Ever since issue No. 1 of the Tucson Weekly way back on Feb. 22, 1984, Matt Groening's comic "Life in Hell" has been a part of the paper. Through changes in printers, editors, owners and economic cycles, it's been one constant in our pages.
However, that run is coming to an end after next week's issue: Groening—of The Simpsons and Futurama fame—has decided to end the strip after all these years. This week, we're in week No. 3 of a four-week farewell, as we run some classic editions of the strip.
In an interview with Rolling Stone a couple of weeks ago, Groening, presumably tongue-in-cheek, remarked, "It's pretty obvious that I ran out of jokes a couple of decades ago—but that doesn't stop any cartoonist!" Frankly, that statement contains a painful amount of truth: "Life in Hell" has been nowhere near as biting and funny in recent years as it was in its 1980s-1990s heyday. But the strip still had its moments, and because it had been a part of the Weekly since our beginning, I felt the strip had earned its spot for as long as Groening wanted to keep it going.
(However, a confession: The Weekly run of "Life in Hell" almost didn't make it through the Great Recession. When times were toughest, and I had to cut my syndication budget, I almost cancelled it and "Troubletown." However, Groening's folks agreed to a rate decrease, and the Rialto Theatre stepped in to save the day by briefly sponsoring "Life in Hell" and "Troubletown." Lloyd Dangle, the artist behind "Troubletown," ended that comic last year.)
On July 19, Keith Knight's "(th)ink" will take the spot vacated by "Life in Hell." As far as I know, that will be the first-ever edition of the Weekly without "Life in Hell" in its pages. It'll truly be the end of an era.