The Simpsons Handbook is a big, beautiful volume, hardbound with a cloth spine; crisp heavyweight pages that are filled with copious, beautiful illustrations. Too bad the book itself is no more than a drawing manual.
It is a fantastic drawing manual that gives a great tutorial on drawing anyone and anything in Springfield. The most attention is, of course, given to the Simpson family. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie each have several pages offering step-by-step instructions for drawing them, including helpful perspective hints, different facial expressions, and foot and hand details. The illustrations are offered as pencil sketches, line drawings, basic shape breakdowns, and even relating it to real-life objects (such as Homer's up-turned tea cup shoulder, or Bart's tin can head).
Drawing instructions are also offered for dozens of the "supporting cast," albeit not in as much detail. Lenny, Carl, Mr. Burns, Ralph Wiggum, Milhouse, Kang, Groundskeeper Willie, Nelson, Otto, Apu, Ned Flanders, Krusty, Sideshow Bob, Grandpa, Itchy & Scratchy, even Snowball II and Santa's Little Helper are here, along with plenty more. A size-relationship chart, alternative costumes, popular settings and props are all also offered in pencil sketch form with perspective guidelines where appropriate.
A nice touch is a beginning-to-end drawing of the Simpsons on their couch. On translucent layers, all the steps in the drawing process are presented atop one another: from shapes to sketches to details to a final painted cel. It affords a great opportunity for people to see the real drawing process, especially to those who really don't know.
I took art classes for twelve years, and have had my fair share of drawing books. Every single one has broken spines, creased and torn pages, pencil notes, charcoal smudges, and paint smears. And that is certainly to be expected. The Simpsons Handbook is just too beautiful a volume to lay out in a filthy art area. It should go on the coffee table with other art books. The $40 price tag also begs for the book to be left in the clean safety of the library.