On Sunday, October 30, about 50 eager fans of all ages gathered outside Metro Entertainment for a chance to meet with and get autographs from Bill Morrison, Tone Rodriguez, and Jane Wiedlin. Morrison is the art director for Futurama as well as artist and editor for The Simpsons comics. Rodriguez has been drawing for The Simpsons comics for seven years, and Wiedlin, guitarist for the Go-Go’s, wrote this year’s Treehouse of Horror issue. Fans attended the event for a chance to talk with the writers and artists, to get comics and posters signed, and to browse the vast selection of comics and graphic novels available at Metro Entertainment.
The Simpsons comic books started in 1993 with Bongo Comics, just three years after the debut of the wildly successful animated television series, The Simpsons, America’s longest-running animated program, currently in season 23. The Simpsons TV show has won many awards including 27 Emmy Awards and a Peabody award. The comics are closely based on the TV show, but with original story lines. “We pay attention to what they do on the show, and if anything changes, a character dies, for example, then that’s reflected in the comics as well,” explains Morrison. “We don’t copy the story line from the TV show, so we do all original stories, but they all fit in with the continuity of the shows.” Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, is the owner of Bongo Comics and is therefore able to keep the comics very authentic and in congruity with the TV shows.
Despite decades of The Simpsons, both on TV and in comics, writers continue to come up with fresh, funny, new story lines. “I would describe The Simpsons as a funhouse mirror reflecting our culture and our society,” Morrison explains. “Stuff is happening all the time that has never been parodied on The Simpsons. There are a million ideas for stories; it’s really an inexhaustible supply. Sometimes you have to sit and think for a little while to come up with it. It’s not always easy, but there are always ideas. Everywhere you look.”
Since The Simpsons comic books began, Morrison has been returning to Metro Entertainment for Simpsons events annually. “We love this store and we love [store owner] Bob and the staff here. It’s just always a fun experience,” said Morrison. “We love Santa Barbara; it’s a great excuse to come up here and hang out sometimes. Normally we like to come up and spend the weekend. We’ll stay overnight, and we’ll have fun eating great food and seeing the sights.”
Morrison met Jane Wiedlin four years ago at a comic convention in San Jose, and they became “instant best friends,” says Wiedlin. They decided to work on a project together, which eventually became their pet project, the Lady Robotika comics. Morrison and Wiedlin plan to expand their Lady Robotika series with an online component featuring music written for the comics.
“At the beginning of this year, [Morrison] asked me to do a Treehouse of Horror edition,” Wiedlin said. “They have a history of having different musicians, comedians, people from outside the field of comics writing it, so that was super fun. I based the story on something that happened to me last year. I was doing a light saber battle on top of a mountain, and I fell off a cliff and bruised my ACL. I had to have a corpse tendon replacement, and so we had this running joke that I was turning into a zombie, and I decided to use that as my inspiration for my Treehouse of Horror story. So that same thing happens to Marge — she turns into a zombie.”
“I feel very fortunate to be involved with The Simpsons and Futurama,” said Morrison. “Sometimes, like with any job, you go to work, and you’re just doing your job and just trying to get your stuff done. You don’t always sit back and realize that you’re contributing to this pop culture phenomenon that is beloved all over the world. Every so often, when I come to an event like this, or when I travel to another country and fans come out, that’s when it hits home and you realize that the thing you’re involved in is big.”