Monday, November 03, 2008

Goodnight, Opus

Berkeley Breathed ended his comic strip, "Opus" yesterday, in a very unusual -- yet absolutely perfect -- fashion.

When Lynn Johnston finished telling her story of the Patterson family in "For Better or For Worse," she presented a final Sunday panel that closed out the current story lines and said goodbye to the characters. She then rebooted the strip, going back to the early history of the Pattersons and starting over.

Bill Watterson ended his strip "Calvin and Hobbes" with a simple fade-out. The final segment showed the pair going off into the world once again. The comic assured us that Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes would continue on forever just as they always had throughout the strip's run.

Breathed served notice that "Opus" would end, and the final storyline involved the characters in the strip finding the place they wanted to end up. Because once the strip ended (according to the storyline), that's where they'd remain.

The final two segments wonderfully wrap things up for the strip. In the first, we see Steve Dallas searching for Opus as the end nears (click on the image to enlarge).

In one panel there are ghostly figures -- characters from Breathed's previous strip "Bloom County," where Opus the penguin first appeared. But Opus isn't among the ghosts -- he didn't choose the past as his final resting place.

Dallas invades Opus' fantasy tropical island. This was the imaginary "happy place" Opus would go to when things got bad. But he wasn't there -- he'd given his happy place to Pudgepot, a dog he met at the Animal Shelter. So Opus didn't choose the present as his final resting place.

In the last strip, Dallas looks through the things Opus left behind at the shelter and discovers where he chose to go.

It's poignant, sweet, and utterly perfect. And to see the last panel, you have to go online to the Humane Society's website -- specifically,

There's Opus, fast asleep in bed in the final pages of the children's classic, "Goodnight, Moon." What better place for the child-like penguin.

And notice that the final panel isn't in the paper. It's online. In a sense, Opus chose the future as his final resting place -- a place in a timeless classic.

Breathed's said in interviews that he believes the day of the newspaper comic has passed -- the future of comics is online. And that's where "Opus" transitioned to for its final panel. It's the end and the beginning.

Goodnight, Opus.

- Ralph

Day 136 of the WJMA Web Watch.


  1. Through all the years . . . Berkeley Breathed's Opus was my favorite character. . . it was sad . . . and felt like I lost a good, albeit, bizarre little friend . . . Thanks for the memories

  2. It was bittersweet. I think the expression on my face was similar to that of Steve Dallas' when I went to the Humane Society's website.

  3. I loved Bloom County, but didn't enjoy Outland. I also didn't enjoy Opus. I think Breathed did past in the three or four-panel format, and that the weekly Sunday-only strips gave him too much freedom.

    Having said that, I thought this was a beautiful way to end this strip. I wish him luck doing children's books, which is where I think he's wanted to be for years.

    (also, as an aside, I can't seem to comment on your latest post regarding the JoCo remixes)

  4. Anonymous1:20 AM

    I still have perhaps his first comic strip, before Bloom COuntry. When Dallas was in Collage and "Opus" was a dog. Quite a bit more "adult" than his newpaper comics.

  5. Anonymous12:07 AM

    I grew up enjoying the rants and speeches Opus gave to us all. it IS sad to see him no longer among us... The end is important in all things, bitter though it may be. Thanks for the laughs!! R.I.P Opus.

  6. If you haven't heard by now Bloom County is back....

  7. Bloom County #1 and #2 Get fuzzy #3 Pearls before Swine