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Goodnight Opus
November 1, 2008 9:03 PM   Subscribe

The final Opus comic strip appeared online a couple hours ago, but the final reveal of the beloved penguin's 'final paradise' had to wait for the Humane Society to update its website. (An interesting strategy for Berkeley Breathed, who started the eponymous Sunday Funnie as absolutely-paper-only... I'm sure Opus fans who acquired newsstand "Saturday Preview" editions of their Sunday papers are especially pissed) Well, the waiting is finally over because here he is...

...in the pages of "Goodnight Moon".

After all his references to Peanuts and a recent appearance at the Charles Schulz Museum, I had publicly guessed he'd end up "sharing a doghouse with Snoopy", but did so too late to enter the contest.

Berkeley Breathed explained much of it here and here.

Previously on MeFi and Previously on MeFi

...thus bringing semi-closure to one of my personal obsessions. In tribute, I am currently attired only in a towel, like Steve Dallas in the last three strips. And I wrote the title to this post hours before seeing the final panel. Spooky.
posted by wendell (73 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
This will not... hi, wendell!
posted by dw at 9:08 PM on November 1, 2008


IMO, this DID wendell. Very dell indeed.
posted by wendell at 9:11 PM on November 1, 2008


I never did give Opus a chance...but that's because I was blinded with grief over the loss of Bloom County.

Meadow Party '08!
posted by Miko at 9:15 PM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Awww. Damn that Breathed guy - after all those last few years of making me hate how he was dragging the strip out, years after he should have just walked away and never done it again, because that would have been the right thing to do, after all, because he said he was ending the strip TWICE already now, and he didn't live up to to his promise either time, and each time, he brought it back and it wasn't nearly as good as the original, and there really should have been some degree of, hell, I don't know, RESPECT for his own creation -

Anyway, that's a nice ending. Now, just please leave it at that, Berkeley.
posted by yhbc at 9:16 PM on November 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't get a printed newspaper, so I miss out on the comics unless I remember to look them up online. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I thought it was a sweet ending.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:21 PM on November 1, 2008


Pear pimples for hairy fishnuts!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:21 PM on November 1, 2008 [13 favorites]


.
posted by eriko at 9:24 PM on November 1, 2008


RESPECT for his own creation

I have a serious suspicion that is indeed one of the reasons he ended the strip, although he will never publicly admit it.

Now, just please leave it at that, Berkeley.

I also suspect a reason for ending it the way he did, and talking so much about it (for him) was to prevent himself from going back to the Opus well ever again. He knows now he would look like a World Class Asshole if he did, and even if he really is one privately, he will never want to look that way publicly.

Long-distance psychoanalyzing cartoonists is so much fun. No wonder the guy who wrote that book about Charles Schulz got so carried away.
posted by wendell at 9:40 PM on November 1, 2008


A dandelion meadow would have also worked for me.
posted by drezdn at 9:41 PM on November 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Ack!
posted by geekyguy at 9:42 PM on November 1, 2008


My kids love the Opus version of "Goodnight Moon" and "The Basselope".
posted by 445supermag at 9:42 PM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Though you bring up a good point Wendell.

If things go like they're looking like they'll go over the next few days, it's appropriate that a character so tied to the Reagan era ends their run.
posted by drezdn at 9:43 PM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Goodnight, Opus.
posted by chimaera at 9:45 PM on November 1, 2008


Oh goddamn, that last panel's kind of a punch right in the heart, isn't it?
posted by redhanrahan at 10:03 PM on November 1, 2008 [4 favorites]




I just cried my eyes out.

"He just said 'Goodnight'..."
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:12 PM on November 1, 2008


Am I pathetic if that brought tears to my eyes? I don't care. Goodnight Opus.
posted by amyms at 11:26 PM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bill the Cat for President: A desperate choice for desperate times.
posted by Eekacat at 11:27 PM on November 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


Awww. I love Opus. Bloom County was such a defining part of my truly formative years in college. All the stupid craziness that went through my brain, and Bloom County was the sanity. Opus sleeping peacefully, but in the context of the humane society makes my happy, and yet I am sad. As was mentioned, it is a punch right in the heart, but it's one that makes me think of my own creatures that are sleeping peacefully now.

I miss them so much.
posted by Eekacat at 11:34 PM on November 1, 2008


I wish I still had my Deathtongue Billy and the Boingers album. (Is there a digital version of that anwhere?)
posted by MasonDixon at 11:43 PM on November 1, 2008


Bill the Cat for President: A desperate choice for desperate times.

.... Ack!
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:43 PM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


MasonDixon: here's the original "U Stink but I love u", sans Opus on electric tuba. There's an mp3 out there in Google land of the flexi-disc that had that song and "I'm a Boinger". There never was a full album.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:50 PM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


The ending is very sad and I can't figure out why. Opus left the world and went somewhere safe and gentle and it's just a comic strip anyway.

Why am I breathing deeply?
posted by codswallop at 11:51 PM on November 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Better that ending than having the cockroach spit on your spats.

Good for Opus. I hope Breathed will be able to find the strength to take a few steps back and appreciate that while we'll miss his point of view, he deserves a long break.
posted by Graygorey at 11:53 PM on November 1, 2008


.
posted by schyler523 at 11:58 PM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


...I am not an anxious pimple!

I'm going off to thrash to U Stink But I <3 U (oh yes, I have the flexi) and gorge myself on herring.
posted by jackiemcghee at 11:59 PM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]




I thought he'd end up naked in the periwinkle. This is good too.

Bill the Cat for President: A desperate choice for desperate times.

Hear, hear!
posted by homunculus at 12:52 AM on November 2, 2008


What a long, strange trip. I'm really all choked up.

If you check Salon's letter column, Mr. Breathed has put a little note there....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:11 AM on November 2, 2008


I still have my unplayed Billy and the Boingers album back home. THHPPT!

Thanks for all the laughs and for teaching a 13 year old kid in the 80s to laugh at politics. Goodnight, buddy.
posted by Tacodog at 1:47 AM on November 2, 2008


I loved Bloom County, but Outland wasn't in my paper, and I've totally missed out on Opus, but reading the last couple of strips on Salon has me pretty teared up right now. I can really understand Breathed's reason for ending it (and I agree with him about... I agree with him about turtles. They're quite nice), but I'll miss Opus, even if I hadn't really been keeping in touch with him so much.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:58 AM on November 2, 2008


Thanks Mr. Breathed. You gave me Bloom County, and "Red Ranger Came Calling". I am truly, deeply grateful for both.
posted by Optamystic at 3:29 AM on November 2, 2008


Must... not... choke...
posted by _dario at 3:35 AM on November 2, 2008


Long-distance psychoanalyzing cartoonists is so much fun.

There's a wealth of material for such analysis of this guy, who crated this.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:38 AM on November 2, 2008


At the risk of self-linking, one of the last interviews I conducted before leaving San Francisco was Berkeley Breathed. We ended up chatting so long that I got a two-part interview: Part One and Part Two. I bring this up, because this interview was conducted shortly before Opus took a slightly more irreverent turn, and just after I had read all of Breathed's work again in a crazed 72-hour period. There was much talk about the state of newspaper comics and the Web, and some of the frustrations Breathed had about continuing with Opus in these conditiosn.
posted by ed at 3:42 AM on November 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm afraid I never liked Opus - he wasn't even remotely my favorite character in Bloom county either. I'm sorry for everyone who will miss it, but I look forward to something a bit less preachy and cheaply sentimental.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:12 AM on November 2, 2008


Bloom county was an important outpost of real in an unreal time for me (ah... the 1980s). I too lost track of Opus for many years, but am glad to reconnect here at the end.

And, The Light Fantastic? Phthpbllshtphlbtph!!!
posted by mmahaffie at 4:45 AM on November 2, 2008


Ack, thppt.

(whoops, wrong character...never got into Opus the comic, identified with the character back in the day...)
posted by notsnot at 5:19 AM on November 2, 2008


Thanks, BB, it was fun.
posted by tommasz at 5:44 AM on November 2, 2008


Thanks for the spoiler, Wendell. The full text of the post comes across in the RSS. Way to ruin it, bud.
posted by scruss at 5:47 AM on November 2, 2008


Mr. Breathed's website is swamped right now. And it's only 6 AM on the west coast. I feel sorry for his ISP.
posted by ardgedee at 6:02 AM on November 2, 2008


So Opus is in a nice warm safe place. That's just peachy. I wonder if I can think of something pithy and appropriate to say about his new circumstance...

In the best possible future, there will be
no war, no famine, no crime,
no sickness, no oppression,
no fear, no limits, no shame...
...and nothing to do.


Yep, that about covers it.
posted by localroger at 6:30 AM on November 2, 2008


Great, now I'm crying before I've even had my morning coffee.

[Thanks so much for posting this. I've loved Opus since I discovered Bloom County in the mid-'80s, but have fallen off from reading the latest incarnation. I actually think BB's animal advocacy had a lot to do with shaping or at least strengthening a lot of my own beliefs about animals, starting way back when I picked up "Loose Tails" when I was like 12 years old.]
posted by statolith at 6:37 AM on November 2, 2008


Well that was certainly a surprise. I knew about the Salon-Opus dealy and I was thrilled to read BB again but that usually meant I ended up playing catch up every couple of months.

I just had to go back to July and read up until now. I got a bit misty eyed at the final panel, and I thought, aw, that's swell.

Then I went downstairs and told my wife what happened to Opus, and once I got to the humane shelter I cried like a baby.

Thank you, BB, for such wonderful characters and wonderful stories.
posted by cavalier at 6:55 AM on November 2, 2008


I had forgotten, until now, that when Bloom County was active in the Newspapers, when I was in college, it formed one of the strong ties between my Mother and I. despite a generational gap (she was in her Fifties and I was a long-haired rebellious 20ish), and despite my moving away by many states, we both shared a love for the characters and absurdism of that strip. Thanks, Mr. Breathed.
posted by mmahaffie at 6:56 AM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ok, this is impressive, I can't view any of the Opus strips now without waterworks. Mr. Breathed, you've made a character and a world so real that his final pages fill me with grief and loss. Oy vey.
posted by cavalier at 7:02 AM on November 2, 2008


I think the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has confused Opus and Mallard Fillmore: "'Opus,' the cartoon penguin liberals love and conservatives love to hate..."
posted by Kirklander at 7:56 AM on November 2, 2008


Steve Dallas's eyes. Weeeeeeeird.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:03 AM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


WHY THE FUCK AM I CRYING!

Now I have to get my Opus
Miranda hat out of the closet.
Snif.
ACK! SPLIFFFFF! ACK!

posted by liza at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2008


Opus, you're getting a wendell.

.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:39 AM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bloom County was the first comic strip I ever purchased in book format. It was fantastical, hilarious, clever, heartbreaking and a great chaser for a day in Reagan's America. Having said that, I tuned out when Outland appeared. Seemed like the Fat Elvis to me. And now, all these years later, I think I'm going to have to dig up some old Bloom County strips now. DEATHTÖNGUE FOREVER!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:52 AM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


:)
posted by caddis at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2008


And, The Light Fantastic? Phthpbllshtphlbtph!!!

Oh, I liked Bill the Cat. I just never cottoned to the penguin.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:55 AM on November 2, 2008


Well, at least this election isn't one of the "Wimp or Shrimp?" variety.
posted by Monsters at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a trippy-emotional final panel for me, in that my mother loved Opus (and penguins in general) and gave me her Christmas Opus doll as part of her will when she passed away in mid-September. As a child, my favorite book, that she'd often read to me, was "Goodnight Moon". She'd have really enjoyed this final piece, and probably would've printed it out for posting on the fridge.
posted by revmitcz at 11:23 AM on November 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


Berke Breathed is the Michael Jordan of comic strip artists. Had a great run the first time around and retired at the top of his game. Then kept coming out of retirement trying to recapture greatness. Adieu, Opus. May I only see you in old Bloom County books from now on.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 12:32 PM on November 2, 2008


Opus was always, I thought, the least good think about Bloom County. Just like Snoopy was the least good thing about Peanuts. Once the strips devolved into the fantasy life of the pets, the interesting human dynamics pretty much disappeared. Then again, a lot of people love Garfield, so maybe I'M the freak.
posted by rikschell at 1:19 PM on November 2, 2008


Then again, a lot of people love Garfield, so maybe I'M the freak.

That Garfield, he sure loves lasagna. And man is he lazy. What a lazy cat.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:12 PM on November 2, 2008


Count me in with the guys who miss Bloom County. I was half hoping that the final strip would involve Milo somehow (as did the last strip of Outland).

Outland and Opus were often extremely good, but they still never matched the wonderful topical weirdness of Bloom County.

Come to think of it, dammit, why isn't Bill Watterson trying to redo Calvin and Hobbes?
posted by JHarris at 3:21 PM on November 2, 2008


Come to think of it, dammit, why isn't Bill Watterson trying to redo Calvin and Hobbes?

Because he's not an idiot and he knows when to let well enough alone?
posted by dersins at 6:09 PM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is that Opus's reflection in Steve Dallas's glasses?
posted by mecran01 at 6:23 PM on November 2, 2008


Am I the only one who sees this? Opus was "put to sleep" in an animal shelter. In the real world, he's dead along with the strip. So what do we faithful readers get? A link to the Humane Society, where we're told in effect that Opus has gone on to "a better place."

I'm having trouble writing this because my vision seems to be running down my cheeks.

I know it's absurd, grieving for a cartoon character. I understand Breathed's reasoning for killing off Opus, finally laying to rest a comic strip that just kept coming back despite his efforts to shut it down previously. But to have Opus spend his final days in a dog run, Steve Dallas arriving too late to rescue him, is just heartbreaking. Placing him in "Goodnight Moon" just links that children's book with the final sleep of death, for me.

Goodnight, sweet Opus. You deserved better.

.
posted by Seabird at 7:20 PM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Goodnight room, Goodnight moon
posted by The Whelk at 7:50 PM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I missed most of the last year or so of Opus, reading backwards the last dozen or so strips where pretty heart tugging, BB kinda let it all hang out regarding Bush and torture.
posted by edgeways at 10:01 PM on November 2, 2008


Seabird, Mr. B.B. has repeatedly written words to the effect of "not killing! I never said killing!" and I think he'd be dismayed that he left the ending open to that interpretation.

In a 'letter' in a graphic format on his own site (which has been pretty much inaccessible all day today, he wrote:

OPUS IS NAPPING. HE SLEEPS IN PEACE, DREAMING OF A WORLD JUST AHEAD BRIMMING WITH KINDNESS AND RACE AND UBIQUITOUS BOW TIES.

PLEASE DON'T MOURN HIM. HE LIVES IN ALL MY CHILDRENS' STORIES, IF YOU LOOK. I HOPE TO MEET YOU AGAIN THERE.

THANK YOU, TRULY, FOR COMING ALONG WITH US ON OPUS' TWENTY EIGHT YEAR JOURNEY.

--BERKELEY BREATHED


The reflections of Opus in Steve Dallas's glasses are a clue, as is the wistful expression in his rarely-unshaded eyes (some say he's never been seen without his glasses covering his eyes, but I don't think that's correct). This is kind of a redemptive moment for the cynical character who predated Opus (Steve in Breathed's college comic "Academia Waltz"). And representing B.B.'s now full-time commitment to writing and illustrating childrens' books, it's symbolically bringing Opus with him.
posted by wendell at 10:57 PM on November 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


oh crap, that should say KINDNESS AND GRACE, not... oh, I committed a helluva typo.
posted by wendell at 10:59 PM on November 2, 2008


Seriously, good riddance. Opus has been a corpse propped up with a hand moving his jaw for a long, long time, and I'm hardly touched by this far-too-late wannabe tearjerker.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:47 AM on November 3, 2008


Wolfdog - I'd save that comment for any of the number of comics still refusing to die, living on like the rotted corpses they are, zombie-like, souls dead but kept alive through corporate greed. You know, like Peanuts or Hagar or christ about 80% of the dreck that fills the comics pages these days.

Watterson did it best, in my mind. But this is far preferable to the usual "write it until I die and then it's recycled endlessly" garbage we've become accustomed to.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:14 AM on November 3, 2008


I don't have any complaint about a great strip like Peanuts appearing in reruns. And Hagar and the like don't really compare because they always sucked; in any event I don't see why I'm supposed to consider the existence of other shitty comics to be an excuse for the overprotracted shitty ending of this one.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:22 AM on November 3, 2008


Thank you, Wendell. I had missed the letter (and didn't notice your typo).

I noticed the reflections of Opus in the glasses. Steve Dallas is looking down at the book, and the glasses are raised to his forehead, and from the angle we are seeing Opus looking down from overhead. In the previous frame, he was nowhere to be seen. I didn't see the reflections as a clue that Opus was still there -- one popular concept of death is that the spirit looks down from above, seeing his abandoned mortal shell and anyone else who is present at the moment. That's how I interpreted the final appearance (in print) of Opus.

If Mr. Breathed didn't want readers to think Opus was killed, he shouldn't have ended the story in the doggie death row that an animal shelter so often unfortunately represents. Taking us to the Humane Society for the Web-only epilogue just hammers it in.

(Side note: The shelter I rescued my wonderful dog from is moving toward becoming a no-kill facility, but hasn't been able to achieve it yet.)

I do hope Opus returns, even if in a cameo, as Mr. Breathed turns fully to producing children's books.

Wolfdog - you are entitled to your opinion. I'll just echo Caution Live Frogs. Mr. Breathed ended the strip each time he thought it was going stale or in the wrong direction -- it's a shame B.C., The Wizard of Id, Blondie, For Better or Worse, Shoe, Beetle Bailey ... aw, heck -- just reread what Caution Live Frogs said.
posted by Seabird at 7:40 AM on November 3, 2008


Yeah, I read it.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:54 AM on November 3, 2008


wendell: The reflections of Opus in Steve Dallas's glasses are a clue, as is the wistful expression in his rarely-unshaded eyes (some say he's never been seen without his glasses covering his eyes, but I don't think that's correct). This is kind of a redemptive moment for the cynical character who predated Opus (Steve in Breathed's college comic "Academia Waltz"). And representing B.B.'s now full-time commitment to writing and illustrating childrens' books, it's symbolically bringing Opus with him.

In fact, there was a time in 80s Bloom County in which Steve Dallas got turned into a new-age kind of guy, during which he went without his sunglasses. (I still remember, mostly, the strip in which he turned back in which he told another character "bring them," meaning his sunglasses.)

Steve Dallas was always awesome. You know, I wouldn't mind a Dallas-focused strip.

dersins: Because he's not an idiot and he knows when to let well enough alone?

Yeah, I know. And yet, even warmed-over C&H would beat nearly anything else in the comics these days. I mean, look at Mallard Filmore. Excusing the relentless point flogging, I have never seen a Mallard Filmore strip that was anything other than a monologue. I didn't even know there were other characters until I saw the strip's site characters page. How the hell does this find a publisher? Why doesn't the guy just get a opinion column?

Where are the people inspired by Calvin and Hobbes hanging out? Everyone loved that strip, but few have taken it as an indication of a new direction for comics. Maybe Mutts, perhaps; I can't think of any others. Maybe that Cul-De-Sac strip that got linked to a couple of weeks ago? But I've never seen that in a paper.
posted by JHarris at 8:55 PM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


How the hell does this find a publisher?

Oddly enough, affirmative action.
posted by drezdn at 9:02 PM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


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