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Fan Interview: Jerry Lerma

This document is done

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a graphic designer with the California State University system. I’m married and live in Pomona, California (a town about 30 east of Los Angeles) with my wife, 3 cats and a dog. My wife puts up with my Simpsons obsession now, but at first she was a little worried about me. (Thanks for not asking how old I am 🙂

Hobbies of the net?

Not really. The map is the only net hobby I have. I do like to travel, and I’ve been studying Italian for a few years. I watch too much TV.

How did you become a Simpsons fan? (When did you start watching The Simpsons?)

I began watching The Simpsons when it first appeared on the Tracy Ullman Show, but I didn’t become a true fanatic until I started doing the map.

Who is your favorite character on The Simpsons and why?

If I must choose, I guess it would be Marge. I like her because she is the strongest and most constant character. She is a pillar of sanity (most of the time) that makes the craziness of the other characters even more comical.

Who is least favorite and why?

Nelson, I guess. I liked him better when he was more of a generic bully, and not a developed “sensitive” character.

What is your favorite Simpsons episode and why?

Obviously, I like any episode that prominently features Springfield. “22 Short Films About Springfield”, while lacking specific information, gives a good sense of the diversity of the town. “Trilogy of Error” is another good one for this. I hate episodes where they leave Springfield.

How do you see future of The Simpsons?

I’d like The Simpsons to stay fresh and provocative. I wouldn’t want it to go on for its own sake or just because it turns a profit. Unfortunately, I think that’s what has happened. I’d rather see it end on a high note.

If you could change something on the Simpsons, what would it be?

I don’t like the current trend toward bathroom humor. I’d change that.

Jerry Lerma and Terry Hogan are creators of great Springfield Map on the net. What was inspiration for it?

Just a desire to see Springfield made “real”. There was so much information about Springfield (shops, restaurants, factories, etc), but most of it was in the form of lists. I thought that there had to be a good map of Springfield somewhere online, but when I couldn’t find one I decided to make one myself.

btw, who is Terry Hogan?

Terry Hogan works in my department here at the university. He’s a technical director in our production studio. Terry did some of the research and most of the proofreading for the map. He also gives input into the layout and the location of places.

What was the starting point on the map? (i.e. did you draw the Simpsons house first or some other area?)

I started by drawing the river, then the coastline, then I added the other geographical features like the gorge and the lake. It was only after I had all the topography in place that I started adding the streets and the places.

Do you have background in architecture or where is this professionalism-feel on the map is coming from?
No, no background in architecture, but I am interested urban planning and how cities grow and develop, and I love maps. I collect maps of different cities of the world. I wanted the map to have a certain logic and “reality”, so maybe this is why it seems professional.

You have spent countless of hours with the map. I assume you know Springfield’s street very well, am i right?

People always want to know how long it took me to make the map. Everybody thinks that I have a lot of time on my hands. The truth is I didn’t take much time at all. The actual drawing of the map only took about 20 hours cumulatively over a few weeks, and it hasn’t changed much since the first version. I just keep adding the names of places.

How big job is to keep it updated?

It’s easy to update. I drew the map in Adobe Illustrator then I export it to Photoshop and save it for the web. Since Illustrator is vector based, redrawing lines, shapes, and editing text is really easy, and I don’t have to deal with too many layers. I try to update it quarterly at least.

Do you have to re-arrange lots of things/places after a new season has aired?

Sometimes. For example, the Lower Eastside of Springfield is getting really crowded, so I’ve had to move things around to make more room for text. Unless a place is shown in some context, for example near the river or other landmark, most of the time I’ll just find an empty place for it.

I can imagine that it’s sometimes hard to decide should some particular place “be” here or not. Do you struggle a lot about where to put new stuff or does it come naturally?

I don’t struggle too much. When I first made the map I decided where the residential areas would be, where the business district and the industrial zone would be. I put Mr Burns’ house in a park-like setting where other wealthy people might live, and I designated a “bad part of town” with lots of bars and strip joints. This makes it easier to put new places in the appropriate location.

I’m one of the lucky people who has actual map framed on the wall! Do you have any plans to make it one of greatest printed simpsons merchandise item ever? (if you don’t want to tell publicly about your plans, just don’t answer this question and i leave it out 🙂
Yes, we hope to have a large (24″x36″) full color poster professionally offset printed on heavy glossy paper for sale on the website by March or April, 2004. You’ll be the first to know, and I’ll ask the people at the Simpsons Top 100 to mention it in their news feature.

Do you plan to create small Shelbyville map as well?

No. I don’t think there’s enough information about Shelbyville to make a map. I have thought about a map of Arlen, Texas, from “King of the Hill”. Arlen has almost as many places as Springfield. But I’m not that big of a fan of the show. It might be a fun project for someone else, though.

The Map of Springfield has been added to the Harvard Map Collection of the Harvard College Library. What was your first re-action when you heard about it?

I was really amazed and delighted. There’s a long history of maps to imaginary places, like Atlantis and Tolkien’s Middle Earth, for example, and apparently Springfield fits right into that history. I’m pleased that Harvard sees a scholarly value to the map. It’s always been a fun project for Terry and me, but Harvard’s recognition of the map gives it a certain legitimacy and dignity that we never expected.

Any memorable moments to share with us from the history of your map?

I really like it when people see the map for the first time and a big smile and look of recognition comes over their face. Then they will spend several minutes examining the map and remembering different episodes. This happens with lots of people from children to professors here at the university.

Do you have any favorite Simpsons sites on the net you like to tell us and our visitors?

Any site that can show me something new and original is a favorite. I like Film Springfield! I think some of the foreign sites (outside the U.S., I mean) are among the best. I like The Simpsons Loft, and there’s another one, what’s it called?…hmm…somewhere in Scandanavia…oh well, I can’t remember! 🙂

We gave our visitors a chance to send us a questions for you and here are some of the good ones:

– j.t asks about the Simpsons videogames. Do you play them and did they play a part in adding to the map?

No, I’ve never played any of the games. I don’t own any video systems like PS2. I have seen some screen captures from the games, but mostly the images look too computerized. I’ve seen the commercials for the latest game, “Hit and Run”(?), and it looks much better. They seem to have paid more attention to the layout of Springfield.

– Matt Rekart wants to how long did it take for you to make the map and compile a list of everywhere that had been mentioned in Springfield, which must have taken awhile by itself?

Most of the work of compiling the list of places was already done. I got most of that information from All I did was put the information into map form. Drawing the map itself didn’t take that long, 20 hours maybe, and maintenance is easy.

– Shlomo from Israel is curious to know how do you determine which location is where, I mean, some locations are in a different places in different episodes?

Yes, that’s always been a problem. Mostly it’s just deciding where a place fits logically. If it’s a factory, it goes down by the waterfront. If it’s a trendy shop, it goes near the Squidport. I don’t worry too much about it because I realize that the map will never be 100% accurate.

– Phony wants to know what program did you make the map in/update it in?

I use Adobe Illustrator because it’s easy to make changes and gives the map more of the “cartoon-look”. I then export the Illustrator file to Photoshop or Fireworks to save it for the web.

– Michael assumes your map must of taken a long time to create. Why did you make this, and how hard was it?

Nope, not too long, and it was easy. I made the map because I love maps. I can spend hours reading maps. I love The Simpsons, and I can spend hours watching The Simpsons. So I thought, why not combine these two passions, and that’s why I made the map.

– Adriana Lopez asks: Are the Simpson’s from northen Kentucky? or can you tell me where they are from please?

Sigh… I don’t know. I do know that Springfield is a seaport. Last time I checked, Kentucky was still landlocked.

That was our questionaire by our visitors. Last two questions left…

Describe your desktop. What do you see around your computer?

It kind of bland, uninteresting and messy. I have a great view of the San Gabriel Mountains when there’s no smog. The only piece of Simpsons merchandise I own is a little inch tall figure of Homer that came out of a vending machine for 50 cents. I have a large 24″x36″ laser print of the map on the wall.

Any final comments?

I want to thank you, Jukka, for all you’ve done over the years to bring the Map of Springfield to the attention of The Simpsons online community in particular and to the world in general.