Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Simpsons Characters Who Mysteriously Disappeared

The Simpsons is easily the biggest show in television history. That's true in terms of endurance — it's aired 700 episodes and counting, more than any other scripted show in American primetime history — as well as scope. Because The Simpsons is an animated series, writers and artists aren't limited by physical concerns, and they can fill out its world with hundreds, if not thousands, of characters. There's the main Simpson family, of course, but its members interact with numerous residents of Springfield. That approach, executed literally hundreds of times, makes for a vast and dense character roster.

With so many Springfieldians popping in and out of The Simpsons over the years, and with new writers joining the show and inventing new characters while also utilizing their favorites, many of these familiar, yellow-skinned comic creations can get pushed to the background. Once prominent characters may years later appear only in a crowd scene or even disappear completely with little to no explanation. Here are some once major players on The Simpsons who, as of late, aren't really a part of The Simpsons anymore.

Dr. Marvin Monroe died off-screen

As The Simpsons slowly grew in its first few seasons to include hundreds of named Springfield residents, one of the first tertiary characters was Dr. Marvin Monroe, an obnoxious, abrasively voiced counselor and therapist. He provided mental health and life advice via a call-in radio show, and he treated the Simpson family in person on one memorable occasion, allowing them to administer violent shock treatment to one another. Dr. Monroe was a fixture of early 1990s Simpsons episodes, but he apparently died off-screen at some point. In the 1995 faux-retrospective "The 138th Episode Spectacular," he's one of the answers to a trivia question about what "popular Simpsons characters have died in the past year." But it's a trick question, as the narrator explains that Dr. Marvin Monroe was "never popular."

Monroe's supposed death became something of a running joke. In 2000's "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily," his name appears on a tombstone, although in 2004's "Diatribe of Mad Housewife," he shows up at Marge's book signing and explains that the rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated — he was merely "very sick." However, in the 2018 episode "Flanders' Ladders," Dr. Marvin Monroe is back to being dead again because he makes a cameo appearance as a ghost.

Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure left The Simpsons after a real-life tragedy

When The Simpsons began its long run in 1989, it was an experiment several times over. It aired on the brand new, still-struggling Fox network, and not only was it an animated series — which hadn't been attempted much in prime time — but it was a crudely animated one starring a dysfunctional family. Fortunately, Phil Hartman was there to lend an air of legitimacy and invite curious viewers to give the show a watch. 

The Saturday Night Live star pulled double-duty as a voice actor, and he didn't change up his natural speaking voice much to play his two big characters on The Simpsons: shady lawyer Lionel Hutz and washed-up B-movie actor turned infomercial pitchman Troy McClure. The former was cheap enough to ineptly help the Simpson family avoid jail time for its various offenses, while the latter you may remember from such movies as Cry Yuma and Here Comes the Coast Guard. Hartman's smarmy, showy tone brought life and depth to these monuments to American mediocrity. Nobody else could play these characters — and that's literally true. 

In May 1998, Hartman was tragically killed at age 49 by his troubled wife, Brynn Hartman. When production on The Simpsons resumed, producers retired both Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure, ending their small but pivotal appearances.

Maude Flanders was killed off

Every few years, the voice cast behind The Simpsons renegotiates their contract. It's always worked out, with the same handful of actors playing the same characters for years on end and being handsomely compensated for their time and labors. However, Simpsons utility player Maggie Roswell, who'd been with the show since season one way back in 1990, left the series in 1999. She played numerous female residents of Springfield, most notably Luann Van Houten (Milhouse's mom), elementary school teacher Miss Hoover, and pious Simpsons neighbor Maude Flanders. 

During the 1999-2000 season, Maude made less appearances than unusual, and her voice sounded different on account of how a different actor was portraying the character. Finally, in a February 2000 episode, Maude was killed off — she fell off a grandstand to her death after being struck by a projectile from a T-shirt cannon. That left kind and cheerful Ned Flanders a sad widower and their kids motherless. According to Fox, Roswell left The Simpsons because she didn't want to commute from her home in Denver, where she ran a voice-acting studio, but Roswell says she was forced out because she asked for a pay raise. In 2002, the two sides reached an agreement, and Roswell returned to the show to voice most of her usual characters ... but not Maude, of course.

Mrs. Krabappel left The Simpsons after a real-world death

Time doesn't pass in The Simpsons as it does in real life, which means that Bart Simpson's relationship with his fourth-grade teacher, Edna Krabappel, developed into something complex and nuanced over more than two decades of episodes. On one hand, it was adversarial, with Bart dutifully and zestfully portraying the role of classroom troublemaker who made each day a bothersome nightmare for Mrs. Krabappel. But they also respected each other. Bart once realized his divorced teacher was desperately lonely, so he kept up a romantic pen pal scheme, posing as a man named Woodrow, just to be nice. Plus, he later helped her keep her forbidden relationship with Principal Skinner secret.

Edna eventually broke it off with Skinner, on account of how he's a weak-willed mama's boy, and she had a sweet but all too brief marriage to Ned Flanders. The reason it was brief? Edna Krabappel died. The November 2013 episode "Four Regrettings and a Funeral" found Bart writing not a gag on the chalkboard but a message that read, "We'll really miss you, Mrs. K." A few months later, the March 2014 installment "The Man Who Grew Too Much" ended with an epilogue in which Ned remembered their happy times together. The Simpsons never discussed how Mrs. Krabappel died, but the character was retired because the actress who portrayed her died in real life. Marcia Wallace passed away at age 70 in October 2013.

The residents of Evergreen Terrace seem to mysteriously disappear a lot

Ned Flanders is the primary outlet for Simpsons writers to deal with neighbor issues, but the Simpsons and the Flanders live on a crowded street. Aside from Ned and his bunch, Homer and Marge rarely, if ever, see the folks who live around them. In some of the early seasons of The Simpsons, neighbors moving in was a relatively common plot device to introduce new characters or set up a plot, and yet after those introductions, immediate Evergreen Terrace residents were rarely heard from again.

In the 1992 episode "New Kid on the Block," newly divorced Ruth Powers moves in nearby, along with her teenage daughter, Laura. The former takes Marge on a Thelma and Louise-like illegal adventure while Bart gets a powerful crush on the latter. Ruth serves a brief prison stint, explaining her disappearance for a while, but both Powers women show up as background characters, while Ruth appeared in a 2003 episode to help Marge become a bodybuilder. Then she's gone again.

After former president George Bush moves in across the street, butts heads with Homer, and moves out, another former president, Gerald Ford, moves in. Unlike the last guy, he and Homer become fast friends, bonding over their mutual love of football and beer. He hasn't been seen in an episode since 1997, but as the real-life ex-president died in 2006, his Simpsons counterpart probably passed on, too.

Lewis Clark doesn't talk much these days

Bart Simpson is depicted as a very popular kid at Springfield Elementary, often receiving vigorous cheers and verbal encouragement when he plays a prank on a teacher or Principal Skinner. And yet, he doesn't seem to have that many actual friends that he pals around with on a regular basis. Really, there's just his best friend and Smithers-like minion Milhouse Van Houten, and he enjoys an on-again, off-again alliance with school bully Nelson Muntz. However, when The Simpsons began its run back in 1989, Bart had a few more friendships, and he was often seen in and out of school with fellow fourth-grader Lewis Clark.

Lewis isn't nearly as sycophantic and eager to please as Milhouse. For example, when Bart was the presumed killer of the missing Skinner in the 1991 episode "Bart the Murderer," Lewis teased his friend by hiding in a leaf pile and pretending to be the principal's corpse. Later on, he played pee-wee hockey alongside Bart, and he was among the Model UN Club students who got stranded on an island in the Lord of the Flies-is 1998 episode "Das Bus." The character hasn't spoken a line since 2010, however.

The Simpsons got rid of Scott Christian

Springfield's Channel 6 offers lots of opportunity for The Simpsons to make fun of many aspects of television. Krusty the Clown, a combination of Johnny Carson and kiddie TV hosts, comes off as an oversized celebrity, while the station's news broadcasts say a lot about how local news has been sensationalized. In the early years of The Simpsons, the family might see one of two newsmen when they tuned their TV to Channel 6 — silver-haired prima donna Kent Brockman or the helmet-haired, ultra-serious Scott Christian. The former worked as both an anchor and a field reporter, and when he was out catching news as it happened, Christian manned the studio. 

But over time, it just became easier for the show to have one news personality do it all, and as is the way with television journalism, The Simpsons went with the flashier candidate. Kent Brockman took over as the primary newsman in Springfield, and the guy who looked like ABC's Nightline anchor Ted Koppel faded into irrelevance and obscurity as that reference became dated, making the occasional brief or non-speaking appearance into the 2000s.

Colin disappeared soon after The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie was a grand epic years in the making, and as such, it introduced several new characters to the Simpsons expanded universe. For example, there was Homer's porcine BFF, Plopper — also known as Harry Plopper and Spider-Pig. Plus, there was Colin, a pal and love interest for the perpetually lonely Lisa Simpson. He's a charming young guy, newly arrived in Springfield after emigrating from Ireland, and he shares Lisa's passion for environmental issues. The pair are separated when Springfield is covered with a dome, and Milhouse, jealous of Colin, attempts to spread the rumor that his romantic rival died, only for him to come back to town and hold Lisa's hand on the way to an ice cream date. 

Plopper, on account of being an adorable pig and being the swine equivalent of Homer, made his way into regular appearances on The Simpsons' flagship television show. Colin, however, swooped in, allowed Lisa some human connection, and was never even mentioned again. And honestly, that's kinda weird. It's not like Colin was voiced by a celebrity (Albert Brooks, Tom Hanks, and Green Day all made cameos in The Simpsons Movie). Instead, regular Simpsons utility player Tress MacNeille portrayed him. Colin appeared as a background character in just one episode that aired in the fall of 2007, just a couple of months after the release of The Simpsons Movie, and sadly, that's it.

Apu doesn't really need Sanjay anymore

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon once led a solitary, grueling existence. Raised in India, he settled in Springfield after earning his doctorate in computer science at the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology. However, he settled into a job at the Kwik-E-Mart to pay off his student loans, only for it to consume his life. He regularly worked 24-hour shifts until he married Manjula, and they became the parents of octuplets, which required more of a work-life balance. 

But before Manjula came along to serve as Apu's partner (in all things), as well as his foil, the most intimate relationship in his life was the one he had with his younger brother, Sanjay. He's his business partner at the Kwik-E-Mart, but unlike Apu, his personal life is already well-established. He's married and has two young kids, daughter Pahusacheta (who memorably sings a rendition of "MacArthur Park" at the Little Miss Springfield Beauty Pageant) and son Jamshed (who can run the Kwik-E-Mart in a pinch and handle a shotgun — a job requirement). When Manjula entered the scene, writers likely had no more need for Sanjay as a person with whom Apu could converse, confide in, and play against. Sanjay hasn't had a notable appearance on The Simpsons since 2016.

Where did the Grumple go?

The 2006 holiday-themed "Kill Gil, Volumes I and II" begins with a visit to Krusty's Kristmas on Ice, a parody of a Disney on Ice spectacular. The plot involves the Grumple (a.k.a. Grumpy Groo), a scowling humanoid monster covered in green fur and topped with a tuft of hair. He's obviously a send-up of the Grinch from Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and he's a character planning to steal all the "holiday cheer" from the other characters in the ice show. Kristmas on Ice falls apart and ends early due to a basketball game that booked the same arena, but then the Grumple reappears later in the episode. He's apparently not an actor in a suit but a real and very menacing monster in the Simpsons universe. 

On Christmas Day, he shows up outside the Simpson home, wielding a knife and yelling in Seussian verse, "Grumpily grumpily Groo! Your blood will make my stew!" He later attacks Homer with a broken pool cue at Moe's Tavern, leaving Homer little choice but to knock him out with a beer bottle, which results in him bleeding green goo on the ground. He later celebrates Christmas with the Simpsons, but he inexplicably keeps showing up in non-holiday episodes, such as the very special installment with guest star Lady Gaga. Then, after a cameo in the 2017 episode "Singin' in the Lane," the Grumple disappears just as quickly and mysteriously as he'd first appeared.

And just like that, Gavin was gone

Bart Simpson does a lot of bad stuff, but in the 1995 episode "Marge Be Not Proud," he not only breaks the law, but he gets caught. Bart swipes a copy of the video game Bonestorm from the Try-N-Save, and a security guard catches him. But before the crime goes down, Bart witnesses an exchange between an odious child and his distant mother. The boy's name is Gavin, and he's a spoiled brat, rocking a rat tail, hip clothes, and yelling at his parent to buy him the game he wants but insisting she buy two because he's "not sharing with Katelyn," presumably his sister. Bart then actually wishes he had a mom that cool, but he probably changes his mind later because the rest of the episode is about Bart trying to get back on Marge's good side after his shoplifting charge. 

Gavin appears a few more times on The Simpsons. For example, in the 1998 installment "Lisa Gets an A," Gavin and his mother are seen again, and he's cruelly yelling at her in a store for selecting a cereal he doesn't want, all before declaring that he wants to go live with his other parent. Gavin was something of a one-note joke, a villain to whom the main children characters could be compared. Once he (and his mother) filled that capacity, there likely wasn't much left for writers to do with the character.

Herbert Powell left The Simpsons a poor man

The Simpsons was the hottest show on television in the early 1990s, and it could land big stars to voice even small, guest star roles. In the February 1991 episode "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" the illustrious Danny DeVito came to Springfield as Herbert Powell, the half-brother Homer didn't know he had. 

Herb — or "Unky Herb" as Bart and Lisa would call him — was the product of a brief relationship between Grampa Simpson and a prostitute who worked at a traveling carnival, given up for adoption as an infant. He became the fabulously wealthy head of car company Powell Motors, but he loses everything when he tries to connect with Homer, offering his long-lost brother the chance to design a car for the regular, working man. Homer's idea is so bad it bankrupts the company, and Herb is left destitute and homeless. 

He returns in the 1992 episode "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?" and with a loan from the Simpsons, he develops a baby translator and becomes rich once again. More importantly, he forgives Homer for wrecking his life, leaving the door open for a close, brotherly relationship. That never actually happens, however. Herb only makes one more appearance of note on The Simpsons, many years later. In 2013's "Changing of the Guardian," Homer and Marge consider making Herb their kids' emergency legal guardian in the event of their deaths. He mentions that he is "poor again," and so Homer and Marge move on to other candidates.