Thanks Matt Groening

Never mind the Simpsons — thanks for all the great years of Life in Hell. Thanks for making cartoons an integral part of the altweekly papers, until they weren’t. Thanks for leading the way, and changing my life in the process.

I have said before that the continued survival of this little corner of cartooning in which I toil is largely dependent upon the support we receive from publishers, which is increasingly in decline. Lloyd Dangle tossed in the towel awhile back, as did Lynda Barry, and now Matt Groening himself has retired his long-running, ground-breaking strip.

“Life in Hell”‘s newspaper count has dwindled over the years as cutbacks and consolidation forced out many features. Syndicated by Acme Features Syndicate, which Groening created, the strip hit a peak of nearly 380 papers in the early 1990s. In recent years, the strip appeared in less than 40.

One high-profile cancellation came from LA Weekly, which removed the strip back in 2009 due to budget cuts. Pandora Young, an editor for Mediabistro’s FishbowlLA (and a former LA Weekly staffer), was incensed by the news.

“Groening has been good to the Weekly over the years — making himself available to the staff for interviews, illustrating covers for the Weekly for the paper’s small standard fee despite his enormous success, and continuing to read the paper itself,” Young wrote when she found out.

“Dropping the cartoon seems incredibly short-sighted, so it’s probably safe to assume it was a decision made by the corporate offices in Phoenix.”

I’ll never understand why so many altweekly publishers have become so indifferent to the art form that helped define and establish their papers, to the extent that said art form is now dying on the vine.

But for now: thanks, Matt. Thanks for all the years. Thanks for the inspiration.