Today in Tedium: When it comes to the internet, two particular topics are known for driving obsessiveness—genealogy and fandom. They require similar thought processes and skill sets—extreme knowledge of the subject, a willingness to dive deep into the subject matter, a lot of extra time on one’s hands—and, at times, they can work together. Most people don’t have time to do the heavy lifting to do a deep dive on this kind of fandom, so we’ve done the hard work for you. This one will be good to keep around for your next trivia night … or when you’re looking to fall asleep. Either way. I ain’t mad. — Ernie @ Tedium
A family that quacks
Perhaps pop-culture’s most-detailed family tree is the work of two extremely dedicated cartoonists. When most of the world was going gaga over Disney standbys Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, illustrator Carl Barks was inventing a universe of new characters that went miles deeper than anything you could conjure up in an animated cartoon. He already had experience with the material, having worked as an animator for Disney on a series of Donald Duck cartoons in the 1930s (including this one). Eventually, though, he switched mediums, primarily working in print on hundreds of comic books.
He used those comic books as a canvas for a wide-ranging storyline. Starting from the base of Donald Duck, Barks created dozens of new characters—including the most famous comic-book duck ever (sorry Howard), Scrooge McDuck. Over time, he gave them their own universe—their own town called Duckburg. If you’re not a comic-book fan, you probably know all this from watching Ducktales in the ’80s, but by the time that show came on the air, Barks had been writing tales about Donald Duck and Duckburg for close to 50 years.
While Barks drew the broad strokes, it was a later comic-book artist who filled in some of the most important details. In 1991, lifelong Disney fan Don Rosa started writing The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, an Eisner Award-winning series of comic-book stories that effectively acted as Scrooge McDuck’s biography. It included the fairly detailed family tree shown above.
According to Rosa, McDuck lived to age 100, dying in 1967 after decades of adventures. (That McDuck lived so long only makes sense: Carl Barks lived a pretty full life himself. He died in 2000, living one year shorter than his greatest creation and being treated as a living legend for the latter part of his life.)
The number of famous family lineages that Nicolas Cage has direct ties to—the Coppola family (he’s a Coppola but changed his name to avoid accusations of nepotism), the Arquette family (thanks to his first marriage to Patricia, who he wooed by acquiring a black orchid and J.D. Salinger’s autograph—really), and the Presley family (thanks to his short second marriage to Lisa Marie). He also has an indirect family tie to the Jacksons, as Lisa Marie was also married to Michael Jackson. His third wife, Alice Kim, isn’t quite so famous, but she did give birth to Superman, so that’s something.
All in the family, video game edition
- Over the years, we’ve become well-acquainted with Mario and his brother, Luigi. However, his family tree doesn’t appear to stretch all that far. Heck, unless you count Captain Lou Albano wearing a wig in 1989 as canonical, Mario’s parents barely even have a role in his life. (There may be a reason for that: According to an early anime starring Mario, he hatched from a peach and was raised by a family of elderly Hammer Brothers. Obviously.)
- Donkey Kong’s family tree, however, is a little more fleshed-out, thanks to the ’90s-era Donkey Kong Country series, which introduced a number of members of the Kong family—including Donkey Kong’s grandparents, Cranky Kong and the deceased Wrinkly Kong, who shows up as a Ghost. We meet a lot of cousins, but never his parents. So yeah, DK’s an orphan, too.
- We know who Sonic the Hedgehog’s parents are. Awesome. But the nature and shape of the family varies greatly depending on what you consider canon. If the Archie Comics series is canon, the family is way different than if you base the series on the video games alone. No matter what you believe, one weird fact stands out: According to some sources, Sonic’s real name is “Ogilvie Maurice Hedgehog.” (Oh yeah, be sure to check out the amazing work illustrator J.J. McCullough did on his version of the family tree.)
- It’s a long lineage from the Atari 2600 joystick-button combo and the Microsoft Kinect—and there are a ton of controllers in-between. Fortunately for us, Pop Chart Lab decided it would be a great idea to combine all of them into a single wall-size poster. (In case you’re wondering—yes, the Power Glove makes an appearance. It’s so bad.)
- Every video game has to come from somewhere, and if you know anything about developers, you might be aware that there have been about a bajillion video game developers over the years. Back in 2010, the video game podcast Games Are Evil did us all a favor and organized hundreds of game developers into a single flowchart. So many mergers and acquisitions.
A Simpsons family story
Having remained a cultural phenomenon for close to three decades, it only makes sense that The Simpsons’ family tree expands in extremely wide directions. Matt Groening apparently prepared for this fact in advance, releasing a book called The Simpsons Uncensored Family Album in 1991. It includes an extremely detailed family tree, which you can see over this way. The graphic is funny as heck (my personal favorite in the bunch is Gaston Simpson, who clearly was a mentor for Krusty the Clown), but it’s probably not canonical, unfortunately.
But perhaps the most interesting part about the Simpsons’ family tree involves Homer’s long-estranged mother, Mona. (Who, by the way, isn’t in the family tree linked above. See what I mean?) When she came back into Homer’s life in the show’s seventh season, Homer hadn’t seen her in 27 years. Her character was based on two real people—Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohr, and her namesake, a writer also named Mona Simpson.
The real-life Mona Simpson, who was at the time married to Simpsons writer Richard Appel, actually knows a thing or two about being estranged from family members. See, she was given up for adoption at the time she was born, and didn’t learn anything about her biological family until she was an adult. She first met her brother in 1984, when she was 27. You might have heard of him. His name was Steve Jobs. Really.
Her eulogy for her brother is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever read.
See that? I managed to get through an entire email about family trees without mentioning the Baldwin family. (O … SHI…)
Seriously though, may your brain be numb from this most tedious of subjects. But that’s what you’ve come to expect from this email, which is called Tedium for a reason. Next time, we’re gonna talk about something that you eat every single day but probably don’t think about very much. Curious about what that is? You’ll need to read the next one. It’s coming Thursday. Promise. Peace!