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Opus to officially come to an end on November 2

Opus ending graphic

Washington Post Writers Group has announced that Berkeley Breathed’s Opus will end syndication on November 2. According to the press release, Berkeley has vowed that this end is for good. “With the crisis in Wall Street and Washington, I’m suspending my comic strip to assist the nation. The best way I can help is to leave politics permanently and write funny stories for America’s kids. I call on John McCain to join me.”

The remaining four are poignant, with references to Breathed’s ‘greatest hits’ strips, but they’re also funny. His ability to weave those emotions together is what makes Breathed such a great cartoonist, and it’s why he will leave a bigger hole on the comics pages. Both figuratively and literally,” Amy Logo, Post Comics Editor joked, referring to Opus’ half-page-mandated size.

Berkeley is ending the strip with a content asking readers to guess the pudgy penguin’s ultimate fate. To preserve the integrity of the contest, Amy, Post Comics Editor, says that that the final strip will not be in print but on line. No details regarding the contest have been released but Amy notes that there is certain irony that the strip really ends online, but was launched in 2003 as a newspaper only feature.

UPDATE: Sherry Stern at the L.A. Times has posted part of an e-mail response from Berkeley regarding the end.

30 years of cartooning to end. Iâ??m destroying the village to save it. Opus would inevitably become a ranting mouthpiece in the coming wicked days, and I respect the other parts of him too much to see that happen. The Michael Moore part of me would kill the part of him that was important to his fans.

Another tidbit: On Berkeley’s web site, it’s announced that the contest will begin on Oct 12. Presumably the details will be in that Sunday’s strip. Coincidentally his new book comes out October 16. Not bad timing – ending a strip and sending a horde of fans to your website to be part of a contest where advertising will be ready for the new book.

Community Comments

#1 anne hambrock
October/6/2008
@ 12:56 pm

wow.

#2 Lucas Turnbloom
October/6/2008
@ 12:58 pm

I know, I felt the same way when I read this.

#3 Larry Levine
October/6/2008
@ 1:01 pm

I’m sorry to see Opus end, Breathed is one of the greatest comic strippers of all time.

#4 Rick Stromoski
October/6/2008
@ 2:03 pm

Berkeley Breathed …the Brett Favre of cartooning.

#5 J Read
October/6/2008
@ 2:05 pm

Brett Favre has only once quit to return.

#6 Rich Diesslin
October/6/2008
@ 2:11 pm

Ditto Anne, Lucas and Larry. I always think of his humor as more adult-oriented, so focusing on children’s books, even though I know he’s done some, seems odd. Perhaps they will be as fun for the parents to read as the kids to look at (like Looney Tunes in it’s day).

#7 Rich Diesslin
October/6/2008
@ 2:12 pm

… or totally screw with the minds of our kids

#8 Robert Whitaker Sirignano
October/6/2008
@ 3:14 pm

I was getting that feeling that the strip was winding down. (Opus begins to feel his age…, much like the groundhog in BLOOM COUNTY)…but if wishes to become another Dr Suess, more power to him. Of course, he’ll be BB, and not Dr. S…

His website sez he was busy painting another book.

#9 Sarah Thompson
October/6/2008
@ 3:48 pm

Well, he’s already got a few kids books that are awesome. “A Wish For Wings That Work,” in particular. I’ll miss Opus though. :(

#10 Mike Peterson
October/6/2008
@ 3:59 pm

I don’t see a barrier in writing for kids for someone who writes stories that adults will enjoy. Lewis Carroll did for 19th century literature what Jay Ward and Bill Scott did for “kiddie television” in the early 1960s — stuff that keeps the kids amused while the parents are chuckling over the “whooosh” jokes and references.

I read to my boys every night when they were little, and there was some wonderful stuff out there. The best of it was from authors who took children seriously — George MacDonald and CS Lewis and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Python Terry Jones wrote a collection of fairy tales that were delightful for children and mindbending for adults.

The stuff that made my teeth ache was the “children’s” literature that treated them like morons and served up condescending treacle. This is what the publishers don’t understand about Harry Potter — they think the trick is magic, but the trick is that Rowling writes as if young people had brains and dignity.

Incidently, my granddaughter, carefully raised by her grandfather on “Barnaby,” got a real kick out of Wiley’s “Ordinary Basil.” Breathed won’t be breaking any new ground.

#11 J.G. Moore
October/6/2008
@ 4:35 pm

HA!! Rick you said it!!!!! He should have never come back to cartooning. He just needs to move on.

#12 Garey Mckee
October/6/2008
@ 7:36 pm

I’m actually saddened to hear this news, but not suprised. I don’t mean that as a dig about Breathed’s track record of retiring a strip and returning it’s characters in another. What makes me feel a bit sad is that I really feel that, as a strip, Opus never really reached it’s full potential. Maybe that’s due to Breathed’s focus on his writing and illustrating children’s books. But the ending of Opus gives me a sense of something incomplete.

What about a Breathed returning to syndication with a strip for kids? It’s not entirely impossible, this is Berkeley Breathed we’re talking about.

#13 Andrea Szabo
October/7/2008
@ 7:53 am

I am truly saddened by this news. I have been an avid follower of his strips since he first started. I will miss not having Opus around anymore.

#14 Joe Forrest
October/7/2008
@ 9:00 am

Well, we all knew it was coming but when it actually happens it saddens you alot more.
Opus will be missed and I hope something great happens to the little guy.

#15 Jeff Stanson
October/8/2008
@ 6:19 am

Opus premiered as a darling of newspaper editors, most of whom squeezed out a full half-page of space in their Sunday comics section to make room for the penguin’s return (why didn’t we hear protests then from other strip creators who lost or didn’t gain space because of this comic real estate fiasco?) The public’s response was measured in collective yawns. Just one more piece of evidence why these fish-wrappers are dying: newspapers that force feed the public what the editors want them to have instead of producing a product the public wants to read.

#16 Wiley Miller
October/8/2008
@ 6:26 am

” (why didnâ??t we hear protests then from other strip creators who lost or didnâ??t gain space because of this comic real estate fiasco?) ”

You’re kidding, right? I personally didn’t protest it, but there were a great many who did.

#17 Mike Peterson
October/8/2008
@ 4:37 pm

Jeff, how many papers did he end up in? My recollection was that he was hardly the “darling” of anyone, and that it was a tough sell considering his previous track record. What are the stats that make you say he was a darling and that editors were force-feeding their readers the strip in any major numbers?

#18 Ted Mallory
October/16/2008
@ 4:21 pm

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan… and yet I was. I loved Bloom County back in the 80’s. Breathed was probably more influential than any other cartoonist on guys my age, in fact, it got so bad that I couldn’t stand it anymore. That drove me to the arms of Doonesbury, which ironically, I suspect, was one of the biggest influences on Breathed.

That said and out of the way, I have to say, I feel for him. Anyone who follows this blog (not that anybody does) would notice that I gave up writing a weekly political column and cartoon for our local newspaper mostly because I got tired of the visceral reaction of people who didn’t like what I wrote. In fairness to them, they were tired of the vitriol tone that I took when writing about Palin and McCain. Like Breathed, I recognize that anger is a sociopathic muse, even when it’s righteous anger.

Molly Ivins once said, “fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it.” But whenever I’d have the most fun, that’s when people would have the most visceral, hateful reactions. The point of political cartooning is that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” I want to stand up for what I believe in and I want to point out hypocrisies and fight for the downtrodden, but I’d rather have people say “sometimes I just don’t get him,” instead of “how can he say those things, what must he be teaching his kids? I feel so sorry for his family. God’s going to have to be his final judge, then he’ll get his.”

So I respect Breathed’s decision. I can relate to what he’s going through. This election and this economic crisis are tearing our country apart, even more than the war had been. We need to learn how to agree to disagree again. We need to heed Lincoln’s warning that a house divided against itself will not stand. But be that as it may, I’m still glad God put agitators like Micheal Moore on this planet. I still wish I could be a “real” political cartoonist someday, and I’m relieved that Gary Trudea hasn’t retired again yet.

#19 pauline and bill burkhart
October/16/2008
@ 6:19 pm

Oh how we will miss Opus!!!
There will never be another like him.
Thanks for the memories.

#20 Ed Nelson
November/2/2008
@ 9:25 am

It seems that the intellectual cartoons like this one, Foxtrot, and probably soon Doonsbury too easily get replaced by cartoons of stupid dogs, lazy cats and dumb kids. Gotta play to the lowest common denominator eh?

#21 Ed Nelson
November/2/2008
@ 9:32 am

The contest gives the money to an animal shelter. Very laudable. In some parts of the world, dogs and cats are considered delicious.

However during this Depression, the money should go to a Person. Not everyone has Berkley’s money.

#22 Bob Brown
November/2/2008
@ 11:36 am

Still, I’ll miss Opus and the humor. We need political/cultural humor, especially at this time in our lives. Difficult times are ahead and we need to be able to laugh – – and in doing so find a degree of Truth. Charlie Chaplin was funny, biting and Truth.

#23 Brenda Myers
November/19/2008
@ 10:38 am

I’ve been trying to find out where the final resting place is, but there are so many sites that I’m not sure where to look can you help me.

Thank you.
Brenda Myers

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