Bloom County is an American comic strip by Berkeley Breathed which ran from 1980 until 1989. It examined events in politics and culture through the viewpoint of a fanciful small town in Middle America, where children often have adult personalities and vocabularies and where animals can talk.
The fictional setting of ‘Bloom County’ served as a recurring backdrop for the comic and its sequels, although the nature of the setting was frequently altered. In the comics, the county is presented as a stereotypical American midwestern small town. The small town setting was frequently contrasted with the increasing globalization taking place in the rest of the world; though Bloom County contained the likes of farmers and wilderness creatures by default, it was frequented by Hare Krishnas, feminists, and rock stars.
Breathed set ‘Bloom County’ in a small town, despite the fact that, during the time, small towns in the United States became increasingly marginalized due to cultural, economic, and political forces. Breathed said he made the choice because he had followed a girlfriend to Iowa City, Iowa; Breathed commented, ‘You draw—literally—from your life if you’re going to write anything with some juice to it. I did just that.’
‘Bloom County’ originated from a comic strip known as ‘The Academia Waltz,’ which Breathed produced for the student newspaper, ‘The Daily Texan,’ while attending the University of Texas. In 2015, Breathed started drawing ‘Bloom County’ again. The first revived strip was published via Facebook.
At the very beginning of the strip, the central setting was the Bloom boarding house run by the grandparents of Milo Bloom. As the strip continued, various boarders (and/or pets) moved into the boarding house. Milo Bloom is a 10-year-old newspaper reporter and probably the most worldly-wise of the bunch. Milo was the original protagonist of ‘Bloom County,’ and much of the action takes place at the boarding house owned by his family. In the very earliest strips, Milo’s grandfather (‘The Major’) was a central character, although after the first year or so, The Major’s role diminished and the character soon vanished.
‘Cutter John’ is a wheelchair-using Vietnam veteran, noted for indulging in ‘Star Trek’ fantasies with the meadow animals (‘Hodge-Podge,’ ‘Portnoy,’ and ‘Opus’), as well as anti-war protests. He is not a womanizer like ‘Steve Dallas,’ but he is more popular with the ladies. His visage is nearly identical to that of Berkeley Breathed. Like Steve Dallas the character of Cutter John had previously appeared in Breathed’s former comic strip ‘The Academia Waltz’ where he had been known as ‘Saigon John.’
‘Steve Dallas’ was introduced in 1981, but was also originally a featured character in ‘The Academia Waltz.’ Steve is Bloom County’s sole defense attorney, and was either directly or tangentially involved in most of the conflicts which occurred in the strip over the years. Chain smoker and former ‘frat boy,’ Dallas spends most of his free time either trying to seduce women or concocting get-rich-quick schemes, including forming and then managing a heavy metal band, ‘Billy and the Boingers’ (previously known as ‘Deathtöngue’).
‘Opus’ is a large-nosed penguin (occasionally mistaken for a puffin) with a herring addiction who lost track of his mother during the Falklands War. His hopeless naïveté and optimism made him a fan favorite, and he quickly became the center of the strip, as well as the subject of two ‘sequel’ strips (‘Outland’ and ‘Opus’), three children’s books, and a television special entitled ‘A Wish for Wings That Work.’
‘Bill the Cat’ is a large orange tabby cat. Introduced originally in the summer of 1982 as a parody of the comic character ‘Garfield,’ and saying little beyond his trademark responses, ‘Ack’ and ‘Pbthhh,’ he has become something of a blank slate around which various plots revolved. Numerous strips indicated that his persistent near-catatonic state was the result of drug use or brain damage resulting from once being legally dead and then revived after too long of a period.
‘Hodge-Podge’ is a rabbit who is best friends with Portnoy and Cutter John. He is politically conservative and fanatical about various issues, despite the fact that he is extremely ignorant about those same issues. ‘Portnoy’ is a groundhog, although his species was a mystery for most of the strip’s run. Before the revelation that he was a groundhog, he was portrayed as a squirrel, gopher, and possum. Portnoy was the grouchiest and most bigoted character by far and has in a few strips been a bully to Opus.