As anyone who saw the film version of The Bonfire of the Vanities knows, what works on the printed page is not necessarily going to work on a movie screen. The opposite is also true: a novel or comic book based on a movie or television show is not necessarily going to capture the essence of the original.
For me, that definitely applies to the comic books based on The Simpsons. Maybe it’s because I love the televised version too much (or did love it too much until three or four seasons ago, when the series really began to deteriorate), but I’ve just never gotten into the comics. Whenever I read them, I feel like I should be finding them funny, but they just don’t work for me. The same applies to The Bart Book and The Homer Book, the first two entries in a new paperback series called The Simpsons Library of Wisdom. (Subsequent releases, which I haven’t yet read: The Ralph Wiggum Book and Comic Book Guy’s Book of Pop Culture.)
The Bart Book and The Homer Book are meant to tell the reader everything he didn’t already know about these characters — which, after over 350 episodes, probably isn’t much. Some of the material comes from the TV show, and some of it is original. Some of it, such as annotated guides to Bart’s favorite video arcade and teenaged Homer’s bedroom, are kind of interesting. And if you’re the kind of person who can get into hour-long Simpsons-quote marathons with other obsessed fans, some of the lines, jokes and obscure references lifted directly from the show should raise a smile. But there’s an awful lot of filler, and much of the original material feels like stuff that was cut from the TV show for time and/or quality reasons.
If you’re a Simpsons completist, or if you enjoy the comic books, you’ll probably like The Bart Book and The Homer Book. Humour is a subjective thing, and if something makes you laugh or doesn’t make you laugh, it can be almost impossible to explain why. All I can say is, the books just didn’t make me laugh. They may not get dangerously hot or cause birth defects, but while leafing through them, I couldn’t help thinking of the stuff which bears the Krusty Seal of Approval(TM).