Thursday, May 8, 2014

#TBT -- Classic Simpsons: "Three Men and a Comic Book" (Season 2, Episode 21)

Episode 7F21
Original Airdate: May 9th, 1991
Writer: Jeff Martin
Director: Wes M. Archer
Commentary by: Matt Groening, Jeff Martin, Al Jean, and Mike Reiss

Synopsis

When Bart finds out at Springfield's annual comicon that the local comic book store has a copy of Radioactive Man #1 for $100, he becomes hellbent on raising the money himself. Just when he's ready to give up, he serendipitously happens upon Milhouse and Martin, each with roughly 1/3rd of the $100 needed for the comic. They all throw in and buy the rare collectible but they soon find that they've "bought more than [they] bargained for."




Analysis

This is one that I actually hadn't seen in a long time, despite having seen it MANY times. I knew it was a great episode but I actually forgot just how good it was--especially for such an early episode.

First and foremost, Wes Archer does a magnificent job directing this episode and deserves an enormous amount of credit for how good this episode is. The story is clear and direct from the opening scene which is very different from some of the later episodes that begin in left field before winding their way to the main conflict (which I've always LOVED, don't get me wrong, but this is a refreshing change sometimes). The pacing and progression of events is pitch perfect and there are just so many great little cinematic moments in this episode:
-SO many awesome top view shots (Krusty Burger, Bart's treehouse)
-the juxtaposition of the model Krusty Burger employee in the sign on the wall with the actual employee behind Homer
-the ground-level shot of Homer discovering Bart has sold all his beer
-the grenade scene
-the montage of horrible chores Mrs. Glick has Bart do (including the beautifully shot Gone with the Wind parody) leading to him getting paid 50 cents and accidentally thanking her
-and, of course, the entire EPIC Treasure of Sierra Madre parody

There is just way, WAY too much amazing shit in this episode and I took WAY too many pictures from it so I hope you'll forgive me...


Fun Facts/Favorites

-For starters, this is the first episode of The Simpsons to ever beat The Cosby Show in the ratings head-to-head. This was back when the show was still airing on Thursday nights. It wasn't until Season 6 that it moved to it's current home on Sunday nights. This episode is also the first appearance of Radioactive Man, Fallout Boy, and Comic Book Guy and the comic book shop and is a personal favorite of the Simpsons staff who are all comic book nerds.

-One of my favorite things about old Simpsons is the way characters' faces randomly contort for emphasis. Wes Archer was a big fan of this effect but at this point in the series, they were starting to phase it out. At first they would allow it once per act, then once per show, and then not at all, according to Matt Groening. This is one of the last episodes to feature contorted faces. I kinda think it's what gives the old episodes some of their charm but I'm also kinda glad they phased it out...

-Mayor Quimby: "Young people of Springfield, as your mayor, I would like to welcome you to our annual funny book convention and thank you for pumping almost $300 into the local economy."

-"Jolly Jack Tate" is an homage to Jack Kirby who was always called Jolly Jack in the Marvel comics.

-There are no words to describe how much I LOVE Otto's comic book idea.

-This is supposedly the first ever reference to Laramie cigarettes and probably the best:

-Bart's reference to the ghost of Buddy Richter is a reference to the mysterious death of George Reeves.

-Early Lisa kinda has her charms sometimes...

-Radioactive Man #1, Illustrated by Michamalangelo

-Matt, Al, and Mike made fun of Jeff Martin quite a lot for having so many gags like this that basically just stall for time but I love them to death so I would respectfully disagree. Note the contrast between the model Krusty Burger employee in the sign behind Bart and the gross, smoking one behind Homer.

-In response to Marge suggesting that Bart get a job to pay for the comic book, Bart breaks into a Wonder Years style inner monologue (and yes, that's actually Daniel Stern as the Narrator).

-Bart the Entrepreneur

-Here we meet Mrs. Glick--brilliantly voiced by Cloris Leachman--who seems pretty excited about that "Nazi Smasher" comic book.

-Mrs. Glick's brother Asa held onto a grenade too long.

-Mrs. Glick: "They've never improved on Iodine."
Check out the awesome Gone with the Wind reference:

-Bart doesn't react well to getting paid two quarters for all the work he did for Mrs. Glick.

-The Epic Comic Book War (told in the tradition of The Treasure of Sierra Madre) BEGINS. Apparently the original idea for Act Three was to have Bart form a union (assumedly after being paid 50 cents for his work for Mrs. Glick) and for the union to become corrupted. Boy, am I glad they did this instead.

-Martin devises a clever compromise. This is another gag the boys ragged on Jeff Martin for for stalling for time.
Apparently the lady who does the voice of Martin Prince also did the voice of Minnie Mouse
-Check out the awesome top view shot:
-Nancy Cartwright doing some amazing work as Crazy Bart:

-More AMAZING work by Wes Archer and co:

-What the hell room is Homer in here?!

-Poor Milhouse. He wasn't even supposed to be here today.

-The EPIC death of the comic book.
Check out this GNARLY lightning bolt:


-At least the boys learned a valuable lesson, right?


-Well, the world is safe again...but...for HOW LONG...?
Check out the painstaking detail on that bird's nest. Holy sh*t!

NEXT WEEK: "Lemon of Troy" (Season 6, Episode 24)


(ALL images belong SOLELY to Twentieth Century Fox)




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