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Goodbye to "Hell"
June 21, 2012 12:47 PM   Subscribe

After exploring a world populated by “anthropomorphic rabbits and a pair of gay lovers” for over 30 years, “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening is putting down his pen and ending his highly acclaimed comic strip, “Life in Hell.”
posted by chavenet (81 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I honestly had no idea this had still been ongoing. I adored Life in Hell back in the day; it makes me borderline ecstatic to think that there are decade more of it than I had ever dreamed.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:50 PM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


Life in Hell is a masterpiece, although there was a point -- from which I do not know if Groening ever recovered -- where like every other strip was "cute shit my kid said." I mean, those were sandwiched between strips like the incredibly scathing Iran/Contra one I can't track down, but, yeah. It's nice to know that someone can just say "I'm done."
posted by griphus at 12:52 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


On first glance, I thought Simpsons was finally ending. Dammit.
posted by azarbayejani at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


Not a problem. I'm sure Ackbar n' Jeff's Print-on-Demand Syndication Hut will be able to take up the slack for Mr. Groening.
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


Also, that Bart's Simpson's Guide To Life book which, at the time, felt like another cash-in was a really weird mash-up of The Simpsons characters and concepts and the conventions he developed during Life in Hell.
posted by griphus at 12:54 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stunned that it was still being produced! Loved the compilation books when I was a kid.
posted by cavalier at 12:54 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and this strip was a fundamental stepping stone in my decision to not go to grad school.
posted by griphus at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


Finding copies of Life In Hell in Borders made middle school a lot easier to get through.
posted by The Whelk at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


GRIPHUS I HAD THAT BOOK I HAD NO IDEA WHAT RAYON WAS WAIT ARE WE THE SAME PERSON.
posted by The Whelk at 12:56 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Finding copies of Life In Hell in Borders made middle school a lot easier to get through.

My first Life In Hell book was the Binky's Guide To Love collection. I got it from the library when I was 11? 12? For one thing, it was definitely before I had my head around the concept of homosexuality, so none of the Akbar and Jeff strips made sense.
posted by griphus at 12:57 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


My grandmother chided me from getting a book clearly made for children, meanwhile one of the strips has a character imploring Binky to get drunk and screw on the lawn.
posted by griphus at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


My name is little Bongo,
I sing my little song-o.
I have one ear upon my head...






... it's time to say so-long-o!
posted by jazon at 12:59 PM on June 21, 2012 [23 favorites]


Akbar and Jeff's Community Weblog: Where ma and pa discuss the law, men-of-straw, and whether or not to declaw.
posted by bondcliff at 12:59 PM on June 21, 2012 [24 favorites]


For one thing, it was definitely before I had my head around the concept of homosexuality, so none of the Akbar and Jeff strips made sense.

What? Aren't they just brothers?
posted by kenko at 1:03 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bongo is somewhat nifty.
posted by JBennett at 1:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


Groening's masterwork indeed
posted by Bwithh at 1:10 PM on June 21, 2012


I never lived anywhere where this comic ran in the papers, so I had thought it was ended long ago. I, too, discovered the books in my high-school years, and pretty much every time a school club I was in traveled to a big city I found a nearby Borders or Barnes & Noble, bought a book, and we all laughed and laughed at the adult-but-not-too-smutty humor on the bus. Perfect high-school humor.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:13 PM on June 21, 2012


What? Aren't they just brothers?

I cannot give you a citation, bit I think Groening's description in-strip was "brothers, or lovers, or possibly both."

I am sorry to hear of its departure as well (although I thought it had retired some time ago as it has been years since I ran across it). In my teenage years, Garfield and The Wizard of Id were mainstream, Bloom Country and The Far Side were cutting edge, but my occasional glimpses of Life In Hell and Ernie Pook's Comeek were glimpses in a strange world I hadn't even imagined.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:14 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I cannot give you a citation, bit I think Groening's description in-strip was "brothers, or lovers, or possibly both."

I know. My shock was feigned.
posted by kenko at 1:17 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I interviewed Groening in 1989, a few weeks before the first episode of the Simpsons aired, and he told me that he intended to keep Life in Hell going because it was the thing that had got him to this position, and he wanted to feel that he could always go back to it if things went wrong with the TV business.

I guess he finally felt he had some job security.
posted by Hogshead at 1:18 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I remember it running in the Daily Texan in the late 1980s.

My favorite was always "School is Hell (But It Beats Working)" All of my fellow grad students had that taped up somewhere in 1990 or 1991.
posted by spitbull at 1:19 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hope he retires into seclusion only to come out of retirement to write a review of a biography of Bill Watterson.
posted by griphus at 1:21 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


there was a point -- from which I do not know if Groening ever recovered -- where like every other strip was "cute shit my kid said."

What, those Will and Abe ones? They were as funny as any of the rest of it. No need to recover from that.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've only ever read a handful of Life in Hell strips, and honestly had no idea it was still going. That grad school one is pretty funny though.
posted by codacorolla at 1:27 PM on June 21, 2012


I loved those dense "Those who can, do..." strips.
Damn, I loved those collections. I'll have to dig them up again this weekend.

"Gone Dad"

HA!
posted by JBennett at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2012


Sorry, I'll stop after this. I just love Life In Hell.

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, counsel. Those who can't counsel, administrate. Those who can't administrate, enter data into the computer. Those who can't enter data into the computer, take dictation. Those who can't take dictation, alphabetize files. Those who can't alphabetize files, answer the phone. Those who can't answer the phone, fry hamburgers. Those who can't fry hamburgers, run the cash register. Those who can't run the cash register, wait on tables. Those who can't wait on tables, carry dirty dishes to the kitchen. Those who can't carry dirty dishes to the kitchen, was the dishes. Those who can't wash dirty dishes, peel potatoes. Those who can't peel potatoes, buff the floor. Those who can't buff the floor haul out the garbage. Those who can't haul out the garbage, write poetry. Those who can't write poetry, write clever letters to the editor. Those who can't write clever letters to the editor, write angry letters to the editor. Those who can't write angry letters to the editor, spraypaint graffiti. Those who can't spraypaint graffiti, write screenplays. Those who can't write screenplays, write TV scripts. Those who can't write tv scripts, read scripts for the studios. Those who can't read scripts for the studios, act. Those who can't act, take acting classes. Those who can't take acting classes, sing. Those who can't sing, sing rock 'n' roll. Those who can't sing roc 'n' roll, sing it anyway. Those who can't sing it anyway, become depressed. Those who can't become depressed, get bitter. Those who can't get bitter, get confused. Those who get confused, stay confused. Those who stay confused, find it difficult to complete unfinished sentences. Those who find it difficult to complete unfinished sentences, ________."
posted by JBennett at 1:31 PM on June 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


The Will and Abe ones were great. "Hi, demon!"
posted by infinitewindow at 1:32 PM on June 21, 2012


The book "Work is Hell" ruined me for "Dilbert."

Akbar & Jeff: "Boss, Binky's fomenting worker dissatisfaction again."
Boss: "SEND THE LITTLE SNEAK RIGHT IN!"
posted by Infinity_8 at 1:32 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


While I haven't re-read it since before I started working Real Office Jobs, I'm genuinely surprised as to how much of this Work Is Hell strip I've internalized.
posted by griphus at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can I just point out that it's kind of sweet that the very last original strip is....Akbar and Jeff having fun?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


My God, I had no idea that was still going. I used to love it - still have some ancient 80s-era books - but I thought it stopped dead after The Simpsons took off.
posted by Decani at 1:37 PM on June 21, 2012


Griphus: Oh, and this strip was a fundamental stepping stone in my decision to not go to grad school.

Dear lord! We had that book around the house when I was a teenager. I remember that strip vividly. It didn't make sense at the time; a life of the mind seemed like a wonderful thing at the time. Still, the cartoon impressed itself upon me, even as it slipped my conscious mind.

Then I did an undergrad, narrowly dodged grad school, became a journalist, came to know the challenge of writing, dated an academic, stood by for three long years through the process of not-writing her PhD thesis, and watched as multiple friends had their dreams ground into the ground by a system that offered despair for all and employment for none.

Fifteen years later, the world all makes sense to me now. Thanks for connecting the dots.
posted by bicyclefish at 1:42 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Those who can't peel potatoes, buff the floor. Those who can't buff the floor haul out the garbage.

Reminds me of the (self-) published poet I worked with in a temporary kitchen job. He bled into the potatoes when peeling them and then waxed the floor without washing it first. "You told me to _wax_ the floor!!" (Which meant once a week wax it instead of the usual washing after 150 sloppy eaters go through each day.) He got fired before he got promoted to taking out the garbage.
posted by Listener at 1:42 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember it running in the Daily Texan in the late 1980s.

My favorite was always "School is Hell (But It Beats Working)" All of my fellow grad students had that taped up somewhere in 1990 or 1991.


Oh hey I'm at UT now. And it's still taped up in the Linguistics department.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved The Huge Book of Hell in the late 90s, and I assumed the strip had ended around that time. It's kinda crazy to me that I've been on the internet surrounded by Simpsons references for fifteen years and this has never come up until now.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:45 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is Matt Groening putting his affairs in order? He has finally admitted that it was Springfield, Oregon all along in the Simpsons, now he has ended Life in Hell.
posted by Cranberry at 1:46 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


This entry from Did You Know Gaming seems oddly well placed today. It was the plans for Marge in the Simpsons
posted by deezil at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, that Bart's Simpson's Guide To Life book which, at the time, felt like another cash-in was a really weird mash-up of The Simpsons characters and concepts and the conventions he developed during Life in Hell.

Yeah, it's weird how a book that was clearly conceived as a "Do The Bartman" kind of spinoff was such a loopy, wonderful, creative thing. Like a kid's version of Army Man.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2012


He said he took the name from Springfield, Oregon. The town in the show is obviously not in any specific state - it's a running gag.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


How am I fucking up every single link today.

Mistakes were made.
posted by bondcliff at 1:49 PM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Although I was never a huge fan, I did enjoy the strip and read it regularly in the early 90’s, and that’s where the name I’ve used on the Internets for the last 150 years came from. I was going to join this thing called AOL. I didn’t realize you’d need a "screen name". Huh. I really didn’t want to sit around coming up with a clever name, and didn’t really know this was something people did, I just wanted to check this thing out. I looked down at the open L.A. Weekly and saw bongo. What?!? Someone already took the name bongo? Unbelievable. Since I had just seen "Malcolm X" I went for that variation. The result of my impatient action is still with me.

(I do find it amazing that there are other people using that name online, I guess that’s inevitable.)
posted by bongo_x at 1:56 PM on June 21, 2012


Ha I have the Primoridal Ooze strip (Poodles, actors, and the French share a branch of the evolutionary tree) on my cubical wall 5 inches away.

I also had no idea he was still drawing it. Are we going to get an Omnibus of Hell like those massive Far Side editions that came out a while back?
posted by emjaybee at 1:59 PM on June 21, 2012




What's with the U.T. crowd?! I met Matt there at a book signing, got one for my left-handed sister, noticed he's left-handed, mentioned the connection and he drew a little character saying "Lefties rule!" A couple-few months later, happened to run into him in Book Soup right after I gave my sis the book, let him know how much he enjoyed it. The Simpsons had recently started and taken off, and Matt was as low-key, appreciative as it gets.
posted by ambient2 at 2:11 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This quote from an old Life is Hell has done much to inform my world view:

"Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."
posted by slkinsey at 2:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


Is it too late for me to join in and say I also love "Life in Hell"?
posted by Vindaloo at 2:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I reference the Creepy Brother from "The Nine Types of Brothers" rather frequently. I was wrapping gifts near the holidays and told my wife "Stay out of [that room]. I'm drying some cat skins in there."
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:26 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I discovered Life in Hell long after I had been a dyed-in-the-wool Simpsons fan through the books and I loved it. I was surprised he was still doing it too (I thought I remembered reading that he was going to hang it up) but it's good to know there were still plenty more.

And his autobiographical/kids strips were fantastic. I remember the Law of the Briny Deep one in particular (but for some reason can't find it online). Also anything with his kids was generally amusing, like his interrogation of his son who was pretending he was Dracula ("I fly away, beardface!"). Actually, his kids seemed to have a fascination with monsters, as shown here.

Anyway, I'm not so much sad it's ending as excited that apparently there are lots of them I've never read. Is there a way to read them online?
posted by HostBryan at 2:36 PM on June 21, 2012


I loved the old stuff, but it seemed like he was just running week after week of unfunny Akbar-and-Jeff-looking-at-each-other routines for the past two decades or so. Maybe that's just what they ran in my local paper.
posted by snottydick at 2:38 PM on June 21, 2012


At night, the ice-weasels come.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


On preview, yup.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2012


I love the Will and Abe strips!

"I'm going to tell God to stab you!"
posted by brujita at 3:00 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


.
posted by daveje at 3:09 PM on June 21, 2012


I loved that strip so much. It was a major part of how I survived high school. It's seeped into my psyche at a deep, deep level.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:54 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Life In Hell, in the form of the Big Book of Hell and various sequels, is a foundation of my sense of humor. Ashamedly, I assumed Groening ended it years ago.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:58 PM on June 21, 2012


Whoa.
Oh hey I'm at UT now. And it's still taped up in the Linguistics department.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:44 PM on June 21


OK, while it wasn't my home department, it was like a second home to me. Talk about a tradition!
___
Then I did an undergrad, narrowly dodged grad school, became a journalist, came to know the challenge of writing, dated an academic, stood by for three long years through the process of not-writing her PhD thesis, and watched as multiple friends had their dreams ground into the ground by a system that offered despair for all and employment for none.

Fifteen years later, the world all makes sense to me now.
posted by bicyclefish


My condolences. I can report from 18 years later as one who stuck it out. I, like most of my cohort then (and in fact most of my PhD students today), found a very satisfying career in academia on the other side. Employment for none is hyperbole at least for some disciplines. Sure there were casualties along the way, but that was true for my friends who set out to become doctors and lawyers and engineers too.
posted by spitbull at 4:58 PM on June 21, 2012


I had Bart Simpson's Guide to Life too. This is getting spooky guys.
posted by JHarris at 5:11 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is getting spooky guys

Quick quiz, how many of You had a sexual awaking to an illustration in a werewolf based card game?



I mean, uh, theoretically speaking.
posted by The Whelk at 5:14 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and never, ever, ever forget:
  *=================*
  |WITH PUSHPINS AND|
~ |AN ERASER YOU CAN| ~
  |MAKE A LITTLE PIG|
  *=================*

posted by JHarris at 5:15 PM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Early Life In Hell was really good, but over time it devolved to being the same frame of Akbar and Jeff repeated four times, with the only change being the dialogue. I actually thought he'd stopped a long time ago, and was just hiring someone to put something different in the speech balloons.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:16 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Count me as another person astonished that it was still being published. In print publications? I would have to do some serious googling to find the strip that was taped to my fridge for many, many years.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:32 PM on June 21, 2012


I loved Life in Hell, and like others thought it was long since defunct. Now to go hunt out new strips to read.
posted by arcticseal at 8:00 PM on June 21, 2012


"despair for all and employment for none"

Thanks, bicyclefish. I think I have the new motto for the grad students society where I work!
posted by chapps at 8:04 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


WITH PUSHPINS AND|
~ |AN ERASER YOU CAN| ~
|MAKE A LITTLE PIG|

i still make origami boulders for fun.
posted by chapps at 8:05 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


bondcliff: "Akbar and Jeff's Community Weblog: Where ma and pa discuss the law, men-of-straw, and whether or not to declaw."

this coleslaw fell on the floor; can I put it in my maw?
posted by boo_radley at 8:13 PM on June 21, 2012


Life in Hell is how I learned to despise Republicans long before I even knew what they were.

Thanks, Matt!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:13 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"At night, the ice-weasels come" will sometimes just pop into my head, and I had long since forgotten their origin.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:32 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think my 9-year-old son found my old copy of Love Is Hell. He has now idea why it's funny, but he loves it anyway.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:51 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Matt Groening signed (and drew Binky in) a Life in Hell book for me.
Not that it's worth anything or anything, but I am glad I have it. He was very nice, as well.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:54 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu: "I think my 9-year-old son found my old copy of Love Is Hell. He has now idea why it's funny, but he loves it anyway."

I think my parents let me buy a copy of Love is Hell when I was nine. I laughed and laughed and laughed.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:56 PM on June 21, 2012


My own favourite (which I can't find online) was Akbar and Jeff's Rehab Hut -- "Where the elite meet, to get back on their feet."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:05 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


one of the best things about debian linux is that their response to firefox trademarking their logo was to rebrand their firefox as iceweasel
posted by idiopath at 10:57 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Someone I knew in college used the "ice weasels" thing as their outgoing answering machine message for a while. It confused the hell out of a lot of us before we read it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:41 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Example and I still do the Akbar and Jeff finger-touch thing whenever we see or hear something we can sympathize with. (See a kid getting picked last for kickball? Finger-touch.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:59 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pancakes, coming up!!!!
posted by stevil at 8:06 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still remember being kind of excited when the "Life in Hell guy" did some cartoons for the Tracey Ullman show. And the recurring shock from picking up an LA Weekly from time to time and seeing that the hugely successful "Simpsons guy" was still drawing comic strips.

What a run. Thanks for all the laughs!
posted by malocchio at 8:20 AM on June 22, 2012


OK, time to share my favorite Hell comic, too.

Jeff tells Ackbar he's going out for a walk. Sees a sign on a lightpole that says, "Lonely? Stuck in a dead-end relationship? Meet someone new and exciting! Singles Club tonight!"

He follows the sign to a room, and, yup: the only other person in the room is Ackbar.

(Cue Escape/The Pina Colada Song, only more realistic and with wa-wa trombones...)
posted by IAmBroom at 12:29 PM on June 22, 2012


You know Konami's Simpson's arcade game is full to the brim with Life In Hell cameos. Binky is everywhere in that game.
posted by JHarris at 2:07 PM on June 22, 2012


IAmBroom: This one?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:10 PM on June 22, 2012


Sys Rq, I love THIIIIIS much!
posted by IAmBroom at 3:11 PM on June 23, 2012


Argh! Sys Rq, I love you THIIIIIS much!
posted by IAmBroom at 8:32 PM on June 23, 2012


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