I’ve gone on at length about many of the strange and relatively adult things I was exposed to as a child which influenced my world view. While I am somewhat of an outcast because I truly believe that giant apes want to engage in inter-species sex with blond women, I’m grateful to have seen and appreciated these works instead of being fed a steady diet of Smurfs and Chuck E. Cheese. There is one thing I loved as a kid, something that influenced me more than watching The Young Ones, more than reading reprints of Zap! Comix when I was in the third grade, more than viewing The Last House on the Left at age nine at the behest of my brother. That influential thing was a comic strip, one which I like and which my father hated, and that comic strip was Bloom County.
I got into Bloom County in 1984 or 1985 from regularly reading the funny pages. For my younger readers, the funny pages were a collection of printed webcomics that used to exist in these things we called newspapers. Up until Bloom County, the comics section of the New York Newsday was largely full of ancient strips long past their prime, some of which are still being made today: Hagar the Horrible, Johnny Hart’s B.C., and Garfield. Garfield was considered cutting edge at the time. Do they still make those oblong Garfield collections with the shitty titles like Garfield Gets a Triple Bypass and Garfield Farts? There were a million of them, even when I was grade school. By now the numbering of new volumes probably has to be expressed in scientific notation. The Newsday’s only source of ironic wit was Doonesbury, which I never found very funny. I’ll expand on that some other time if I feel like it and remember to do so.
Newsday picked up Bloom County and, at first, I didn’t get it. I was pretty informed for a nine year-old, but I had no idea who Jeane Kirkpatrick and Tip O’Neill were. If you weren’t Gary Hart and getting front page headlines, I was largely unaware of your existence. But I liked the art of Bloom County, and that most of the animals talked (or slobbered in a very human-like fashion), and most of all I liked that the strip’s protagonist, Milo Bloom, was a dumpy-looking nerd kid in glasses. For you see, I was a dumpy-looking nerd in glasses. I identified with him, despite the fact that I had a curly, brown Caucasian afro, and that he was much wittier and well-spoken than I. I thought I was that witty and well-spoken, which is all that counts. So I kept reading the strip, and then I began reading more and more of the newspaper just so I could understand the topical jokes. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I was more politically informed than any of my peers (a small feat, mind you, since we were all around eleven years old). I had Bloom County to thank for it.
Many of my grade school drawings were direct copies from Bloom County, and even today when I doodle characters with spectacles they look suspiciously like Milo. Old cassette recordings of me doing comedy skits with friends were lifted from various Bloom County strips I adored. I had a stuffed Opus the Penguin doll (really, who didn’t?) but he wasn’t my personal favorite character. I rode for Milo, and sung the praises of this comic even as the artwork got notably more sloppy–particularly the lettering, which began to look like scrawled shopping lists. I hung in there until the bitter end, 1989, when Berkeley Breathed pulled the plug after securing the rights to his own strip from some clever (and dickish) contract negotiations. I owned all of the collections, but having read the strip devotedly for five years I knew there were some key omissions. Well Idea & Design Works has seen fit to publish the complete run of Bloom County in a five-volume series called Bloom County: The Complete Collection. If you were as moved by this comic strip as I was in my youth (word to Keith Knight), then you’ll want to have this. The jokes are now largely irrelevant, however, so if you’ve never seen or cared about the strip before, then you can pass. For my part, I will use this space to formally throw my support behind Bill the Cat for President in 2012. Phbbpt.