Futurama Comics & Bongo
Media tie-ins are nothing new, and many many many Obscure Comics are media tie-ins. However, some fans of the series Futurama are even unaware there was a Futurama comic at all. Published by Bongo Comics (named after the comic strip character created by Matt Groening in From Hell), the Futurama Comics book series ran for 83 issues, published from 2000 – 2017, after which Groening, co-creator of Futurama, the Simpsons, and Disenchantment, closed down Bongo as a comic publisher in 2018. Bongo Comics was best known for publishing many, many, many issues of Simpsons Comics, and Spongebob Comics, starring Spongebob Squarepants, but Futurama Comics was low on the radar of many fans.
Futurama Comics skewed more heavily toward pop culture and comic book references then the actual show, having "unofficial cameos" and gags related to Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and even Doctor Who. Many of the same creators working for Bongo Comics did work on Futurama Comics, predominantly writers Eric Rodgers, Ian Boothby, Patric M. Verrone (who also wrote for the show), artists James Lloyd, John Delaney, and Mike Kazaleh (who also did layouts for the show), with one issue written by Jimmy Palmiotti and another issue written by the late great Len Wein.
Futurama Returns! The Comic, in 2007
Like another Fox show, Futurama was canceled and then brought back due to DVD sales in 2007. However, Fox, instead of bringing it back to air, commissioned four direct-to-DVD movies staring with Bender's Big Score, which were later cut into individual episodes for "season 5" on Comedy Central.
The series return was heavily hyped at San Diego Comic-Con in 2007. Matt Groening has a history of doing exclusives for SDCC, and Futurama has published three exclusive comics for the event, one in 2000, being an advance look at issue #1, Futurama Returns in 2007, a physical copy of the comic Delivery-Boy Man from the episode "Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences" in 2010, and an exclusive trade paperback collection in 2013 titled Futurama Comics: To Infinity!. Of those only the Futurama Returns had all new content that was never seen before.
Futurama Returns was an exclusive 16 page story written by Patric M. Verrone, with artwork done by Bill Morrison and Jason Ho. Designed to serve as an partial explanation of what the crew was up to between the end of season 4 when the series went off the air, and their return in Bender's Big Score, the tale shows Bender, Leela, and Fry trapped in a perpetual "re-run" of their adventures together, encountering every character ever on the show, plus cameos by "Cartoon Network", "Peter Griffith", and Maude Flanders.
The three must now relive their past four years over, and over, and over again.
Until they discover they do have a future, and can escape the repetition of "cable re-runs".
Rare, Promotional, and Fun
The comic was a fun tale to promote the then upcoming return of the animated series, and serves as one of the best Futurama comic book adventures. The comic was distributed first at SDCC in 2007 to fans attending the Futurama panel where several of the voice actors from the show performed the comic live. The live reading is a special feature on Bender's Big Score, and the comic was also made available to Best Buy as a rare pre-order bonus, along with the exclusive DVD with more special features for Bender's Big Score.
This mini-comic, ashcan sized measuring 5 inches by 7 inches, was never reprinted. Those interested can still find it on the secondary market, such as eBay, but it ranges wildly in price from $15, to $30, to $100 for a signed copy.