You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. We’ve had to get some experts in though – there’s so much going on that needs to be explained!
Oh baby we’ve heard the blues a-calli– wait, no, Frasier month is over. Last time round Katie explained who Sideshow Bob is and mentioned someone called Matt Groening. Is HE connected to Infinite Crisis in some way? Heidi MacDonald, you know about this whole “comics” business better than anyone – can you explain more?
Heidi! Who is Matt Groening, aside from being creator of Sideshow Bob (and The Simpsons as a whole)?
Heidi MacDonald: Groening got his start long before The Simpsons as a journalist and cartoonists for the LA Weekly and other alternative papers of the late 70s/early 80s. He was a cult figure for his comic strip Life in Hell, which is what got him in the door to pitch The Simpsons. Life in Hell ran for some 35 years.
Drawing the strip himself every week was something that Groening prided himself on, even at the height of The Simpsons. He was and is a brilliant humorist himself and these strips still hold up! Ironically, when he found out that Fox would own all the rights to whatever he pitched, he held on to Bongo and other Life in Hell characters himself, and pitched the all new Simpsons concept, while holding on to the publishing of the Life in Hell franchise. Obviously, he had the DIY spirit of the punk musicians and artists at heart but you never know how these corporate deals will work out. Luckily, he had a great agent and is a millionaire many times over from The Simpsons.
What’s his comics work like? What kind of style does he have as a cartoonist, and what sort of themes and motifs does he usually focus on in his work?
MacDonald: Groening drew in a simple line style that carried over to the earliest Simpsons cartoons. (it’s been greatly refined since if you compare the character designs of early and later characters.) The strips concentrated on Binky, an everyman rabbit, his son Bongo, who had only one ear, and Sheba, Binky’s estranged girlfriend. But they also covered relationships, poseurs, and every day life. His book Love is Hell was a big hit, but I really enjoyed the sequel Work is Hell, because, as he told in in an interview, “Work is an untapped hell.” This was before the Office, of course, but then it really was! The humor in all of these was the kind of snark and keen observation that surrounds us now, but it was pretty groundbreaking at the time.
Later on, while Groening worked on The SImpsons, the strip concentrated on Akbar and Jeff, a same sex couple(?) who wore fezes and Charlie Brown shirts. The strip consisted of Akbar and Jeff sniping at one another in passive aggressive fashion and squabbling for years… frankly it got a bit repetitive, but it probably came as no surprise to anyone when Groening and his first wife divorced after reading years of these strips.
The early strips had the same sense of humor that made The Simpsons such a sensation, and if you’re old like me and originally read them in the paper, you probably still quote them – The 9 Types of Boyfriends, Work is Hell and so on. They are still side-splittingly hilarious and trenchant. They were a feature of every refrigerator door of the era.
Okay! How do you think he would feel about the 2005-2006 DC event series Infinite Crisis?
MacDonald: Matt is a fan of comics of all kinds – he often shows up at indie comics events in NYC and LA to support younger cartoonists. I know he read superhero comics in his youth and several Life in Hell strips reference them – and the existence of Bartman, Radioactive Man and Comic Book Guy testify to an ongoing interest in comics culture. That said, I would guess that he kind of gave up on convoluted continuity of Big Two comics a while ago as life duties overtook him, as often happens.
I think if you just put him in a room with a set of Infinite Crisis Comics, he would be interested in the idea of a big fight comic, but maybe, like many adults his age who gave up reading them, might just throw up his hands if it got too confusing for someone who hadn’t been listening in on DC editorial planning sessions for months. But you know,. Matt was a comic book publisher himself during all these years, so who knows? Maybe he stayed up to date on current comic book goings on!
Thank you Heidi! I’m glad someone could get this feature back on track and send us off into the world of comics once more. I’m glad we finally have an answer on whether Matt Groening would potentially find the event comic storyline Infinite Crisis to be of any interest, which is important. Now! Let’s get back into THAT comic again, shall we? Next week, let’s find out why Bruce Wayne is a vigilante, accused of murder! Haven’t you missed this feature??
Heidi “The Boss” MacDonald has been in comics criticism for over 20 years, and is the founder and Editor in Chief of The Beat. She’s also one of the hosts of the PW Comics World: More To Come comics podcast. You can find here on Twitter here!