This SIMPSONS GRAPHIC NOVEL is coming out WEDNESDAY…
Talk about BAD TIMING… This has to be some of the worst.
Long time readers of my various screed know that one of the things I ABSOLUTELY DETEST is CENSORSHIP.
As a writer, I have been subjected to it more times than I care count… Having gotten my fair share from book editors over the years. Most of it was completely unjustified and utterly ridiculous– and has been thrown on me by nervous sycophants worried about ruffling their bosses’ feathers if they accepted my mildly different ideas. One story I sometimes tell (in PRIVATE settings only), involves a very prominent comic book figure and the near insane lengths they went to in an attempt to censor my creativity. The story– and this person’s face– should literally be sitting next to every dictionary’s definition of IRONY.
Anyway, it’s a given that I can’t stand censorship and that I deplore anyone who attempts to exercise it. In a truly democratic society, people should have the right to decide what they will– and will not– support. It does mean sifting through a lot of unintentional– and sometimes very intentional– inflammatory stuff… But it is the “price” I am glad to pay for freedom of speech.
On the unfortunate, unintentional side of offensive stuff is this new BONGO Graphic Novel, the Simpsons Comics MELTDOWN collection… And how it unintentionally has become the focal point of the Inveterate Media Junkies first ever BAD TIMING!™ post.
Here’s the description of the book:
Matt Groening, creator of ‘The Simpsons,’ serves up a high-octane collection of combustible tales. It’s a red-alert laugh riot when all of Springfield moves in with Mr. Burns after a hazardous nuclear cloud engulfs the town. Then, fire up the grill as Krusty the Clown’s famous franchise gets some not-so friendly competition from a new burger meister – Homer Simpson! And when Springfield faces its worst financial crisis in history, Mayor Quimby sets off a firestorm of trouble by declaring that the town be open for business 24/7.
In an attempt at full disclosure: I really cannot stand “nuclear” anything. I especially dislike nuclear power and have always believed the hazards of building, running and maintaining nuclear plants is a short-sighted, unnecessary undertaking. The mere fact that spent nuclear rods and other nuclear fuel/waste remains hazardous to all life and the environment for over SIX HUNDRED YEARS has provided me with innumerable hours of fear and many a sleepless night filled with nasty, jarring nightmares.
There was a time when I was in college– if you got me drunk– I would repeatedly inform you of the dangers of nuclear power… And tell you that, as a species, we were insuring our extinction by insisting on so carelessly diddling around with this radioactive shit.
But, that is NOT what this article is about. This post is about whether publisher Bongo Comics, comic book distributors (the most prominent being Diamond Distribution) and booksellers across the world (including all comic book stores) should REFRAIN from selling and/or distributing this book… At least until we have a handle on how the horrific Japanese nuclear tragedy– an ever-growing health dilemma– plays out.
I have met Simpsons creator Matt Groenig several times (mostly around busy Comic Cons)– and you couldn’t ask for a nicer multi-millionaire. I have been a HUGE FAN of all of Matt’s work– and really love his biting, subversive comic strip Life in Hell.
I, like 99.9% of all animation fans, also admired the early subversive nature of the The Simpsons television show… And still really enjoy the subversive bent whenever it deems to raise its’ head on the show– like it did in a recent sweatshop-themed opening conceived by UK graffiti artist Banksy.
Still, biting sarcasm is a rare commodity on The Simpsons nowadays. I am sure most would agree that The Simpsons truly lost its cultural edginess many, many years ago… About the same time the sudden pressure of becoming, maintaining and most importantly– protecting– the show’s status a phenomenal worldwide hit was brought to the forefront by Fox Studios.
Since I fully understand Matt’s original drive to poke fun and tweak the establishment teet– I totally get why he had Homer Simpson working at a nuclear power plant. The job was a perfect metaphor for mankind’s carelessness. What could be more dangerous than having a clueless moron working in a nuclear power plant control room?
The answer: NOTHING could be more dangerous.
Given my anti-nuclear stance and my acquired hatred for all things radioactive– I have always found the nuclear jokes in The Simpsons nearly intolerable… And I wondered, on more than one occasion, if they were desensitizing the world to the MASSIVE DANGERS inherent in fucking around with nuclear power.
But seriously, all that aside: This cover, the described storyline of the first tale (keep in mind I have not actually read the book in question) just seems like too much right now. Even if the story isn’t as goofy as it sounds, the cover is enough to turn my stomach.
So my question remains:
Is it possible for a comic book company, the distributor and the retailers to take a stand on this… To DELAY this book until the Japanese nuclear crisis is over– or, at the very least, stabilized?
Today’s AP reports from Japan state that tap water in Iitate, a 6,000 strong village 19 miles Northwest of the Fukushima plant, has elevated levels of iodine– the equivalent radiation of 1/26th of a chest x-ray per liter of water. Tokyo’s tap water– showing heightened levels of iodine since Friday– now has traces of cesium. More and more produce (mostly green leaf vegetables like spinach, canola and chrysanthemum greens) and raw cow’s milk are showing heightened iodine levels– in prefecture’s further and further from the nuclear site.
We all know, as crisis levels continue to ebb and flow (the workers were pulled from the plant again early Monday as more “gray smoke” plumed from the plant’s Unit 3 reactor)– that the long-term effects of this disaster will take years– if not decades (or centennials)– to play out fully.
Could it be possible that the great and benevolent Matt Groenig could swing his heavy bat– still filled with enormous creator power– and make a unilateral decision for The Simpsons (and especially Homer) to Go Green?
Whether we like it or not Matt (and I feel certain you do NOT like what’s happening any more than I– or anybody else– does), real life has caught up with your inspired cyncism from decades past. But what was once a mildly funny association for Homer (and the rest of the show) is now borderline abhorrent.
It always sucks when real life intrudes on fantastical creations or products– but it is the risk we all take when we allow our work to be publicly disseminated. When phenomena like this occurs , creators almost always lose any meaningful control over their characters and their original vision– as forces larger than one person conspire to make more and more money off a popular idea.
Yet, these same creators still have power. And, Matt Groenig, an amazingly strong, vital and vibrant part of The Simpsons after two decades of unparalleled success– still has plenty of power to influence this Springfield juggernaut.
This is a realization that leaves me with one simple request:
If you can’t delay the distribution of the Simpsons Comics Meltdown collection (it’s winging its’ way to stores across the world now as I type– but a quick communique from the distributors could EASILY delay the release)… Then could you at least please stop any further nuclear (nuclear power, nuclear isotope, nuclear waste, nuclear plant) related comic book stories and jokes?
I, for one, would greatly appreciate it.
[Please remember that you can still text REDCROSS to 90999. This will donate $10.00 USD to the Red Cross Japan Disaster Relief. If you prefer to donate directly, please click on the Japan Relief Graphic at the top of the Inveterate Media Junkies sidebar and you will be taken directly to the Red Cross donation page-- where you can choose how you want to donate your hard-earned money.- Thanks, Ian & Jose.]
[Ed. Note - Nuclear facts and figures taken directly from an AP story published 3.21.11]