By Hillel Aron
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By Jill Stewart
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Bart Simpson is the most famous skate punk in all of cartoonland. I mean, can you think of an episode where Bart didn’t have his board? It’s his preferred mode of transportation, his tool for rebellion. Even Homer gets in on the action — remember when he battled Tony Hawk in the half pipe? So, naturally, Vans, the classic boarders’ footwear of choice, commemorated the arrival of the much-anticipated The Simpsons Movie with a series of limited-edition kicks. They were an instant hit, with lines of rabid sneaker collectors and fans waiting hours to score a pair. You’ll have to scour eBay to get yours, since the shoes sold out the first weekend they were released (two weeks before the movie).
Vans contracted 12 of the country’s most influential and best-known graffiti and graphic artists to come up with different designs, featuring not only Bart and family but some of Springfield’s finest. Simpsons creator Matt Groening came up with illustrations of the artists — including L.A.’s Mister Cartoon and Dave Flores — to be used as the shoes’ hangtags.
Flores, who says he jumped at the chance to be involved in the project, was given a choice between Homer and Mr. Burns. “I chose Homer, of course. I mean, he’s the star of the show.” Flores took Groening’s sketches and flipped them into his signature stained-glass style. “I put aside everything I’ve been working on to get the designs in. I’ve been a fan since the very first episode.” Within days of their release, we spotted eBay bids for more than 300 bucks (and counting) on Flores’ Vans.
Tattoo and graffiti artist Mister Cartoon — he designed the Cypress Hill logo and has done some ink for Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, 50 Cent and Eminem — got to work with Homer too. In his version, Homer is a cholo — white wife-beater, bandanna, tats, even a faint mustache, raising a beer in front of a virgin brick wall. On the other shoe, the wall is tagged, “El Homer, de Springfield gang.”
Sam Messer, who claims dual stateship — residing in both Brooklyn and Santa Monica — designed a shoe that has a naked Bart being swallowed up like Gollum by a yellow-and-white sea of eyeballs. The Vans from Geoff McFetridge, an L.A.-based art director for films like The Virgin Suicides who also works as a graphic artist for magazines and fashion designers like Marc Jacobs, are really almost pretty. There are lots of little colorful flowers, and at the heel of each shoe is a very simple representation of Lisa (with a book), Marge, Homer and Bart (with a skateboard). Very subtle.
Brooklyn’s Gary Panter, KAWS and Stash (who chose Bart writing on the chalkboard, “I will not skateboard in the hallway”) are also in the mix. And Tony Muñoz, the Orange County native who’s a veteran at designing art for Vans footwear (he’s worked with the company for years) and has also done work for The Firm Skateboards, turned his Krusty the Clown into a maniacal demon. Vans will not release any more Simpsons shoes, so be ready for some serious bidding wars.¡Ay caramba!