Quitting is an action most won’t peg on Matt Groening. After all, The Simpsons has been going strong for a couple of decades with no sign of slowing down. Yet, at a panel on alternative comics for the Chicago Humanities Festival, Groening revealed he may quit making his weekly comic strip “Life is Hell.”
The subject of quitting came up often during “The Not-So-Funny Situation of Alternative Comix” panel on Saturday afternoon, which featured Groening, Lynda Barry, Jules Feiffer and Chris Ware. While discussing the painful and torturous nature of producing a weekly comic for little-to-no money, Groening mentioned that he may, in fact, decide to leave “Life in Hell” behind.
While the general decline of alternative weeklies was discussed and each artists mentioned when they ended their respective weekly strips, Groening was the sole comics artists still struggling with a weekly deadline. Groening, who started “Life in Hell” in the late ’70s, talked about how the syndication of the comic dropped significantly over the years. What was once published in The Village Voice can be found in the tiniest of California weeklies.
So, Groening may have entertained the thought in front of the several hundred people in the audience, but will he actually go through with it? Though he did mention at the event that he loses more money on “Life in Hell” than he could gain, it’s clear that the love for creating the comic has carried him through the years. (Besides, I think this whole Simpsons thing is starting to find an audience, so he shouldn’t have to worry about money.) But will Groening make an official announcement? Will he really bow out? Would he ever entertain the idea of making “Life in Hell” exclusively for the web? Only time will tell…
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Instead of quitting the strip, I hope Groening will attempt to make it more accessible. And I don’t mean changing the content of the strip itself, I simply hope he will make it so that more people can read it each week.
I live in NYC, where none of the weeklies even carry it anymore, and there is literally nowhere online where you can reliably find recent strips. Groening established a website years ago that has only ever displayed a drawing of Binky and a notice that the site is “under construction.”
If he’s losing money and getting hassled by the alt weeklies, but he does the strip for love and not money, why not just make the leap to it being an online strip. Why not follow Tom Tomorrow’s model or Achewood and set up a real online presence so that people all over the world can read the strip?
He’s only done one book collection of recent vintage, and it was excellent. There are years and years of LIH strips that have never been collected in book form, and maybe a new online initiative would spark enough interest that someone could start collected “The Complete Life In Hell” in a similar fashion to the many archival comic strip book collections that are currently being published (Peanuts, Bloom County, etc.)
A couple of years ago, it looked like Groening was about to get a little bit proactive with LIH, changing the title to “Life Is Swell” and even having plans to merchandise the characters. (There were pretty awesome prototypes on display of some vinyl toys at one of the Comic-Cons, but now it looks like they aren’t going to happen, at least any time soon…)
Come on, Matt Groening! Don’t quit Life In Hell! It’s one of the most important comics strips out there, but it’s been marginalized by appearing in too few of the ever-dwindling alt-weeklies in this country! Put it online so everybody can actually FIND it!