Five years after the birth of Bart, the first original sketch of The Simpsons has turned up missing. The family’s disappearance was discovered a few weeks ago, after Entertainment Weekly asked to see the drawing cartoonist Matt Groening had made minutes before a 1987 meeting with executive producer James L. Brooks. Searches of the Simpsons offices and Klasky Csupo, the Hollywood animation house where the show is made, proved fruitless.
Could some profit-minded employee have pilfered the missing sketch? ”It’s the first thing that crossed my mind,” says a spokeswoman for Groening. If so, it’s no petty theft. Simpsons art has gone for $3,500 to $5,000 a cel (the image used in animation); the missing original could fetch more on the black Bart market. One specially created cel brought more than $24,000 at a Christie’s auction of Simpsons material last year.