking and mega-popular Simpsons line of comics. They’re that cool.
Stan Sakai’s story is straight out of The Wizard of Oz, as Lisa attempts to make sense of Springfield changing. Mr. Burns ends up being the Wicked Witch, of course, and it’s a delightfully bright and cute story.
Fans of superheroes will love Chris Yambar and Tone Rodriguez’s “One Bart and Stormy Night.” The story features Bartman, but it’s basically a straight Batman adaptation. We’re talking Barny as Killer Croc and Lisa as Joker, who goes by the name Giggler. The story looks fantastic in the extra-sized format, and there’s a fun twist on Arkham as it holds everyone pranked by Bartman.
There are plenty of movies and TV shows spoofed in this book. Evan Dorkin takes a crack at Family Guy in a super cool visual way, for instance, while Patton Oswalt and artist Jason Ho spoof They Live in a story called “They Draw.” The latter story takes some cracks at other movies too, but boy is the sunglasses idea used well for a comic book. In the story, Lenny can see the world around him in uncolored pencils on graph paper. Truly haunting for a comic character.
You could go on and on with the quality of tales in this collection, so I’ll talk about just one more by comic greats Gail Simone and Jill Thompson. The tale originally published in a 2002 issue which goes by the name “Tales from the Kwik-E-Mart.” Like a twisted The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, this tale is told via rhyme with excellent art depicting cereal mascots attacking the family. Over five pages, every panel tells a story, be it a toucan pecking Homer’s head or Marge being chased by a leprechaun.
All that, and the collection is also handsomely made. The extra-sized book is in hardcover, with a beautiful inset like a Simpsons horror wallpaper. It all slides into a slipcase that glows in the dark. The hardcover also has some texture to it where characters are placed with a shiny material used in the absence of characters to create a cool effect.
I can’t recommend The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Ominous Omnibus Vol. 1: Scary Tales & Scarier Tentacles enough. Not only does it have a treasure trove of comic book talent contributing stories, but it feels expensive in your hands for under $40. Fans of horror, comics, The Simpsons, or even a wacky good time will adore this slice of comic history.
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