Cartoons by Homer Groening
Cartoons by Homer Groening for The Sunday Oregonian Magazine, published in the 1950s. 

Homer Groening was a Canadian-American advertiser, film director, short story writer and cartoonist. He made various amateur movies and some cartoons in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, among them the comic strip 'Phoebe, Get Your Man' (co-created with Peg Bracken). While he showed talent and was syndicated at the time, Groening never experienced a major breakthrough. His career pales compared with the success of his far more famous son, Matt Groening, best known as the creator of 'Life in Hell', 'The Simpsons', 'Futurama' and 'Disenchantment'.

Life and career
Homer Philip Groening was born in 1919 in Main Centre, Saskatchewan, Canada. His first name was a reference to the Greek poet Homer. He was raised in a Mennonite family and spoke German at home. He obtained a degree in English at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, where he also met his future wife: Margaret Wiggum. After graduation she worked as a high school teacher for a while. The couple married in 1941. During World War II and the Korean War (1950-1953) Groening was a bomber pilot. He fought in Normandy on D-Day and later bombed Berlin. Matt Groening always felt his dad was "a tough act to follow", considering he was a decorated war veteran. After his return to civilian life, Homer Groening and his family settled in Portland, Oregon. He and his wife had five children: Patty (1943-2013), Mark (1950), Matt (1954), Lisa (1956) and Maggie (1958).

Homer Groening worked for the advertising company Botsford, Constantine & Gardner, often shortened to just Botsford. He moved up the ladder to become account executive, but in 1958 started his own ad company, Homer Groening Advertising. With help from graphic designer Byron Ferris the company grew into a professional advertising agency. They were business partners with the Jantzen International Sports Club. Groening's advertisements were notable for their creativity. He tried to make them fun, original and short, rather than just a bland, long-winded summarization of superlative recommendations. He used the same approach when directing documentaries, educational films or writing short stories. 

Homer Groening passed away in 1996, at age 76. His wife died in 2013.

Cartoon by Homer Groening
Cartoons by Homer Groening. Northwest Magazine, 28 March 1954.

Film career
Homer Groening was active as an amateur film director, shooting movies for commercial and educational purposes. He was mentored by Lew Cook, founder of the OHS Moving Image Archive. Two future independent film makers started their career under his employ. Groening once hired Norm Dimick as a sound editor and in the late 1960s Will Vinton (later famous for 'The Adventures of Mark Twain' and 'The California Raisins') once asked creative advice. Some of Groening's films were documentaries: 'The Big Three' (1958), 'Timberline' (1962), 'A Study in Wet' (1964), 'Man and His World' (1966),  'Psychedelic Wet' (1968) and 'Linfield Revisited' (1973). He shot several surf movies at location in Hawaii. Homer Groening had a dry sense of comedy, which he often expressed in his voiceovers. Some shorts, like 'Basic Brown Basic Blue' (1969) and 'The Story' (1969) were made for his children, starring themselves. Several of Groening's films, particularly the experimental short 'A Study in Wet' (1964), won national and international awards, like the CINE Golden Eagle Award.

Literary career
On 12 June 1962 Homer Groening also provided the narration to a performance of Camille St.Saëns' musical piece 'Carnival of the Animals', during the Portland Pops festival, conducted by John Trudeau. Groening's short story, 'War Stories at 20.000 Feet' (1976), based on his personal war experiences, was published in The Oregonian on 6 February 1976. Two other short stories by his hand were published later that year in the same magazine, namely 'Avoiding the Swamp' and 'How the Trail Blazers and I Won the Championship'. 

Cartoon by Homer Groening. "Did you notice something wrong with the captain? I heard the steward say that he was aft."

Comic career
Groening was also active as a cartoonist. He owned several books with collections from cartoonists from The New Yorker and Punch. On 28 April 1962, The New Yorker ran an advertisement written by Groening, with lay-out by his ad designer Byron Ferris and illustrated by Punch cartoonist Rowland Emett, to promote Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon. 

During the 1950s and 1960s Groening himself created several humorous one-panel cartoons. Most only appeared in local magazines and papers like The Oregonian and Northwest Magazine. In 1958, when Groening started his own ad company, he hand-drew most of his advertisements by lack of a professional graphic designer. Still, two of his hand drawn ads for Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey were indeed published in The New Yorker.  In 1958 Groening participated with a national contest to produce an advertisement for KGW-TV, a new TV station in Portland. Groening drew a cartoon depicting a naked woman shown from the back. She complains that her husband no longer has attention for her, now that he watches KGW-TV and yells: "You and your damn total television!" Groening won the contest with this cartoon, but the downside was that the ad was too risqué to be actually run. As a form of compensation, he received a brand new 'Hillman' car. 

Together with his advertising copywriter, Peg Bracken, Groening created a syndicated cartoon series named 'Phoebe, Get Your Man'. The comic strip starred a young woman, Phoebe, who desperately wants to get married. It is unknown when this cartoon series exactly ran, but it was in circulation during the 1950s. Bracken later made another series of cartoons with her husband Roderick Lull, published in the Saturday Evening Post. She later published the bestselling books  'I Hate to Cook' (1960) and 'I Hate to Housekeep' (1962).

All in all, Homer Groening's cartoons always remained in the fringe. His lack of success might explain why he strongly discouraged his children to follow in his footsteps. His son, Matt Groening, vividly remembers that his father never supported his cartooning career. But as luck would have it, Matt proved his father wrong. Between 1977 and 2012 he created a long-running comic series, 'Life in Hell'. In 1987 he scored a commercial and critical hit with the TV show 'The Simpsons', which still runs as of this day. Homer Groening lived long enough to witness his son's success with pride. 

References to Homer Groening in 'The Simpsons'
Matt Groening occasionally included autobiographical elements in his work. The most well known example is the fact that some members of the Simpsons family are named after his own relatives. Bart Simpson is the main exception, as his name is just an anagram for the word "brat". But Bart's parents are called Homer and Marge and his sisters Lisa and Maggie. Matt's mother's maiden name was borrowed for Chief Wiggum and his son Ralph. Sister Patty inspired Marge's sister Patty. In the episode 'Prank and Greens' (2009) Bart befriends an older boy who enjoys playing pranks and whose personality was directly based on Matt's brother Mark. The only unintentional similar name is Abraham Simpson. Groening actually let his writers come up with a name for Homer's father, but by sheer coincidence it was his actual grandfather's name! Other than their names Matt Groening always insisted that his family was nothing like their animated namesakes. Yet Homer Groening's wife did once have a beehive hairdo, though never as tall as Marge's.

Legacy and influence
Thanks to Matt Groening's celebrity status, the films of his father have gained more present-day interest. Groening used footage of his father's film 'A Study in Wet' in the logo of his own production company The Curiosity Company. In 2015 some of Homer Groening's movies were screened at the Portland Film Festival in the presence of Matt and his sister Lisa. Animator Bill Plympton, who met Homer Groening in 1967, claimed that Homer's deadpan comedy style was an influence on his own films.

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