About This Strip:
Let's face it, Opus makes this comic strip.
OPUS! OPUS! OPUS! Opus forever! Penguins are
naturally funny, anyway. I don't know what inspired creator Berke Breathed to
put a penguin in such interesting social situations, but Opus is by far
the funniest penguin of all time. Even better than my beloved
Chilly Willy of cartoon fame.
It may surprise you, but Opus was not originally intended to be the
star of this satirical strip. It took a while for him to come
into view, and in the beginning he looked and acted much different than
he would later become. Opus was first the pet of Binkley and he
didn't speak English. Then he spoke broken English. Opus
soon became downright eloquent. And his look became a lot softer
and more loveable.
But who was the first major star of "Bloom County"? Of course, it
was Milo Bloom. The tow-headed, bespectacled, and
politically-minded youngster was kind of funny, but not really
funny. That trend continued. I'm surprised this character
lasted the whole run of the strip. He doesn't add much at
all. I think it's because of the strip's namesake.
Then came his grandpa, Major Bloom. Him and the wife ran the
boarding house and raised Milo. Major Bloom was a blowhard
traditionalist. Now this character is kind of funny, but there
just isn't much an old retiree can bring to a strip that promises such
elaborate, action-filled storylines. There were many strips that
didn't feature either of these two principal characters. A lot of
unnamed and uncontinued characters were introduced along the way.
The most interesting of these early strips were the funny talking
animals. It seems Mr. Breathed kept this in the back of his mind
because the funny animals, especially Opus, is what brought real
structure into the strip. Very wise thinking.
There was a middle-aged bum by the name of Limekiller that drifted into
the boarding house. He didn't last long. The smoking,
sunglasses-wearing dude had some of the crass qualities of Steve Dallas
(who would be introduced later), but Limekiller himself just ran out of
Then came sexy young Bobbi Harlow, the schoolteacher for Milo
Bloom. This was a good character. I always liked Breathed's
women characters. For some reason they were just funny and they
acted a lot like real women would. She's the first character that
really brought ongoing story possibilities to the strip, in my
viewpoint. It was through her that Steve Dallas and Cutter John
were introduced. In a roundabout way, she was also responsible
for Binkley, who in turn would give us Binkley's father and Opus.
When Bobbi Harlow was made the teacher, it seemed only fitting to give
Milo Bloom a school friend. Here comes Michael Binkley,
originally wearing glasses and with a rather short buzzcut
hairdo. Soon he would lose the glasses and grow the tall red
pompador we know him for.
Then Bobbi had to have a boyfriend. Who better than the sleazy
young lawyer Steve Dallas? The ultimate male-chauvenist pig of a
man. It took until 1999 with the animated TV series of "Family
Guy" for Steve Dallas to be outshined by the much nastier Glenn
Quagmire. But for many years, Steve Dallas was the #1 sexist
macho guy! He was, and still is, an awesome character!
For the first time in the strip, there was more than one acting
storyline. This was something no other strip had ever really done
and it worked for Bloom County. Simultaneous sagas were seen with:
- Bobbi teaching
Milo and Binkley at school.
- Major Bloom
coaching Milo and Binkley at football after school.
- Bobbi Harlow
dating Steve Dallas.
- Binkley with
his long-suffering father, and introduction of pet penguin (not yet
All these characters would somehow intertwine and voila, comic strip
magic was made. Bobbi would later dump Steve Dallas for a
wheelchair bound Vietnam War vet named Cutter John. But after
that, her story possibilities evaporated and she disappeared. The
little-seen talking dog of Milo, name of Rabies, was dropped. The
frustrating relationship of Binkley and his father flourished.
Steve Dallas was just too funny of a character so he had to be left
in. Cutter John was kind of funny, but most of his humor came
with the interaction with Opus and the other talking woodland
animals. I definitely like it that this became more of a funny
animal strip than a strictly political people strip. No one needs
Another super-popular and highly-marketed character in Bill the Cat
popped up as a gag in a Sunday strip. He, himself, is not funny
which is the main idea. It's the way others react around him that
makes Bill the Cat a witty, recurring theme. He mainly looks
blankly into space and utters an occasional "Ack!". This
character's kind of ugly and I'm glad he wasn't used a whole lot, but
when he was it seemed to go over big with fans. I like Opus the
best because he's cute and he says funny things. And he has
adventures. Bill doesn't offer much but sometimes the Bill
stories are funny. He's kind of detached and separated from the
rest of the cast because he's so strange.
Binkley was given his anxiety closet, which was a funny theme.
Milo was made head of the Bloom Beacon newspaper, which helped make
more sense of the increasingly social-political feel of the
strip. To make the endearing Opus more visible, he was given a
job at the newspaper. It started out with classified personals
and would change from time-to-time, but it gave Opus a purpose and
reason for still sticking around. I thought it was cute that he
tried to be like people. The idea of him being Binkley's pet was
dropped, but he still remained a tenant of the Bloom Boarding House.
Opus was given little woodland buddies in Portnoy (eventually revealed
to be a groundhog; for a long time his species was uncertain) and
Hodge-Podge (rabbit). Portnoy was a loudmouth while Hodge-Podge
was fanatical conservative. These three usually palled around
with Cutter John because he was nicer, but sometimes associated with
Steve Dallas (usually in some sort of business arrangement).
Oliver Wendell-Jones was another prominent character introduced as a
school buddy of Milo and Binkley. He was black and a
super-genius. His inventive nature typically brought a lot of
wild fantasy into the stories. A good move, really, and he had
great dialogue. We also see him with his similar-looking
father. A lot like the Binkley arrangement.
MORE COMING SOON!
Characters In Order of
Rabies (Milo's Dog)
Bobbi Harlow (Milo's Teacher)
Tom Binkley (Binkley's Father)
Bill the Cat
(Leader of Binkley's Anxieties)
Blondie (Black Girl; Binkley's
Oliver Wendell Jones (Black Boy;
Frank Jones (Oliver's Father)
MORE COMING SOON!