Life in Hell started in as a self-published comic book Groening used to describe life in Los Angeles to his friends. And then I had a series of lousy jobs. He described it as "every ex-campus protester's, every Boomer idealist's, conception of what adult existence in the '80s had turned out to be.
The magazine covers were humorous as well: An editor from Wet magazine bought one of the zines and liked it, and offered Matt Groening a spot in the magazine, soon after Life in Hell debuted as a comic strip in the avant-garde Wet magazine in , to which Groening made his first professional cartoon sale.
In a interview, Groening said that he added Akbar and Jeff as characters to the comic to appease his girlfriend. Early in the comic, he used Binky and his wife to mirror the arguments he had with her, and she grew irritated with Groening because she felt he was portraying her as worse than himself.
The addition of the twin-like Akbar and Jeff was meant to act as a mask of anonymity to hide who was who in the arguments. The strip was frequently a serial , discussing various topics such as "Love is Hell", a "chapter miniseries" pontificating on love and relationships.
In November of that year, Groening's then-girlfriend and co-worker at the Reader Deborah Caplan offered to publish "Love is Hell" in book form. Originally, Brooks had wanted Groening to adapt his Life in Hell characters for the show. Fearing the loss of ownership rights to his characters, Groening instead created an entirely new batch of characters; the Simpsons. As television began to place more demands on his time, however, Groening came to almost exclusively feature single-panel strips or panel grids in which Akbar and Jeff exchange terse jabs.
This later period also saw the increase of autobiographical strips, perhaps because Groening was influenced by this burgeoning trend in alternative comics. Television has also made the strip "safe enough for a number of newspapers to print", according to Groening, who claims that he has not "toned the strip down at all, other than no longer using profanity"  as a concession to daily papers that carry the strip.
Groening decided in , in the wake of the U. At the end of the strip he gives up and dances along with him, saying "Well, I tried. They have skipped some strips due to political jokes that the paper didn't like. Format[ edit ] The strip was published in a perfect square, unlike most Sunday strips which are published in rectangles. He had different types of format. He would make 4 rows of boxes, each row with 4 in it, when Akbar and Jeff were discussing love.
He did 3 boxes by 3, very rarely did he use 4 boxes, and he made just box. One boxes were often quick and comedic, and 4 x 4 boxes often had a story line. This is based on the way Lynda Barry made comics when they were in college, and the way it was published originally in the "Reader.
Sometimes though, he changed the way he wrote the title on top. Instead of being quickly written, sometimes it would be in balloons, or bubble letters, or fireworks, old English handwriting, etc. In one strip "Why men growl" from , he wrote his name as Matt Grrrrroening.
In another strip, "Are you Easily Provoked? If he gets help from another cartoonist, he writes their names underneath his. Sometimes a message such as "My back feels better, thank you. Recurring characters[ edit ] Binky is a stressed and thus "normal" rabbit and star of the cartoon. He usually embodies dread and alienation.
Binky is usually stuck in a dead end job, has a bad apartment and regularly sees a therapist. Binky usually is full of wise old sayings. Sheba is Binky's estranged girlfriend. Her character design is "basically Binky in drag". Bongo is Binky's illegitimate son, the product of a drunken night of "jungle passion.
Bongo's defining physical attribute is his one ear, which Groening admits is solely so that the casual viewer can tell him apart from Binky. He appears in The Simpsons again in another episode as a plush toy in Lisa 's room, though he is called Madam Bunny. He is shown as a plush toy in " The Fool Monty " where Mr. Burns is eating it in Bart 's closet. He has a cameo in " Simpsorama " as one of the rabbit-like creatures rampaging New New York, where he writes on a wall "Crossovers are hell".
In one interview, Groening says they are gay. Like Binky and Sheba, Akbar and Jeff are often used as a generic couple when needed. According to Groening, "the reason why I draw a strip with Akbar and Jeff instead of Binky and Sheba is that I figure that no one can accuse me of trying to score points against men or women if the characters are identical.
He is also sometimes represented as Binky. Will and Abe are Matt Groening's two sons, represented in rabbit form. They usually talk about vampires, zombies, and other child-fantasy topics.
Snarla, a cat, is Bongo's classmate and love interest. She bears a resemblance to Lisa Simpson. Bart Simpson , has never spoken—except when he uttered his former catch phrase "Don't have a cow, man! Simpson is Binky's anthropomorphic dog boss at his job.
His name predates The Simpsons. Recurring jokes and situations[ edit ] Fake magazines such as "Lonely Tyrant: The magazine for abusive bosses whose employees hate their guts". Stories inside include, "The fine art of the meaningless memo". The X types of Y: The 9 types of college teachers, the 81 types of high school students, the 16 types of brothers, the 9 types of relationships.
Bongo locked in a detention room or orphanage - Usually, with 1 or 2 pairs of eyes watching him. Several of Bongo's excuses parodied those of politicians, such as " Mistakes were made ".
One comic showed Bongo's shadow looming over Binky. Bongo's class is forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Bongo intentionally butchers the Pledge, usually criticizing the government in the process "and to the Republicans which I can't stand". One strip, released after the death of musician Frank Zappa in , has Bongo replacing most the words of the Pledge with names of Zappa albums "With yellow sharks and hot rats for all".
The comic would always end with Bongo's teacher angrily leering at him, and often Bongo would be tied to his desk and gagged as punishment. This topic was the first ever comic by Groening, published in These also appear in Simpsons annuals. To date, 15 books have been released.
In addition to the books, the comic also spawned T-shirts, greeting cards, posters,  coffee mugs, and a short-lived newsletter called the "Life in Hell Times".
In the late s, Groening drew several print advertisements for Apple Computer in the form of Life in Hell comic strips.