Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review: 'The Real Classy Compleat Bloom County 1980-1989'


Before the eighties, the funnies proved they could be smart (Doonesbury) or weird (try reading some classic Superman strips), but it was only during the decade of Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side that they really became both. And it all really started with Bloom County. Like Doonesbury, Bloom County had politics on its mind but its talking animals, geeky reference points, surrealism, and all-out anarchy made it a hell of a lot more fun than Garry Trudeau’s strip. Despite its mission to expose greed and hypocrisy in contemporary society, its refusal to accept war and bigotry as anything but shameful and horrific, and its sheer silliness, Bloom County also had a wistful tone that often made it poignant and utterly human even when the cast consisted of a neurotic penguin (or was Opus a puffin?), an ultra-conservative bunny, a bigoted groundhog, and a scraggly cat hooked on more shit than Keith Richards.

Reading Bloom County today, it is striking how well it holds up despite how topical it was. Actually, its topicality is one reason why it is still such a great read since it functions as a bit of a history lesson and a bigger bit of a nostalgia trip with its references to Pac-Man, Rubiks Cubes, “Where’s the Beef”, and other eighties touchstones. The surreal nature of history keeps some of this stuff relevant too. Who would have thought we’d still be concerned with the idiotic antics of a certain talentless, tactless, conscienceless real estate tycoon whom Breathed roasted back in the Bloom County days by placing his brain in the body of Bill the Cat?

IDW is now collecting the entirety of those days in a two-volume set you could flatten a cat with. The Bloom County-esque punchline of The Real Classy Compleat Bloom County 1980-1989 is that it isn’t especially classy at all. The soft covers are only mocked up to look like cracked lather, though they are housed in a heavy slipcase. While some IDW books load on the extra features, this set only features a one-page introduction by Breathed, who is still as fixated on our idiot president as he was before the idiot became president (and no, kids, we do not get a reissue of the Billy and the Boingers flexi-disc featuring those classic hits “U Stink but I U” and “I’m a Boinger”). That’s not a problem, though, since Bloom County was never particularly concerned with being classy. The most crucial word in the title is no joke: compleat. Well, considering the archaic spelling, maybe it’s a little bit of a joke. Ack! 
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