Grandpa Maltby: Bloom County is Back!

Bloom County is back! I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I heard that Berke Breathed was resuscitating his great comic strip. I couldn’t believe it’s been gone for 25 years, either. Oy! That hurt.

Throughout the 80’s Bloom County, Doonesbury and The Far Side were the political – and in the case of The Far Side, just plain wacky – were the cartoon mainstays of my generation. It seemed like every BC strip was a classic. While a lot of the other cartoonists seemed to skate by with their daily strips, Breathed made his interesting, funny and memorable. Three of my favorites were daily entries that I’ve told friends about repeatedly over the years.  

This one came early on and it let me know just the kind of strip I was reading. It was fantastic!

Milo - I Win

I’d never seen anything like it. It was more laid back and at the same time more over the top than Doonesbury. It spoke to me – and a lot of other people.

Then there was this from the series on the Binkleys having a toxic waste dump in their backyard:

The Binkleys and Giant Cockroach

It may have been a little more impactful back in the Heyday of “Excuse me. Do you have Grey Poupon?” But come on. What’s not funny about a giant cockroach going through your fridge and criticizing the contents?

Then there was this one featuring Opus the penguin When Opus came to the strip, he made little impression on me. I think Breathed was still figuring out what to do with him. But I’ve got to say that by the time he was on trial for beating a mime in the street with an olive loaf.

Opus and the Mime

He hit the mime with an olive loaf! How can you not love that?

Bloom County had the insight of Doonesbury and the crazy point of view of The Far Side. Enter Bill the Cat. The first time Bill appeared was on a Sunday. I can’t remember the premise. I just remember I laughed out loud when I read it and for days afterward whenever I thought of it. (I was seriously annoying to my friends.) Bill had me from his first “Ack!” I was so far gone; my roommate got me a Bill the Cat t-shirt for my next birthday. I still have it. Ack!

Bill the Cat

Bill the Cat. Who wouldn’t love a face like that?

I could go on. I loved Steve Dallas, who was the douchebaggiest version of dudes everywhere. Cutter John, who was a cool, kinda nerdy guy who happened to be in a wheelchair. (What a concept!) Binkley and his long nights with his Anxiety Closet. Whiz kid Oliver Wendell Jones, who made me want to get good enough with computers to create havoc everywhere.

Now would be about the time to try to draw broad sociological and psychological themes out of Bloom County – and they are certainly there. But that wouldn’t matter at all if it didn’t hit its fans right in the sweet spot. It was an incredible touchstone for those of us who were discovering their internal radicalism and I look forward to it doing the same for a new generation. Go Berke!