Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Essential Bloom

Children of the Eighties, rejoice! A long lost perennial is flowering once again.

For those whose minds turn to such things, there was a time when a newspaper's comics section offered greater quality of satire and social commentary than most editorial pages. Oh, sure, the vast majority of comic strips have historically consisted of throwaway talking head characters rehashing the same old puns worn thin by the likes of Barney Google, Beetle Bailey and Family Circus. But, for a brief time in the middle of the self-centered Reagan/Gekko heyday of the 1980s there existed a giddy, nose-thumbing, boundary pushing, and genuinely funny comic strip known as "Bloom County."

The characters residing in Bloom County tumbled gleefully headfirst into topics that had never been properly addressed in the panels of the comics pages. Sex, love, feminism, masculinity, divorce, drugs, physical handicaps, politics, religion, ethnicity, and adolescence were just a handful of the things you could expect to find rearing their ugly heads in Bloom County. And, at the center of it all, stood Opus, the breakout star who took over the show. The comic strip version of Steve Urkel, only better because his frequent appearance didn't make you contemplate life-ending scenarios.

Bloom County offered a safe haven for folks planted firmly in Americana to laugh at the trends and tribulations that barraged us from the extreme ends of the socio-political spectrum. It helped us find humor in uncomfortable situations. It pointed big, furry cartoon fingers at public figures who needed their egos deflated. It allowed us to laugh at the ultra-conservatives, the ultra-liberals, the hyper-patriotic, and the self-righteous. If we were lucky, we might even see something of ourselves to laugh at in the panels of Bloom County.

And then it was gone.

Bloom County vanished shortly before the dawn of the Clinton decade, perhaps rightfully so. The story lines had grown thin, the humor sometimes thinner, and many of the endearing early characters had fallen away. Despite lingering efforts and offshoots that were visually impressive yet too surreal for their own good, Bloom County was to be sealed off in the same time capsule that held my high school and college memories. A product of its age; books to be taken out and shared decades later with my children.

Typical reaction to the news.
In recent years, however, one might have caught glimpses of characters and bits of vague commentary on Facebook that gave slivers of hope of a rebirth, not just of certain beloved characters, but also of the light-hearted, joyful lunacy that inspired Bloom County in the early days. Now, it seems, the end of a long wait has finally come with yesterday's posting on social media of the first new Bloom County comic strip in 25 years. People who didn't see it coming are in disbelief. I, for one, think the timing is perfect. The American people have suffered longer than necessary from a bad case of taking-ourselves-too-seriously-itis.

We are in desperate need of good-natured toilet humor.

We are in desperate need of the lampooning of our unaccomplished celebutant superheros.

We are in desperate need of a softer, more thoughtful approach to the lampooning of contemporary pop culture.

And we might even be in desperate need of a Republican Presidential debate organized by a misogynistic lawyer, moderated by a naive penguin, and covered for the local newspaper's burgeoning website by a 10-year-old sage reporter. Perhaps all 31 candidates should be forced to share lodging at the Bloom County Boarding House.

Whatever is to come from the fanciful world of Bloom County, it'll be nice to catch up with some long lost fictional friends. Here's hoping this time around they stay longer than nine years.

2015 Mark Feggeler