Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E21 – Three Men and a Comic Book

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Ah, here’s a story I relate to. The perils of collecting comic books! We start the episode off having Marge drive Bart and Lisa to a comic convention. And let me tell you, comic-con’s are fun. I’ve only been to the Denver one, but it’s a blast to see all the coplay, the speakers, the artwork, and all the collectibles. I’m a big comic geek, so cons are like holy gatherings for me. And I love that Marge is taking the kids to one, even though it didn’t seem like she came in with them, just drops them off. It’s also a great gag that Lisa likes Casper comics, and the kids theorize that Casper is the ghost of Richie Rich, who killed himself due to the spiritual emptiness of greed. And if there’s anything that’s indicative of comic book fans, it’s trying to rationalize your own crazy theories.

The kids wander around the comic-con, having fun. We see Bart try to gain reduced admission by dressing as Bartman, which does not work. Bart and Milhouse go see a lecture by the actor who played Fallout Boy in a serial version of Radioactive Man from the 50’s, and the guy is super weird now, and starts weeping when Bart asks him about the original actor’s bullet riddled body being found in a bordello. We also see Jimbo make fun of Mayor Quimby for not knowing Radioactive Man’s name. But the real plot of the episode gets going when Bart finds a booth ran by Comic Book Guy, who is selling a copy of Radioactive Man #1, and will sell it to Bart for $100. Now, I’ve always thought Comic Book Guy was a weird character. I guess he’s a pretty accurate stereotype for some comic book shop owners, but the only one I ever go to has some great guys working there, who always try to help out, not act snobby about things you don’t know. I imagine if you went to a shop ran by someone like Comic Book guy, and admitted you knew nothing, it would be super hard to get into comics. Which is a shame.

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Bart really wants to buy the comic, but he doesn’t have enough money, so he has to leave the con, empty handed, but desperate for money. He tries to convince Homer to just give him the money, but Marge instead tells him a story about how when she was a girl and wanted an E-Z Bake oven she became Patty and Selma’s slave to save up money to buy one herself, and they convince Bart to get a job to afford the comic. Then we get a weird Wonder Years reference where we hear Bart have narration before Homer yells at him for staring into space. And then we get an act of Bart trying to make money, with limited success. He tries lemonade, but no one is biting, so he ends up selling Homer’s beer, and even pays off Eddie and Lou, but his business venture is shut down when Homer shows up and is furious. But he finally finds steady employment when Marge mentions his predicament at the beauty salon, and elderly Mrs. Glick says she has chores for Bart. He goes and starts working for her, doing all sorts of terrible manual labor while Mrs. Glick watches soap operas, and just generally acts like every super old lady I’ve ever met in my life. Mrs. Glick was hilarious. To the old candy and the creepy décor, everything about her was perfect. I also laughed my ass off when she was watching the soap opera and said “Filthy…but genuinely arousing.” But after doing all of Mrs. Glick’s terrible chores, she only ends up giving Bart a fifty cents, and he’s no closer to getting the comic.

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Bart goes to the comic shop to covet the issue, when he finds Martin also trying to buy it. But just like him, Martin doesn’t have enough money. And when Milhouse comes in to buy a baseball card, they decide that if they pool their money, they’ll have enough for the comic. So they do, and quickly realize that they didn’t think this through very well when they all want to take it home. So they go to Bart’s treehouse to read it together, and man did they make the panels of Radioactive Man #1 spot on. The ridiculously melodramatic dialogue and the art are so Silver Age of comics. It was great. And I love that the kids have bought this super rare comic, and are reading it. As a comic book fan, I’ve never understood the people who buy these super rare comics. They don’t read them. They keep them in mylar and try to keep them in mint condition. And that’s nonsense to me. If I want to buy a comic, it’s because I want to read it. I just don’t understand the mindset of buying something, just to have it be like, a status symbol, or I suppose an investment. It’s something you read, don’t wrap it up in plastic and never touch it. I can buy a collected edition that will give me all of a superheros first adventures, which is what I would want from a comic, not to have it wrapped up to look at. Whatever. But when the kids finish reading it, the realize that they still haven’t figured out what to do with it. Martin suggests a complicated system of shared custody, but they decide they can’t agree on anything, and sleep through the night together, keeping an eye on each other. But they start to go crazy, and end up tying Martin up. Then Bart and Milhouse start grappling, trying to win the comic. I love that Homer looks up at them in the treehouse, sees them fighting, and doesn’t care. Anyway, the fight continues, and Milhouse ends up falling out of the treehouse, and Bart catches his arm. The comic also starts to come out the door, and Bart decides to save his friend instead of the comic. Which was a bad call, because the comic ends up flying out the door, landing in mud, getting shredded by Santa’s Little Helper, and then struck by lightning. The next morning the boys hold a eulogy for the comic, and depart as friends.

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This was a really fun episode that let us see the struggles of being a kid and having to earn something. It can be so frustrating when you want something so bad, but there just doesn’t seem to be a way to get the money to buy it. Bart drives himself insane trying to buy the comic, and then when he gets it, things don’t go much better. I loved the relationship between Bart, Milhouse, and Martin, and their devotion to a comic that they then actually enjoy. It was just a really fun episode that really brought back memories of being a kid, and a comic book lover. Excelsior!

Take Away: Things are better when you earn them, and comic books are meant to be read and enjoyed.

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“Three Men and a Comic Book” was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Wes M. Archer.

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