Opuscloseup Come October, we’ll see the first of five volumes from IDW collecting the entire run of Berkeley Breathed's Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip Bloom County. Edited by Scott Dunbier and designed by Eisner Award-winner Dean Mullaney, the five hardcover volumes will be part of IDW's Library of American Comics Imprint, which, so far, has included Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie. Despite the success of earlier compilations of his strip, Breathed had resisted the idea of printing new editions for years. "The fact that so much of the content is so badly dated just kept me from getting excited about it," he explained. But IDW persuaded him by saying it would publish “context pages” throughout the books to bring new readers up to speed on the political humor that may not have withstood the test of time. Breathed will also produce a new foreword for the series. "I'm sure I'll have something to say," the perpetually outspoken Breathed remarked. "I always seem to, alas.”

We may expect a few bleak witticisms from him on the state of the art these days. But that will be nothing new. Back when he was writing Bloom County, Breathed kept repeating that the comics page was perhaps the single best venue in a newspaper to put forth political commentary because most readers avoid opinion columns like the plague. But today, Breathed fears that the medium itself may be obsolete. "Nobody under the age of 60 reads any part of the newspaper anymore," Breathed said, intoning his usual funereal assessment. "Editorial pages are rather musty, empty crypts now. The New York Times op ed page is still fun. And they never had comics. I sense a connection."

Breathedberke7268 In his opinion, the comic strip audience has all but dried up and blown away, but then, he hasn’t had much luck in the last two incarnations of Bloom County, Outland and Opus, both Sunday-only strips, and his failure with them may be coloring his opinion of the entire medium. My contention has always been that his kind of satirical comment fares better if it appears daily; his weekly strips simply couldn’t gather the momentum that would produce the adulating readership he once enjoyed. And without that readership, Breathed concluded that the whole medium must be dead instead of concluding that his stew of humor was not cut out for weekly ingestion.

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Neither "Outland" nor "Opus" ever picked up steam, and back when "Outland" petered out your argument might have carried some weight. But nowadays, it's not just Breathed's opinion that the comics page has 1.5 feet in the grave - daily newspapers are on the way out. Readership is way, way down; research shows that younger adults don't rely on them in the way that their parents did.

News is migrating to new mediums and formats, but the newspaper comic has been beaten down by the necessities of it's place in print (the margins) for many years now. As a result, I don't see the current big names and conventional formats having much of a prayer on the web. Fine for oldies sites like this, but a real force? Cartoons will surely survive, but I doubt they'll much resemble Beetle Baily.

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