Hans Moleman is a recurring character in the animated television series The Simpsons and was the former mayor of Springfield. He is voiced by Dan Castellaneta, and first appeared in the episode "Principal Charming". He normally appears in a running gag, where he usually suffers unfortunate, seemingly fatal events.
Hans Moleman is the retconned name of an earlier character named "Ralph Melish." A seemingly elderly man, Moleman is sometimes portrayed as a resident of the Springfield Retirement Home, although in a deleted scene from the episode "Brother from Another Series", he is shown to live in a small house under a dam. He has cataracts and is almost entirely blind, which has severely impaired his reading ability and has led to repeated revokings of his driver's license. He carries a cane to walk with. Although he appears to be elderly, in fact, Hans Moleman claims to be 31 years old, and that "drinking has ruined [his] life".
Like many recurring characters, Hans Moleman does not have a fixed occupation, but rather has had a wide variety of careers over the course of the series. Many of them have involved his unfortunate events.
In episode 13 of season 26, "Walking Big & Tall", he is revealed to be the former Mayor of Springfield; however, he was banished from Springfield by the angry town's folk on a horse when it was discovered by Moe the bartender that a song he made Springfield's city anthem 30 years previously was in fact a rip-off from another town's anthem.
Much of the humor associated with Moleman has involved him cheating death innumerable times, usually highly improbably. He survived his car blowing up, catching on fire, trepanning, a severe head injury at the hands of a hallucinating Mr. Burns, the electric chair, being left inside a fluoroscope for possibly an entire weekend, being buried alive, being left forgotten and alive in a morgue, and being engulfed by an anti-escape orb. He was also run over by Homer in "The Parent Rap", after the whole family promised they would not commit any crimes for a whole year. Homer ran over Moleman again in The Simpsons Movie.
As pointed out on The Simpsons Archive episode capsule for "Sweets and Sour Marge", "When the people-ball is rolling toward Hans Moleman and Agnes Skinner, you can see another Moleman in the ball if you watch in slow motion. Although the second Moleman was most likely an animation mistake, The Archive suggested humorously it could indicate that each Moleman is a different person and that he does indeed die.
Hans first appeared as a character model for the season two episode "Principal Charming", but he looked so shriveled and unrealistic that Matt Groening proclaimed him to look like a "mole man". However, he was used in several episodes and later became a recurring character. According to the episode "Principal Charming", his name was Ralph Melish, which is a reference to the Monty Python sketch "The Adventures of Ralph Melish: Hot Dog and Knickers" from The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief. According to a DVD commentary for one episode, some number of viewers were offended by Moleman's appearance, and he was reused in order to annoy people of such a viewpoint. Matt Groening has said that Hans Moleman was inspired by Tex Avery's Droopy, who shares many of Moleman's deadpan and unassuming mannerisms. Moleman's appearance is based on an elderly man Groening had once seen at the DMV.