"Pranks, but No Pranks"
"And the Beatings Go On"
"Truant or False"
Writer: Ian Boothby
Artists: Phil Oritz(p), Scott McCrae, Mike DeCarlo, Howard Shum(i), Art Villanueva(c)
In time for Halloween, Seymour Skinner acts as the Cryptkeeper for the horror tales of "The Permanent Record Room." What strikes me immediately is how Ian Boothby makes Seymour sound like Harry Shearer. The man has an ear for dialogue.
Mr. Boothby begins the anthology with "Pranks, but No Pranks." At first I thought that the spider-biting gag was merely a throwaway one-liner. Little did I suspect that it served as the catalyst for Bart's outrageous prank to snowball into full-blown parody of ludicrous proportions. Mr. Oritz is very subtle when handling the bad boy grin of young Bart as he witnesses his pranks bear fruit.
This short story is actually collection of shorts itself, and after Willie is suckered, the story moves on to an electrifying gag for Seymour followed by an interesting comparison of Bart to Denny O'Neil's Shadow: forces of nature who cannot be judged.
In "And the Beatings Go On" Mr. Boothby turns the notions of school bullies on its head. Again, Bart is the catalyst for these actions, and again, you really find yourself seeing his point of view. His role is to be an instigator. He is simply doing what comes naturally.
"Truant or False" is the only short story that does not star Bart. Instead, it focuses on young Homer's friendship with "Seymour Skinner." Surprisingly the story springboards from two nuggets of The Simpsons continuity. Homer and "Seymour" along with Apu and Barney were part of the same Barbershop Quartet, and in perhaps the most absurd and surreal episode of the show, we discover "Seymour Skinner" is an impostor. He was really a young hoodlum who joined the army and became the prodigy of Sergeant Seymour Skinner, whose dog tags and identity our Seymour took. It turns out the real Seymour was not dead as our Seymour believed, and of course, the Springfieldians decide they prefer their Seymour over the real one. The real one ends up bound and on a one way train ride out of town.
Mr. Oritz in this story characterizes Homer as even more of an innocent while Mr. Boothby in keeping with the underlying theme of the issue--secret origins--reveals how Homer lost his hair. Yes, Homer is indeed the slow-witted brother in spirit to Lex Luthor.
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