Continuing a breakdown of interesting nerdy (to me) tidbits about the “new comic book store” plot of The Simpsons episode, “Husbands and Knives.”
• One of the strengths of The Simpsons is our ability to get away with referencing extremely esoteric chunks pop culture. I’d been looking for a way to sneak Tintin on the show for a long time, and if didn’t happen in his episode, it wasn’t gonna happen. Instead of parodying a specific story, it was fun to create a fake book called “Tintin in Paris” (although you can see about ten actual Tintin covers in the background). Tintin is up against the Black Orchid gang (a Hergé-sounding creation I hope), when his Black Castle-type castle turns into the classic Destination / Explorers on the Moon red and white rocket. At one point, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus and the Thom(p)son twins were seen on the Pompidou Center, but we cut this for time.
• Here’s a goofy thing that makes the internet want to commit suicide. In this show, we are completely inconsistent about using parody superheroes and real ones. This show mentions dozens of actual superheroes, like Superman and Wonder Woman, as well as creating paper-thin imitations, like the Thung (the Thing) and the Mulk (The Hulk). (Originally conceived, the Thung and Mulk were supposed to be blue and red, but somehow they ended up classic orange and green.) For some reason, it delights us to no end to make our parodies of things the laziest parodies in the world.
Let’s talk about our three comic book creator guest stars. For one, how f-ing amazing is it that we put Alan Moore, Art Spiegleman and Dan Clowes on network TV? This is an unmitigated triumph. Do most TV viewers know who these legends are? No. But who cares? The right people know. And maybe now a few more.
• Dan Clowes designed the utility belts you see in the animation. Those are his actual drawings. He doesn’t look as old in real life as he does in the show. Sorry, Dan.
• When Lisa is in line to have her copy of Ghost World signed by Dan Clowes, the bearded dork standing behind her is a design based on me. Finally, I’m in the show, with my trademark purple shirt! (?) Later, alternative comic book icon Gary Panter is also standing behind Lisa. He has a white t-shirt, grey hair and a black soul patch.
• Art Spiegleman insisted that his character wear a Maus “mouse” mask when he turns into a superhero. This was not our idea, and if it had been, we would have been to scared to pitch it to Art.
• We recorded Alan Moore near his home in Northampton, England. He and his partner, Melinda Gebbie, were superb sports. Alan has a tremendous speaking voice, deep, dark and terrifying. I like to think that the rage he feels when Milhouse shows him the copy of Watchmen Babies was real.
I was proud to show Melinda’s art from Lost Girls behind Alan. (Good thing Fox has no idea what Lost Girls is.) Alan also recorded a spoken word version of the entire Little Lulu theme song, in the stentorian tone of Caesar addressing his troops. An absolutely transcendent moment, I assure you. A great reason to buy the Season 19 DVD.
I could blather on and on about “Husbands and Knives” all day. It’s just such a freaky, weird, insane, fun episode. (Duffman treadmill dancing to OK Go’s “Here We Go Again”?) Special thanks to the show’s heroically talented director, Nancy Cruz, all the crazy guest starts, our super nerdy writing staff, and to the legion of Simpsons fans who enjoy our dorky nonsense. This one was for you.