Issue 172 of “Simpsons Comics” serves up a Christmas story that might help you get into the holiday spirit, even though it’s skillful enough to put good comedy before good tidings. It’s been that way since the very beginning – when Fox took Matt Groening’s animated shorts from “The Tracey Ullman Show” and expanded them into a hit sitcom in 1989, the first episode was “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” which set the tone for the hundreds of episodes that have followed. They may not have had Charlie Brown’s innocence or the Grinch’s ugly charm, but the Simpsons’ chemistry in that first episode was a sign that they were going to be on TV for a pretty long time.
That opened the door to a bunch of merchandising, of course, which is how our favorite post-nuclear family got its own comic book. It’s for kids, but there’s a lot here that grown-ups would appreciate, like the Christmas burnout Homer gets in this issue. When a trip to buy gifts gives him a nervous breakdown that lands him in the hospital, little Lisa suggests that they’d be better off not buying presents at all – much to the chagrin of Bart, who thinks she might be rushing things. “We all need to think about it for a while,” he says. “Like until after Christmas! And after my birthday!”
It’s ironic, then, that when they take a trip to the farm where Homer grew up, he finds a bunch of pine trees that inspire him to sell them as Christmas trees. You’d think he would’ve learned by now that his get-rich-quick schemes go nowhere, but I guess you don’t make it to 172 issues by having good sense.
Meanwhile, there’s trouble brewing at the Kwik-E-Mart, where storeowner Apu gets an offer he can’t refuse from tough-guy crook Snake, who wants a cut of Apu’s profits from Christmas merchandise. Such items are also big with Krusty the Clown, who’s not only got his likeness on the new ChristmasCorp Store in town, but has a TV special he’s working on, one he’s sure to pull off without any show-stopping climaxes taking place.
This may sound like a pretty stressful Christmas, but remember that Springfield can’t even make it through Halloween without zombies parading through its streets. You might figure that the Simpsons are getting off easy here, particularly with a guy like Homer in charge. He actually kept score on an episode that aired a few years ago: “Let’s see – this’ll make three Christmases I saved versus eight I ruined, two were kind of a draw…”
This article originally appeared on AllmediaNY.com