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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Goodbye, Opus

I heard today that Berke Breathed is ending Opus, the last of his Bloom County-related comics, on November 2, 2008, so that he can concentrate on children's books.

Even though I never closely followed Outland or Opus, it's still a sad day for me. I was a huge fan of Bloom County when I was a kid. Bloom County was probably the single biggest influence on my sense of humor, followed closely by Douglas Adams and The Far Side. My wife may often wonder if that was for good or ill, but I count it in the plus column. So the passing of another formative piece of my childhood will be sad.

I don't think I'll actually mourn much, though. You see, I've read Breathed's children's books, and they're good. Really, really good. Not in the limp, saccharine way that many such books are, but in the deep, fulfilling way that classic myths and fairy tales are. What's more, though, just like all his comics -- and I don't think it's intentional -- they are all set in Bloom County.

True, if you look at the pictures, the Breathed style is inescapable, but it goes deeper than than. At the risk of waxing philosophical, Bloom County (the place) was a state of mind, at least to me. It was a place where animals talked (the interesting ones anyway), the real and surreal frolicked happily together, and it was completely acceptable -- nay, expected! -- for one to spend an afternoon lounging in dandelions. Bloom County was sometimes dark, and often cynical, but at its core it was always hopeful and beguilingly innocent.

Maybe it's that every creator really only has one world living in his mind, and subconsciously sets everything in that universe. The last Far Side did imply that all the comics took place in the same warped universe, and even Isaac Asimov ended up eventually reconciling his Robot and Foundation universes. I don't think Breathed has intended that, and if asked would likely deny it, but that's how his other comics and books have all felt to me.

And I think that's enough: to know that the spirit of Bloom County lives on, it just got too big for the funny pages. It grew up, just like I did, becoming more complex and nuanced and ultimately richer, but still with the same spirit deep down.

So goodbye, Opus. I'll miss you, but we'll always have Bloom County!

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