by Dan Gibson
Matt Groening's "Life in Hell," a comic that has appeared in the Tucson Weekly for a very long time, wrapped up its run of new strips last week, followed by four weeks of "greatest hits" starting with tomorrow's issue, before disappearing from our pages (and those of other papers):
The last “Life in Hell,” Groening’s 1,669th strip, was released on Friday, June 15. For the next four weeks, editors will have their choice of strips from Groening’s extensive archive before they close up shop in July on Friday the 13, which seems oddly appropriate.
“I’ve had great fun, in a Sisyphean kind of way, but the time has come to let Binky and Sheba and Bongo and Akbar and Jeff take some time off,” Groening, 58, said by email.
“It’s hard to imagine how the business model that sustained alternative social-commentary and political cartooning for two decades (and is now all but dead) would have evolved had papers not discovered the power of Groening’s strip and its ability to attract readers,” said syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall by phone.
The popularity of “Life in Hell” opened a path for a new breed of alternative cartoonists to appear in alt-weeklies across the country, cartoonists like Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling, Ward Sutton, Keith Knight and Rall. It also showcased the power of sharp, biting cartoons to editors looking to attain and grow a new group of readers...
“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.