The webcomics blog about webcomics

I Think It’s The Sort Of Thing I’m Supposed To Have An Opinion On

Namely, the return of Berke Breathed to strip cartooning, with the now ubiquitously shared Bloom County 2015.

I’m not concerned that Breathed has returned to stripping and quit multiple times before, or that he’s apparently going to be releasing his comics online rather than to papers (online, after all, means no deadlines other than those he imposes on himself … although the constant deadline battles of Bloom County in its heyday were probably as responsible for its manic energy as anything). I stand by my comments t’other day that I don’t know that Breathed can recapture the feel of a strip that was of its time, of his time, and of its audience’s time.

While Bloom County doesn’t age well — and I say that as a man who still owns a Flexi-disk of Deathtögue backed with Billy and the Boingers¹ — the influence of Breathed on the first two or so generations of webcomickers cannot be overstated. Bloom County spanned the high school and/or college years of a lot of people that made the first webcomics, and the lessons they learned are legion and obvious. The anarchic humor, the willingness to dedicate everything to a stupid joke and then just ride it to see how far it would go, the increasingly deranged cast surrounding one semi-sane audience-identification character, and the semi-serialized tendency of the stories are foundational to webcomics, to a degree that we’re only now getting away from those habits.

Does there have to be a creator of such outsized (if distanced in time) influence? Bloom County wrapped up more than 25 years ago, call it 8 – 10 years before the creators that loved it so began their own works. Will they (and their progeny) recognize the figure of legend as he returns, or has the world changed so much that he can’t make sense of it? This is becoming needlessly Campbellian, isn’t it?

Related: regardless of Breathed coming back, has webcomics synthetically evolved his Mexican non-union equivalent already? Will the future generations of cartoonists look to Achewood or Homestuck as their foundational myth the way that early webcomics looked to Bloom County? Or has the explosion of new voices, built from a broader base of divergent influences and experiences, mean that he was the last one to cast such a shadow?²

So I’ll guess we’ll find out together if Berke Breathed returns as an imitation of his past self, as a 25 years improved secret and ascended master, or as a dilettante. I hope he finds the joy in creation sufficient to propel him to tell the stories he wants to tell; I hope that those stories still compel me to seek them out (but I’m still not getting a Facebook account). But honestly, I’m more interested in seeing what the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Bloom County are up to — the Reagan era is long past, but there’s an awful lot of future yet to be seen through a lot of different eyes.

Spam of the day:

I always spent my half an hour to read this website’s articles daily aloong with a mug of coffee.

Please don’t blame me for your caffeine habit, or the slowness of your reading.

¹ There is also still a stuffed Opus somewhere in my house, but I’m not sure I could tell you exactly where.

² Probably, yeah — but if the future generations of cartoonists do look to anybody to such a dominant degree, it’s likely going to be Raina Telgemeier (but you can take that as a given in almost any discussion on this site).

Having finally read Opus after a friend lent me the collector’s edition, and thus seen how far down from his peak he’d come, I have no great desire to read BC2015. Will Opus be put through a fourth existential crisis when this new strip wraps up, though?

Shaenon Garrity was/is a huge Bloom County fan, and Berkeley Breathed was a big influence on her cartooning. I’m sure that she’s not the only member of the first wave of webcomics that loved his work.

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