In an era where everyone’s dead set on co-opting media to tell you what to do and how to think, it might be a little surprising that I’d recommend a book of political comics. Here we are, though, with another return to Bloom County. Well, classic Bloom County. Berke Breathed’s strip was a fantastic source of satire back in the day and remains surprisingly salient, perhaps due to the way it embraced its sense of humor in contrast to the grimdark seriousness of today.
We’ve got a new collection of old strips to check out with Bloom County: Real, Classy and Compleat, a mammoth two-book set that collects the original run of the series from 1980 to 1989.
We talked about a more recent book of Bloom County offerings a bit ago with Episode XI: A New Hope. That was a great look at the series’ contemporary direction and, while I generally enjoyed it, I did point out that some of the politics fell a little flat and that Breathed came off as a crotchety old man at times (those cell phones, am I right?) It might be my own nascent crotchety old man side saying that Bloom County was, by far, at its peak in the late 80s; Breathed’s humor had really hit its stride, great characters like Opus and Bill the Cat showed up often and the politics were present without being overpowering.
That’s what you’re getting in this set: Bloom County at the best it can be and likely will ever be. As someone born in the mid-80s I admit that there’s some degree of disconnect with the then-current events that the strip discusses. At the same time, this collection offers a fascinating look at history through Breathed’s eyes. The ability to really nail political satire without turning everything into a dour serious-fest is something to be prized.
Who can forget Bill the Cat running for President or questionably-lovable jerk Steve Dallas getting his comeuppance time and time again? Even Donald Trump himself shows up to put the guillotine to the series, though like most deaths in comics that one didn’t stick.
As for the books themselves, you’re getting a pair of massive paperbacks in a slipcase. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a pair of hardcovers, though the $100 price tag is quite a lot to begin with and would certainly have increased further with hardcover books. My experience with larger books of this nature is that the binding can eventually fail after prolonged reading, but that hasn’t been the case so far with these; I’ve got nothing against paperbacks if they’re made to last, so time will tell. The art is, of course, fantastic, with colored Sunday strips where appropriate. You’ve even got a little bit of bonus prose from Breathed if the entire original run of the series wasn’t enough for you.
Again, not to say that everything new is terrible, but some things really hit their prime in the past and you need to step back a few years to enjoy them. Bloom County: Real, Classy, & Compleat: 1980-1989 is a great reminder of this – the new strips are great, but the old strips are classic and those are two very different concepts entirely. Fans of Berke Breathed, Bloom County and Opus the Penguin should get a lot out of this impressive collection.