March 20, 2019
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.
I was in middle school, in St. Paul Minnesota, when Ronald Reagan was elected president. I was terrified of the bombastic, swaggering, simplifying way that he spoke about our country’s role in the world. Why weren’t adults throwing a fit, rising up, causing a ruckus at the absurdity of this guy? Why had they voted for him in the first place? Why was I able to see how insane the possibility of nuclear was, while adults apparently weren’t?
Berke Brethed’s newspaper strip Bloom County (1980–1989) was my introduction to political satire. The tepid response of the authorities when the town’s nuclear power plant’s core melts down, Milo and his meadow friends’ mockery of the federal government’s civil defense program, Opus’s outrage at Kentucky Fried Chicken’s barbarism, Senator Bedfellow’s NRA-backed election campaign: It was a huge relief to discover that I wasn’t the only one feeling fear and confusion about our situation.
Although I’d never been much of a comics fan, I looked forward to sharing Bloom County with the school friend who’d suggested that I read it. We cackled together over Opus’s stressful stint in the Bloom Beacon‘s personal classifieds department, and Oliver Wendell Jones’s hacking adventures. Sharing a laugh with someone — while the rest of the word remained unquestioning — was a unique thrill. Satire, sarcasm, and self-deprecating humor would serve us well right through high school.
Looking back at Brethed’s strip today, the political satire still makes me cackle. Alas, the strip ended shortly after Donald Trump first made an appearance in it. The Donald arrives as a hateful blowhard — whose brain gets transplanted into the body of Bill the Cat. Then he buys the Bloom County strip and fires all of its characters. Maybe this idea was funny in 1989, but it’s hard to laugh at it now.
SERIOCOMIC: Mimi Lipson on LITTLE LULU | Sara Ryan on AMPHIGOREY | Gary Panter on THE NUT BROS./THE SQUIRREL CAGE | Gordon Dahlquist on POGO | Robert Wringham on VIZ | Matthew De Abaitua on CAPTAIN BRITAIN | Jessamyn West on FUN HOME | Bradley Peterson on HELLBOY | Stephanie Burt on KITTY PRYDE RETURNS | Jenny Davidson on OOR WULLIE | Luc Sante on MARSUPILAMI | Susan Roe on BLOOM COUNTY | Marilyn Berlin Snell on CHARLES ADDAMS | Deb Chachra on ARKHAM ASYLUM | Judith Zissman on ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | Alexandra Lange on BETTY (ARCHIE) | Catherine Newman on VERONICA (ARCHIE) | Josh Glenn on SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS | Adam McGovern on THE CREW | William Nericcio on ERRATA STIGMATA | Chelsey Johnson on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR | Sherri Wasserman on TANK GIRL | Tom Nealon on MEGATON MAN | Erin M. Routson on THE WEDDING OF SCOTT SUMMERS & JEAN GREY | Douglas Wolk on FRANK IN THE RIVER | Annie Nocenti on DICK TRACY | James Parker on 2000 AD | Adrienne Crew on NUTS | Vanessa Berry on MEAT CAKE | John Holbo on WITZEND | Michael Campochiaro on SPIDER-WOMAN | Miranda Mellis on RED SONJA & BÊLIT | Michael Grasso on THE NEW MUTANTS | Ty Burr on BINKY BROWN | Bishakh Som on AMAR CHITRA KATHA | Mark Kingwell on CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED | Brian Berger on JIMBO | Kenya (Robinson) on AGENT 355 | Seth on THE ETERNALS ANNUAL | Susannah Breslin on SLASHER | Lisa Kahlden on JACK CHICK TRACTS | Mandy Keifetz on KRAZY KAT | Tom Devlin on DUM-DUM POSSE READER | Eric Reynolds on ACTION COMICS #460 | Rick Pinchera on EIGHTBALL #16 | Juan Recondo on DAYTRIPPER | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on ROZ CHAST | J.E. Anckorn on HALO JONES | Deborah Wassertzug on GREAT POP THINGS | Peggy Nelson on MAD MOVIE SATIRES | Holly Interlandi on ANGEL SANCTUARY | Karen Green on THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS.
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