Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Opus!

Bloom County, arguably (I said ARGUABLY) the greatest traditional comic strip ever*, turns 30 this year. That's mind-boggling enough, but even more mind-boggling is that USA Today decided it was a good idea to honor the event with creator Berkeley Breathed's handpicked favorites, complete with commentary. How this fits into the USA Today brand of editorial I am not sure, as it feels a little out of left field. But fans will certainly be eager to see it.

Bloom County was an eye-opening (mind-altering?) experience for me, cementing my love of art and comedy at a young age. I distinctly remember ripping off Bloom County jokes for 5th grade creative writing assignments. It was like Bloom County came from another dimension where everything was weird and off-center, much like the creator himself, Berkeley Breathed -- if that is your real name -- he of the photo on the back of the book. If that photo wasn't there, I seriously would have doubted this man's existence, as the strip did not seem to be of human origin.

Side question: why are comic strip artists such a strange and secretive lot? Has anyone ever really seen Bill Watterson, Jim Davis, Gary Larson, et al. in public? Are they even real? Do they simply exist to license their gags to coffee cup manufacturers/bumper sticker people/greeting card companies and suck up the money that spills over? I haven't a clue...but I do know that the comic strip creation process is a largely solitary and mind-numbingly repetitive process ideally suited for shut-in misanthropes and the socially retarded. (That said, I met Mort Walker once, and he was really nice. He even signed a book for me. Thanks, Mort.)

In any event, Bloom County was awesome, and, despite the Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan jokes, still feels fresh if you read it today. I didn't follow the "sequel" strip Outland nearly as closely, but Bloom County was and will remain a stalwart pillar of the pop culture landscape, and a personal favorite.

*Yeah, yeah. Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, there are many. But Bloom County is right up there.


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