On Sunday night, “The Simpsons” paid homage to three women who are comics rock stars: Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast and Marjane Satrapi. As the three graphic novelists appear on a convention panel with new top-selling cartoonists Lisa and Marge Simpson, the episode rightly mirrors, too, the American rise in female comics readership that has only recently reached the point of “geek parity.”
“Being a character in a Simpsons episode: best thing ever in life,” Chast tells Comic Riffs.
“It was terribly exciting,” Bechdel tells The Washington Post.
The episode’s title, “Springfield Splendor,” nods to “American Splendor,” the quotidian-life-as-art comics of the late writer Harvey Pekar and a host of artists. (In tune with the latest “Simpsons” plot, Pekar and wife Joyce Brabner’s story was adapted — into an Oscar-nominated film.)
The episode, by Tim Long and first-time contributor Miranda Thompson, also serves as the perfect bookend to “I Am Furious (Yellow),” the 2002 episode that featured guest voice Stan Lee. In that story, Bart, inspired by a motivational speaker, mines Homer’s antics for the hit comic turned Internet series “Angry Dad.”
In Sunday’s episode, Marge illustrates Lisa’s therapy comic, which — through stealth co-opting by Comic Book Guy’s manga-artist wife, Kumiko — becomes the hit graphic novel “Sad Girl.” Quickly, Lisa is being celebrated for her writing and — in a smart skewering of the comic-book industry — the artist is getting too little recognition for her creative contribution.
Chast gets to showcase her wry delivery, telling the convention audience that her comics can be both “funny ha ha” and “funny a-ha.”
“I’ve been a Simpsons fan since the pre-Cambrian era,” Chast tells The Post. “I watched it religiously for years and years with both of my kids when they were growing up, on Sundays and also in the nightly reruns. When ‘The Simpsons’ ran to their sofa during the opening credits, we ran to the sofa, too.”
The panel also includes a booming video effect that blares “Bechdel Test: FAILED!” When Bechdel’s character explains some of the criteria of the Bechdel Test in film, Marge (in one of the episode’s best lines) tells Lisa that they simply must tell Homer about this test.
“I happened to be in L.A. last winter, so I got to do the reading on the Fox lot . . .,” Bechdel, whose adapted memoir “Fun Home” won the Tony Award for best musical, tells The Post. “I met the writers, Tim Long and Miranda Thompson, and Tim directed me. Then they showed me the writers’ room. I was kind of beside myself the whole time.
” ‘The Simpsons’! Roz Chast! Marjane Satrapi! Right now I’m trying to learn the “Bechdel Test Fail” dance moves my referee character does.”
As Lisa’s fame grows, producer Guthrie Frenel (voiced by Martin Short, with a surname nodding to “Fresnel lights”) wants to adapt “Sad Girl” into a theatrical show that turns disastrous — in a physical bit that parodies the rash of injuries when “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” made its way to Broadway.
“Rick and Morty” co-creator Dan Harmon also guest-voiced on the episode, which was dedicated to the memory of Tom Petty, who had also appeared on the show.