Cuar02 Simpsons0708This month’s Vanity Fair has a sunstantive oral history of The Simpsons, with quotes from some familiar faces.

Gary Panter, friend of Matt Groening’s, cartoonist: The people I knew who were doing the mini-comics at the earliest were Matt, Lynda Barry, me.… Matt’s earliest comics were about language.… He did a whole series of Life in Hell called “Forbidden Words.” He would just name all these phrases that were overused in culture and forbid them from being used again. His comics were very ambitious, and his drawings very simple, but beautifully designed; it has clarity, and Matt’s a great writer, and understands human psychology.

Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist, Maus: I pleaded with Matt and advised him strongly from my elder-statesman position to not work with Fox. “Whatever you do, don’t work with those guys! They’re gangsters! They’re gonna take your rights away!” He’s never let me forget it.

Lest we forget, the earliest Simpsons, as actually drawn by Groening, has a far more primitive, Savage, even Jumbo-esque look than the cuddly yellow icons we know and love today.

Spekaing of the Simpsons, an online poll has decided that Springfield is located in…VERMONT? Really? Didn’t see that one coming either.


  1. Lessee… I started reading his comic when I saw it at my local Waldenbooks, where I also would buy my comics. That’s also how I discovered Bloom County. As an impressionable teenager, I memorized bits and pieces from each book, just as memorized the best of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Then I found out he was on the Tracy Ullman Show, so I videotaped the show to filter out the shorts. Then I became a fan of the show itself. (best skit: The Lion Sleeps Tonight) All because of a one-eared rabbit named Bongo. I hope the movie brings more attention to Life Is Hell. That strip is genius, and who knows, maybe someday soon we’ll be able to walk into a Burger King retrofitted into Akbar And Jeff’s Tofu Hut!

  2. School is Hell brought my years of pursuing valedictorianship to a screeching halt and is largely to blame for my decision to drop out of engineering school and go become a writer (I blame everyone but me).

    And Springfield is in Kentucky, as everyone but the damn Kentuckians knows. Stupid internet polls.

  3. I first read about LIFE IN HELL in a Comics Journal review, twenty-plus years ago. I bought the self-published, large-format WORK IS HELL at St. Mark’s Comics late one night, after being out at a club. I had to stop reading it on the subway at 2 AM because I was laughing too hard. To this day, I can’t look at a flat pink eraser without wanting to stick pushpins in it to make a little pig. “Ask not for whom the overhead fluorescent lighting hums…”

  4. Check out the sights and sounds of the Simpsons celebrating in the real-life Springfield that won the right to call it the hometown of the Simpsons in July 2007. Click on my name above.