OKILLY DOKILLY on The Simpsons, Sunday April 7 2019

Just saw a post from our friends in OKILLY DOKILLY, if you check out tonight’s new episode of The Simpsons all the way through, the video and song for “White Wine Spirtzer” plays just before the end.


this is just a screen capture

From their Facebook page, “Neighborinos! We have some VERY SPECIAL NOSE NEWS! Us Neds were recently contacted by the wonderful folks over at The Simpsons…”

Here’s the link to the complete post and video as it looks on the show
(sorry we couldn’t get it to embed).

Congratulations guys!

Update, April 9th. Rolling Stone Magazine has covered this momentous event!

“We saw the video and knew they had to be on the show,” longtime Simpsons showrunner Al Jean tells Rolling Stone. “We do not endorse their message of indiscriminate drinking of white wine spritzers.”

Posted in Contemporary, The Simpsons, TV | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Simpsons in Mourning: Perry, Flint, Tork

It’s been a while since we donned our dark clothes and gathered with our Springfield brethren to recite the kaddish prayer. But now it is early in 2019, and grief has visited members of our community thrice . . .

luke perry RIP

RIP Luke Perry

Luke Perry embodied the spirit of the 1990s. He was hunky, heartfelt, perfectly quaffed with bespoke sideburns and the starchiest flannel shirts you ever saw. After a bit role in the original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie he took a job with the upstart FOX TV network. Staring on the series “Beverly Hills 90210” didn’t do much to impress his half-brother, Herschel Shmoikel Krustofsky, but Dylan McKay’s angsty lustfulness made him  “The Cory” of his era for girls from coast to coast. Despite leaving the show after only four years, and taking a wide variety of acting roles after–from clown sidekick to father of horny teenager Archie Andrews–Perry was always shadowed by the character. He’d made peace with that, and seemed to enjoy his status as elder statesman of weekly television. Luke Perry was just 52 when he died from a stroke today.

To cope with the loss of his brother Herschel visited his mother. Together they remembered Luke, and cried. It was an act of naked emotion that shocked even Kristy himself. If there’s any silver lining in the death of a family member, it’s that it can sometimes open hearts and deepen reconciliation.

Keith Flint, lead vocalist of Prodigy, died of an apparent suicide at just 49 years old. Flint was an extroverted child who suffered from dyslexia. Frustrated with school he was kicked out, and left home soon afterward. He formed Prodigy with friends in 1989. The band’s breakout single, “Firestarter” came the us U.S in 1996 and ignited a brief moment of dominance for electronica and dance music in popular culture. The genre needed an media-savvy face, without Flint’s iconic look and incendiary performances it’s likely electronic music and rave culture would never have exploded like it did–even “Beverly Hills 90210” did a “rave episode”.

RIP Keith Flint

Marge and Ruth Powers experience the power of The Prodigy

Raves became such a big deal, that Flint had to become an activist, fighting U.K law that made raves illegal,

“…The Prodigy was known as much for its overt anti-establishment stance as for its music. The band members were vocal critics of the U.K.’s Criminal Justice And Public Order Act 1994, which banned the raves popularized in the late-1980s during the so-called Second Summer of Love.” (Time magazine)

Although the prominence of the electronica didn’t last in the states, Flint and his band continued to tour and perform to huge crowds in England and across Europe.

the prodigy, keith flint, rip

Springfield’s infamous underground dance club

To honor Keith Flint and the community of fans who discovered raves thanks to Prodigy’s anthemic music,  The Hate Box will be holding an oldies dance night from 11pm to 7am the next morning. Otto, Mayor Quimby, the clerk from the record shop formerly known as Good Vibrations, and even Marge and Ruth Powers will all be there.

If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, or feeling depression, please talk to someone. Help in the U.S. can be found here:
and in the UK at:

Marge Simpson is doubly troubled by recent losses. Peter Tork–ne Thorkelson–the affable bassist for The Monkees died in late February. Tork was immersed in music his entire life. He taught himself several instruments at a young age, and cut his teeth playing folk music in the coffee shop scene of New York’s bohemian Greenwich Village. Tork was referred to music producer and promoter Don Kirshner by Stephen Stills (Of Crosby Stills Nash and Young). Kirshner assembled The Monkees as a TV ready version of The Beatles, and they’re considered to be the first “boy band”. Youngsters loved The Monkees, and the groups appeal was nearly universal and inexhaustible.

Tork was among the more musically talented members of the group, and was given permission to participate in recording sessions for first two Monkees’ albums (which the other members were not). After two years working on the sitcom Tork quit the group, and had to buy out the five years left on his contract to the tune of $1500,00 dollars!

After leaving the band, Tork bummed around, playing music with friends such as George Harrison, and trying to get his own band going. Despite being a talented and serious minded performer, he just couldn’t get his own act a recording contract. While still gigging around California with various bands for fun, Tork settled into a teaching career.

His orbit never fully left The Monkees though, after MTV started rerunning the show in the mid-80s, the Monkees were once again in demand. Not only that, but their sound and talent were embraced by their contemporary peers. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, and Andy Partridge of XTC all count themselves as fans and have contributed to recent Monkees albums. Tork rejoined his colleagues for occasional reunion shows through the 2010s, and also record well received new albums.

not even his real hat


Marge will likely turn to her record collection to comfort her, allowing the popping wax tracks worn grooves to comfort her, just as they protected her from the cruelty of childhood bullies. She may also call her therapist, Dr. Lowenstein Zweig for a mental health check up.

The Thorkelson family has suggested that fans of Peter please donate to The Institute for The Musical Arts in Massachusetts, a nonprofit that provides young women with music education, music recording, and music community (information at this link).

We’re barely three months into 2019, and things are rough, please check in on your loved ones.

Sincerely, your friends at Flim Springfield

Posted in Contemporary, Cultural Impact, RIP, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Hi, this is Diana, the person who rarely writes these essays. I’m writing now because, despite being a jaded individual who hates schmaltz, I love It’s a Wonderful Life.


Lenny as George Bailey
(Jimmy Stewart) 

Everyone in Springfield is very fond of Lenny, although we don’t know much about him. I’m sure if he encountered problems that went beyond “Aw, nuts,” everyone in town would rush over to help him.


Maude Flanders as Mary Bailey
(Donna Reed)

She’s a better fit as the spinster librarian in the “bad timeline,” but she’d also be fine as the “good timeline” beautiful housewife Mary. Was she was any fun as a teenager? Probably not.

I had never seen this movie until a few years ago. Of course, everyone knows the premise and the ending: an angel shows a suicidal man how awful his town would be if he had never been born,  and then he goes home to find out that all his friends and neighbors have contributed to a proto-GoFundMe to bail him out of his financial trouble. But when I actually got the DVD and watched it, I realized that the parts I was familiar with were all in the last 20 minutes, and I had never seen the majority of the film. I was inspired to watch it by an article on the AVClub , in which I saw for the first time a distraught George Bailey coming home to berate his family, trash his living room, ask his wife why they have all these kids, and yell at his daughter’s teacher on the phone. It was eerily like a scene out of my own childhood, and I was cautiously intrigued.


Mr. Burns as Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)
No question here. Mr. Burns was probably based on this character. Ancient, decrepit, and something of a “booger-man,” Mr. Potter would gladly snatch candy from a baby and would definitely block out the sun if technology allowed it in the 1940s.


LoveMatic Grandpa as Clarence
(Henry Travers)

An out-of-it yet helpful old geezer. LoveMatic Grandpa edged out Colonel Klink for this role by being just slightly more cuddly.

It’s a nice thing to see, a person who has given up every good thing he has ever had for a person who needs it more, being noticed and helped by all the people who care about him in his hour of greatest need. If I think about it too hard, I don’t 100% buy that none of the 12 other kids sledding that day would pull Harry Bailey out of the water, or that without George hanging around being sexy, Mary Hatch wouldn’t have gone on to marry Sam Wainwright and spend her life draped in jewels and furs. But I don’t care. Jimmy Stewart can sell me on anything.


Tom as Harry Bailey (Tom Karns)
The little brother that George saves from the icy water as a child, Harry grows up into a Tom-esque war hero and the raging yang to his brother’s sober ying.


Barney as Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) 
Barney is the town drunk, and Uncle Billy is a space cadet who’d wind up in a loony bin if it weren’t for his job a the Savings and Loan. Just point him in the direction of his house and he’ll be all right.


Mindy as Violet Bick (Gloria Grahame)
Mindy works at the power plant and it’s unclear what Violet really does, but we do know that they are both beautiful and sweet girls who like to have a good time. I bet Mindy hates hiking, and I bet Violet would LOVE drinking beer and watching TV.


Herb Powell as Sam Wainwright
(Frank Albertson)

Sam is living the life George Bailey should be living, doing important things and making boatloads of money. Like Herb, he owns a factory and is ahead of the curve on manufacturing. And when George needs it the most, Sam buys him the damn chair.


Old Jewish Man as Mr. Gower
(H.B. Warner)

This one works for the both the good and bad timeline Gowers. Gower is a sympathetic and generous man whose only fault is making a deadly mistake while trying to work through agonizing grief. If George isn’t around to catch his mistake, however, he becomes arguably the most tragic figure in the movie.


Sody Pop Girl as Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes)
Is there anyone cuter than the little girl whose sody pop hurts her teef at Uncle Moe’s? That’s why she’s the perfect choice for George’s winsome youngest moppet.


Chief Wiggum and Otto As Bert and Ernie
(Ward Bond and Frank Faylen)

Springfield is far from the idyllic world of Beford Falls, but if it were just a little bit better, Chief Wiggum and Otto might bond over their incompetence at their jobs.


Luigi as Martini (Bill Edmunds)
Bar owner Martini isn’t as much of a stereotype as sentient pizza box caricature Luigi, but you wouldn’t know that to hear Mr. Potter call him a “garlic eater” and state that people like Martini don’t deserve a nice place to live unless they deprive themselves of all small pleasures in life and save enough to pay cash for a house. How does it keep up with the news like that?


Moe as Nick (Sheldon Leonard) 
He sells cheap liquor to men who want to get drunk fast. Who else is it going to be?


Rabbi Krustovsky as Pa Bailey
(Samuel Hinds)

No one in town is as wise as Rabbi Krustovsky. You don’t see much of Pa Bailey before he passes away, but you can’t help but bask in his warm, glowing, warming glow.


Bea Simmons as Ma Bailey (Beulah Bondi)
You see the good and bad timeline versions of Ma Bailey, and Bea is definitely the good timeline one. She’s got a good eye for romance, and likes to enjoy life!


Lunchlady Doris as Annie
(Lillian Randolph)

There is a sad deficit of sassy black ladies in Springfield, so we have to settle for smartmouthed Doris, who is more acerbic that witty, to fill in for the criminally underused Annie, who has probably the best line in the movie.


Lowblow as Mr. Potter’s Bodyguard
(Frank Hagney)

Yeah, OK, this guy was barely in the movie, but he was a dead ringer.


Barney’s rose and Zuzu’s Petals
Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.

Thoughts from JRC:
What is utopia like if you don’t know you’re living in it? That’s the question asked by both The Simpsons and “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Everyone in Springfield is lucky, really lucky, to be where they’re at. As bad as catastrophes get, from sun blockers, to comet strikes, to Love Day riots, to government-funded containment domes, the residents can count on everything resetting by next week. Similarly, even though there’s a ‘snake’ in the garden of Eden that is Bedford Falls, the people have it pretty good.

But if you’re the linchpin of that utopia, the nail that gets pulled out, what happens then? We know what happens in Frank Capra’s classic. You take George Bailey out of Bedford Falls you get Pottersville, a diseased den sick with sin and spite. Not only does mean ol’ Mr. Potter control everything, but his influence has sucked the innate goodness out of everyone else. Is there such a person in Springfield, though? Some would argue that if you change even one little thing, like the guy who runs the Kwik-E-Mart, all of society would fall! The town has survived losses over the years, though: the passing of Maude, Bleeding Gums Murphy, and [possibly] Dr. Marvin Monroe (as well as in recent years Mrs. Krabapple). Not to mention that weird Principal Skinner retcon. Life there goes on the same as always.

There is one Springfieldian, though, who must be there to hold everything together. I’m talking, of course, about Marge Simpson. In season four’s “In Marge We Trust,” after days of playing nursemaid to her sick family, Marge winds up railroaded off to prison for a simple mistake. First the Simpson house goes to rot, followed quickly the townsfolk, who descend into riot when an effigy of Jimmy Carter* is unveiled. Ironically, incarceration is just the ticket to give Marge a much-needed break and introduce her to a supportive social network. Utopia for the rest of Springfield is a prison for her: “Hell is other people.” ~Jean-Paul Sartre and Marge Simpson.

Over the course of 10 seasons in Springfield, we see Homer Simpson devolve from a staunch family man and concerned community member into a self-absorbed narcissist. While the rest of the town accept their place as integral members of the community, Homer takes advantage of the situation. He proudly takes stupid risks, pushing the walls of acceptable behavior, knowing the universe will self correct and save him. He’s enjoying life too much to care. The story arc in “It’s A Wonderful Life” is George Bailey learning how much he’s meant to other people, that his personal sacrifices haven’t been in vain. In a sense, Clarence is trying to prove to George he hasn’t been taken advantage of. Imagine if upon arriving back in his proper timeline, George Bailey set out to use his vaunted position in the town to continually fleece his friends and neighbors for his own enrichment? That’s Homer starring in the awful sequel to “It’s A Wonderful Life” as produced by Frank Cross—Bill Murray’s character from “Scrooged.” Luckily, despite repeated attempts to exploit its success, no one in Hollywood has managed to crush “It’s A Wonderful Life’s” syrupy-sweet heart.

*History’s Greatest Monster.

Posted in Classic, Film, gifs, recasting, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RIP Penny Marshall, Director, Actress, and The Babysitter Bandit

Panny Marshall as Laverne in the 1970sToday we learned that Penny Marshall has passed away at 75. Penny Marshall may be most well-known to older folks as Laverne from the sitcom “Laverne & Shirley.” Movie fans will also know her as the director of the Tom Hanks-starring hit “Big” among other classics.

Simpsons fans. however, will have a special place in their hearts for her portrayal of Lucille Botzcowski, aka Ms. Botz, The Babysitter Bandit, from the season 1 episode “Some Enchanted Evening.” At a time when many stars wouldn’t appear on a cartoon, let alone a show on the upstart Fox network, Marshall took a guest-starring role as one of the series’ first villains. She did a great job voice acting a notorious crooked babysitter who robs the Simpson’s home while Homer and Marge go out for a romantic night alone.

One of the first major Simpsons guest stars

Penny Marshall was born in NYC in 1943, and grew up in an entertainment industry family. Her brother Garry had a hand in creating “Happy Days,” which indirectly inspired George Lucas’ film “American Graffiti.” Penny got her start in show business acting in commercials before landing guest spots on “That Girl,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” and a recurring role on “The Odd Couple” TV series.

Gal PalsIn 1975, Marshall and Cynthia Williams were introduced on “Happy Days” as friends of The Fonz and subsequently spun off into their own series, “Laverne and Shirley,” which was set in Milwaukee in the same late 50s time period as its parent show. The series followed the adventures of the eponymous bosom buddies and their oddball friends. It is sometimes noted for its queer subtext: two single women well into adulthood who rarely dated, and treated each other as life partners. The show ran for eight seasons, changing locations and losing Williams by the end.

he can talk! he can talk!


“Laverne and Shirley” were a background gag in season 8’s “Simpson Spinoff Showcase” as a poster Troy McClure walks past.

we're gunna do it!

Season 8’s Spinoff Showcase

Marshall’s directing career began with the comedy-action film “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” starring Whoopi Goldberg. She went on to helm some of the best, most thoughtful comedies, of the 1990s, including “Big,” “A League of Their Own,” “Awakenings,” and “Renaissance Man.” The Simpsons made a handful of references to her films over the years, including this gag from “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy:


Penny Marshall was smart, funny, and talented. She is a small part of The Simpsons, but a huge part of the story of contemporary film comedy. She will be missed.



Posted in Classic, Contemporary, Cultural Impact, RIP, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bongo Comics 25 Years Retrospecticus

As traditions go, New Comic Book Day may be pretty minor, but it’s a special day for folks who read them. Each Wednesday of the month, thousands of us make a pilgrimage to our LCS (Local Comic Shop) for a short respite from our humdrum lives. We escape into absurd worlds where spandex heroes defeat evil, personal demons take metaphorical form, and humor usurps boredom. There are thousands of variations of these stories, there’s something for everyone in the comic shop. Sadly, though, by the end of October 2018, we’ll be seeing fewer escape portals on the racks.


Looks like you got more than you bargained for–HAHAHAHAHA!

A couple months ago, at the monumental San Diego Comic-Con, Bongo’s Nathan Kane announced that after 25 years, the company Matt Groening started to publish Simpsons comics, would no longer produce any monthly books. Although they’d continue to handle other print projects, in a sense Bongo Comics would be no more. Whether it has something to do with the FOX-Disney merger, the hard times publishers are having overall, or just a decision to wind down The Simpsons empire a little, I can’t say. I know that the absence of Bongo will be felt by me, thousands of comics-lovers, Simpsons and Futurama fans, and the community of creators who’ve been telling top notch stories about America’s most famous animated family. Bongo alumni Gail Simone perhaps said it best on twitter, collected here by ComicMix.

I was sad too when I heard the news. I’ve been a comics reader and collector since I was 12 years old. As a dyslexic, I can honestly say that without comics I would be illiterate. I love Bongo comics because I know that no matter what’s on the shelves each Wednesday, I can always pick up their current issue and have a great time with it. In January of this year, Flim Springfield interviewed independent artist Nina Matsumoto, who got her professional break thanks to Bongo. With news of the closing, we decided to check in with her (and a whole bunch of other Bongo Alumni), to learn more about the company, its community, and legacy.

The seal of approval

In 1993, anything with a Simpsons logo on it was flying off store shelves, but there wasn’t all that much available—at least not much of quality. There were some basic action figures made by Mattel, trading cards, plush dolls, stickers and t-shirts, and bootleg junk so badly made the Krusty Seal of Approval wouldn’t even stick to it.

Three years after The Simpsons became a hit TV series and national phenomenon, Groening (who wisely kept the publishing rights for himself) formed Bongo Comics with colleagues Bill Morrison, Cindy Vance, and Steve Vance.

Bill Morrison,
from Simpsons Comics #8

Bill Morrison, founding Art Director for Bongo Comics: “I remember going down to San Diego Comic-Con in July of 1993 with Matt, Steve, and Cindy and announcing that Bongo was coming in November. We did a group signing of the Simpsons Comics and Stories issue and anything else fans brought with them, and we handed out promotional postcards.”

The 1990s were the best of times and the blurst of times for comics. Dozens of new publishers set up shop, building new universes full of musclebound heroes or updated versions of vintage creations. High profile companies like Topps Trading Cards and even Penthouse were pumping out superhero comics; most wouldn’t last. In 1991, even before the first proper Simpsons comic was published, the cast, creators, and characters appeared in a quarterly magazine.

Bill Morrison: “One of the projects I worked on was Simpsons Illustrated, a magazine for Simpsons fans. Steve and Cindy Vance were the editors, and that magazine was the precursor to Bongo. We had a comics section in the magazine that expanded issue by issue. At the end of our first year, we did an annual issue that was all 3-D. At the end of the second year, Matt and Steve were looking for a theme for the second annual and someone hit on the idea of making it an all-comics issue and also printing it comic book size rather than magazine size. The result was “Simpsons Comics and Stories.” The sales on that issue were so good, it gave Matt the confidence to start an entire company based on his Simpsons characters. That’s how Bongo began. I was the Art Director, artist, and writer; Steve and Cindy were editors, artists, and writers, and Matt was the publisher.”

In November 1993, the magazine was superseded by the simply-titled “Simpsons Comics,” featuring the work of Tim Bavington, Morrison, Sondra Roy, Cindy Vance, and Steve Vance. 175 thousand copies were printed, and it became the 25th-highest selling comic in its debut month. Books for “Radioactive Man,” “Itchy & Scratchy Comics,” and “Bartman” soon followed. With those hitting shelves every 30 days, plus specialty market projects like calendars, episode guides, and the Simpsons Sunday newspaper strip, Bongo needed talent to write, draw, color, and edit the stories—in addition to all the comic production-savvy office staff needed to keep a business running smoothly.

Bill Morrison: “I remember that every time we really got started on one of the four first issues that were scheduled to launch in November, some promotional need would come up and we would have to stop and work on a magazine cover or poster or something. Eventually we got behind on the actual comics and had to work very long hours to get them out on time. There were a few times when I took a sleeping bag to Steve and Cindy’s home studio and slept on their floor so we could keep cranking out the pages nearly around the clock.

“Steve was writing pages and drawing rough layouts, and at one point I was skipping the pencils and going straight to inks over Steve’s rough layouts. I was basically drawing with an ink pen with Steve’s layouts underneath as a guide. At one point I was inking a page every half hour, and I would throw them over to Cindy who would scan them and then color and letter them on the computer. Somehow we managed to get the books out on time, and they were really good! We won an Eisner Award for ‘The Amazing Colossal Homer’ in Simpsons Comics #1 which was incredibly exciting and gratifying.”

the first of many Eisner winning stories.

... not sure if ...

Eric Rogers giving you
the patented Fry Squint

Eric Rogers, writer on dozens of Futurama comics, was an assistant on the Futurama TV series from day one, and an animation savant. “I mean, it was like a big clubhouse, you know? There was a Simpsons video game in the main room that led to everyone else’s offices. There were always toys around. Designs everywhere for all of Matt’s different projects. You couldn’t help but be happy and enjoy your work in that environment. Matt made that place a lot of fun.”

Fortunately for the new company, to ease the workload there were friends and fresh applicants hungry for work.

Bill Morrison: “We also turned some spec scripts into comic stories on a few occasions. TV writers would write Simpsons sample scripts as audition pieces to get work on other TV comedy shows, and a lot of those scripts were good, but never turned into shows. We bought a few and had the writers turn them into comic stories.”

Some talented hands also came from the LA-based Simpsons production team at FOX who were between seasons and needed work; others came from far and wide.

not pinchy

Ian Boothby and his pal Lobstie

Comedian Ian Boothby: “I was working in television in Canada but Bongo was my first professional work in comics aside from a couple of backup comic strips in “Cerebus.” I was doing two self-published mini comics, “I” and “Sqares” (that’s the correct spelling). I met the Bongo folks at the Alternative Press Expo in San Jose [and there was] some light interest in working with me, then months passing without hearing anything. Pretty standard in any entertainment industry. So in the meantime I kept writing my own work. Eventually was allowed to pitch a four page story to them. Then I got a full comic and things went from there.”

Batton Lash, chained to his rock

Batton Lash, creator of “Supernatural Law” (aka Wolff & Byrd): “I began my relationship with Bongo via Mimi Cruz, of Night Flight, a comics retailer in Salt Lake City. She recommended me to Bongo editor Bill Morrison, who then offered me the job. At first, I thought he was asking me to write The Simpsons! When I learned Bongo was giving Radioactive Man his own book, Bill wanted me to write it. I asked if I could do the layouts as well as the script. Bill was—and is—very accommodating. He said no problem.

“[…] Steve and Cindy Vance originally did a six-issue miniseries of Radioactive Man (followed by an ‘Giant Annual’). Steve and Cindy pretty much went through the Marvel, DC, and Image ‘homages’ during their tenure. With my first two issues, I did take-offs of DC and Marvel, but from different eras not covered by the Vances. I was determined not to have him a total blockhead (a la Homer); Radioactive Man was a bit oblivious, a little naïve, but would rise to the occasion—at least in my stories!”

Comics writer Gerry Duggan: “I met Bill Morrison through David Mandel [Showrunner of “Veep,” Producer/Director for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and co-creator of the “Clerks animated series, among many other credits], and we hit it off right away. I gave him a copy of The Last Christmas – the sad, funny true story of Santa Claus after the apocalypse and my writing partner on that was Brian Posehn – Bill asked us if we had any Simpsons in us, and we ended up pitching a beat-for-beat re-imagining of Jaws. It was my first paid work as a comics writer, and I think it will hold up forever because of [artist] Hilary Barta‘s wonderful work.”


Thomas Lennon, Patton Oswalt, Gerry Duggan
signing copies of Treehouse of Horror #13
at Golden Apple comics in LA

It’s not always easy to translate a cartoon into a comic. Daffy Duck’s sustained glare at Bugs Bunny creates great comedy tension in a cartoon, but in a comic book it can look like someone forgot to include the word balloon and is just wasting valuable page space. The creators working to translate Springfield’s idiosyncrasies had to be adept at not only making a good comic, but finding ways to make the characters’ distinct charms feel right. But in comics, there is more than one solution to a creative problem.

Ian Boothby: “Characters like Itchy and Scratchy work better on television because you can control the timing and cut away from a gruesome image, where on the page it just sits there. Timing in general is the big difference, you don’t have as much control of the pacing of a joke because everyone reads at their own speed.”


Timing is everything!

James Lloyd, longtime artist on Futurama: “Spectacle is part of the Futurama appeal and we were competing with the ever-bigger screens of home entertainment, which can be a challenge. I certainly put what I could into the ‘eye-ball kicks’ of any given adventure with the PE [Planet Express] gang in hopes the comic would read with the same excitement I get from the show. We certainly had great designs and a limitless visual playground to draw from— which is a rarity I don’t take for granted. Still, satire was the key; it was always at the forefront of both shows and the comic. As long as we were true to that, we were golden.”

alternate reality

From Futurama Comics #83
by Ian Boothby, James Lloyd, Mike Rote, Art Villanueva, and Karen Bates

I heard you were dead! Yes, but it was only a mild case

Fearless Fosdick by Al Capp

Batton Lash: “Radioactive Man was kind of like Fearless Fosdick, which was a strip within a strip in L’il Abner. Radioactive Man took place outside The Simpsons universe. […] Bill’s mandate was there were a thousand issues of Radioactive Man, spanning the history of comics. That said, Bill gave me carte blanche; if I wanted to do a ‘50s Fawcett take-off or a ‘60s Gold Key parody, he’d stand back and let me go! For better or worse, I have this memory of comics since childhood (but I stopped reading comics by 1974—so my knowledge after that is limited!). I thought that someone who was unfamiliar with, say, a Charlton parody, might enjoy the stories on their own merit. For those in the know, however, it’s all gravy!”

(not pictured, Fallout Boy as a dirty hippie

Radioactive Man through the years
(dialogue by Steve Vance and Cindy Vance)

american elf, johnny boo

The American Elf himself
James Kochalka

James Kochalka, musician and alt-comics mainstay, who has written and drawn in all 81 issues of SpongeBob comics: “They really gave me free reign to explore the characters as I wished. My version of the characters have distinct personalities that are different than they are on the show. My SpongeBob comics are Kochalka comics, for sure.”

And Bongo trusted the creators they worked with to strike the right tone in their stories. From an editorial point of view, Bongo created a supportive space. FOX didn’t have a say in what came from the company. If you were invited to Springfield, they let you run free.

Ian Boothby: “I’m probably most proud of “The Simpsons Futurama Crossover Crisis.” At first Matt didn’t want to do it because the characters didn’t exist in the same universe, but I found a way to make it work that he approved of and we got to go all out with it. Then it was collected into an amazing trade by Abrams ComicArts that was nominated for an Eisner.”

An epic collection for an epic story!

James Kochalka: “Because SpongeBob wasn’t ‘mine,’ a part of my brain just didn’t even care what the hell I drew happening. Which kind of freed me of all restraint, and allowed me to do surprising narrative U-turns.

I don't know enough about SBSP to make a joke here

James’ personal recommendation.

And I loved it. I took this feeling of freedom, this total abandon, and expanded it in my later Johnny Boo books and my Glorkian Warrior series. And then I took what I learned there back to SpongeBob! Culminating in my greatest SpongeBob comic, Skate the Cake from SpongeBob Comics #75, which has strong parallels to my book ‘The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza.’ Collectors really should track that issue down, if they don’t have it already. At 18 pages, it was my longest SpongeBob story and also my best.”

Batton Lash: “There were some suggestions, but those guys said it wasn’t etched in stone. There was, however, one ‘don’t’: an editor asked me not to use a parody of Bono in “Radioactive Man: The Musical” because he and his wife were fans. And here I thought nothing in The Simpsons universe was sacred! But, considering how much leeway they gave me during my entire run, I deferred to his wishes!”

image from http://frunosimpsons.blogspot.com/

Turn Up the Silence, The Radioactive Man Musical

here are two comics series...but there are 5 of us...

Zongo away!

Bongo didn’t just hire comic veterans and undiscovered talent to tell new Simpsons stories, Groening wanted to give a stage to peers and other indie creators who’d influenced him. Under the banner of Zongo Comics, the company published stories by underground artist Gary Panter, and a self-titled book by Mary Fleener.

Panter is called “the founder of punk art” by some, he made his mark creating album art, zines, and concert posters in the same 1980s LA punk scene that helped nurture Groening. He’s probably best known as the set designer for Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Despite his indelible influence, the seven issues of “Jimbo” published by Zongo were probably the most widely available comics work available from Panter in 1995.

outsider art, on the inside!

Jimbo and Fleener, published by Zongo Comics

Mary Fleener may be even more of an iconoclast than Panter, she’s been at the vanguard of autobiographical comics since starting to publish in the 1970s underground. Across a variety of outlets, Fleener has chronicled experiences within her community, hometown politics, counterculture music from the Grateful Dead to the Ramones, and has crusaded for personal issues. Her style is reminiscent of cubism and mostly presented in stark black and white. Her point of view is individual but universal, and often anchored by her experiences as a woman. She’s part of the legendary “Wimmen’s Comix” and “Weirdo” roll call, so the three issues of “Fleener” published by Zongo are just a small part of her resume, but they well illustrate the commitment to talent Bongo worked to represent.

I can’t think of another mainstream comic company releasing such audacious work, but that’s why people become publishers: to do what they want, and have fun with it. Fun is what Bongo specialized in. In addition to the Zongo line, they published original series and passion projects by the artists and writers who contributed to their Simpsons books, comics legends, and in one surprising case, a tie-in from the top of the music charts.

hot goofs from the rip roaring 1940s!

Bill’s Morrison’s Little Green Men

In 1996 Bongo’s Creative Director treated himself to “Roswell: Little Green Man,” a retro sci-fi title that ran twice annually—between Simpsons deadlines—for 6 issues.

Bill Morrison: “The high point for me was probably getting to create my Roswell series and see it published. Matt encouraged me to come up with something of my own, and it really expanded my own perception of what was possible for me to do as a writer and artist. I never won an award for Roswell, but it did get four Eisner Award nominations. And it did have an unexpected fan. I could hardly believe it when at a party [The Rocketeer creator] Dave Stevens not only told me how much he loved Roswell, but was going on and on about it to a friend.”


Hopster’s Tracks, a perfect example of the funny animal genre



1998 saw two issues of “Hopster’s Tracks.” a classic funny animal book by writer/artist Stephanie Gladden, who drew early Simpsons comics and has since gone on to work for Cartoon Network and get a Harvey nomination for illustrating Paul Dini’s Jingle Bell. She also writes and draws her own webcomic, “Girls of Monster Paradise,” when not busy with all that other work. Bongo editorial assistant Scott M. Gimple co-created 2003’s six-issue series “Heroes Anonymous,” based on Morrison’s original concept, which was drawn by a bevy of Bongo colleagues¹. Gimple is now the showrunner as well as a producer and scriptwriter for the Walking Dead TV series.

Probably one of the most unusual and well known non-Simpsons books Bongo published was “Mylo Xyloto Comics,” a tie-in to a concept album by the band Coldplay. It was written by Mark Osborne, director of 2016’s stylish “The Little Prince,” Weird Al’s claymation Jurassic Park music video, and the live action parts of the SpongeBob Squarepants movie.


The album by Coldplay

The comic book

Steve Hamaker, who previously handled the first colored editions of Jeff Smith’s “Bone” and later won an Eisner for “Rasl,” provided colors for the book: “That project was one of the first coloring jobs after my full-time work with Jeff Smith had ended, so I had to keep on schedule and try to hit all of my deadlines. Mark became a close friend, personally and professionally, and I wouldn’t have that without Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay, Jeff Smith, or Bongo Comics.

“In a last-minute situation I was hoping to attend San Diego Comic-Con in 2012 to kick off the premiere of the first issue, but my son had just been born 2 or 3 weeks earlier. Obviously I wasn’t going to attend that year, so I hadn’t planned ahead. As you may know, you can’t get a hotel in San Diego a week before the con. The band Coldplay made sure that I had a hotel room and I have never forgotten that generosity. I’m sure that Mark and Terry Delegeane at Bongo had a lot to do with that as well, but it was a very special weekend because of that. In 2013, Terry at Bongo once again made sure that I had a room by letting me take one of their reserved rooms.”

A personal favorite Bongo series of mine was the 12 issues worth of “Sergio Aragonés Funnies,” a delightful one-man anthology by the legendary MAD Magazine artist and creator of GROO the Wanderer. Each issue was a mix of autobiographic stories, gag strips, and puzzle pages, the kind of book that is full of simple pleasures and invites rereading.

he's the best! buy his books!

The various looks of Sergio Aragonés

so many references

slab it!

Bongo would occasionally take the characters into places TV couldn’t or wouldn’t. The Simpson family regularly revisited their superhero alter-egos, delved into the world-within-a-world of Radioactive Man, and famously crossed-over with Futurama years before the TV series. This year, readers even got to see the return of beloved villain Hank Scorpio. Ian Boothby also did the miniseries “Comic Book Guy: The Comic Book” aka “The Death of Comic Book Guy,” parodying the sales-goosing trend of killing off and reviving comic book characters for media attention and profit.

oh hank, we miss you so.

Not spy vs spy, but money vs money.

One longtime Simpsons tradition is the annual Treehouse of Horror episode featuring censor-pushing frights and parodies of classic monster tales. Bongo’s annual print version went even further, creating some of the most out-there, fun, and wild stories by inviting a slate of top-notch guest creators to warp Springfield to their horrific desires. Sadly, there won’t be a final edition for 2018, but grab some of the previous years; they’re all great!

Batton Lash: “I’m a huge Bradbury fan; that said, I just wanted to write four little stories in two colors! …I’m happy to get in on and write of one the last Treehouse of Horror Nathan edited!”

an EC Comics Cavalcade!

Including work by Bonham, Steve Ringgenberg, Lloyd, Steve Steere, Angelo Torres, John Severin, Mark Schultz, Al Williamson, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, Len Wein, and Bernie Wrightson!

James Lloyd: “I was proud to be a part of the THOH #11 (2004) that reunited a good chunk of the original EC gang (Tales From The Crypt, Haunt Of Fear, etc), who were heroes— though I was extremely nervous I’d fall on my face throughout. I would be happy to draw more of those the rest of my days.”

james lloyd

Beautiful pencil art for THOH #11 by James Lloyd

Gerry Duggan worked on more than one of the Treehouse annuals, 1995’s all-comedian lineup featured Brian Posehn, Patton Oswalt, and Thomas Lennon: “Bill [Morrison] put that together. I came out to Los Angeles a few years earlier and had been writing spec scripts and jokes and was kind of writing for Twitter before it existed and yelled my material at you in a comic shop. Brian and Patton were early adopters in the Duggan biz, and Dave Mandel broke my work down for me in a way that really helped me understand how much you have to wrench on quality material sometimes in order for it to seem effortless. I’ve always been lucky in collaborators.”

oh my god, it's eyes!

From Treehouse of Horror #18
(highly recommended)


The Infinite Horizon by
Gerry Duggan, Phil Noto

One of the more atmospheric stories was Duggan’s “Rosemary’s Baby” parody with artist Phil Noto in the 2012 annual.

Gerry Duggan: “I was introduced to Phil by Dave at a dinner during San Diego Comic Con in either 2004 or 2005, and during dinner we got to talking and I fell in love. Before long I pitched him a comic series that would become “The Infinite Horizon,” and since then we’ve spent time together in Springfield and a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Phil’s a genius artist and storyteller. His back must hurt for lugging me around for so long.”

Bill Morrison: “Most of those creators who were already well known for writing other types of comics came to us via our Treehouse of Horror annual. We launched Treehouse by inviting some of our favorite comic writers (Jeff Smith, Mike Allred, and James Robinson) to contribute, but we had our regular artists draw their stories. I think the first three issues went that way. We would meet people whose work we loved at conventions and ask them if they’d like to write a Treehouse story. Then one year I met Geof Darrow and he told me he’d really like to draw something for us. We hired him to do a two-page pin-up in his own style, figuring that if the characters were “off-model,” nobody would have a problem because it was only a pin-up, not a whole story. Geof did an amazing piece [THoH 4, 1998] and everyone loved it, including Matt who suggested that we bring more artists into the Treehouse annual and let them draw in their own styles. The only proviso was that they had to give the characters the trademark overbites and bulgy eyeballs. We got to work with some of the greatest artists and writers in the comic book industry over the years, and I don’t recall anyone ever turning down our invitation. Everyone was always thrilled to be asked to be a part of The Simpsons.”

so sick

By Geof Darrow?
It’s like Where’s Waldo gone mad!

Bill Morrison stepped down as Creative Director in 2012, and went on to do character designs for Groening’s Netflix series “Disenchantment” before taking over as Editor of MAD Magazine in 2018. Leadership of Bongo was handed to Nathan Kane:

Bill Morrison: “Yes, Nathan was a natural choice to take over for me. He had already served as Bongo’s Art Director for many years, so when he transitioned to Creative Director it was a pretty smooth process. Nathan had already done some writing and editing in addition to his art direction and coloring, so he really knew how to do the job going in. There was nothing I felt I needed to tell him.”

don't get mad, BUY MAD

The all new Gang of Idiots!

I asked Morrison if he took anything from Bongo to his other work: “Only everything. I’m sure I wouldn’t have my job at MAD if not for all the knowledge and experience I got from working with Matt at Bongo.” All the creators who spent time at Bongo comics honed their storytelling skills, and took those tools back to their own work.

Gerry Duggan: “Oh, wow – you know, just how much collaboration is required to make something great, and how much work goes into a comic that makes the writer and artist look good from the bullpen. Whether it was Nathan’s colors, or Bill’s notes – the whole office contributed in meaningful ways.”

working his fingers to nubs

James Lloyd, the artist in his natural ink speckled state.

James Lloyd: “Anytime you get standard in your work or let your attention slip, it ends up in print— for all time. Deadlines are there to be met, but you’ve also got to take the time, lose the sleep, skip the night out, to get things right. I’m proud of my time on the book, but there are bad notes that make me absolutely cringe when they make the trade paperbacks. Ah, well.”

What I heard repeatedly while talking to the artists and writers was what a supportive creative environment the publisher was. The company helped make comics happen that otherwise wouldn’t, they welcomed new people and mentored them properly so they could grow and keep advancing in their careers. That many of them continue to work together outside Bongo is a testament to what a great company it is.

James Kochalka: “SpongeBob was really separate from the rest of Bongo. Basically what Bongo did was act as our distributor, I think. And I really think they did this motivated more by friendship and kindness than by profit. Nickelodeon Magazine shut down and Hillenburg wanted to continue but had no experience running a comic book company. Bongo’s help, and expertise, made the enterprise possible.”

Eric Rogers on mentoring new talent: “Nah, not so much of that. Although I did edit stories for David Slack, who went on to be a big shot Teen Titans writer, and has since amassed a fantastic career as an hour-long network drama writer. I’m just going to assume my amazing editing of his Bart Simpson Comics stories was what led to his brilliant career  ;-)”

Bill Morrison: “Yes, I collaborated with Bongo’s current Creative Director Nathan Kane, and artists Andrew Pepoy and Tone Rodriguez on my Beatles Yellow Submarine graphic novel. Andrew and Tone inked most of the book and Nathan provided all the beautiful colors. Ian Boothby is also writing regularly for MAD.

“Taking artists and writers under my wing was a regular part of my job, but one particular artist who comes to mind is Mike Rote. Mike used to come to Comic-Con and hang around the Bongo booth as a kid [an 11 year old kid]. We got to know him and would give him encouragement when he sent us drawings and fanzines. When he was old enough, we hired him as an intern and I taught him to pencil and ink the characters. Mike went on to be Bongo’s most prolific inker, and he’s now the Art Director on Matt’s new show Disenchantment. Another Bongo success story is Scott M. Gimple who started out as my editorial assistant and is now the showrunner of “The Walking Dead” on AMC. I’m also proud that we gave the great Gail Simone her first job in comics. She’s obviously a talented writer, but she’s also very funny. She wrote many Simpsons stories for us, as well as the Simpsons newspaper strip, before moving on to fame as one of the best superhero writers in the business.”

Nina Matsumoto: “Before Bongo Comics, I seriously thought women couldn’t work in American comics. I grew up on manga and, of course, I saw many female creators in there. I was also into newspaper strips, where I also saw female names. But I never saw them in American floppy comics, so I just assumed that for whatever reason, women couldn’t work in that industry. I thought that if I were to work in comics, I’d have to either be a manga artist or draw newspaper comic strips. That is, until I bought a one-shot called ‘Lisa Comics’ #1 in 1995. Lisa was my favourite character, so naturally, I had to get it. At the back of that issue, there was an interview with a female intern at Bongo Comics. A woman! Working for Bongo! She wasn’t even an artist or a writer, but it still blew my mind. I didn’t think it was possible. It made 10-year-old me realize that this industry DOES hire women, and I COULD work in comics.

“In January of 2007 — discovered through a piece of fanart that went viral — I was hired to draw a manga-style Simpsons story (‘Too Crazy Juvenile Prankster: Bartomu!’) by Nathan Kane, the art director at the time for Bongo. I had no previous experience being published, but he trusted in my abilities based on my webcomic. After I finished that story (my first art job ever), I was hired to pencil stories in their house style, a skill I had honed over several years of drawing fanart of The Simpsons.

“In 2013, I penciled a story (also manga-styled) and the cover for ‘The Wonderful World of Lisa Simpson,’ another Lisa-centric one-shot. It was extremely fitting considering how the first Lisa one-shot gave me hope that I could work in comics here one day.”

Ian Boothby: “I saw my friend James Lloyd also get discovered and, like Nina Matsumoto, deliver some of the best work Bongo ever did. We’re all from the Vancouver area along with John Deleney so we called ourselves Bongo North. Nina, Andrew Pepoy and I won an Eisner for ‘Murder He Wrote,’ [Treehouse of Horror 14, 2008] hard to beat that.”

America Junior

Bongo North, sounds lovely.

Ian is currently working on a sequel to “Sparks,” a delightful graphic novel about a pair of cats who disguise themselves using a robotic dog mecha, which he created with Matsumoto (profiled on Flim Springfield here), and added, “Working with my wife Pia was great [Pia Guerra co-creator of “Y: The Last Man”]. It’s not something we did often back then. We currently work together on The New Yorker cartoons.”

How do they keep up with the news like that?

by Pia Guerra for The New Yorker

For fans of comics, The Simpsons, or Futurama, getting a monthly dose of humor is a great way to treat ourselves. For the creators of those comics, the rewards (beyond those well-earned paychecks) were something different: validation of their work.


The Clash in “Sandman Presents:
Marquee Moon” (unpublished)

Eric Rogers: “There’s one moment above all that stands out. I worked at NYPD Blue for a bit in the mid-2000s and one of the writers there, Jody Worth, was personal friends with Mick Jones from The Clash. Mick was a comic junkie, so Jody mentioned to him that I wrote Futurama Comics and Mick asked if I—me, a nobody hack—would sign an issue for him. Of course I did it, and signed a copy of Futurama Comics #1 for Mick f***ing Jones. The fact that a member of The Clash asked my signature still blows my mind. That moment still feels like it was a dream, not reality.”

James Lloyd: “A high point would definitely be getting to draw a story written by one of the funniest guys in independent comics, Evan Dorkin (‘Spree for All’, Bart Simpson #31)— but the greatest moment for me during the Bongo tenure was finding out that a childhood idol, Hilary Barta, not only knew and liked my work, but had lent his brush to it while ‘assisting’ long time Futurama inker Andrew Pepoy on an issue.”

the magic behind the page

A page from “Spree for All”
pencil art by James Lloyd, and finished art.

Bongo Comics may be no more, but like The Simpsons, Futurama, and SpongeBob Squarepants, the characters and their stories will continue to have a lasting impact on fans and the industry where they were created. In comics, no story is ever truly done or lost.

it me.

Best way to spend a day

Back issue racks will hold Bongo books for years to come, they’ll remain available on the Simpsons Store and Futuramaland apps, and passed around between friends and family, they’ll keep kids entertained on long car rides and over summer vacations, always just an arm’s reach away to help stave off boredom.

Eric Rogers’ thoughts echoed those of everyone we talked to about how they’d like Bongo to be remembered: “I just hope the fans feel like they were getting additional episodes of the shows via our work. That was always the goal, to make the comics feel like they were the episodes that never aired. If we achieved that, then our work was done.”

My personal hope that as the family of Bongo creators go on to their next assignments and their own work, that they continue the legacy of supporting new creators, and that fans of their comics remember the people who created them and keep looking for those names every Wednesday.

I want to thank everyone who sent replies to me for this piece for their time. I’m sorry I couldn’t include everything. We’ll close with the words of Nina Matsumoto, who I think sums up what makes Bongo Comics so special.

“If not for Bongo, I may not be a professional artist today, or an Eisner Award winner. For that, I owe them so much. They’ve always given me the utmost respect and trust, and I feel privileged that they were the first comics company I ever worked for.”



The final issue
Wednesday October 17, 2018



¹Clarification courtesy of Bill Morrison: I had the original concept of a support group for super heroes, and I shared the idea with Scott who expressed interest in helping me develop it. We each created different characters and wrote scripts. The Gay Avenger was my original creation, but Scott fleshed out his origin story in the script he wrote for the second issue. Beelzubella was another of my creations, and I wrote the script for her story in issue #5. Scott created some of the other characters with my input, more as an editor. I also did original character designs that we passed on to the artists. It was very collaborative.


*Interviews and quotes have been lightly edited for clarity. Additional editing by Diana Welsch.

Simpsons and Futurama artwork © Bongo Entertainment, Inc. and Matt Groening Productions. All other works are property of their creators or corporate entities were applicable.

Posted in comic books, Cultural Impact, interview, Matt Groening, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Stole, made up, what’s the difference?” Bojack Horseman and The Simpsons, Part 3

It’s that time again! That time when J and I binge-watch the new season of Bojack Horseman and make note of the Simpsons references that we, as people who live and breathe Simpsons references, can’t help but catch.

If you’re new here, please don’t take the article’s title too seriously, we adore Bojack and are not accusing them of stealing anything. It’s just a pleasure to notice the similarities between two of our favorite shows.

  1. Season 5, Episode 3: “Planned Obsolescence”
    In this episode, Todd and his girlfriend Yolanda, both asexual but not aromantic, get into some wacky hijinks when they visit Yolanda’s extremely sex-positive family for dinner. Her father is an erotic novelist, her mother is an adult film star, and her twin sister is a sex advice columnist. Yolanda feels pressured to keep their asexuality under wraps, and asks Todd to help her keep up the appearance that they are sexually active. Hilarity ensues when their ruse works and Yolanda’s father offers them a very valuable barrel of lube (the last barrel of the old family recipe), for their imminent lovemaking. The night gets even wackier when the barrel breaks and the whole family is sliding around like a, uh, a yak in heat.Forgive the crappy attempt at a GIF, I’m not fancy enough to make good GIFs from Netflix, and no brave soul has made a Frinkiac for Bojack Horseman yet.


    Recognize that gag? I sure did. It’s just like, in “King-Size Homer,” when Homer tries to slip in oil to get workman’s comp and ends up sliding gracefully into Mr. Burns’ office.


  2. Season 5, Episode 4: “Bojack the Feminist”
    In Hollywoo, there is a yearly award ceremony for celebrities who fucked up bad: the “We Forgive You” awards. Sexual harassers and other toxic assholes get an award for ducking out of the spotlight for a few moments after being called out, and are rewarded with an unlimited number of chances, no matter how many people they hurt or how little they do to deserve redemption! How do they keep up with the news like that? Anyway, the stage setup for the Forgivees includes a word you will probably only recognize from The Simpsons, from “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song.”whoopsiedoodle


    Not harassing women or being racist is a real flat tire, I mean a cube, maaaan!

  3. Season 5, Episode 5: “The Amelia Earhart Story”
    This episode was a much-needed glimpse into the backstory of one of my favorite characters, Princess Carolyn. We knew of her very humble upbringing as the daughter of a maid, but this episode showed us that she left that lifestyle behind when she was accepted as a student at UCLA. Here’s the brochure she got in the mail.soyouvebruinedyourlife.jpg
    Marge got one a lot like it when she gets pregnant with Bart in “I Married Marge.”


  4. Season 5, Episode 9: “Ancient History”
    Bojack’s SPOILER ALERT FOR SEASON 4: ( little sister ) Hollyhock (criminally underutilized this season, I have to say) comes to visit Bojack on a break from her university studies. Bojack brags about how good he thought he’d be at being in college, and drops a phrase that I’m sure he must have heard on “Homer Goes to College” when he was a young actor.crustydean copy.jpg
    Homer refers to Dean Peterson as a “crusty old dean” twice in that episode.
  5.  Season 5, Episode 10, “Head in the Clouds”
    In the Simpsons, this gag doesn’t last past the end of the opening credits. In Bojack Horseman, however, it lasts multiple episodes. And even though it’s post-season 10, I love this gag and wouldn’t dream of not including it.At the very beginning of Season 11’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner,” it is revealed that Homer is able to chaperone Bart and Lisa’s field trip by making a robot out of garbage to cover for him. The robot, complete with a tape recording of Homer singing his version of Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money,” so impresses Mr. Burns that the robot gets promoted and is given its own office (where it soon bursts into flames).

    workhardformoney copy.jpg

    Bojack Horseman’s take on this is when Todd, who clearly does not understand what non-asexual people enjoy about sex at all, builds his friend Emily a sex robot.  Dripping with dildos and buttplugs, and equipped with a hacked Speak & Spell that blares sexually aggressive phrases, “Henry Fondle” fails to arouse Emily. Todd then takes it to work with him, where it promptly talks the CEO out of his job by saying “I WANT TO BE ON TOP OF YOU.” Here’s how that plays out:


    Here’s another bonus Simpsons joke from the same episode, just an aside because they already did this joke in season 3, Episode 4: “Fish Out of Water.”


    principalsworld copy
    Gotta love that joke, though.

Posted in Cultural Impact, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simpsons Joke Origins: Linda Ronstadt’s Plow King Jingle

In one of my favorite episodes, Season 4’s Mr. Plow, Barney teams up with Linda Ronstadt to record a jingle advertising his snowplow business, Plow King (and slamming his best friend Homer’s rival business, Mr. Plow). Those seat-moisteners at FOX won’t let the video be online, but here’s a fan vid with the audio:

I know that Barney and Ronstadt had been looking for a project to do together for awhile, but did you know that this wasn’t her first ad jingle? She actually recorded a jingle for the Remington electric razor in 1967, produced by none other than (my favorite) Frank Zappa. It’s extremely unhinged, and Remington apparently did not like it and declined to use it in their ad campaign. Check it out:


I can’t find any other jingles that Ronstadt ever recorded, so this might be the only one until Plow King. Could the wild and crazy Remington jingle be the inspiration for having her team up with Barney? Matt Groening has often proclaimed his love for Frank Zappa so I imagine he’s aware of it. The Remington ad may have never made it to the air, but the Plow King jingle is a beautiful, memorable tune dear to the heart of any classic Simpsons fan.

Hat tip to the episode of 99% Invisible that made me aware of the Remington ad.

Posted in joke origins | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simpsons Brackets: The Rock Bottom Interview

awe crap.

Tonight on Rock Bottom

One of the biggest Social Media hits in the Simpsons fan community this past year has been the pair of “Best Episode” elimination competitions run by Simpsons Brackets. If you’ve ever heard of NCAA basketball’s March Madness, it’s like that but with Simpsons episodes and on twitter. The episode selections are well thought out, and they generate thoughtful fun debates among fans. I’ve found it very interesting to learn how other people see The Simpsons differently than I.

Having just concluded their contest for the Best Lisa Episode we thought it would be a good time to get to know the mysterious force behind this fervent fan phenomenon.

FLIM Springfield:Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?” …Tell us who you are, and what your Simpsons Project is about?

right, no media!

Simpsons Brackets,
“Here’s me trying stay anonymous while giving an interview”

Simpsons Brackets: I run a Twitter account called @SimpsonsBracket that runs bracket-based tournaments in which fans vote on favorite Simpsons episodes 3 or 4 times a year. I got the idea in 2017 when some Twitter friends and I were quoting the Simpsons back and forth at each other (as we often do) and debating the relative merits of various episodes. It occurred to me that it would be fun to do a huge March Madness-style tournament to decide which was the Greatest Simpsons Episode of All Time.

So in March 2018 I launched the account and hosted the first #MargeMadness tournament on Twitter. (“Marge vs the Monorail” was the big winner, with “Last Exit to Springfield” the runner up.) Some friends helped me choose the 64 episodes and determine the seeding.

now play Lisa Needs Braces

The top 2 Simpsons episodes of all time–according to twitter.

It was successful beyond my expectations—we got over 700 followers in just a couple of weeks, and the final match-up got over 900 votes. So I decided to keep it going. In July 2018 I launched our second tournament, called #LisaNeedsBrackets, to determine the greatest episode about Lisa.

fight! fight! fight!

you’re fighting for your parent’s love!

This time I had followers help me to nominate their favorite episodes, and I came up with a semi-scientific way to do the seeding. It’s fun to see people share their favorite quotes and moments, and to argue over why one episode is better than another. Simpsons fans are a fun (and funny) bunch, with a huge diversity of backgrounds and opinions. (For example, I had no idea how popular the Simpsons are in Australia!)

We at FS were shocked that Lisa's Substitute didn't make the final round

Your Best Lisa Episode Winner
“Summer of 4ft 2”

FS:It happened at the beginning of that turbulent decade known as the 80s” …When did you first watch The Simpsons? What early episode/joke do you remember, is there a moment that got you hooked?

SB: I was familiar with the Simpsons from The Tracy Ullman Show, although I didn’t watch it much. I remember when they were spun-off into their own show (I was a sophomore in high school) and I remember seeing bootleg Simpsons merchandise and t-shirts while on a high school band trip in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in May 1990. But the animation and humor was pretty crude back then, and didn’t take an interest in the show until about 1993 or 1994 when some college friends got me hooked. We started watching syndicated episodes every day, which continued through the 90s. I stopped watching new episodes regularly around season 12 or 13, but The Simpsons is still a big part of my heart and soul.


Whacking Day
a top tier episode.

I think the first episode that I truly fell in love with was “Whacking Day”, which has a lot of classic moments: Evil Homer dancing on Good Homer’s grave, Grandpa’s story about posing as a German cabaret singer in WWII (and one of my all-time favorite lines “Das ist not eine booby!”), the field trip to Olde Springfield Towne, Barry White (“I love the sexy slither of a lady snake”), and another favorite line from Mayor Quimby: “You’re nothing but a pack of fickle mush-heads!” Plus I have an inexplicable love for all the episodes that reference Jebediah Springfield, like “Whacking Day”, “Lemon of Troy”, “Lisa the Iconoclast”, and even “The Telltale Head”.

FS:Gee, I never realized TV was such a dangerous influence” …How has The Simpsons been an influence in your life or creativity?

SB: I suspect that The Simpsons has informed my sense of humor in ways I’m not even aware of. Like many fans, I quote the Simpsons all the time, especially with my brother and my wife… and now with my kids (we are slowly working our way through the first 10 seasons).

FS:$18 bucks for this? What a rip-off!” …Do you or have you ever owned any Simpsons tchotchkes? Shirts, trading cards, DVDs, action figures, ‘hand-drawn animation cells guaranteed to increase in value’, etc… what’s your favorite legit or bootleg stuff?

repeat! we need more bort license plates in the gift shop!

Must have gotten lucky, they didn’t run out!

SB: I don’t have a lot. I have the first 10 seasons on DVD, and a t-shirt and Bort keychain I got at Universal Studios a couple of years ago.

SF:We should thank our lucky stars they’re still putting on a program of this caliber after so many years” … Do you have a favorite season or episode, what makes it especially memorable for you?

SB: It’s hard to pin down a single episode as being my favorite, but one that I come back to again and again is “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”. I’m a big Beatles fan, and I love the many, many subtle (and not-so-subtle) references to Beatles history in that episode. And I’m still finding new jokes to appreciate. I’ve seen that episode a few dozen times, but just this year I noticed that on the cover of the Be Sharps’ album Bigger Than Jesus (which parodies the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover) they are WALKING ON WATER. Genius!

oh all the time

Did you say you were bigger than Jesus?

There are about 4 layers of jokes going on simultaneously, and the writers/producers didn’t belabor them or call attention to them. You have to pay close attention to “get” all the jokes in The Simpsons!

FS:There were script problems from day one” …Do you ever watch Simpsons with commentary on, or read interviews/news about the show? What’s the neatest thing you’ve learned about the ‘behind the scenes scene’…

SB: I enjoy learning about pop culture and historical references that I wouldn’t know otherwise. I’d say I pick up on about 85% of them, but there are some deep cuts that I wouldn’t recognize if they hadn’t been explained to me (like Grandpa’s line about being spanked by Grover Cleveland on two non-consecutive occasions.) Even when I don’t have any real connection to (or fondness for) the source material, understanding the references makes the whole episode richer and more interesting. For instance, I’m a huge Disney fan, and I love the episodes that parody Disney history through the history of Itchy & Scratchy.

FS:Cartoons have the power to make us laugh and to make us cry” … 
Hypothetical Situation: Society is collapsing! You have to preserve the culture by rocketing 5 episodes of The Simpsons into space, what would they be? How would you make your decisions? Do the episodes have anything in common?

you're all under arrest

Humanity’s legacy

SB: Hard question! The Simpsons are so rooted in the time and culture that produced them that I’m not sure how any foreign civilization would remotely understand it. My kids don’t get a lot of the jokes from the classic 90s episodes… and not even the jokes about 90s pop culture! That said, if I wanted to preserve 5 episodes for posterity, I would probably start with:

– Homer’s Barbershop Quartet
– Summer of 4 Ft. 2
– King-Size Homer
– Treehouse of Horror V
– Marge vs. the Monorail . . . Plus several dozen runners up.

FS:Well, that’s the end of me” …You’re going to write the last Simpsons episode. What happens, how does it end?

SB: I hope that when the series ends they will announce it as the final season and bring back old writers/actors to be involved over the course of the season. Maybe construct a multi-episode story arc that brings everything to a close. Something like “Who Shot Mr Burns” but writ large across 5 or 6 episodes.

It could also be fun for the last episode to parody of a bunch of the most famous “series finales” in TV history: M*A*S*H, St. Elsewhere, Newhart, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Lost, etc. (Yes, it could foul up the continuity they’ve established in episodes that “flash forward” to give us glimpses of the future. But since when does The Simpsons really worry about continuity?)

until the show becomes unprofitable

leeching off the popularity of others.

The worst ending I can imagine would be for the show to simply peter out and finally be unceremoniously cancelled with no “send off”.

FS: Thank you Simpsons Brackets for spending time with us. Be sure to follow their twitter account for announcements and lively discussion. We’re looking forward to your next tournament this October! I wonder what it could be?

Posted in Classic Simpsons, Contemporary, Cultural Impact, interview | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Simpsons Joke Origins: Gee, Your Lip Looks Hairless

In the Simpsons’ Season 2 episode “Principal Charming,” Marge’s sister Patty is seen getting ready to go on her first date in 25 years by applying a chemical depilatory product called “Gee, Your Lip Looks Hairless.”


That’s funny in itself, but because I’m not a million years old, I didn’t know it was a reference to a real product. A chance encounter with an image on the internet informed me that there was, in fact, a scented shampoo called “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific!” produced in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jergens Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific from Robert Burton on Vimeo.

It looks like you can still order it online if you want your classmates to creep on you at the library.

your mother's a slot jocky now

Jackpot! for her and him.


Posted in Classic Simpsons, joke origins, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mike Reiss Interview: Jokes In Vast Quantities


and talk about a preachy book

Now available wherever fine books are sold!

Mike Reiss’ new book, “Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons” is a biography and tell-all of sorts about his years working on “The Simpsons”, and much more. He’s honest, friendly, funny, and blunt when he wants to be in recounting stories from his career as a comedy writer. Reiss has earned 4 Emmy Awards for his work on The Simpsons, as well as an Edgar Award for “Cro-Magnon, P.I.” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. 

With the FOX buyout likely coming soon from Disney or some other entertainment mega conglomerate, his book couldn’t have come at a better time, it’s a chance to check in with one of the founding members of The Simpsons’ braintrust. I also got to ask about different phases of his career, including a couple other shows he’s worked on that have informed my love of comedy and storytelling. 

Trust me, I know what I'm doing

The 80s cult classic,

FLIM Springfield: I know you wrote for “Sledge Hammer” early in your career as well as “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”. Even though the shows were wildly different they’re both very experimental in how bluntly they handle their fictional world and use that to get laughs. Do you have any particular memories or thoughts about how those early tv writing experiences shaped your work (and your partnership with Al Jean who you were already writing with)? Did your skills and comedy style translate well from National/Harvard Lampoon?

Mike Reiss: Al Jean and I were both good at parody. When we wrote at the “Harvard Lampoon”, we did mostly parodies and at National Lampoon we did the same. Then very luckily we were able to wind up on a lot of jobs that involved parody, starting with the film Airplane 2. Sledge Hammer was a tv show that was parody of Dirty Harry movies, and we were able to do a lot on The Simpsons. Then when we created a show, we did “The Critic” because we knew we could fill it with movie parodies. We can do lots of other kinds of writing, we can write for people and emotions, but we’re lucky to do what plays to our strengths.

Ted Phillips last name was given to Duke Phillips on The Critic as an homage.

1981 photograph of The Harvard Lampoon: Mike Reiss (seated left) and Al Jean (holding an iron). Patric Verrone juggles pool balls behind them.
Holding the axe is the late Ted Phillips, who became a lawyer.
Nixon mask, in the background, glowers vacantly.
(photo courtesy of Mike Reiss via Harvard Magazine)

FS: I loved the breaking of the 4th wall and little touches of Magical Realism that popped up on both Sledge Hammer and It’s Gary Shandling’s Show. It’s a creative effect that can really make viewers sit up and pay attention, but mostly seems to relegate those kinds of shows to smaller audiences. Even in the first few years of The Simpsons, a cartoon that could literally do anything, the show tread lightly on how far it pushed conceptual boundaries. Do you have any thoughts on why tv audiences can be so resistant embrace magical realism, why they reject having the fiction of tv stories pointed out? 

MR: The very earliest Simpsons episodes would have fantasy, flashback and that kind of thing and we saw that the public would accept those. If it became bigger in later seasons it was only because we saw that the public had no problem with  Magical Realism.

MR: The movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” involves Ferris just breaking the fourth wall constantly and people loved it, it’s a classic. In my script for the movie “My life in Ruins”, that was a running thing in the movie, where the main character was always turning to camera and talking. And the star of that cut it all out and it so hobbled the movie, hurt the storytelling, hurt the humor of the piece. I wish we’d left it in. The people in charge are often resistant to it, but the public enjoys it. The great modern example is “Deadpool”. He just keeps reminding you you’re watching a movie, but it never takes you out of the film. 

FS: I’ve read that in the 90s you had production deal with Walt Disney Company for a few years that was kind of rough—Do you cover that in your new book at all? 

MR: I had a production deal with The Walt Disney Company and it wasn’t a happy experience. Disney does great movies, and I love their theme parks but, at the time, 1998, they had a terrible television division: they meddled constantly in the creative process and never produced anything successful. If you read my book, there’s a chapter called “A Development Deal with the Devil” where I talk at length about the experience.

FS: Follow up, any thoughts on how things will go for “The Simpsons” and FOX now that it looks like they’ll be the new owners of the franchise?

MR: We just don’t know what the future holds for us with Disney buying Fox—and it may not be Disney, it may be Comcast.

nazi supermen are our superiors

Should have sold out
to KrustyLu Studios.

“The Simpsons” has just had a very secure run making a show for Fox Studios, airing on Fox Network, and syndicated on Fox Stations. It was beautiful synergy and we just don’t know how that’s going to change under new ownership.

FS: So, you spent a few years at “The Simpsons,” co-created “The Critic”, and “Queer Duck”. All shows you’ve worked with some iconic actors who have one-of-a-kind voices—ShandlingBullockKavner to name a few. You can hear their voices just by saying the name. Do you ever find yourself thinking in the voice of the character you’re writing for—or when it gets hard to do, do you have a trick to find your way back to it? Or is it just a real benefit to working with a team of creators who can help with that?

MR: I don’t think in the characters voices. It’s still just a job, I’m still writing, I never go into character or anything like that.  I think that’s a romantic notion.

reused backgrounds

Romantic Notions:
1992 Simpsons Writer’s Room, 1993 Itchy & Scratchy Writer’s Room.

MR: My one experience like that was writing “Queer Duck”. For some reason those characters spoke to me, and every day I would wake up excited to see what they’d do next. There was something about the nature of that cartoon and the characters that made it fun for me. Because it was the first first gay cartoon ever, everything was wide open and I could do everything new again. We are so hemmed in on by our past on “The Simpsons” and that was not a problem on “Queer Duck”.

FS: As a follow up to that—and I’ll approach this cautiously—I’ve heard you say on Simpsons’ commentary tracks that you weren’t happy with The Critic as a project. The cast was great, the animation was distinct and beautiful, the stories were a riot, but it didn’t last. It’s fondly remembered by everyone now, but looking back on it do you have any kind of an A-HA realization. “It would have connected with audiences IF . . .

look at my range!

Hotchie motchie! What a cast!

MR: I was not happy with “The Critic”. I’m glad it’s so popular, and watch it again and I see that its funny, it’s definitely funny but that’s it. I don’t think it’s well designed, because it was designed by committee. I don’t think the plots are that good, the characters lack the of depth of—let’s say—Simpsons characters. And it’s rarely touching, reaching the emotions the way “The Simpsons” has. I’m delighted people like it, I’m glad it’s so funny, but I wish it had been more than that.

FS: I didn’t realize you had written so many children’s books? It must be a nice change of pace to have control of a whole story and world, compared to the hoops you have to jump through in movie and tv production. In a case where it’s just you and a single artist, where do you like to go—What grabs you about writing children’s books?

MR: I love writing children’s books, I’ve written 19 of them. And yes, I like ‘em because I can just write them and they don’t take that long and they’ll either publish them or they won’t. They meddle very little in it. But he choice of illustrator is entirely up to the publisher. There’s a chapter in my book called “The Sleazy Nasty World of Children’s Books” where you can see all the answers to this.

in truth Santa would be suffering from gall stones hypertension, impotence, and diabetes.

Santa’s Eleven Month’s Off
by Mike Reiss and Michael G. Montgomery.

MR: In terms of illustrators, I have no input on Illustrators or illustrations, I sell a manuscript and then see I the book when it comes out. And in 16 out of 19 books I wish I had just a little input so I could have fixed things that were done incorrectly. It’s a crazy way to do the business. One gentlemen has illustrated 7 of my books and I’ve never met him. I don’t know who he is, or where he lives.

FS: What would you call the Mike Reiss zeitgeist? When people say “Get me Mike Reiss NOW!” or “This needs more Mike Reiss!” What are they asking for? Is the answer to that in Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons”?

MR: I’m a guy who brings the funny. I can do other things, I can write heartfelt, I can grapple with big issues.  But people come to me and they want parody, and they want silly, and they want jokes in vast quantities and that’s what I give them. That’s the work I’ve done uncredited on 24 animated films.

FS: As an atheist, what are some words to live by?

Mike Reiss: lot of people think atheists live in the dark amoral world, but it’s just the opposite: we believe this is the one chance we have in life, so we better be nice on this go around. If people are suffering you better help them now because there’s no afterlife where they’ll get a better shake when they die. Be good to everyone now, be a nice person, because we only have each other.

Flim Springfield: Thank you Mike for giving us your time. We earnestly recommend that Simpsons fans pick up or download a copy of the new book, it’s great Summer reading. And fans, Check out some of the other stories Mike Reiss has told on tv, film and books too, you’ll get a laugh, enjoy how inventive they are, and appreciate the escape.

buy my book!

Say it like you mean it!

Posted in Al Jean, Classic Simpsons, Contemporary, Cultural Impact, interview, The Simpsons, TV | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment