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Life in Hell, (later Life is Swell in 2007), is a weekly comic strip by Matt Groening; launched in 1977 and ongoing.
Life in Hell started in 1977 as a underground comic book Groening used to describe life in Los Angeles to his friends. Groening photocopied and distributed the comic book to friends and sold it for two dollars a copy at the "punk" corner of the record store in which he worked. Life in Hell debuted as a comic strip in the avant-garde Wet magazine in 1978, to which Groening made his first professional cartoon sale.
The series focuses on the life of Binky, a bitter, depressed and thus "normal" rabbit stuck in a dead end job, with a bad apartment and regularly sees a therapist. The stories follow his interactions with other humanoid-animals and his misadventures as he deals with his own issues and those of the others around him.
Tropes associated with this work:
- Beat Panel: Overused in a few Akbar and Jeff strips. Often with 20 or so per page.
- Black Comedy: Way too much for comfort. This comic gets risque in ways The Simpsons would never dream of.
- Butt Monkey: More often than not, Binky.
- And Bongo.
- Crapsack World: If the title didn't clue you in already
- Creator Breakdown: This comic was spawned after Matt Groening's car broke down in the middle of a Hollywood freeway.
- Distaff Counterpart: Sheba is described as "basically, Binky in drag"
- Fish Eyes: Whenever a character is in existential despair. So, quite often.
- Hypocritical Humor: Used a lot in School Is Hell and Childhood Is Hell
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: There was a period where Groening changed the name of the strip every week to include a different joke: What The Hell, Wife in Hell, Hell^2, Hellabaloo, Laffs in Hell, U.S. Out of Hell, Like Hell I Will, Hell Yes, Hell-Bent, Life in Whatever, Lxfx xn Hxll, Your Own Little Life in Hell, Life Under Reagan...
- Magnum Opus Dissonance: The only reason The Simpsons exists is because when Groening was in James L. Brooks' waiting room he realized he'd have to give up the ownership of Life In Hell if it were animated. The Simpsons went on to become a massive hit while Life In Hell stayed more underground.
- The Many Deaths of You: The Los Angeles Way Of Death
- Sadist Show
- Sphere Eyes
- Strawman Political: Groening doesn't think highly of Ronald Reagan and the right-wing. One strip identifies "voting Republican" as a psychological disorder, for Pete's sake!
- Twincest: In their introductory bubble Akbar and Jeff are mentioned to be either "brothers or lovers or possibly both". Later they are confirmed to be lovers, but it's never made clear if they're related, though they have identical appearance.
- Underground Comics: Early on. It's since become more mainstream, but still isn't as well known as Groening's other creations. Also, unlike Zippy the Pinhead, Life In Hell is only syndicated to alternative weeklies and doesn't appear as often.
- What Could Have Been: While putting together The Tracey Ullman Show, James L. Brooks and his crew wanted material for animated bumpers. Brooks found this strip hilarious and arranged for a meeting with Matt Groening to discuss doing an 1-2 minute animated adaptations. Groening was interested... until he realized he'd likely have to give up all the rights (including merchandising, which had proved lucrative) to FOX. As the story goes, while waiting for the meeting, Groening spent fifteen minutes putting together some crude drawings for a different pitch.