Bloom County: The Complete Library, Volume One: 1980-1982
written by Berkeley Breathed
December 8, 1980, is perhaps most remembered for one terrible event: The murder of John Lennon on the sidewalk in front of his home building in New York City. That singular event, the death of one of the greatest pop musicians of all time and the harbinger of the ending of a generation, coincided with something else in the newspaper that day, something that would wind up defining the new generation to come: Bloom County, a small strip with seemingly small ambitions, debuted.
That first strip probably wouldn’t be too memorable if it weren’t included here, in Bloom County, The Complete Library, Volume One: 1980–1982, the first of five volumes that will collect the entire catalogue of the legendary comic strip. It wasn’t until later—January 28, 1982, to be exact—that the strip would begin to fully congeal into the great source of humor, commentary, political awareness, and astute observations that it became known for. Berkeley Breathed, the creator of the series, writes in the margins next to that day’s strip, “Opus. Center found, the fog clearing. The strip had found its voice, its tone and its point of view.”
The introduction of Opus the penguin was the glue the strip needed to hold its world together. With that, Breathed was able to embark on an ingenious journey across the decade. Along with the other stars of the strip—Milo, the erstwhile reporter; Binkley, the celebrity-obsessed neurotic; Steve Dallas, the conservative lawyer; Cutter John, the stoic Vietnam vet; Bill the Cat, the frenzied, harried rock star; and the assorted rest—he set out to interpret the wild world of the ’80s for us all. And he succeeded. The Bloom County filter made the world make more sense somehow.
The brilliance of Bloom County shines through in so many ways, but perhaps most notable is that this collection doesn’t seem dated in the slightest (oh, perhaps a strip here and there, but you’d really have to nitpick to mind, and anyway, Breathed has included several helpful spreads offering headlines from the times to help you get yourself firmly rooted back in the day).
Can you go back home to a comic strip and a time that have both signed off so very long ago? In small ways, yes. The handsome Bloom County: The Complete Library makes the trip not only possible in some measures, but it also makes it a pure joy. Brilliance likes Bloom County elevated the art form of the comic strip. It’s wonderful to see it getting such respect.