The Blue View by BoxJam

Breaking Out of The Norm by Use of Penguin

This month I thought I'd do something out of the ordinary, and write a column about comics.

I know, I know…a Blue View column about comics? It surprised me, too, but I heard Berke Breathed's got a new comic debuting on November 23rd, and I wanted to write about it.

It's gonna suck.

The new comic, called Opus, centers on his most-beloved character from Bloom County, the innocent penguin. It's a Sunday-only comic, and it's going to take half a page of the newspaper. So far, so good. In fact, on the issue of requiring a half-page of newspaper, better than good. You go, Berke.

Now, let's look at what else we know about the strip.


With the news from the Washington Post Writers Group came no sketches, no hints about storylines or other characters, or even a general feel of the strip. OK, so back to the facts we already knew. It debuts November 23rd. There's no teaser art except a couple 3D renditions of Opus that clearly won't be the look of the strip.

That tells me Breathed hasn't done anything about the strip yet.

He's one of three people in the world who could walk into a syndicate and say he wanted to do a new strip, with no plan at all, and get it. That's what he's done. It's Sunday only. Consider that with the quote, when The Onion asked him if he missed having a public forum: "Oh, to hell with that, I miss the money. If I could have drawn a cat yelling for lasagna every day for 15 years and have them pay me $30 million to do so, I would have." So is he doing Sunday only because of the increased space, or just because he's looking for the most money for the least effort?

The answer is left as an exercise for the reader. It's about Opus. Opus, as stated above, is his most enduringly popular character. Is he the kind to carry a strip? It's a half-page. Again, I think that's cool that he's won that. But it's not what Breathed needs. Bloom County was adequately drawn in a style learned from copying Doonesbury, another strip not recognized for its art.

Bloom County's (you can't shorten Bloom County to B.C., I just realized) strength was Breathed's cynical sense of humor. Outland tried to be more art-centered, but it didn't work (before you call me a jerk for that, Breathed agrees). So while the half-page requirement may do some greater good for comics, it's not going to save Opus.

In the rare interviews he gives (The Onion, PvP), he says he never reads comics. That's kind of weird. It's fine, even if you want to draw comics. Absolutely fine. However, when we ask the question, "is Breathed coming back because he can't stay away, or is he coming back for another bag of money?" the quirk that he doesn't read comics makes me think the latter.

Maybe that one's unfair. But he did read comics once, until he quit the gig himself.

I will throw out this as a glimmer of hope: Breathed is a fairly new dad, and the child in his life may kindle the capricious side Breathed has always wanted in his comic work. In that case, I'll be happy to look like an ass when the new strip conquers the world and makes us its miserable slaves.

It's debuting at the end of November. Breathed is notoriously bad with deadlines, and still couldn't promise the very first strip until November. It's centered on a character he already has, and we haven't been told anything else about the strip.

How much work do you think Breathed's done on this new strip? I think he called the Washington Post Writers Group, said he was doing a new strip, and they said 'Sure!' before he finished his sentence. Maybe he just faxed them a piece of paper that said "I'm back"; I don't know.

I'm just going to say it: He hasn't (or hadn't, at the time the news was announced) done anything.

Is this how one returns to their passion?

BoxJam is a contributing columnist for Comixpedia.

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  1. Well, if the point I made was that doing it for money means it’ll stink, then I need to learn to write better.

    What makes me think it’ll be a bad strip is that he doesn’t seem to have any ideas for it. The only thing we know is that it’s about Opus – and isn’t that the most obvious thing Breathed could do? We don’t even know *what* about Opus. They seem (I’m going on the only tidbits that have been announced) to have made this deal with Breathed without him having any ideas.

    That, together with the fact that it’s Sunday-only, and that in interviews from one and two years ago he seemed apathetic about comics (and apathetic is being generous), makes me think he doesn’t love this.

    So it’s not that he’s going to make money, it’s the lack of anything else. Although I guess I’d agree the dough seems to be the *only* thing driving him.

    I could be biased, of course, as someone who loves this but doesn’t have the talent to make a dime, watching somebody with talent who’s using the system like a kleenex. I try to watch that, but, you know.

    Thanks for the comment.

  2. You take such a long time making this point of if he’s doing it for the money or not, but myself, I wonder if doing it for art or money always matters. I think sometime having to do things by commission or syndicate requires an artist to refine his/her work into a presentable piece. I mean, Breathed, the man has an uncanny talent for humor and his art is, well, anywhere from good enough to dead-on, depending. I think for that reason, even if he’s doing purely for the money, he might still produce a brilliant strip.

    The biggest arena of problems I would see related to “just doing it for money” is that it may be another Dilbert. Really funny but terribly and depressingly hollow. but I could see other effects as well.

    But that’s all just to present the argument. I think we’ll never know truly if it’s for money or not (unless we’re his wife, maybe), but it’s interesting to me what doing it or not doing it for the money could mean and why. It seems in your article you just wrote it doing it just for the income means that it’s presumed to be sell-out crappola. I’m not so sure.

    But yeah, either way, In the end, he may just produce sell-out crappola. We’ll have to wait and see.

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