Is ‘Bloom County’ on the comeback trail…on Facebook?

Berkeley Breathed’s popular, satirical comic strip may be about to find new life on the ‘net. Without those pesky newspaper censors, of course.

Opus and Bill comment on Middle Eastern beachwear.
Berkeley Breathed, Opus and Bill duly note the latest fashion in Islamic beach wear. (Courtesy of Berkeley Breathed's Facebook page)

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2015 – Don’t look now. But Berkeley Breathed – the iconoclastic creator of Opus the Penguin, Bill the Cat, and that legendarily bizarre cartoon universe known as “Bloom County” – may be about to resurrect his popular onetime newspaper comic strip online.

Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, 2015.
Berkeley Breathed at work. It’s time for “Bloom County” 2015. (Courtesy Berkeley Breathed’s Facebook page)

The Washington Post and numerous additional sites have reported that Breathed has decided to revive his old strip by creating new ones on his Facebook page, cartooning ad lib whenever the spirit moved him.

It all began with a tantalizing online statement by the cartoonist on Facebook, dated July 6, 2015. The cartoonist broadly hinted he’d be gradually releasing a small treasure trove of hitherto secret ‘toons that were effectively airbrushed or even 86’d by the squeamish, Snowflake editors and publishers of today’s sorry crop of slowly imploding daily newspapers.

“Dearest gentle patient Facebook BloomCountynickers ( my term ): watch this space carefully in coming days. I have raided my own files for some rare gems–art, unseen drawings, censored strips etc–. I can’t wait to publish here… nicely out of reach of nervous newspaper editors, the PC humor police now rampant across the web… and ISIS. To wit…Check the following, below [referencing the cartoon at the head of this article]: I spent an hour a few years ago, discussing that sketch of a Burqini with the publisher of the Washington Post (while standing in the produce section of my Santa Barbara Trader Joes.) We–this is true– negotiated the style of her hair. That strand sticking out. As it might offend muslims. Because the Muslim staffers in his office were offended. So we came to an agreement as to how much hair could be sticking out and how messy it looked.

I quit cartooning for good two months later. Yes, these two little events were organically connected. I’ll never get that happy little hour of happy TJ’s shopping back.”

News like this is actually unsurprising. Self-important, petty and overpaid editorial gatekeepers will fearlessly print any vile slanders or disgusting, un-sourced rumors that fly in over the transom so long as they smear the likes of G.W. Bush, Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney.

On the other hand, these same social justice warriors routinely tremble at the very thought of triggering an embarrassing virtual raid by the PC Police; or, still worse, a rash of editorial beheadings courtesy of their friendly, self-appointed neighborhood Islamofascist enforcers. Breathed apparently got tired of the whole predictable routine, the kind of unreasonable, corrosive and petty editorial censorship that can quickly rob humor and satire of its critical edge.

In recent decades, comic strip satirists like Breathed have frequently found themselves squarely in the middle of this absurdly self-defeating dynamic. Editorially, this phenomenon marks a sad comedown for a once proud and honorable profession. But those currently in charge seem not to care.

Meanwhile, after the reality of a generally non-censored Internet struck home, Breathed decided it was time to awaken his inner cartoonist. A week after making his initial statement, he delivered on his promise by posting on July 13 the following brand new cartoon. Here, a groggy, puzzled Opus awakens after a 25-year Rip Van Winkle-style nap. Duly note: fans of the old strip will be delighted to see that Opus 2015 has not forgotten his former obsessions or his tightie whities:

Opus returns.
Opus returns: July 13, 2015. (Courtesy, Berkeley Breathed’s Facebook page.

It’s interesting to note, BTW, that none of the “Bloom County”-related Washington Post articles currently appearing online bother to note the key role that newspaper played in Breathed’s ultimate decision to largely exit the daily newspaper cartooning biz 25 years ago by discontinuing the original “Bloom County.” But the Post’s key role in that decision is central to the anecdote above, and it’s typical that the paper would leave this unflattering anecdote unreported. It simply doesn’t track with the Post’s inflated self-image.

Bill the Cat stuffed toy.
Ack! Thhppt! What Bill thinks of the Washington Post. In an ironic twist on “Bloom County’s” return, my esteemed spouse quite accidentally unearthed my vintage Bill the Cat stuffed animal. She hated the thing and I thought she’d thrown it out years ago. Bill’s fortuitous rediscovery in time for “Bloom County’s” resurrection proves miracles really do occur. (Photo by the author.)

Breathed’s short but informative anecdote is also significant in that it cites — critically — the malign influence on editorial content forced by an increasingly aggressive and arrogant PC Police. These vigilantes seem to be lurking everywhere today, just like the self-appointed Islamic religious enforcers that constantly prowl the streets of Saudi cities looking for innocent citizens to punish for real or imagined slights against Islam.

Such unsettling parallels may also have influenced the recent, controversial remarks of Jerry Seinfeld. Although the story was lightly reported by the major media, the popular stand-up comic and TV star recently went public to voice his disgust with the current generation of namby-pamby college students whose hyperactive sensitivity to real or perceived slights—even funny ones—borders on the paranoid. It’s a situation that’s become so hostile to comedy that Seinfeld has vowed he will no longer waste his time performing on the college circuit.

Both Breathed and Seinfeld can be fairly described as reflexively liberal. But this, in an odd way, gives their unexpected but welcome rebellion against America’s nasty New Puritans far more credibility and influence than it might have if such criticism had been expressed by, say, Rush Limbaugh, a figure that liberals reflexively dismiss.

If even old-fashioned liberals are getting fed up with the far left’s aggressive attempts to stifle any speech or imagery they don’t specifically approve, that’s a pretty good clue that the dangerous and chilling repression of free speech in this country has gotten painfully out of hand.

In any event, it’s good to have Breathed back in action, even if it’s only when he feels like it. Raising hell and making the world safe for humor and humorists might actually prove to be the noblest—and funniest—way to start taking this country back from the censors and scolds that seem hell-bent on pursuing and destroying the small pleasures of life that still remain. Like laughter and fun. And “Bloom County.”

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17