I was 13 years old when Berkeley Breathed started the comic strip Bloom Country. I was an instant fan following the daily adventures of Milo Bloom, Michael Binkley, Steve Dallas, Cutter John, Bill the Cat, Opus and the rest from day one until Breathed decided to end the strip in 1989 to start a new Sunday only strip called Outland. Outland was supposed to be an experimental strip with all new characters, but it wasn’t long before Opus, Bill the Cat, and Steve Dallas showed up and it turned into more or less the same sort of strip that Bloom County had been, but with fewer characters. Breathed even said as much at one point.
I never got into Outland the way that I did with Bloom County and I suspect it was the lack of a daily narrative as the reason why. BC was the spark that first awakened my political awareness as the strip often poked fun at politics and politicians and appealed to my already liberal leanings even at that young of an age. I had never really thought much about politics prior to that and Bloom County will forever hold a special place in my heart as a result. I still own most of the books of collected strips they put out and I even still have a plush Krismas Opus boxed away somewhere that I got as a gift decades ago.
Breathed finally retired from cartooning in 1995 ending Outland and taking on other projects he had been meaning to do for some time, but eight years later he decided to put pen to paper once more and started the Sunday only strip Opus. Though set in Bloom County and bringing back several of the original characters I once again didn’t get too attached to it in part because it was a Sunday only strip and I haven’t bought newspapers regularly for years. I’ve caught up with it occasionally and it was fun, but never latched onto it the way I did BC.
For some reason that didn’t stop be from being disappointed to hear Breathed announce at the start of October that he would be retiring, again, and Opus would be coming to an end. In a story line that started on August 31st we see Opus being contacted by his creator and being told that he needed to get ready for his final resting place. The last comic ran yesterday and reveals to us where Opus will spend the rest of time.
It’s a testament to Breathed’s story writing ability that in spite of the fact that I am nowhere near as attached to the Opus strip as I was Bloom County I was still moved by the storyline of Opus’ “death.” Though spread out over several weeks it shows that Breathed still has the ability to do the daily narrative in a powerful way and I am saddened as much by the fact that he’s retiring as I am that Opus has come to an end. It probably didn’t help that there are scenes from the original Bloom County strip worked into the storyline as Opus recalls his 30 year history. I can recall each of the strips those images were taken from clear as day even today.
So tonight when I get home I think I might break into a couple of the boxes of packed away books and see if I can’t locate one or two of the collections I still have and spend an hour or two revisiting old friends in Bloom County.