Showing posts with label Opus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opus. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Weingarten on Breathed's retirement

From the October 7th chat:

Op, US: I can't believe Berke Breathed is retiring...again.

Seriously, I was a huge fan as a high school student, a moderate fan as a college student, and a passing fan as an adult. I mean, it's a character-driven strip that hasn't been daily for nearly 20 years, so it's not like we had much opportunity to get re-attached for the last three. I just can't get choked up the way I would for, say, Trudeau or like I did for Larson or Watterston. Or like I did for Breathed, twice already.

Gene Weingarten: Well, Berkeley has been teasing us for weeks now. It's no surprise.

I liked Opus, and it remains one of the best drawn strips on the comics pages, and I will miss it. But I think the decision to go Sunday-only may hae doomed it from the start. It's very hard to gain traction without a daily dose of your characters, particularly, as you say, with a character-driven strip.

I began to feel that Berkeley's heart was not entirely in this latest enterprise when more than once we found ourselves looking at recycled Bloom County gags.

Gene Weingarten: But: Week after week, Opus delivered some of the best sky-is-falling allegorical hang-wringing about the political hypocrisy afoot in our land. It's not a voice I would vote to lose and I'm sorry to see it go.

and one of his readers feels strongly about Doonesbury in a positive way, as do I:

B.D. Grins!: Hi Gene,

It's been over a week, but I'm still smiling about seeing B.D. smile in Doonesbury.

I loved Trudeau's whole sequence about Sam's Sarah Palin doll, but the most touching thing was seeing B.D. get so tickled as Boopsie tried to explain to Sam that Palin shouldn't be her hero (or her vice president). We've seen B.D. recover from his amputation and deal with his PTSD and even reach out to other characters -- but I'm pretty sure this is the first time he's smiled. It made me unreasonably happy.

And wide-eyed Boopsie has come a long way since B.D.'s injury, too. She's been a rock for B.D. And it's nice to see her get steamed about Palin.

I can't believe how emotionally invested I've become in these characters lately. Trudeau has always been brilliant, but this is ridiculous.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this was the best day of a good week.

Iron Man and Opus Washington Post articles

Catching up a bit, this article ran online, and then in the paper - "An 'Iron Man' of Epic DVD Proportions," By JEN CHANEY, Staff Writer Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008, Washington Post (October 3).

Following up on Cavna's scoop was "Cartoonist to Put 'Opus' on Ice," By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, Washington Post Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page C01.

Monday, October 06, 2008

You probably all know this, but... Breathed retires, again

Michael Cavna helped break the story on his Comic Riffs blog today. As of this writing, there's 34 comments all over the map about the strip and Breathed's career.

I've been away from the computer, so it's lucky I don't get paid for this, isn't it?

And thanks for the Riffy nod over the weekend, Michael.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Post censoring of Opus attracts cartoonist's comments

I put the story up last week, and so did Alan Gardener at his Daily Cartoonist site. The difference between his site and mine is that he gets comments from cartoonists, including Mat Bors, Milt Priggee, Ted Rall, Wiley Miller and Rick Stromoski. They're a tough audience apparently.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Post censors comics again; punning headline writers despair

Gene Weingarten's July 8th chat reveals that the Post once again censored the comics section, this time Breathed's Opus. Weingarten wrote:

And lastly, HERE is Sunday's Opus. No, that's not the one you saw in The Post, which ran a sub. I believe the editors perceived a racial-ethnic insensitivity.

Bad decision. Nothing wrong with that comic. I really liked the real-world "available now" labeling.

A click on the 'censorship' label below will pull up the other examples for you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weingarten corrupted three comic strips for Post Hunt

Gene Weingarten's May 20th chat had some comments about a 'comics' clue to the Post Hunt.

Arlington: G-Dub. How in THE hell can anyone claim that the "Comics" clue was hard? The comedians made it obvious what the topic was, Liz and Ginger walking around with the comics pages made it obvious where to look (not to mention that everyone was reading the Comics section) and the numbers weren't terribly hard to find. What was hard about it?

(Every other clue was @#$! impossible, btw.) And yet there were people who -- when offered a Comics section -- declined, saying "I have one at home."

Gene Weingarten: Heh heh.

As Tom said yesterday, the monitors at the fortune cookie site watched several times as small children were tugging at parents' clothing saying, "It tastes like coconut!" and the parents said, "Ssh. We're trying to solve the puzzle."

and later...

Consiracy Theories: It's bad enough that clueless Post readers may be misled by the clues planted in the magazine and comics, but what about the rest of the country? Is there an army of folks coming up with diabolical explanations for the numbers appearing in the three comics? Or do they get an explanation somewhere somehow (without stumbling on the Post)?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I owe a great thank you to Stephan Pastis, Jef Mallett, and Berkeley Breathed. They were great sports about it. I'm sure they're getting dozens of letters from elsewhere in the country asking, yknow, what that "nine" was about.


Opus Hunt: Gene,

A friend was telling me about Hunt (she went, I couldn't) and when I looked at the Opus strip, the first thing I thought of when she pointed it out was Al Hirschfeld. Did Breathed do that on purpose? And were the other numbers in the strip used as decoys?

Gene Weingarten: Yep, it was an homage to Hirschfeld, I believe. "Nine" was done exactly the way Hirschfeld did "Nina."

The other numbers were coincidence! He wasn't trying to be deceptive.

...with some debate over that...

Washington, D.C.: Did you notice that both Breathed and Mallet hid other numerals in their strips? The s in the title "OPUS" was a 5. In Frazz, the word "school" had both a 5 instead of an s, and an 8 instead of the two o's. The second occurrence of that word didn't have the 5, but it did have the 8. So we weren't sure which hidden numbers to use, until we finally noticed the "nine" on the doctor's coat, and decided to use the spelled-out numbers "six," "eight," and "nine," and ignore the hidden numerals 5, 8, 8 and 5.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree about the S being a 5.

But we noticed the "oo" looking like an eight. We noticed this at the very last minute. It turns out that is simply how Patty Mallett (who inks Jef's art) makes a double o! If the hidden number had been anything but eight, we'd a been scrood!

This is all nonsensical, until you go to the Post website. This video explains that Weingarten's friends Stephan (Pearls Before Swine), Berkeley (Opus) Breathed and Jeff (Frazz) Mallett snuck in clues for the Post Hunt.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Opus based on Washington Post contest

Gene Weingarten reported on his January 8, 2008 chat:

Some alert readers noticed with outrage something odd about the Opuses of Dec. 9 and Dec. 16. What they noticed, specifically, was that every pun in the strips was lifted from a Style Invitational from 1998.

What they didn't notice, specifically, was that Breathed acknowledged the thievery: Note what Steve Dallas is reading in week one.

To give credit where credit is due, here are the names of the original entrants, and their entries:

Flabbergasted -- adj., appalled over how much weight you have gained. (Michelle Feeley, Arlington)

Coffee -- n., a person who is coughed upon. (David Hoffman, San Diego)

Willy-nilly -- adj., impotent. (Beth Benson, Lanham)

Flatulence -- n., the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Abdicate -- v., to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Later, he also says:

Raleigh, N.C.: I wanted to apprise you of the following depressing sentence on the front page of the section our comics are in, in the Raleigh N & O. "Cathy's coming back, as are Drabble and Hagar!" How will they ever make this betrayal up to me?

Gene Weingarten: Omigod.

How can the same newspaper that chooses to carry my column choose to do something as humor-impaire as that.

Hagar the Horrible has not had an actual joke in it since 1973.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Interview with Amy Lago over Opus censorship controversy

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, September 20, 2007 had this interview with the Post's Amy Lago - "Unpacking the OPUS Controversy" by Tom Spurgeon.

Spotted by Dirk at Journalista.

I'm a regular contributor to the Fund.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Post ombudsman on censoring Opus

See "Why Were These Comics Dropped?" by Deborah Howell, Washington Post Sunday, September 16, 2007; Page B06. Apparently it was the decision of executive editor Len Downie - whom one would have hoped had better things to do than worry about the comics pages. The omsbudsman thinks he was wrong. Click on the 'censorship' tag at the bottom for further examples of the Post dropping strips.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Weingarten on Post punting Opus

In his August 28th chat, Gene Weingarten said:

I agree with the vast majority of you that the snuffing of Opus was a mistake, the sort of knee-jerk oversensitivity that is becoming too common. Sadly, what you see is only half the offense -- The Post and many other papers also yanked NEXT week's strip, in what I believe to be a similar overreaction. Breathed showed me next week's, which is even better than this week's. We'll talk more about this later

Berkeley Breathed himself seems to have chimed in:

Santa Barbara, Wa: What's new in the comics world, Gene? Nothing ever happens on this side of the country.

Berkeley B.

Gene Weingarten: Same old same old, Berkeley. Sad to say.

Interesting poll results, eh?

and then Weingarten returned to the topic of his poll which is excerpted below as well:

Gene Weingarten: As I read it, not only to nine out of ten people believe the Post was wrong to pull your strip, but only eight percent of the readers believe you are a pornographer.

Many newspapers, including The Washington Post, refused to run this Opus on Sunday for reasons of taste and sensitivity. Was this the right decision?

Frequency Analysis
Answer Count Percent

1. Yes. 247 8.00%

2. No. 2839 92.00%

Total 3086 100%

At which group do you feel the satire is mostly directed?

Frequency Analysis
Answer Count Percent

1. Americans 2387 77.32%

2. Radical Islamists 496 16.07%

3. All Muslims 204 6.61%

Total 3087 100%

Was the sexual innuendo excessive, and/or in bad taste, for the comics pages?

Frequency Analysis
Answer Count Percent

1. Yes 229 7.38%

2. No 2874 92.62%

Total 3103 100%

and then Weingarten wraps it all up:

Gene Weingarten: Okay, the Opus poll.

This strip is mocking a whole bunch of stuff. It is mocking the fact that American culture is trashy, and Americans are fad-obsessed. It is mocking American men's desire to control their women. And sure, it is mocking the enforced submissiveness of Islamic women.

So what? Breathed (and Trudeau, and Darrin Bell, etc.) make much more barbed fun of Christian extremism. This is satire, and it's gentle satire, and the only excuse to pull it is the rather patronizing attitude that if you so much as whisper anything mildly satiric about Islamic society, "those people" will go nuts.

Islam is big news. It's fair game, so long as you are fair and not promiscuously cruel or hateful. This was neither.

Oh, and the sexual argument is totally bogus. That's mild innuendo. I mean, Trudeau, whom no one has ever accused of being lewd, had a Sunday devoted entirely to the healthful benefits of masturbation.

I just disagree strongly with the decision to pull this strip. As you do.

Next week's Opus is better than this week's; it's a parable, and it ends with a hilarious visual gag, and it's also mostly critical of America and gently mocking of Islamic customs, and you also won't see it in The Post. We'll look at it next week.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bashing of Post over Opus censorship continues

Here's an interesting one - one could reasonably expect CNS to stand for Catholic News Service instead of the actual Cybercast News Service. See "Papers Criticized for Pulling Cartoon on Radical Islam," by Melanie Hunter, Senior Editor, August 28, 2007.

Aha! Apparently it is Catholic - see Dave Astor's story.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Post censors comics again (so what else is new?)

Tom Spurgeon picked up the story that Berkeley Breathed's Opus was being censored by the Washington Post, as the cartoonist reported himself on his website. Breathed suggests going over to Salon (owned by the Post, iirc) and reading the strip on the next two Sundays. Somebody remind me, please.

Here's what Breathed posted (including that picture up there):

Note to Opus readers: The Opus strips for August 26 and September 2 have been withheld from publication by a large number of client newspapers across the country, including Opus' host paper The Washington Post. The strips may be viewed in a large format on their respective dates at

Longtime (hah!) readers may recall my earlier post on the Post's frequent censoring (and not mentioning it) of comic strips. If the Post wasn't one of the best papers in America, this probably wouldn't matter as much...

...although I'm not sure about that.

UPDATE: See the bigger picture at "Many Won't Run Next Two 'Opus' Strips With Sex Joke, Islam References" by Dave Astor, E and P Online August 24, 2007.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Berkeley Breathed pictures - special edition!!!!

Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed reads from and signs his children's book, Mars Needs Moms in Alameda, CA on May 11, 2007. Photos courtesy of ComicsDC stringer Miron Murcury.

And look at this excellent scrapbook:

At Miron's request, the original cd of photos is being donated to Michigan State University's Comic Art Collection. The link is over there on the right.

Here's a few recent articles on and interviews with Breathed, as they wait to go into my Comics Research Bibliography (link also over there on the right):

Now that he's a parent, a cartoonist ponders the ultimate sacrifice
Regan McMahon, San Francisco Chronicle Deputy Book Editor
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Interview: Berkeley Breathed
by Ken Plume
Quick Stop Entertainment May 22, 2007

Just asking: A conversation with cartoonist/author Berkeley Breathed
– Eric Schelkopf
Northwest Herald (May 18, 2007)

Rehm, Diane. 2007.
Berkeley Breathed: "Mars Needs Moms".
National Public Radio's Diane Rehm Show (May 8).

Cartoonist knows kid lit
Cincinnati Enquirer (May 6, 2007)

Exclusive: Berkeley Breathed Speaks!
Berkeley Breathed, celebrated creator of the "Bloom County" comic strip, writes a book for the grammar school set.
By Jamie Reno
Newsweek May 3, 2007

Random Rules: Berkeley Breathed
by Tasha Robinson
Onion April 26th, 2007