NORMALLY, IF SPIKE-HEADED BART Simpson crashed Christie's East auction house in Manhattan, the refined patrons would have a cow, man. Not so on June 20, when 500 animated bidders got first crack at 27 cartoon cels (painted celluloid sheets) drawn by creator Matt Groening, 36, for Fox's TV series The Simpsons. Bart and family didn't approach Mickey Mouse's 1989 record of $450,000 for a single cel, but they did ring up $117,920. The biggest spender: Manhattan restaurateur Antonio Francesco, 31, who paid $24,200 for the cel of Bart auctioning sister Maggie that Groening drew for the cover of the auction catalog (Groening earmarked the proceeds from this piece for AIDS Project Los Angeles). The youngest buyer: Ross Krasnow, 9, of North Bay Village, Fla., whose parents, Elliot and Bibi, funded his $4,950 purchase.

Groening remained in L.A. with wife Deborah, second child Abraham, who was born June 9, and Homer, 2. How would the Simpsons react to the bidding? "Bart would say, 'I'll offer self-portraits at half the price,' " says Groening. "Homer would then undercut his son."