Comics sales | Is Mark Millar on to something after all? The first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy sold more than 105,000 copies to direct market stores in April; the only other Image comic to reach those numbers in recent years is The Walking Dead. ICv2 runs the numbers and also posts the Top 300 comics and graphic novels for April. [ICv2]
Passings | Matt Groening’s mother has died at the age of 94. Although she always went by Margaret, Groening borrowed her name for Marge Simpson in his animated series The Simpsons. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | Amanda Emmert has resigned after nine years as executive director of ComicsPRO, the direct-market trade organization. [ComicsPRO]
Publishing | Dark Horse editor Scott Allie explains the publisher’s plan to start numbering B.P.R.D. sequentially, starting with #100, rather than as “an ongoing series of miniseries”: “The reason to make the change was in part how many times [San Francisco retailer and industry pundit] Brian Hibbs told me, ‘Well, really B.P.R.D. is an ongoing…’ And he’s right. Another part of the reason is that as we’ve moved into doing more short stories — two- or three-issue stories — we get those new issue #1′s too often. You do new #1′s to give readers jumping on points, but when they’re coming so quickly it becomes more confusing than anything else. Depending on how retailers rack, you could have two or three B.P.R.D. #1′s on the shelf at a time, and it’s hard for readers or retailer to know what to read next. So while I know it will cause a little confusion to suddenly have #100 out there, a few months down the road it’ll make everything simpler.” [Comics Alliance]
TVLine has the first look at the Comic-Con International exclusive that everyone will be wearing … or stepping over on the convention floor: Fox’s Bart Simpson crowns. They’re made of heavy paper, like something you might snag at Burger King, but considering their limited-edition nature, they’ll probably end up becoming considerably more valuable.
The crowns will be available at the Fox Fanfare booth (#4313) on a first come, first serve basis. There’s also a Simpsons panel scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Saturday, with executive producer Al Jean, supervising producer Mike Anderson and voice actor Yeardley Smith in attendance.
As you no doubt know by now, Matt Groening announced earlier this week that he’s bringing his long-running weekly comic strip, Life in Hell to a close.
If it hadn’t felt like it already, Groening’s announcement certainly signals the end of an era, in this case that of the alt-weekly comic strip, a product Groening, along with Lynda Barry and Gary Panter, pioneered back in the early 1980s (OK, Feiffer was the true pioneer but let’s for argument’s sake let’s play along with my faulty thesis). Together, they showed hungry cartoonists a way to earn, if not a living wage, at least a regular paycheck, and many people — Keith Knight, Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling — followed in their wake as more and more urban areas developed their own version of the Village Voice and L.A. Weekly. Whether it was for financial reasons or (as I suspect) an ever shrinking readership, Groening’s exit, confirms what many have long suspected: That market, thanks largely no doubt to the Internet, has disappeared.
After more than three decades, and 1,669 installments, Matt Groening has ended Life in Hell, his influential weekly comic strip starring bitter anthropomorphic rabbits and a pair of gay lovers. Although the final strip appeared Friday, reruns will be offered to newspapers through July 13.
“Thirty-two years is a long time to do it,” The Simpsons creator told USA Today. “I love the characters, I love doing it, but it was just time.” Groening added to The Poynter Institute, “I’ve had great fun, in a Sisyphean kind of way, but the time has come to let Binky and Sheba and Bongo and Akbar and Jeff take some time off.”
For nearly a quarter of a century, we’ve been been plagued by one nagging question: Where, oh where, is Springfield (“Meanest Town in America”)?
The town’s location has been a recurring joke, with viewers teased repeatedly by the writers of The Simpsons. But now, at long last, the mystery has been solved, by none other than creator Matt Groening. In an interview with Smithsonian magazine, the cartoonist finally reveals Springfield (pop. 30,720) is in his home state of Oregon.
“Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon,” he says. “The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show Father Knows Best took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, ‘This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.’ And they do.”
Asked whether he’d ever divulged that tidbit before, Groening says, “I don’t want to ruin it for people, you know? Whenever people say it’s Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever, I always go, ‘Yup, that’s right.’”
Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]
Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]
Legal | The Lithuanian publisher of The Simpsons comic has been fined for breaching laws banning the advertising of alcohol with its depiction of Duff Beer, the fictional brand consumed by Homer and other residents of Springfield.
Although Simpsons creator Matt Groening has never licensed the Duff trademark out of concern that it might encourage children to drink, companies in several countries have released beer using the Duff name (Fox and Groening sued an Australian brewery for doing so in 1995, forcing the product to be pulled from shelves and destroyed). The existence of unlicensed Duff beers apparently was enough for a government watchdog, who handed down the more than $4,000 fine. The publisher said it has stopped publication of The Simpsons while it tries to address the Duff matter — a major issue, considering that Bongo Comics reportedly doesn’t permit content changes to licensed titles. [The Australian]
It looks like Bongo Comics is doubling the funny with a new series by Sergio Aragonés titled, aptly enough, Sergio Aragonés Funnies. According to the advance solicits, this monthly series will feature “an assortment of autobiographical anecdotes, perplexing puzzles, slap-happy short stories, as well as Sergio’s unique and hilarious pantomimes and gags”.
Back in January, Bongo head honcho Bill Morrison talked to CBR about it briefly, saying:
Sergio Aragonés’ “Funnies” is a new ongoing series that not many people may know about, but it’s coming from Bongo Comics this year and will most likely premiere at Comic-Con International San Diego. As the book’s editor, I hope I’m not coming off as self-serving by mentioning it here, but I’d be talking about it anyway, just as a Sergio fan! This book will be completely written and drawn by Sergio and will be unrelated to “The Simpsons.” He’ll continue to write and draw Simpsons stories as well, but this will just be Sergio doing what he does best; drawing the funniest cartoons in the universe!
But this isn’t Aragonés’ first stint in The Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s comic line — Sergio started contributing to the publisher’s line back in 2009 beginning with Bart Simpson #50. Aragonés continued as a regular contributor to Bart Simpson, even starting an ongoing feature called “Maggie’s Crib.”
Although Bongo might be defined in readers’ minds as The Simpsons comics, it’s wholly owned and operated by Matt Groening outside of the framework of Fox and the The Simpsons animated series. In addition to hosting Aragonés’ work in various series, Bongo has also run stories by another comics funnyman, Evan Dorkin, for years.
I’m not going to mince words, the comedy that fuels Cyanide & Happiness is not for everyone. The webcomic which launched in 2004, is effectively characterized in the opening paragraph of Brigid Alverson’s recent Unbound review: “The Cyanide & Happiness formula is pretty simple: Stick men (and women) do shocking things to one another. There are four different artists, but the style and humor are fairly uniform; a situation is set up in the first panel and resolved, by stabbing, boob-grabbing, or shouting ‘You have cancer! LOL!’ in the last. My kids love this comic, because it’s what teenagers are all about: Working your way through every possible taboo, in public. So in C&H we have Seizure-Man falling down and frothing at the mouth, bungee-jumping childbirth, and lots and lots of stabbing.”
If that description gives you pause, I would advise you skip this interview. But if it doesn’t give you pause, jump on ahead. Last month, It Books released a collection that “highlights 150 of the best comics, including 30 brand-new strips, each packed with inappropriate jokes, irreverent characters, and deviant behavior, guaranteed to leave you laughing despite the gnawing guilt.” The strips are created by four different writers/illustrators who “live all over the world — Kris Wilson in Fort Bridger, Wyoming; Matt Melvin in San Diego, California; Rob DenBleyker in Dallas, Texas; and Dave McElfatrick in Belfast, Northern Ireland”. I was able to interview Dave, Kris and Matt via email. Before jumping in, though, I have to apologize to our female readership and the creators for my ignorant assumption (in one question) that the audience for this work was predominantly male.
Tim O’Shea: How do you develop a sense for when the shock value of the joke outweighs or obscures the comedy of the strip?
Dave: You don’t, really. You just kinda go with what you think is funny, and if that involves either something shocking or something incredibly tame, you go for it. We don’t focus on shock value, we just go with what makes us laugh.
Kris: The humor has to come first. It’s not as if we’re trying to offend people. More often than not, people just get offended at what’s funny.
Is it possible to make devil horns with a four-fingered hand? I guess we’ll find out when The Simpsons/Futurama/Life in Hell creator Matt Groening curates this May’s All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival in Minehead, England. The lineup, hand-selected by Groening himself in the usual ATP curated-festival fashion, includes such avant-rock notables as Iggy & the Stooges, Coco Rosie, Built to Spill, Panda Bear, Deerhunter, Daniel Johnston, the Residents, Boredoms, the Raincoats, Amadou and Mariam, and Shonen Knife.
This isn’t the first time ATP and Groening have hooked up: The animation and alt-weekly legend (and one-time music critic) also ran a 2003 festival in California that boasted performances from the Stooges, Sonic Youth, Spoon, the Shins, !!!, the Mars Volta, Mission of Burma, Modest Mouse and Cat Power. (You can buy a CD compilation from that show here.) He’s a hip dude, is what I’m saying.
Groening and Barry recite a rather amusing Life in Hell cartoon in this clip (via Mike Lynch).
A couple of weeks ago Chris Mautner and I listed the six comics that made us cry. You guys responded with more than 160 comments filled with memories of comics that brought you to tears as well. It was very cool and kind of overwhelming to see that many people open up like that, so from both of us, thank you.
One commenter, cinorjer, suggested we name “six comics that made us laugh out loud.” Which we thought was a great idea — thanks, cinorjer! — so wipe away your tears and get ready to exercise your funnybone.
Joining Chris and I this week is Tom Bondurant, who was quick to come back with an example when I asked for suggestions. So let’s make with the ha ha’s and get down to it … and please share your own favorites in the comments section.
1. “What am I s’posed to do with a whole dollar!?”
I laughed aloud at much of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s “Architecture & Mortality” storyline from the recent Tales of the Unexpected miniseries. There were the Primate Patrol’s obvious (but well-executed) Planet of the Apes references; Traci 13′s “paper covers rock” spell; and the part where Infectious Lass says she’ll never know the touch of a man, about which I … Vampire! observes “perhaps if you changed your name….”
However, I particularly liked Dr. 13′s first real meeting with Genius Jones, the smartest little boy in the world. He’ll answer any question for a dime, but he won’t deal with Dr. 13 — because the Doc only has a dollar bill. “What am I s’posed to do with a whole dollar!?” Genius wonders.
“Tell you what — I have ten questions,” Dr. 13 responds.
“Do you have ten dimes?”
Eyes practically bulging out of his glasses, and beads of sweat leaping off his forehead, Dr. 13 spits, “I have a DOLLAR!”
It goes on like that for another few panels, until the head of the Primate Patrol bursts in: “How ’bout I geev you a nickel saun’wich?” And … scene!