The stories behind the stories

Simpsons Summer Shindig #7

“I promised them a trip if they could avoid arrest during the school year.” — Homer Simpson


Bart goes on a cross-country trip by train that drives his family to distraction!
Published by Bongo • May 29, 2013

Written by John Jackson Miller

Pencils by Rex Lindsey

Inks by Hilary Barta

Colors by Art Villanueva

Lettered by Karen Bates

Edited by Nathan Kane and Terry Delegeane

Also contains stories by Clay & Susan Griffith, Ian Boothby, and Max Davison

This time, another Simpsons story drawn from life — and partially inspired by my son, who was fascinated with trains from a very young age. As such, I rode Amtrak quite a bit on some of its cross-country runs; I wrote part of Crimson Dynamo #3 on his very first train trip, a run to Seattle on the Empire Builder in 2003.

That and most of the rail experiences that followed were positive — but there were occasional mishaps, and given that Summer Shindig is a vacation-themed title, I decided to put every calamity I could imagine in the Simpsons’ voyage. It was a lot of fun to write — and as usual, there were plenty of in-jokes!

Simpsons stories were always a great change of pace for me  between larger projects, but this would sadly be the last story I would write for the Bongo line, which closed up shop in the late 2010s. I regret not doing more, but there was great competition for assignments (beyond being fun, the page rates were good by comics standards) and it was hard to find something to pitch that hadn’t already been done in comics or on screen. A zillion TV episodes used up a lot of ideas!

“Go! Live well, son! We’ll remember you. But if you ever come back… bring salad dressing packets!” — Homer Simpson

The Silver Flash is clearly a nod to Silver Streak. But the conductor has too much hair to be Scatman Crothers.

Naturally, Lisa would know about Arlo Guthrie and “The City of New Orleans,” which happens to be the Amtrak run I’ve taken most often.

I’ve been on many a transcontinental run when all the food is nearly gone in the snack bar by the end of the ride. Bart has that experience much earlier!

From Justin to Kelly is, of course, the lamentable American Idol movie. “Come with me if you want to live” is from Terminator 2, naturally. And the room service line is from A Night at the Opera.