Simpsons/Futurama creator Matt Groening has decided to end his long-running comic strip Life in Hell after over thirty years in print.
“I’ve had great fun, in a Sisyphean kind of way,” Groening told Poynter via email, “but the time has come to let Binky and Sheba and Bongo and Akbar and Jeff take some time off.”
Sisyphean is right: The strip’s rock has been steady rolling downhill for years. Once appearing in some 380 newspapers across the country, Life in Hell was ultimately dropped by all but 38 outlets, and earned Groening a whopping $18 bucks per paper per week.
Still, its contribution both to Groening’s career and the careers of other alternative cartoonists is undeniable.
It was Life in Hell that got Groening noticed by James L. Brooks, who invited the former to produce the Tracey Ullman Show show bumpers that spawned the Simpsons.
“Groening is modern cartooning’s rock God, a Moses who came down from the mountain (or the East Village office of the Voice) and handed us the rules we followed,” said cartoonist Ted Rall.
Though Groening respects the past, he says he is ready to move forward. “Life in Hell prevented me from doing other projects, because every week I had to go back to the same drawing table,” Groening told USA Today. “[Quitting] will open me up to new things, more animation, more stuff. I may just sit and stare into space.”
Speaking of which, Futurama returns to Comedy Central tonight at 10/9c. Check out an awesome hand-made live-action version of the show’s opening sequence below.
Matt Groening Ends His ‘Life in Hell’ (The Comic Strip, That Is)
By DAVE ITZKOFF, June 20, 2012
While his animated comedy “The Simpsons” has been on the air a mere 22 seasons and counting, series creator Matt Groening has spent those years – and then some – drawing his syndicated comic strip “Life in Hell.” But soon that streak and the comic itself, which ran more than 30 years and played a crucial role in the creation of “The Simpsons,” will be no more: Mr. Groening has said he is ending the strip.
“I’ve had great fun, in a Sisyphean kind of way,” Mr. Groening said in an e-mail to the Web site Poynter.org, “but the time has come to let Binky and Sheba and Bongo and Akbar and Jeff take some time off.”
“Life in Hell,” which introduced the aforementioned characters – three bucktoothed, anthropomorphic rabbits and a fez-wearing gay couple – first appeared in Wet Magazine in 1978, moving to L.A. Weekly and then the L.A. Reader while acquainting readers with Mr. Groening’s sardonic perspectives on childhood, dating, family and rock-music criticism.
In the 1980s “Life in Hell” came to the attention of James L. Brooks, who was looking for a cartoonist to create animated shorts for Fox’s “Tracey Ullman Show.” Outside Mr. Brooks’s office, Mr. Groening quickly sketched a human clan he named the Simpsons, and the rest is cartoon history.
Poynter said that the last original “Life in Hell” comic, Mr. Groening’s 1,669th strip, was released on June 15. Publications that run the comic can choose older “Life in Hell” material until July 13, after which its archives will be closed.