'The Simpsons'.

Matt Groening is a U.S. cartoonist and TV producer whose comic career consists of one single series, 'Life In Hell' (1977-2012), starring the rabbit family Bongo, Sheba and Binky and identical homosexual partners Akbar and Jeff. The world, however, knows him much better as the creator of the animated TV series 'The Simpsons' (since 1989), 'Futurama' (1999-2003, 2008-2013, 2022) and 'Disenchantment' (2018, 2022). In many ways, Groening can be called the Walt Disney of our age. 'The Simpsons' have become the most popular and recognizable animated characters since Mickey and Donald. The show has won dozens of awards, is broadcast almost everywhere across the world and heavily merchandised. It influenced many TV shows, particularly in the field of adult animation, but also some live-action sitcoms. Today, 'The Simpsons’ remains a global phenomenon and one of the longest-running TV shows of all time. Yet Groening's style is vastly different from Disney's. His entire body of work is notable for its clever satire, edgy subversiveness, double layers and hidden jokes, but still very relatable humanity. His animated series managed to appeal to audiences of all ages, both general viewers as well as intellectuals. 'The Simpsons' is an all-encompassing satire of our present-day world. 'Futurama' satirizes science fiction as well as the future, while 'Disenchantment' tackles medieval fantasy. Matt Groening is one of the few cartoonists whose creations are subject to serious critical analysis and academic study. 

Life in Hell by Matt Groening
'Life In Hell', 'Akbar and Jeff'. 

Early life and influences
Matthew Abram Groening was born in 1954 in Portland, Oregon, the son of Homer Groening, an amateur film maker, writer and cartoonist. Despite having a creative father, Matt was strongly discouraged to follow in his footsteps, in the belief he would never be able to make a living out of it. At school, Groening enjoyed drawing spaceships, monsters and teachers' caricatures in his notebooks, which regularly got him into trouble. He discovered that the angrier people got about his drawings, the better they were. As a teenager, Groening became fascinated with counterculture: underground comix, cult novels, independent cinema, modern classical music, free jazz, psychedelic rock, outsider music, exotica and world music. Inspired by rock musician Frank Zappa, he decided to let no art forms be "too high" or "too low" for him.

In the field of "high art", Groening was influenced by artists like M.C. Escher, Mike Kelley, Wayne White, Cameron Jamie, Kenny Scharf and Jim Shaw. His favorite illustrators and one-panel cartoonists were Rowland Emmett, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Ronald Searle, Charles Addams, Dr. Seuss, J. Otto Seibold, James Thurber, Ron Cobb, Cal Schenkel and John Callahan. Among his graphic influences in the field of comics were Charles M. Schulz, Ernie Bushmiller, Carl Barks, Al Capp, George Herriman, Walt Kelly, Jules Feiffer, Mad Magazine (particularly the work of Jack Davis), Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky, Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Gary Panter, Kim Deitch, Robert Williams, Justin Green, Bill Griffith, Nicole Hollander, Heather McAdams, David Boswell, Dennis P. Eichhorn, Peter Bagge, Doug Allen, Daniel Clowes, Lat, Jim Woodring, Harvey Pekar, Art Spiegelman, Mimi Pond, Lloyd Dangle, Tom Tomorrow, Ted Rall, Chris Ware, Joe Matt, Carol Lay, Jeff Smith, Michael Dougan, Scott McCloud, Patrick McDonnell, Max Cannon and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix'. He also expressed an ironic love for the "so bad they're good" Christian propaganda comics by Jack Chick. In the field of animation, Groening's influences include Walt Disney, Max and Dave Fleischer, Otto Messmer, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Terry Gilliam, Jay Ward, John Kricfalusi and Bill Plympton. He also respects Mike Judge, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Sylvain Chomet, Nick Park, Stephen Hillenburg and Seth MacFarlane.

Work is Hell by Matt Groening
'Work is Hell'.

Higher education, lower expectations
Between 1972 and 1977, Groening studied philosophy and journalism at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where Lynda Barry and Charles Burns were his co-students. Both would become lifelong friends and strong influences on his work. They often collaborated on cartoons and articles for the campus paper, The Cooper Point Journal. After graduation in 1977, Groening moved to Los Angeles, where he met another struggling young cartoonist, Gary Panter, who shared the same interests and goals. The title character of Panter’s comic strip 'Jimbo' would later inspire Bart Simpson's hairdo. During the late 1970s, Groening was part of the artistic collective The Art Boys, which had people like Robert Williams, Mark Mothersbaugh (from the band Devo), The Pizz, Gary Panter, Mike Kelley and Neon Park as members. Groening soon found out living in L.A. wasn't as great as he expected. He worked several odd and unsatisfying jobs. One of the most notable was a music review column, 'Sound Mix', in The Los Angeles Reader, but he wasn't interested in the mainstream artists he had to interview and discuss. After a while, he just made up bands which didn't exist and gave them raving reviews. His column gradually discussed several other topics, beyond music. While he and a few readers got some enjoyment out of it, this job didn't please him in the long run.  

Self-published 'Life in Hell' zines by Matt Groening, 1977.

Life in Hell
Groening's struggling early years, particularly trying to make a living in L.A., were expressed in his gag comic 'Life in Hell' (1977-2012). The series started out as a couple of doodles for his friends. Since Groening at one point worked in a photocopy center and a record store, he could make copies of his own comics, bundle them and then sell them to clients. In 1978, 'Life in Hell' first appeared in print in the local art magazine Wet. From 25 April 1980 on, they ran in The Los Angeles Reader, reaching a wider audience.

'Life in Hell' has five recurring characters. The main anti-heroes are a rabbit family, since they were the only animals Groening could draw recognizably. Binky is the disgruntled father. Originally Groening made him a sarcastic wiseguy, but this attitude didn't endear him with readers. He then recharacterized Binky as a pathetic victim of life's struggles, increasing his appeal. Binky is married to Sheba, his long-suffering wife, with whom he has a son named Bongo. Groening deliberately drew Bongo with only one ear to distinguish him from his dad. Bongo is a troublemaker. He is disobedient and often gets punished by his parents and teachers for asking deep, critical questions about life. In school he is bullied and put in detention, which looks a lot like a torture cellar. But Bongo also has a softer, more innocent side. He simply says what's on his mind. In several gags he lies awake at night, worrying about fears that are either disturbingly relatable, or laughably naïve. Later in life, Groening would also name his comics company Bongo Comics after the character. More than one observer has noted that Binky, Sheba and Bongo are embryonic versions of Homer, Marge and Bart Simpson.

The rabbit family has an autobiographical undertone. Bongo reflects Groening's childhood memories, while Binky expresses his adult frustrations. Binky and Sheba originally represented his views on relationships too, until his girlfriends complained that he always portrayed it from his own male perspective. So Groening created Akbar and Jeff, whom Groening called in interviews "either brothers or lovers - or both. Whatever offends you most, that’s what they are". They look like identical twins, both wearing fezzes and striped shirts. Their identical appearance and gender made Groening's satire of relationships more neutral. Their look is inspired by Charles M. Schulz' Charlie Brown, hence their similar shirts and short stature. Groening took a lot of cartooning tips from Jack Hamm's drawing guides and by mimicking the simple artwork and instant readability of Ernie Bushmiller's 'Nancy'.

'Work Is Hell', 1985. 

'Life in Hell' relies heavily on verbal comedy. Some cartoon pages are huge chunks of text, with only a few images here and there. Yet what it lacked in graphic skill, it made up for in its content. The series offers sharp and hilarious satirical digs at school, work, relationships, politics, religion and childhood. In the 1980s, the cartoon received critical praise and a cult following. Groening also collected his strip in books like 'Love is Hell' (1986), 'Work is Hell' (1986), 'School is Hell' (1987) and 'Childhood is Hell' (1988). These were followed by a merchandise line of shirts, greeting cards, calendars and mugs. Acme Features Syndicate began distributing the comic to several alternative newspapers. Acme Features was launched by Groening and his then girlfriend Deborah Caplan, and also published comics by Lynda Barry and John Callahan. In the late 1980s, Groening made exclusive 'Life in Hell' advertisements for Apple Computer. 

As 'Life in Hell' continued its run, the comic strip became less about his fictional protagonists and more about Groening himself.  He would portray himself as a bearded rabbit, illustrating anecdotes about his own past and/or recent life. Once he adapted pages from his own childhood diaries into a comic strip. In other episodes he directly references U.S. politics, actual events or popular trends. The tone also started to shift. Originally, Groening drew mostly cartoons about relationships and his inner frustrations. Once he got married, 'Life in Hell' dealt more with raising children. During the 1990s, he made several comics about his infant sons Will and Abe. Their unintentionally funny conversations, questions and remarks provided him with enough material to fill an entire book: 'Will and Abe's Guide to the Universe' (2007). The surest reflection of how Groening's outlook on life had changed was the new title he gave his comic in 2006: 'Life Is Swell.'

Although Groening once claimed he would never give up his comic, since "it's my foundation", 'Life in Hell' still came to an end on 16 June 2012. The market for alternative comics had shrunk considerably and, on top of that, his work on 'The Simpsons' and 'Futurama' took up most of his time. Twenty-two cartoonists drew a special tribute to 'Life in Hell', namely Sergio Aragonés, Alison Bechdel, Ruben Bolling, Jim Borgman, Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Jordan Crane, Tom Gammill, Sammy Harkham, Peter Kuper, Carol Lay, Bobby London, Patrick McDonnell, Tony Millionaire, Jerry Scott, Robert Sikoryak, Jen Sorensen, Art Spiegelman, James Sturm and Tom Tomorrow. Another homage came from Ted Rall, who wrote words of praise on his personal blog, claiming that the success of 'Life in Hell' motivated many mainstream magazines and newspapers to publish more alternative cartoonists.

Life in Hell
'Life In Hell', 'The Los Angeles Way Of Death', 1982. 

The Simpsons
In the mid-1980s, the 1982 'Life in Hell' episode, 'The Los Angeles Way of Death', motivated Hollywood producer James L. Brooks to offer Groening a TV contract. The original plan was to adapt 'Life in Hell' into animated shorts, but when Groening found out that he would lose his rights to his comic he changed his mind. He was somewhat anxious about the whole idea anyway, given the existence of so many bad TV versions of popular comics. So he came up with a totally different concept about a dysfunctional family. Groening named several characters after his own family: father Homer, mother Marge and daughters Lisa and Maggie. The name of the son, Bart, is an anagram of "brat", which perfectly describes his personality. 'The Simpsons' first aired on 19 April 1987, as 15-second shorts in 'The Tracey Ullman Show'. They served as bumpers right before and after every commercial break. The shorts quickly caught on and by 1989, a 20-minute Christmas special was made. The pilot episode was written by Mimi Pond. High ratings paved the way for a full-blown prime time sitcom, which still runs to this day. This makes it the most successful and longest-running TV spin-off of all time!

Much like 'Life in Hell', the earliest seasons of the show had simple artwork, yet made up for it by being a brilliant satirical mirror of present-day society. Groening knew that limited animation could be easily forgiven if the humor and writing were excellent, such as with Jay Ward's 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' (1959-1964). 'The Simpsons' distinguished itself from other cartoon shows at the time by being animated without cartoony body exaggerations or physically impossible gags. It also attracted attention for its subversive style, poking fun at family ethics, politics, business, religion, education, media, nuclear power and the United States in general. The Simpsons are a dysfunctional family, whose hometown Springfield is a place where bullying, bad public schooling, isolated retirement homes for the elderly, alcoholism, nuclear threats, depressed workers, crime and corrupt politicians, lawyers, religious leaders, self-help gurus and businesspeople are rampant. Characters are frequently seen drinking, smoking, swearing, fighting and expressing other questionable behavior. Since many people associated cartoons with children's entertainment 'The Simpsons' drew a lot of surprise and outrage. Decades earlier, Hanna-Barbera's 'The Flintstones' (1960-1966) and 'Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home' (1972-1974) had been successful with adult viewers too, but the tone was still very child friendly. Since the late 1960s, various underground animated cartoons had existed and since 1972, Ralph Bakshi directed subversive animated films, strictly intended for adults. But these were all created outside the mainstream. 'The Simpsons'  was the first prime time animated show to be uncompromisingly adult in tone. Various moral guardians considered it unsuitable for young viewers. Particularly breakout character Bart Simpson was perceived as a bad role model. Some schools at the time banned Bart Simpson T-shirts.

Though these objections didn't stop the yellow-skinned family from becoming a mainstream success. By 1992, the series was such a cultural phenomenon that during a meeting of the Republican Party on 27 January 1992, U.S. president George Bush Sr. declared that "the American Family (...) needs to be a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons." That same week, Bart Simpson responded in the next episode of their show: "Hey, we're just like The Waltons: we pray for an end to the recession too". In a 1 October 1990 interview with People Magazine, First Lady Barbara Bush had earlier declared ‘The Simpsons’ "the dumbest thing she ever saw."

Cell from the Simpsons episode 'Treehouse of Horror V' (1994).

'The Simpsons' gradually gained more respectability. The animation improved and the comedy became even more sophisticated. The show features many different kinds of jokes, which reference both high and low culture. Allusions to history, literature, science, politics, music, sports and famous film scenes appeal to average viewers as well as intellectuals. Each episode also features funny background gags, inscriptions and secret messages, some which can only be caught after multiple viewings. Another reason why 'The Simpsons' allows for so many different and unpredictable storylines is its colossal cast of colorful and unforgettable characters. An entire town was created around the family. There is even a comic book store owner, Comic Book Guy. He is a spot-on parody of every obsessive and self-important pop culture geek, so much so that viewers have frequently asked Groening whether he happened to be based on their local comics salesman. Groening standard reply is that "Comic Book Guy is just EVERY comic book store owner in the US" The Simpsons’ universe also features its own animated cartoon ('Itchy and Scratchy', a pastiche of cartoon violence) and comic book characters (the superhero spoof 'Radioactive Man').

As 'The Simpsons' became more popular, the show gained some remarkable celebrity fans, among them Salman Rushdie, Frank Zappa, Stephen Hawking, Moby, Michael Jackson and Stanley Kubrick. Several celebrities guest-starred as voice actors, among them Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Taylor, Meryl Streep, James Brown, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Kirk Douglas, Stephen Hawking, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Mel Gibson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Michael Jackson. Some of them were fellow comic artists and animators, including Hugh Hefner (the episode 'Krusty Gets Kancelled', 1993), Mike Judge ('Bart Star', 1997), Stan Lee ('I Am Furious (Yellow)', 2002, 'Married to the Blob', 2014, 'Caper Chase', 2017), Art Spiegelman, Alan Moore, Daniel Clowes ('Husbands and Knives', 2007), Gary Larson ('Once Upon a Time in Springfield', 2010), Nick Park ('Angry Dad: The Movie', 2011), Neil Gaiman ('The Book Job', 2011), Seth MacFarlane ('Dangers on a Train', 2013), Pendleton Ward ('Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus', 2016), Seth Green ('The Cad and the Hat', 2017), Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast, Dan Harmon and Marjane Satrapi ('Springfield Splendor', 2017) and Matt Groening himself ('My Big Fat Geek Wedding', 2004 and 'Homer the Whopper', 2009). It landed the show a place in the Guinness Book of Records for being the TV show with the most guest stars in history.

Several artists have also guest-animated the shows' opening credits, including Banksy ('MoneyBart', 2010), John Kricfalusi ('Bart Stops To Smell the Roosevelts' 2012, 'Treehouse of Horror XXVI',  2015), Bill Plympton ('Beware My Cheating Bart', 2012, 'Black Eyed, Please', 2013, 'Married to the Blob', 2014, 'Lisa the Veterinarian', 2016, '22 for 30', 2017, '3 Scenes Plus A Tag From Marriage', 2018, 'Manger Things', 2021, and 'One Angry Lisa', 2022), Seth Green ('The Fabulous Baker Boy', 2013, 'The Cad and the Hat', 2017, 'The Wayz We Were', 2021, 'The Many Saints of Springfield', 2023), Sylvain Chomet ('Diggs', 2014), Michael Socha ('What to Expect When Bart's Expecting', 2014), Don Hertzfeldt ('Clown in the Dumps', 2014), Paul Robertson, Ivan Dixon & Jeremy Dower ('My Fare Lady', 2015), Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland ('Mathlete's Feat', 2015), Steve Cutts ('Teenage Mutant Milk-Caused Hurdles', 2016), Disney animator Eric Goldberg ('Fland Canyon', 2016) and Pendleton Ward ('Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus', 2016). The opening credits of 'Poorhouse Rock' (2022) were designed by fan artist SpikerMonster. For the segment 'Death Tome' in the Halloween episode 'Treehouse of Horror XXXIII' (2022), the manga 'Death Note' by Takeshi Obata was parodied by having the original crew of the 'Death Note' anime adaptation provide the animation. 

Comic Book Guy and a cameo of Stan Lee, from the episode 'I Am Furious (Yellow)', 28 April 2002. 

'The Simpsons' are some of the most recognizable TV characters on the planet. They inspired countless merchandising products, including 1991 music videos ('Do the Bartman', 'Deep Deep Trouble') and a 2007 film ('The Simpsons Movie'). The program became the most successful animated TV sitcom since Hanna-Barbera's 'The Flintstones' (1960-1966). In 1997, they broke the modern stone-age family's record as longest-running prime time animated TV series. Since 2018, 'The Simpsons' is also the longest-running U.S. prime time TV show since 'Gunsmoke' (1955-1975). It has been on the air for over 30 uninterrupted years.

Comic artists who once worked in 'The Simpsons' animation department were Istvan Fellner (lay-out, character designer), Mike Fontanelli (animation, lay-out), Tom Gammill (producer, scripts), Liz Climo (storyboard revisionist and clean-up artist) and Cliff Voorhees (backgrounds and lay-outs for three episodes).

On 28 March 1999, Groening launched a new animated sitcom: 'Futurama'. Its style of satire and comedy are similar to 'The Simpsons', but stories are set in the 31st century. The show stars Fry, a 20th-century simpleton, who was accidentally cryogenically frozen only to awake a thousand years later. He starts a new life at his distant relative's delivery company, under the guidance of the mad scientist Professor Farnsworth. Fry's co-workers are the antisocial robot Bender, clumsy Amy, bureaucratic Hermes, crab-like creature Dr. Zoidberg and one-eyed mutant Leila. The series is a spoof of the science fiction genre, both the naïve versions dealing with flying cars, aliens and robots, as well as more grim and frightening dystopias. Satire about human society is mixed with references to history, astronomy, math, quantum physics and space exploration. The show has featured celebrity guest voices such as The Beastie Boys, Lucy Liu, "Buzz" Aldrin, Gary Gygax, Mark Hamill, Al Gore, Stephen Hawking and almost the complete cast of the original 1960s  'Star Trek' TV series. Fellow cartoonists also turned up in front of the microphone, such as Sergio Aragonés and Groening himself in the 2010 episode 'Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences'. Aldin Baroza and Ted Stearn were storyboard artists on the series. Despite gaining excellent reviews, the show never reached mainstream popularity and was canceled in 2003. Thanks to a strong cult following it was revived in 2008, but met its end again in 2013. In 2014, the Simpsons episode 'Simpsorama' made a crossover with 'Futurama'. In 2022, 'Futurama' announced another comeback, this time on Hulu.

Cover by Matt GroeningBizarro Comics
'Bart Simpson's Treehouse Of Horror issue #7', 2001, and 'Bizarro issue #1', August 2001. 

Bongo & Zongo Comics 
In 1993, Groening formed Bongo Comics (named after the character Bongo from 'Life in Hell') with Steve Vance, Cindy Vance and Bill Morrison. The company published comic books based on 'The Simpsons' and 'Futurama', among other things. Zongo Comics followed a year later, featuring comic books for more mature readers, including work by Gary Panter and Mary Fleener. Matt Groening is also the co-producer of Paper Moon Graphics, a successful line of humorous greeting cards. Chris Yambar was scriptwriter for Bongo Comics. Artists who have worked for Bongo Comics were Igor Baranko, Hilary Barta, John Delaney, Tom Gammill, Stephanie Gladden, Tim Harkin, Jason Ho, Mike Kazaleh, Carolyn Kelly, Batton Lash, Abel Laxamana, Carol Lay, Oscar González Loyo, Carlos Mota, Phil Ortiz, Andrew Pepoy, Horacio Sandoval, Scott Shaw!, Mike Worley, John Costanza and Sergio Aragonés. In October 2018, Bongo Comics ceased all its publications.

On 17 August 2018, Matt Groening created a new animated TV series, 'Disenchantment', broadcast on Netflix. Set in the Middle Ages, though an imaginary version with several modern-day anachronisms, the show satirizes the world of fantasy literature. The main character is Princess Bean, a buck-toothed teenager who suffers from alcoholism. She is often seen in the company of her dim-witted elf, Elfo, and her personal demon Luci. Aldin Baroza was a storyboard artist on the series.

Two 'Comic Book Guy' covers. The one of the left references the classic cover of the first 'Fantastic Four' story by Jack Kirby. The one on the right parodies the cover 'Death of Supergirl' (Crisis on Infinite Earths issue #7, October 1985) by George Pérez.

Media appearances
Groening has voiced characters in animated films such as J. Otto Seibold's 'Olive, the Other Reindeer' (1999) and Bill Plympton's 'Hair High' (2004). He also appeared in several documentaries, including ones about about Frank Zappa ('Peefeeyatko', 1992,  'Late Night Special', 1993, 'Classic Albums: 'Freak Out!', 2021), Captain Beefheart ('The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart',1997), Chuck Jones ('The Magical World of Chuck Jones', 1992 and 'Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens', 2000), John Cage ('Revenge of the Dead Indians', 1993), Charles M. Schulz ('Good Grief, Charlie Brown', 2000), The Beatles ('The Beatles Revolution', 2000), Daniel Johnston ('The Devil and Daniel Johnston', 2005), Ed "Big Daddy" Roth ('Tales of the Rat Fink', 2006), Wayne White ('Beauty is Embarrassing', 2012), David Boswell ('I Thought I Told You To Shut Up!', 2015), Nick Park ('A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman', 2015), The Residents ('A Theory of Obscurity', 2015) and Steel Pulse ('Dreadtown'). He occasionally played in the amateur rock band The Rockbottom Remainders.  In issue #352 (December 1996) and #409 (September 2001) of Mad Magazine, Groening was featured in their column 'Celebrity Snaps', where he was photographed holding an issue of Mad.

Graphic contributions
Matt Groening designed the album cover of 'Crazy Backwards Alphabet' (1987) by Crazy Backwards Alphabet, a musical side project by Henry Kaiser, John French (Captain Beefheart), Michael Maksymenko and Andy West (The Dixie Dregs). He also illustrated the cover of 'Country Music in the World of Islam' (1990), an album by Eugene Chadbourne, Elliott Sharp and the Sun City Girls. He did the same for the comedy record '(If U Want Free Speech) Go To Russia' (1990) by Harry Shearer (the voice of Mr. Burns, Smithers, Skinner and several other Simpsons characters). Groening additionally illustrated Frank Zappa's posthumous live record, 'Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute' (1996). He was also one of many cartoonists who contributed a graphic homage to The Ramones' compilation CD/comic book 'Weird Tales From The Ramones' (2005).

Written contributions
Groening wrote the foreword to Monte Beauchamp's book about Robert Crumb, 'The Life and Times of R. Crumb' (St. Martin's Press, 1996), the 1956-1958 volume of the posthumous compilation books of Charles M. Schulz' 'Peanuts' series and Sergio Aragonés' compilation book 'Mad's Greatest Artists: Sergio Aragonés: Five Decades of his Finest Works' (2010). He did the same for reprints of Chuck Jones' autobiography 'Chuck Amuck' (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994) and Lat's 'Kampung Boy'. When the Hammer Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. held the exhibition 'Masters of American Comics' (Hammer Museum, 2005) and published a catalog with work by the respective artists, Groening wrote an essay about Gary Panter.

School is hell by Matt Groening
'School Is Hell'. 

'The Simpsons' has won 34 Emmy Awards over the years, and 'Futurama' won six. Matt Groening won an Inkpot Award (1988) and a Reuben Award (2002) for 'Life in Hell'. In 2000, 'The Simpsons' received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Groening got his own star in 2012. He received the Winsor McCay Award (2010) and in 2016 he was inducted in the Eisner Hall of Fame.

Legacy and influence
Matt Groening is one of the forces who brought alternative culture more into the mainstream. The cult success of 'Life in Hell' - doubled when 'The Simpsons' became a hit - made more publications create room for other alternative comic artists. His own comic book companies, Bongo and Zongo Comics, offered opportunities for several comic artists. By frequently name dropping or referencing artists he admires in interviews or in episodes of 'The Simpsons' and 'Futurama', Groening has increased their fame and fanbase. Groening and his work had received admiration from veteran cartoonists like Sergio Aragonés, Joseph Barbera, Robert Crumb, Terry Gilliam, Chuck Jones, Kamagurka, Willy Linthout, Ever Meulen and Richard Sala. Numerous cartoonists and comic artists have mentioned Groening as a strong influence on their work. In the United States he inspired Matt Furie, Stephen Hillenburg, Seth MacFarlane, Nina Paley, Ted RallDana Simpson and Andy Singer. In Europe, he influenced Pieter De Poortere, Steve Michiels and Zep. The Englishman Ryan Humphrey started 'Bartkira', a community art project where hundreds of artists from all over the world collaborate to recreate all six volumes of Katsuhiro Otomo's manga series 'Akira', replacing all the characters with the cast of The Simpsons'. In Africa, Matt Groening has followers among Pitshou Mampa, while in Latin America, Francisco Munguia is a fan.

'The Simpsons' had a huge impact on TV animation, proving that the genre could allow sophisticated quality entertainment and find an adult audience as well. It paved the way for many other animated TV series for adults, including Mike Judge's 'Beavis & Butt-head' and 'King of the Hill', Al Jean and Mike Reiss' 'The Critic' (1994-1995), Everett Peck's 'Duckman' (1994-1997), Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn's 'Daria' (1997-2002), Trey Parker and Matt Stone's 'South Park' (1997- ), Eddie Murphy, Larry Wilmore and Steve Tompkins' 'The PJs' (1999-2001), Seth MacFarlane's 'Family Guy' (1999) and 'American Dad' (2005), Aubrey Ankrum, Rhode Montijo and Kenn Navarro's 'Happy Tree Friends' (1999), Matthew Carlson's 'God, the Devil and Bob' (2000), Mike Reiss' 'Queer Duck' (2000-2004), Christopher McCulloch's 'The Venture Brothers' (2004-2018), Dave Jeser and Matt Silverstein's 'Drawn Together' (2004-2007), Seth Green and Matthew Senreich's 'Robot Chicken' (2005), Loren Bouchard's 'Bob's Burgers' (2011), Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon's 'Rick and Morty' (2013) and Raphael Bob-Waksberg's 'BoJack Horseman' (2014-2020).  At the same time they also made more eccentric and sophisticated children's TV shows possible, such as John Kricfalusi''s 'Ren & Stimpy' (1991-1995), Tom Ruegger's 'Animaniacs' (1993-1998), Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's 'Freakazoid' (1995-1997), Joe Murray's 'Rocko's Modern Life' (1993-1996) and 'Camp Lazlo' (2005-2008), Genndy Tartakovsky's 'Dexter's Laboratory' (1996-2003) and 'Samurai Jack' (2001-2004) (2017), Craig McCracken's 'The Powerpuff Girls' (1998-2005, Stephen Hillenburg's 'SpongeBob Squarepants' (1999-  ) and Butch Harman's 'The Fairly Oddparents' (2001-2017).

Groening's work also had an impact on U.S. TV comedy. Since the 1990s, more TV sitcoms have abandoned laugh tracks and low-brow, non-offensive comedy in favor of more clever writing. Several TV makers have credited 'The Simpsons' with inspiring them to do this. 'The Simpsons' also provided a climate where U.S. TV satire could be more audacious and pointed, without the fear of alienating mass audiences. 'Futurama' and 'Disenchantment' can be credited with popularizing science fiction and fantasy among vast new audiences. The impact of 'The Simpsons' has been such that in 1999 Bart Simpson became the only fictional character to make Time Magazine's list of the '100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century'. As Matt Groening said, interviewed by Carina Chocano for Salon (30 January 2001), : "My success [specifically referring to 'The Simpsons'] has gone beyond my wildest dreams and worst nightmares."

Matt Groening
Matt Groening.


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