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Observations on the Opus ending question

For those who have listened to my interview with Mr. Media where we discussed the possible end of Berkeley Breathed’s Opus or have been reading the comments of an earlier post about Opus, you know that I can only report what Amy Lago at Washington Post Writers Group has told me (thrice now), they have “no official word” from Berkeley about Opus. That appears to be the official line also given to E&P’s Dave Astor. Dave notes that Opus is coming up on the five year mark – which makes Dave wonder if that’s significant if the syndicate contract between WPWG and Berkeley was a five years term.

The whole affair is throwing red flags. First, the repeated and carefully worded response from WPWG is “no official” word begs the question, “okay, what has been the unofficial word?” Surely Berkeley and his editors have discussed something or the response to Dave and I would be along the lines “he hasn’t mentioned it,” “he says ‘no’,” or even a “don’t know, I’ll ask him and get back to you.” I can only conclude that SOMETHING has been discussed, but they’re not ready to disclose it – officially.

If we go back to the interview that he gave the Texas Monthly in April of 2007, he revealed the following:

Are you serious about killing off Opus in the strip?

BB: Yes, but my wife would leave me, she reports. I have to factor this in.

Do your publisher and newspapers know this?

BB: They know that all good things come to an end. I’d like to see Opus go out with George Bush, both headed into the sunset.

President Bush’s term ends in January. It seems odd that if Berkeley is going to end the strip in January, that he’d begin the wind-down in late August and September.

Given what has been communicated in the last two weeks in Opus, WPWG’s “no official word” statements and the plausibility of the end of five year contract, I’ve got to conclude that Opus’ is ending (at least until Berkeley comes back with his fourth reincarnation of his strip) or it’s all a media stunt to keep us reading Opus every Sunday. I know that will be the first thing I do this Sunday morning.

A columnist from the Newburyport, Mass., Daily News is talking as if an announcement has already been made.

You want disturbing? I will give you disturbing.

Berkley Breathed is parting company with Opus, the most preyed upon penguin in comic strip world captivity.

Does he know something that WPWG isn’t telling me or Dave or is he inferring an end based on the content of latest Opus strips? I called Amy for the third time and she assures me once again, they have “no official word” from Berkeley.

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
September/12/2008
@ 10:37 am

To add into the factor, look at the comment John Read left at the E&P blog:

“In an interview he did that appears in the upcoming Stay Tooned! 2, Breathed talks about how much fun he’s having doing Opus, with no hint of a desire to call it quits.”

#2 Quint Nelson
September/12/2008
@ 11:24 am

If you read the strip, then you have to conclude that OPUS is ending soon. At least Mr Breathed has class and knows when to call it quits, as opposed to some other cartoonists that draw “new reruns”.

#3 r stevens
September/12/2008
@ 11:54 am

Opus could die and the strip could go on, right?

#4 Rick Ellis
September/12/2008
@ 12:43 pm

The average lifespan of a penguin is about 15 to 20 years.

#5 Wiley Miller
September/12/2008
@ 1:30 pm

From personal experience, there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty regarding Berke Breathead… he is a highly intelligent man. Trying to guess what is going on his brain is a fool’s errand.

#6 Beth Cravens
September/12/2008
@ 1:42 pm

I think he’s messing with us.

#7 Dennis West
September/12/2008
@ 3:26 pm

So, if he’s wanting Opus to end with the presidential terms of George W. Bush, does that mean that he’ll continue it if McCain gets elected?

#8 Stacy Curtis
September/12/2008
@ 3:51 pm

If Opus ended tomorrow, would anybody care?
Has he drawn one decent Opus strip since he brought it back to promote the movie that will never happen?
It’s a parody of itself.

I think the fake comic strip he drew for “Secondhand Lions” is the best thing he’s drawn in years.

#9 Mike Peterson
September/12/2008
@ 5:40 pm

“The average lifespan of a penguin is about 15 to 20 years.”

Binkley falls into a river, and Opus dives in to save him. Exhausted by the effort, he dies and is planted under a tree.

Later on, Portnoy the Groundhog marries Lola Granola. It doesn’t make any sense in the flow of the comic strip, but it does help to tie up the storyline, and Breathed then goes back and begins to re-draw the original Academia Waltz strips to make them more compelling and contemporary. And to keep a grip on his 3 billion papers.

#10 Garey Mckee
September/12/2008
@ 10:16 pm

I don’t know if I’m a fan of Opus specifically, but I am a fan of Breathed and his larger body of work, and support him as a fan in all his endeavors.

I have stated in previous topic threads that I believe he had ended Bloom County too early. His subsequent strips were and are pale shadows of Bloom County. Had that strip continued and evolved beyond the point at which it was terminated, I believe we would see a much different product from Breathed than we see today.

It’s funny that Stacy mentioned Secondhand Lions. I have often thought that the fake strip he developed for that movie would have made a great real strip.

#11 Jeff Stanson
September/12/2008
@ 10:18 pm

Opus has been little more than “new reruns” of Bloom County, as was Outland before it. It’s time for it to go.

#12 Stuart Portner
September/13/2008
@ 12:31 pm

Was that excellent comment (#9) by Mike Peterson or PATTERSON?

#13 Lucy Shepherd
September/16/2008
@ 12:37 am

Syndicates usually give a lot of warning before strips end- when he ended BC and “Outland”, an official announcement was made, so I assume it’d be the same with “Opus”. After this week’s “waterboarding” strip (which was hilarious- “He’s a PENGIUN, dude”) I came to the conclusion that he’s yanking our chain and it’s a plot device, at least I hope so!

#14 Jeff Stanson
September/16/2008
@ 5:39 am

Since Opus the comic strip is creating no buzz on its own, Breathed is likely trying a cheap way to create some buzz.

#15 Jeff Darcy
September/17/2008
@ 10:40 am

I can’t wait for OPUS to end! And the new STEVE DALLAS spin off strip to start! How ’bout moving him up to Alaska with a bunch of saucy neo-con women, Berkeley’s so great at drawing, in skimpy fur outfits using tanning beds to ward off depression about the shrinking cartoon market

#16 Larry Levine
September/17/2008
@ 1:20 pm

After Breathed knocks off Opus, he should take over Gasoline Alley & have a crack at 110 year old Walt Wallet.

I’m only kidding, but Walt still being alive is a lot more surreal than a talking penguin.

#17 TJ Edwards
October/13/2008
@ 5:28 am

I’ve loved the stuff Mr. Breathed has come up with. I am only three days older than him and I’ve gotten a kick out of how often we seemed to have some interests or thoughts in common. I was heartbroken when he ended Bloom County, and thrilled when he brought back Opus, though it’s never been quite as satisfying as the good old days.

I met him once briefly at a book-signing. He seems to have a detachment from the characters we love. I can only hope he can give his most loyal followers the kind of an ending that wouldn’t hurt any more than the ending itself.

Charles Schulz chose not to give his fans a happy closure (letting Charlie Brown finally kick the football) perhaps because he felt he wasn’t getting a happy ending himself.

I can only hope Mr. B will return Opus to the one place we would most like to remember him: surrounded by all his old friends, happily at home in the dandelion patch of Bloom County.

#18 gary cooper
November/3/2008
@ 11:32 am

Being put to sleep at an animal shelter is a sad way for any creature to end. Opus was loved for his wit and wisdom by so many and this is a devastating way to shut things down. Thousands upon thousands of animals are “put to sleep” every day across the world. Opus didn’t have to go this way.

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