Goodnight Opus. All Good Things …

No please don’t thank me, Mr. Breathed. Rather, let me thank you; you deserve it.

Thank you for the all the comics over the years … [tag]Bloom County[/tag], [tag]Outland[/tag], and [tag]Opus[/tag]. It almost seems a shame to call them comics, as your humor, often drenched in political satire and social commentary, was consistently clever and amusing, and frequently bordered on brilliant – sometimes it even crossed that border into a land that few reach. At times your work was also touching, even poignant, and for that I think the term “art” can be applied, and deservedly so.

You came along at a critical time for me; I turned 12 at the end of 1980, the year that Bloom County debuted. I didn’t really get Bloom County then, but I kept reading; I was an avid comics reader. And as my adolescent mind began to … well, I hesitate to say mature; some might say my mind has yet to mature, and I would admittedly be hard pressed to disagree – let’s just say as I traveled headlong toward adulthood, somewhere along the line I began to get the strip. I even started to look forward to it. When I would read the funnies while eating cereal before school or stretched out on the living floor late on a Sunday morning, Bloom County was always the last strip I read; I always saved the best for last.

So thanks for all that. Looking back with the Bloom County books over the years, it’s been fun to enjoy all the humor that I didn’t get or misinterpreted the first time around. You can even see how Bloom County emerged from the omnipresent shadow of Doonesbury and found its own footing on new ground. I could go on and on about various story lines, but the parodies of Star Trek and heavy metal warrant special mention; sometimes I still tell people that my favorite band is Deathtöngue. And let us not forget Oliver, Bloom County’s resident scientist, hacker, and back-alley plastic surgeon and liposuctionist. We have seen the nerds, and they is us. Thank you.

I was a year away from graduating college when Bloom County became a comic strip for the ages. I admit, I was slow to figure out that it was gone, as I had other things on my mind, such as girls, alcohol, getting an acceptable grade in News Writing 101, and deadlines at the Athens News and Southeast Ohio Magazine. Fortunately Outland came along soon after, so I could still get my comic strip fix once a week. So thanks for that, too. If I ever have a daughter, I won’t name her Ronald Ann (unless maybe her mother turns out to be exceptionally cool), but as a gesture to you, I’ll briefly consider it.

So Outland left us in the mid 1990s, going out with a bang – Steve came out, and Opus reunited with his mother in Antarctica. Soon afterward, I set out for Arizona with a fiancée and all my worldly possessions in tow. 2003 found me in Northern California, single (thank the god(s)), riding my bike a lot, and working for the online version of a high-tech trade publication that helped usher in the Internet age that lead to its demise – irony of ironies for a newspaper refugee (I caught that “-30-” next to your name in the last strip; you’re dating yourself, Mr. [tag]Breathed[/tag]). I had also had a taste of travel abroad by this time – several in fact – which only seemed to inflame my already restless soul.

It was a strange time, both within and without, so I was happy to welcome back Opus and the Bloom County gang back into my life; sometimes seeing old friends can be disturbing, but usually it’s a happy, joyful occurrence, and Opus definitely fell into the latter, even though now we more often met via the Internet rather than the Sunday funnies. Again, that’s an irony that isn’t lost on either of us, I’m sure. But thanks just the same. The Bush II era, the Aughts – whatever this decade ends up being called, as fucked up as it was, it was a little easier to stomach with Opus every Sunday.

So now Opus and Opus are … gone. While the rest of the cast joined Milo and Cutter John over in the meadow, Opus escaped the insanity of our times for the eternal comfort of Goodnight Moon.

Above all else, thank you for this too, Mr. Breathed. It is the end that Opus deserves. Thank you for following your muse, and ending the strip when she told you it was time. I understand why you want to end it now, leaving Opus comfortably enshrined in his dreams, tucked safe and sound between the covers of a cherished children’s book, lest he fall into the dark precipice that looms before us. Now that vulnerable, lovable, nature that was coupled with comic naïveté and insecurity will always remain intact. Would that we could all go there. I don’t seem to share the Audacity of Hopetm like so many others on the eve of this 2008 election, regardless of who wins; and I would not want to see Opus lose his.

And thank you for refusing to make an Opus animated feature film without having complete creative control. I hate to think what would become of Opus and the Bloom County crew in the hands of commercial Hollywood. I doubt many would follow your example were they in your shoes; most would no doubt sell out Opus, Milo, and Binkley for the big bucks. Given what the future may hold, perhaps it would be hard to blame them. Nevertheless – and I think I can safely speak for many here – for those of us who hold Opus dear, thanks again.

Seriously, it is we, or at least I, who should thank you. Of course, I’ll miss Opus and the rest, but I know where to find them when I need them. And you, Mr. Breathed, have my respect and admiration, in addition to my thanks, for having the courage and wisdom to let Opus go when he was ready.

You know, I’ve never read your children’s books. Now perhaps I will.

So long, Opus, my old friend; pleasant dreams, forever and always. And Milo (always my favorite), Binkley, Bill, Cutter John, Oliver, Portnoy, Hodge Podge, Steve Dallas, Rosebud, Milquetoast, and Lola – I’ll see you all in the meadow sometime.

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