Bloom County is an American newspaper comic strip written and drawn by Berke Breathed, running from December 8, 1980 to August 6, 1989 and in a revived form since July 13, 2015.
It is the second and most famous of a series of comic strips by Breathed which feature the same characters, the others being The Academia Waltz (1978-1979), Outland (1989-1995), and Opus (2003-2008).
Bloom County is a character-driven strip featuring a heavy dose of political commentary, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1987, only the second strip to ever do so (the other being Doonesbury in 1975). It coincided almost exactly with the presidency of Ronald Reagan and represents a unique portrait of American politics and culture in the 1980s. The cast tended to shift over the years, but some of the main characters were:
- Opus, a sweet-natured and lovable but anxious penguin with a huge beak.
- Bill The Cat, scrawny fleabag who is The Unintelligible at best. Later implanted with the brain of Donald Trump.
- Steve Dallas, a sleazy (human) lawyer whose track record with women is as bad as his track record in court.
- Milo Bloom, a young boy with a sardonic streak. Unprincipled reporter for the local newspaper.
- Michael Binkley, another boy, a wide-eyed dreamer with a closet containing his manifested insecurities.
- Cutter John, an easygoing, wheelchair-bound veteran and Chick Magnet who frequently plays Star Trek with the animal characters.
Eventually Berke ended the strip because he was tired of it and segued into a new one, Outland, a Sunday-only strip whch ran from 1989 to 1995. Many of the regulars of Bloom County eventually leached back into that strip, as they later did again with Breathed's second Sunday-only strip Opus, which ran from 2003 to 2008.
Berke has also made books using the Bloom County characters, including A Wish for Wings That Work and Goodnight Opus for Opus, as well as The Last Basselope for Rosebud.
In 2009, IDW Publishing launched Bloom County: The Complete Library, a hardcover collection of the entire comic in five volumes with annotations explaining outdated pop-culture and political gags and occasional insight from Breathed. Two volumes collecting the entirety of the sequel series Outland and Opus followed soon after, with similar annotations.
In 2015, in anticipation of the 2016 presidential race, Breathed revived the strip as Bloom County 2015. Instead of following the publishing schedule and editorial guidelines of a syndicated comic, he is using his Facebook page and Gocomics to publish the strip online.
For more of Breathed's work, see Flawed Dogs.
Tropes found in the original Bloom County (1980-89) and the revival (2015- )
- Abandoned Area: The series finale (Aug. 6, 1989) shows various common settings from the strip (Opus's living room, the dandelion patch, Binkley's anxiety closet) abandoned, as Opus walks away.
- Aborted Arc:
- In the early strips, most plotlines would be abandoned a few strips in, abruptly shifting to another setting. This happened some in later strips, too, i.e., the "Olive Loaf Vigilante" plot simply ceasing in the middle of Opus's trial, though a later comic revealed that he got off on a technicality.
- In the third collection book (1984-86), there's a storyline where Opus is getting ready for a date, which just abruptly ends; even Breathed seems confused by this, and asks anyone who knows the identity of his date to please write in and tell him. Then a strip not too long after showed Opus participating in a wrestling match to impress a woman who is an obvious No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Cyndi Lauper. Breathed's comment for this strip reads "Oh, THAT'S who it was..."
- Opus and Bill's 2016 presidential campaign. In the original strip the 1984 and 1988 campaigns were major arcs, but in 2016 the Meadow Party was mostly forgotten about. Breathed was quoted in an interview stating that he was making an effort to make the humor less political.
- One storyline had Opus accidentally being given a multi-million dollar grant from the government to make a missile defense program. At the story's conclusion, he's granted another one, and also seemed to have plenty left over from the first...but these riches were never seen again.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Milo's headline for the Olive Loaf Vigilante story: "Mystery Man Mugs Mimes With Meat: Millions Make Merry!" (Feb. 1, 1985)Milo: Bad newspapers live for this sort of thing.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: There are a few instances where Steve Dallas displays this after drinking too much.
- All Just a Dream
- Zig-zagged a bit. The first Bloom County 2015 strip revealed that Opus had been asleep for the past 25 years, effectively retconning the events of Outland and Opus out of existence. However, the Men's Kouch from Outland has been showing up, raising the question of just how much was a dream.
- In the original run, Oliver Wendell Jones has a teleporter accident where he starts turning into Bill the Cat, only to wake up and find out that it was all just a dream...immediately to be followed with an Or Was It a Dream? twist when Steve Dallas appears at Oliver's bedside with his head attached to Opus' body.
- At another point, a long plot-arc leads to a point where Opus is wandering lost and semi-delirious in the desert. Then suddenly he's back in the meadow in Bloom County, happily saying it was all a dream, only for "Milo" to inform him that the meadow scene is the dream, and he's still really lost in the desert. And sure enough...
- Almighty Janitor: A possibly literal example with hospital employee Frank in the 2015 revival. Among other things, the man owns or at least has access to a military-grade helicopter.
- Amoral Attorney: Steve Dallas zigzags this throughout the strip's run. He's initially devoid of scruples and common sense whenever he performs his professional duties; he introduces mass murderers as nice guys and has no qualms about plea-bargaining Bill the Cat straight into the electric chair, just so Dallas can go for pizza. Then this gets Inverted after he's abducted by aliens and experimented on, turning him into a sensitive, nurturing nice-guy. Months later, after his girlfriend betrays him, he reverted back to his original selfish persona. In the strip's current run, though, while Dallas plays the trope straight in court, he also subverts it, becoming a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who has a major soft spot towards a boy dying of cancer.
- Animated Adaptation: A Wish for Wings That Work was made into an animated special. During the Opus era, plans were made for a movie starring Opus et al. (which is why a line was drawn between his eyes), but it was canceled.
- The Annotated Edition: The Complete Library has annotations to explain then-relevant pop-culture references and explain who the political figures being caricatured are. Breathed himself pops up from time to time to explain character origins or thought processes, but mostly just to tell us which strips he thinks are his best, which are Old Shames, and to make jokes about Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury.
- Answer Cut: When Dallas, as lead singer and spokesman of the metal band Deathtöngue, negotiates a deal with CBS Records, he quotes the lyrics of their next song which includes "Let's run over Lionel Richie with a tank". Cut to the CBS CEO sitting in front of a huge autographed portrait of Lionel Richie.
- Anti-Love Song: "U Stink But I (Heart) U", which was Defictionalized by Mucky Pup in an album included in the compilation Billy And The Boingers: Bootleg.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- Binkley, feeling depressed over the end of the world, told Opus that "mountains, oceans [and] Taco Bells" would be swallowed by the sun's explosion.
- From the June 13, 1985 strip, where Opus has accidentally found himself up with Cutter John, whose wheelchair is being elevated by several helium balloons.Opus: 27,000 feet up in the air on a wheelchair heading for who knows where, and not even a fresh change of skivvies on hand. And the worst... yes the worst indignity of all... no plumbing facilities! [turns toward reader] Not to mention this is Thursday and I'll be missing Cheers.
- To which Cutter John responds by producing a television set. "Hey, we're not savages up here!"
- Art Evolution: Look at any comic from 1980, then look at any comic from 1984, and then look at any comic from 1989. The differences are striking. More specifically, the art was very blobby and scratchy in the very first year, and then it started to ape Doonesbury for a while (something that even Berke Breathed himself admits to). Over time, it gradually became much finer and clearer, with Berke putting more detail into his inking and even crosshatching at times. Lampshaded by Opus on the back cover of one of the omnibus editions, where he complains about how the book shows how his nose has grown, like some big ol' goiter.
- The revival, which is free from both space constraints and time constraints, has considerably more intricate artwork.
- Author Avatar: It's probably just a coincidence but Cutter John has an uncanny resemblance to Berke. However, there is some potential credibility, given that Cutter was the Only Sane Man and one of the few truly Nice Guys in the cast.
- Author Filibuster: The strip would sometimes launch into an Author Tract driven set of strips about something that had irked Berke.
- In one case, it was people turning right at red lights.
- And of course, his ironically misogynistic views...Opus: We don't want anybody to get the idea that lately we've been saying women can't be trusted...
Milo: Not at all.
Opus: Not at all! Misses the point!
Milo: By a mile!
Opus: The point is that women... Or rather, women... You know... Women...
Milo: ...will tear your heart out and serve it to the cat.
Opus: I did not say that!
- Two of Breathed's real-life berserk buttons — people taking advantage of handicapped parking spaces, and mimes — receive brutal takedowns. The latter, in particular, are the focus of Opus' wrath when he becomes the "Olive Loaf Vigilante."
- Author Powers: In an August 9, 1981 strip that may or may not have been inspired by "Duck Amuck", Milo and Major Bloom announce that they are going on strike. The cartoonist then responds by drawing the Major in a tutu and Milo in a Carmen Miranda outfit.
- Ax-Crazy: Several examples including Steve's little-old-lady murderess of a client, Bill, and Steve himself when trying to quit smoking.
- Back-Alley Doctor: After liposuction is made illegal, Opus visits a back-alley liposuctionist. The liposuctionist is a large, terrifying man with tattoos who claims he is putting himself through medical school with his illegal earnings. His operating room is dimly lit, rat infested, and filthy. Predictably, he botches Opus' nose liposuction, and Opus' nose is thin and shriveled afterwards.
- Back for the Finale: Cutter John, who had been absent from the strip for several years, returned for a Sunday strip (July 23, 1989) two weeks before Bloom County ended. Five days later Lola Granola, Opus's ex-fiancée, popped up after a multi-year absence to tell a horrified Opus that she was posing for Playboy.
- Milo Bloom didn't make the jump from Bloom County to Outland, but is visible in the bus that the final Outland strip takes place in.
- Bad Mood Retreat: In older strips, characters would occasionally feel bad about world issues after watching the news and sit in the field of dandelions (referred to as a "dandelion break" in one strip) to feel better.
- Became Their Own Antithesis: Steve Dallas went from Amoral Attorney to Nice Guy after getting his brain reversed.
- Bedtime Brainwashing:
- Opus tries to get in to see Steve Dallas after an operation. He is refused because the doctor is "debriefing" the patient.Dr. LeGruntL You will not sue. You will not sue. You will not sue. You...
Steve L Mmblgh...
- In a May 1988 strip Milquetoast, the Bloom boarding house cockroach, is using this to get residents of the boarding house to leave out food for him.
- A later Sunday strip features cockroaches doing this to control people, making white people unable to understand rap and convincing George H. W. Bush to pick Dan Quayle as a running mate.
- Opus tries to get in to see Steve Dallas after an operation. He is refused because the doctor is "debriefing" the patient.
- Bilingual Bonus: The strip for March 11, 1981, features Limekiller charming a woman by speaking French. When Milo asks him what he said, he responds, "Not sure, something like 'Your earlobes resemble fish heads.'" In fact, that's exactly what he said.
- Black and Nerdy: Oliver Wendell Jones is just that. Quite possibly the trope codifier.
- Bland-Name Product
- Oliver does his hacking with a "Banana Jr. 6000 computer". It's drawn as an early Macintosh "all-in-one," but it's effectively a walking, talking AI.
- Steve Dallas planned a Frivolous Lawsuit against the Nikotia (Nikon) Camera company because he got beaten up by Sean Penn while trying to photograph Sean with a Nikotia camera. He won't sue Opus (he's poor), and he won't sue Sean Penn (he's liable to beat him up again), but Nikon has plenty of disposable cash to give him in a settlement just to shut him up.)
- Body Horror: Opus and his nose get the full brunt of this trope. One strip had Opus (a penguin) wearing a human nose after plastic surgery; words cannot describe the disturbingness. Another had him cutting his nose completely off when he sneezed while flossing; Opus merely stands there with a grey hole in his face as his entire schnozz lays on the tile at his feet. Still more horror ensued when Opus visited a back-alley liposuctionist, who sucked all the fat out of said nose and left Opus with a needle-thin...thing...that terrified even Milo.
- Book Burning: Otis Oracle stages one. Milo throws "The Pat Boone Story" on the pile.
- Happened occasionally. For instance, in the original strips' run, Bobbi Harlow's mother finds some Flintstones vitamins in her daughter's bathroom and freaks out because she thinks they're...pills. In the unaltered version, she freaks out because she thinks they're birth control pills.
- The plump middle-aged woman who Bill gets caught reading the Bible with (in the scandal that led to the collapse of Billy & The Boingers) was originally named Edith Dreck, but famed Moral Guardian Donald Wildmon claimed that this was a slam against Christians, since "dreck" means "crap" in Yiddish. Breathed, who was unaware of its meaning outside of being an insult, changed her name to Drock in the book reprints.
- Brain Bleach: Steve is less than pleased about the anatomically correct fertility idol in New Guinea that resembles him. Oliver is more than pleased.Milo: STEVE, WAKE UP! COME SEE THE POWER OF A PLUGGED-IN PLANET!
- Breakout Character: Opus didn't appear until the strip was six months old, and when he did it was a one-shot gag about Binkley buying a pet penguin. He wasn't seen again for six more months, until early 1982. By mid-1982, Opus was appearing on a regular basis, and he soon became the central character.
- Bill the Cat was also originally intended to be a one-shot character, the joke being that they were trying to pass off a completely unmarketable character as the next Garfield. He has since become nearly as iconic as Opus.
- Brick Joke: One series of strips had Opus bugging 911 with frivolous "crises" (including eating an overripe banana or seeing a woman with horrendous fashion sense). A week later Steve Dallas gets kidnapped by aliens; Milo says "We should call the authorities!" and Portnoy tells him that Opus is on it. The last panel shows Opus frantically calling 911 and them immediately hanging up on him.
- Briffits and Squeans: One strip involves coming up with new names for these (e.g. "bulbles" for Idea Bulb).
- Brutal Honesty: One Sunday strip had Binkley deciding to be brutally honest to everyone, such as telling Opus he resembles a puffin, not a penguin, and telling Steve that Knight Rider was a children's show. Opus gets some measure of revenge informing him that he resembles a carrot.
- The Bus Came Back: Senator Bedfellow, Bloom County's corrupt, cynical, drunken Senator, returns in August 2016 after an absence of over 30 years. (He returns to Binkley's anxiety closet, that is.)
- Not even — he made a one-strip return for Opus as well.
- The new strip marks Milo's first speaking appearance in 26 years, as well as the return of Cutter John and Rosebud (neither of whom reappeared for Outland or Opus.)
- An unusual version: Hobbes had his first role in any strip in an official capacity since 1995 in the online strip in 2021, after 26 years.
- Buses Are for Freaks: In a 1985 strip Milo takes Greyhound, and rides next to a scraggly man who asks permission to drool on Milo's cardigan.
- Butch Lesbian: Opus once dated a stereotypical man-hating Brawn Hilda. After the date, she admitted she liked Opus because he didn't have a single drop of masculinity.
- In this 1983 strip Opus meets a sexy woman who wishes for a flightless waterfowl on which to lavish kisses and affection. He turns to the reader and says "As God is my witness, I haven't the faintest idea what I should do." Thirty-two years later, the woman comes back and Opus throws himself at her, only for her to reject him because his nose isn't big enough.
- In a strip from Aug. 27, 1983, Opus charges out of the shower to answer a ringing phone, only for the caller to ask for an "Ernie Dinkelfwat." 33 years later, the caller calls back and asks for Ernie again.
- A 1989 arc had Donald Trump's brain implanted into Bill the Cat. 29 years later, the Department of Justice opens up Bill's skull to search for incriminating information that may have been left behind.
- Camp Straight: Binkley never does very well with all the "manly" activities in which his father tries to train him, has rather "girly" ambitions to be a ballet dancer (for which he wears a tutu in several strips), and just seems rather limp-wristed in every way; and yet he's as interested in the girls as any guy, including a young black girl named Goldie... who turned him down when he asked if she'd go steady with him, however.
- Canon Discontinuity:
- All the events of Opus and Outland, which included Steve Dallas advancing into late middle age and having a son, and Opus apparently being killed off at the end of Opus. The 2015 revival of Bloom County found Opus waking up in his meadow after a 25-year nap, with all the other characters looking just as they did in 1989. Also the last arc of the original Bloom County, which featured Donald Trump (or rather his brain inhabiting the body of Bill) buying the meadow and paving it over — in the revival the meadow is still there.
- A more minor example has Cutter John now (evidently) being a veteran of the Gulf War rather than Vietnam.
- Cardiovascular Love: "U Stink But I (Heart) U" (performed by Mucky Pup) from Billy And The Boingers: Bootleg.
- Carry the One: In one strip, Oliver completes the Grand Unification Theory and notices that flightless waterfowl are not explained, and Opus gradually fades out of existence... until Oliver corrects an error in the theory, saying, "Didn't carry the two."
- Casanova Wannabe: Steve Dallas.
- Catchphrase: "L.H. PUTTGRASS SIGNING OFF AND HEADING FOR THE TUB."
- Cerebus Syndrome: It started out as a rural humor strip, but as time went on they started adding more and more political and pop culture satire, which would dominate the strip for the rest of the run.
- Character Celebrity Endorsement: Opus "posed" for the label of Honest Tea Peach Ooh-La-Long iced tea as an exchange with the people who started the brand, who he knew in their early years — they'd make a special "slightly sweet" flavor of tea for him, in exchange for Opus mugging on the label.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
- Many characters, including Cutter John, Bobbi Harlow, Lola Granola, Yaz Pistachio, etc. Some were justified in that they were Flat Characters that Berke didn't know what to do with, or were only introduced for a specific story arc. He has also said that he got rid of Cutter John because he found it too hard to draw a wheelchair within the confines of a comic strip.
- For its first year or so, the strip focused on the denizens of the Bloom boarding house, including the Russian character Pops Popolov; a talking dog named Rabies (retired because Berke thought there were too many comic dogs); Widow Tucker and her cat, Spartacus; a Hunter S. Thompson copy named Mr. Limekiller; and so on. By the end of year two, all of the characters in the house, with the exception of Milo, Binkley, their respective father figures, and Limekiller had been axed. Major Bloom was gone by 1984 or so, without explanation, and Limekiller likewise vanished without explanation after the 1984 election campaign, after his final stint as the Meadow Party candidate.
- There were several more forest animals who were suddenly written out of the strip, including a bear; most had never even been given names. The only survivors were Hodge Podge and Portnoy.
- Despite being major secondary characters throughout the entire run of Bloom County, even Portnoy and Hodge Podge disappeared in the sequel strips, making only a handful of silent cameos, usually in flashbacks.
- And the first teacher, Ms. Bunzwakker.
- Lampshaded in a strip late in the comic's run which reveals what happened to some of the characters who had vanished, giving most of them tragicomic fates.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: How Opus and Oliver can see Hobbes instead of an ordinary stuffed tiger.
- Color Me Black: Oliver Wendell Jones invented a gadget that temporarily turned white people black, and Cutter John was going to take it to D.C. and use it on the ambassador from South Africa (this was still the time of apartheid, so the ambassador would have been white), but first he tests it on a clueless Steve, who doesn't notice until three strips later, and assumes it's part of a Karmic Twist Ending before searching the nearby bushes for Rod Serling.
- Comic-Book Time:
- Played straight in Bloom County 2015, where everyone looks the same. Steve is back to a younger appearance after being significantly aged in Opus (which itself may have been All Just a Dream). Milo is still a pre-teen, even after 26 years.
- Zig zagged in the case of Cutter John, who has white hair in the revival, even though one strip from the revival implies that he suffered his war injury in Iraq, while this strip from December 1984 has Cutter John suffering his injury in Vietnam in 1969.
- Averted with the Calvin and Hobbes crossover: while Hobbes hasn't aged (he's a stuffed tiger), he can't find Calvin because the latter is now an adult.
- Conjoined Eyes: Breathed's regular style as seen with Opus and other characters. (In the original strip, anyway. In the revival Opus is drawn with a line clearly defining two eyeballs.)
- Contrived Coincidence: Opus meets none other than Mrs. Limekiller in a Greenpeace ship off the waters of Antarctica. Lampshaded when she says "Small world" and Opus says "Small strip."
- Cool Shades: Steve Dallas. In fact, they are literally the source of his sleaziness, as shown in the final weeks of the comic.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Donald Trump, in the body of Bill the Cat, is ultimately responsible for the destruction of the strip's setting, even paving over Opus' dandelion patch. Also W. A. Thornhump.
- Crossover: An entire arc from the spring and summer of 2021 has the gang finding out that the cat in the COVID hazmat suit is not Bill, but Hobbes of Calvin and Hobbes. Opus then dedicates himself to reuniting Hobbes with an adult Calvin.
- Crying Wolf: Opus calls 911 over dry mouth, bad taste, Pat Robertson gaining in the polls, and a leg-waxing accident. Finally, he gets an instant hangup when he calls over an alien abduction.
- Cult: Right after losing the 1984 presidential election, Bill runs away to Oregon and joins the Rajhneeshis. Milo and Opus have to kidnap him and drag him back.
- Culture Shock: Inevitable for Opus, who was asleep for 25 years. The rest of the cast has not been.
- Darker and Edgier: The revival is free of corporate censors, and it shows, with Breathed using words like "pecker" and "vagina" that would have never made it to newspapers in the 1980s.
- Death Is Cheap: Bill dies on a regular basis.
- Demoted to Extra: The eponymous Milo Bloom managed to avoid complete Chuck Cunningham Syndrome (see above), but popped up less and less often towards the end of the run as the strip focused on Opus.
- Diabolus ex Machina: In the revival plot-arc involving young Sam the Lion being accidentally left alone overnight in the hospital, someone suddenly decides to notice that Opus is an animal and refuses to let him into the facility.
- Disabled Love Interest: He may be in a wheelchair, but Cutter John is a perfect gentleman, plays Star Trek with his animal friends, and won the heart of Bobbi and would regularly passionately make out with her in the meadow... that is until she vanished from the comic. However, the September 1, 2015 strip showed Cutter out of his wheelchair and using two braces to stand erect — to meet the woman he nearly ran over, Miss Fillerup.
- Disabled Means Helpless: Played around with Cutter John. He's just as manly and tough as any other typical 80's guy, but he still has to deal with problems such as the brakes malfunctioning while going downhill, or his chair tipping over and refusing to be helped up.
- Disappeared Dad / Missing Mom:
- Even in the early days when Milo lived at the boarding house it was with his grandparents; his mother and father never appeared. Averted with Binkley and his divorced father, as well as Oliver and his parents.
- Opus's lack of a mother and his efforts to find her were a repeated theme.
- In a December 2015 strip Bill's father is revealed to be — Garfield. Appropriate enough, since Bill was always a Take That! against Garfield and Garfield merchandising. Jim Davis even drew the first three panels of the strip where this is revealed.
- Disguised in Drag: Opus and Bill the Cat do this repeatedly. When Bill was being tried for treason, Opus tried to save him by dressing in drag, telling the courtroom that he was Bill's mistress, and taking responsibility for Bill's crimes. Opus' performance is so silly that it fails to convince the judge.
- Does Not Like Men: Alf Mushpie, the rather intimidating woman that Opus goes on an unfortunate blind date with in 1985. She tells him "I don't like men at all", but she winds up liking Opus, because he has no masculinity.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire "penguin lust" story arc was a criticism of religious controversies concerning sexuality.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set: Oliver Wendell Jones did this twice once in a daily strip where he interrupted a network feed with a masked hacker message in revolt to certain networks scrambling their signals to make them inaccessible to satellite dish owners without paying a monthly fee, and once in a Sunday strip to interrupt one of its board members attempting to speak out against such broadcast signal jackings.
- Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That!: In "The Great Bloom County Snake Massacre", several main characters set out to kill a snake at the local swimming hole. In one strip Binkley is carrying a club when the groundhog Portnoy comes up behind him, touches his shoulder and says "See anything?" Binkley, scared out of his mind, starts wildly swinging the bat around and knocks Portnoy unconscious.
- Double Take: When Steve and Hodgepodge build a nuclear fallout shelter, the two of them go hunting, and Hodgepodge tells us what they're hunting, including rabbit. Cue the next panel, where his soldier's hat pops up, and in the next panel, he turns to Steve and yells, "Now wait just one *@!!?# minute..."
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The early strips were Milo and the quirky humans in the boarding house. Eventually, Opus and the other animal characters were mixed in.
- Binkley pops up in May 1981, but with short hair and glasses.
- The first time Steve's parents appear in the strip (as voices in a telephone conversation) they are aging hippies who disapprove of Steve's Amoral Attorney lifestyle; when Steve's mother eventually turns up in person... well, see Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas below.
- When Opus made his debut (June 26, 1981) and for some time thereafter, he looked somewhat more like a penguin, with a much smaller nose/beak. The giant, very un-penguin nose didn't come until later.
- Bill the Cat was occasionally verbal in some of his first 1982-83 appearances. Later, he hardly ever spoke, mostly saying "ACK!" or spitting. (In Bill's case this may be an example of Came Back Wrong, as he died in 1983 and was cloned.)
- Easy Amnesia: A long 1985-86 arc involved Opus getting amnesia after his wheelchair balloon trip with Cutter John ended in a crash in the ocean. Opus returns fully functonal but with total amnesia of his past. He's eventually shocked out of his amnesia by a false news report of Diane Sawyer marrying Eddie Murphy.
- End-of-Series Awareness: The last few weeks are replete with this trope, as the "actors" are fired by Donald Trump (July 13, 1989) and try to find jobs in other comic strips (Steve Dallas turns up as one of Cathy's dates, Oliver integrates The Family Circus, Milo appears in The Far Side, etc.). At one point, Opus even laments that "comic strips aren't supposed to end!", and, in one of the last strips, summarily boots Ronald Ann through the doorway to Outland, reasoning that "she was dawdling, and Beetle Bailey is taking over this space Monday."
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas:
- It's a tense, ambivalent relationship, but Steve and his mother do love each other.
- The October 14, 1985 strip featured this and an Oh, Crap! moment for Opus. Opus tells Steve that a crazy woman is ransacking his room and bellowing like a "great, ugly, squat walrus." Steve asks, "Squat walrus?" Opus says, "Yeah." Steve yells upstairs, "MOM?" and Opus says, "Oh, but a very NICE squat walrus!"
- Everyone Hates Mimes: A 1985 story arc involves the "Olive Loaf Vigilante" going around and beating on street mimes with olive loaves. The vigilante is revealed to be Opus. Steve Dallas gets him off on a technicality.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Opus, of course.
- Everything Is an Instrument: Bill the Cat played his tongue in Deathtöngue.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: From the March 11, 1981 strip. Limekiller arrives at the Bloom Boarding House, and Milo votes that he should be allowed to stay, though his grandfather says that Limekiller looks like a bum. Limekiller takes Milo's grandmother's hand and tells her, "Ah ... chère madame, vos lobes d'oreilles sont comme des têtes de poisson," and she responds, "Oh my! That's French isn't it?" Limekiller responds, "Oui, Madame," and she responds, "He stays." Milo asks Limekiller, "What'd you say?" and Limekiller says, "Not sure...Something like, Your earlobes resemble fish heads".
- Evil Lawyer Joke: Used, generally regarding Steve Dallas, and popular amongst actual lawyers (to Breathed's disappointment).
- Evil Versus Evil: One story had the Animal Liberation Front taking on the Mary Kay Cosmetics Company.Opus: Ah, nabbed from sadists by terrorists... sort of a dream come true, ya know?
- By Breathed's own admission, Limekiller (the wacky vagrant from the first couple of years) was heavily inspired by Doonesbury's Uncle Duke.
- An occasional early strip visitor, rock band Tess Turbo and the Blackheads (expy of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts).
- Eye Pop: Lampshaded both in a strip and in A Wish for Wings That Work.
- Facial Composite Failure: Of Opus in this strip.
- Fake Interactivity: The Banana Jr. 6000 abused this◊ watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
- False Reassurance: After Bill the Cat has a drug-related car accident, one comic strip executive who gets Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee says that the newspaper comic industry doesn't have a drug problem, any more than the music industry does.
- Feelies: Some of the trade paperback collections included them. Billy and the Boingers Bootleg included a flexidisk record with 2 of the band's "songs", for example.
- Fantastic Medicinal Bodily Product: In one arc, Oliver makes a nearly-magical hair tonic out of cat sweat. It makes balding men grow their hair back overnight.
- Fictional Political Party: The National Radical Meadow Party ran Bill and Opus in 1984 and 1988. In the revival they have changed to the Happy Meadow Monarchy Party and are advocating making the United States a monarchy, but they're still running Bill and Opus — or rather Opus and Bill, who have changed places on the ticket.
- "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome: Sort of the style of the Trump-in-Bill's-body story.
- Foreshadowing: After deciding to end the strip, Breathed engaged in some foreshadowing in a couple of spring 1989 strips.
- In the first strip (May 23, 1989), Opus is asked to make a wish on a shooting star. He says, "I wish I knew if I had meaningful employment after August 6."
- In the second strip (June 24):Milo: ...I feel a sense of... permanence.
Binkley: Dabbling in a bit of ironic foreshadowing, are we?
Milo: No, why?
- 2018 and 2019 saw Calvin County, foreshadowing a 2021 crossover with Calvin and Hobbes.
- Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: Doesn't use actual reader mail.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: Steve Dallas planned one against the Nikotia Camera company because he got beaten up by Sean Penn trying to photograph Sean with a Nikotia (To be fair, he did explain why it would be a bad idea to sue Sean, Sean's wife, or Opus).
- Frozen Dinner of Loneliness: In one strip a man tells his wife that he's in charge of their household. In the last panel he's shown reading the instructions on a frozen dinner, presumably because his wife has refused to cook dinner for him (if not leaving him outright).
- Funny Animal: Several, not the least of which is Opus.
- Funny Animal Anatomy: Lampshaded in the "secret female" arc, where Portnoy rushes into the men's room to confirm his own sex, then returns after a Beat Panel, saying "No dice! Comic strip animals aren't anatomically correct!"
- Furry Confusion:
- In one strip, the narrator asks Hodge Podge what he plans to do about food now that he's a survivalist. He responds, "Well, as I understand it, we'll be huntin'... maybe a little 'coon, 'possum, some rabbit..." then after a Beat Panel, adds, "...NOW WAIT JUST ONE *@!!?# MINUTE..." (The joke being that Hodge Podge himself is a rabbit.)
- Opus at one point meets some real penguins — and of course, Opus looks nothing like them, making him confused. (At one point in the strip, Binkley points out Opus looks like a puffin, not a penguin. Opus gets revenge pointing out Binkley looks like a carrot.)
- Gilligan Cut: One set of strips has Opus Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee, where he finally makes a long speech and ends with something like "That's what I believe in! If that makes me a liberal, then go ahead and label away!" Cut to him out on the sidewalk, literally plastered all over with "LIBERAL" stickers.
- Glasses Pull: Oliver does this on Feb. 3, 2016 when contemplating the mysteries of dark matter. (This is also a very rare instance of Oliver's eyes being visible.)
- Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Subverted. Steve Dallas's clients are generally homicidal maniacs on trial for murder. Steve usually ends up getting them let off, with disastrous results. In a memorable instance, a little old lady on trial for killing her husband is put under house arrest — in Steve's house. He tries to sell the film rights to Disney — but only after the other studios pass because the axe murders didn't involve any nubile, scantily-clad young women.
- Gross-Up Close-Up: Of Bill here.
- Grounded Forever: Oliver's dad grounded him until his 45th birthday for having launched a shuttle chair to Washington D.C. and almost killing Cutter John and a tuba player.
- Grumpy Old Man: In the Early Installment Weirdness days before Binkley, Oliver, Opus, and all the animals showed up, the main source of humor was the relationship between Milo and his crotchety grandpa, the Major. The Major hates communists and people with long hair, and only agrees to play Santa after the local store reminds him of his unpaid tab.
- Hacked by a Pirate: Oliver Wendell Jones once caused global chaos — cities in flames — by posting on a stock market computer the message "Avast, ye scurvy corporate swabs! Bank of America is about to go belly up!" In later strips he takes to dressing like a pirate when hacking.
- Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee:
- After a confused Defense Department gives "Dr. Opus Spock" $900 million to build a "Star Wars" missile defense system, Opus has to testify before a Congressional committee.
- In a 1987 arc Steve and Bill get hauled in front of Tipper Gore's inquisition into heavy metal lyrics. Steve, folding under pressure, changes the name of the band from "Deathtöngue" to "Billy and the Boingers."
- In an August 1988 strip Opus is hauled before a Congressional committee to answer charges that he is a — gasp! — liberal.
- Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Deathtöngue.
- His Name Is...: One arc is kicked off when Spuds McKenzie says that one of the strip's cast is a "secret female"...and then promptly passes out before she can say who. Opus lampshades this by remarking to the reader "You and I both know she's not going to wake up until that last statement has wreaked total havoc around here."
- Hockey Mask and Chainsaw: Bill dons a hockey mask and menaces people with a chainsaw in a few strips.
- Hollywood Atheist: Averted by The Smart Guy Oliver, who is presented as Agnostic multiple times. In one strip he sees the stars rearrange themselves to spell out "REPENT OLIVER" and thinks to himself "Bloody difficult being Agnostic these days...", and in another he describes himself as athesitic but allows himself a single moment of "wild abandon" in which he screams out "The universe is a little too darned orderly to be just a big accident!"
- Humanlike Foot Anatomy: Opus.
- Hypno Fool: Oliver would occasionally hack local TV channels to broadcast subliminal messages to his parents, like "put bologna on your head and stick zucchinis up your nose" or "forget to wear clothes to church tomorrow". Subverted in one instance where Mr. Jones blames him for Mrs. Jones liking Dan Quayle as a politician, and Oliver insists that he's innocent on this one; as his father spanks him, Oliver thinks to himself "Gonna be a looong four years..."
- Hypocritical Humor: One storyline about the excesses of image-driven consumerism ends with Milo, who had been the most outspoken opponent of rampant consumerism, buying a $100+ pair of shoes specifically made for walking in shopping malls.
- I Am Not Weasel: Hodge Podge kept making snide commentary towards Portnoy the groundhog, by saying that he was a "pig".
- "I Am" Song: "I'm A Boinger" from Billy And The Boingers: Bootleg.
- I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: Bloom County tackled the "War On Drugs" topic with various drug avatars, including "Snorting Dandelions" and "Cat Sweat Hair Growth Tonic."
- I Have Many Names: The name of the local newspapers where Milo and Opus worked was either named the Bloom County Tribune, the Bloom Beacon, or the Bloom Picayune, depending on the strip; we're not sure if they're all the same paper, or if they're different ones. This made more sense during the 1980's, as many cities still had different newspapers for morning and evening and weekends, but they were being phased out with television news.
- Insistent Terminology: When Opus gets a job as a garbageman.Milo: You're a trash man?
Opus: I beg your pardon. I'm a "waste-management artisan."
Milo: Right. You're a garbage man.
Opus: I'm a "waste-management artisan."
Milo: You empty trash!
Opus: Milo, do you remember what the President called his Iranian ransom shipments of weapons?
Milo: "Goodwill gifts."
Opus: I'm a "waste-management artisan."
- Interspecies Romance:
- Hodge Podge and Rosebud had jackabassalopes.
- Opus was engaged to Lola Granola, which was treated rather casually.
- Heck, Opus almost exclusively pursued human women as girlfriends. The interspecies part pretty much never came up. Instead, women would be put off by Opus's lack of height, large nose, etc. One strip also had a woman putting an ad in the classifieds for a small waterfowl with a large nose which she would like to lavish "kisses and affection" upon. She gives her address to Opus (who was working in the Classified section at the time), leaving him to comment "With God as my witness, I haven't the slightest idea what I should do."
- The best relationship he had was with a Butch Lesbian Straw Feminist, who commented she felt comfortable around him because Opus didn't have a single gram of masculinity.
- Irrevocable Message: The first story arc of the 2015 revival involved Opus (who, remember, has been asleep for 25 years and thus missed the Internet) accidentally sending Steve's X-rated message to his girlfriend to Twitter. Much embarrassment ensues.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Before Bobbi will go on a date with Steve, he has to dedicate his life to charity, get a partial lobotomy, and cook her a meal. Steve: "Cook a meal!?!"
- It Will Never Catch On: "The first black in the White House will be a conservative" (April 25, 1988)
- Jock Dad, Nerd Son: Binkley and Binkley's dad, especially in the early going, when Mr. Binkley is pushing his son to play football while Binkley signs up for ballet. Or a little bit later when Mr. Binkley is appalled by his son's lack of skill at a neighborhood baseball game.
- Karmic Twist Ending: Spoofed in the arc where Oliver invents a device that turns people black. He uses it on a clueless Steve who, upon finally noticing, assumes it's punishment for occasional racism, delivering an imagined Rod Serling narration (to which Binkley responds "Ooh, sounds like a good episode!") and finally looking in some bushes for Rod.
- Last-Name Basis: (Michael) Binkley, to everyone else, including his own dad, though the elder Binkley would sometimes use a nickname he desperately wished his son was macho enough to have actually earned: "Mad Dog" Binkley.
- Less Embarrassing Term: In one arc, Opus becomes a garbageman, but insists that he be called a "waste management artisan."
- Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: A rare comic strip example of having both Talking Animals and humans; this trend stretched throughout all of Bloom County and went on to the sequel strips.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Bloom County 2015 features Sam, a little boy with leukemia that the gang visits in the hospital, where they play Star Wars games.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The Other Wiki puts the total cast count at somewhere around 50, not including celebrity cameos.
- Malicious Slander: One of the series' Running Gags was the local newspaper printing all kinds of libel about the local Congressman, Senator Bedfellow. In one memorable Sunday strip, Milo calls him up about an article he's writing but he refuses to give them anything, citing all the nasty things they've said about him. Milo claims that his new article will be fair and unbiased, but then he reads the very first line, which is"Leaving a trail of slime wherever he-" at which point Bedfellow hangs up.
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back:
- Milo looks at himself in the mirror and thinks he could be a Senator or a President. The man in the mirror thinks Milo will be "a shoe salesman with an ulcer" (December 16, 1980). Later, this became a Running Gag for a little while, as Milo and the man in the mirror commisserated about Milo's fears of impending puberty.
- Opus later talks to the man in the mrror sometimes, like when he's nervous on the eve of the 1984 presidential election.
- Mathematician's Answer: In the first election series, Milo grills Limekiller to see if he's Presidential material by asking "How do you stand on nuclear waste?" Limekiller's response is to balance precariously on one foot, which Milo approves.
- Meaningful Name:
- Oliver seems to be a reference to Oliver Wendell Holmes, but what a nerdy black kid has to do with a former Supreme Court Justice....
- Senator Bedfellow's last name derives from the expression "Politicians and Businessmen make strange bedfellows", which refers to doing secret or dirty business (such as taking bribes, for instance) while in political office.
- Meet Cute: In the original strip, Cutter John is introduced when his wheelchair brake fails on a steep hill. He ends up scooping Bobbi into his lap along the way, which leads to them dating.
- Medium Awareness:
- Played straight many times, like when the Moral Guardian in a 1981 censorship arc promises to clean up Bloom County for being a particularly objectionable strip, or another 1981 strip where Bobbi Harlow won't give Cutter John a goodnight kiss because "this is the comics page."
- Somehow, Opus never noticed the readers reading the strip anyway.
- Misfortune Cookie: Opus receives one portending a doomed future as the punchline of political jokes while running for vice president in 1988. His friends try to convince him that it's meant as someone else's fortune instead that got mixed up in delivery.Opus: I'd like to think George Bush is somewhere holding a fortune that says "Your nose will shrink, your herring-breath will go away and babes will flock around like geese."
- Misplaced Wildlife:
- Mistaken for Racist: In one storyline, Binkley's father is worried that people will think he hates blacks because he doesn't care for Jesse Jackson. Binkley asks Oliver's father for help, and he reassures Mr. Binkley that you can dislike individuals without it reflecting your attitude towards a whole group. Mr. Binkley follows up by asking "Can I loathe Bill Cosby and his @!$#ing pudding pops?!"
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Rosebud the basselope (basset hound/antelope), plus the kids she had with Hodge Podge (see above).
- Mondegreen Gag:
- One strip has Opus mangling the National Anthem ("Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light / what so proudly we snailed, at, um, the starlight's last cleaning...").
- In another strip, Ronald-Ann and company take Bill the Cat to the vet's. The receptionist asks if Bill's been "spayed or neutered", to the group's confusion. The last panel shows them preparing to whack Bill's butt with a shovel ("spade") while feeding him a lizard ("newt'red"), while Opus wonders out loud if the SPCA approved this procedure.
- Moral Guardians:
- Otis Oracle, who first arrives as a censor comes to Bloom County to bring pressure to bear on Ashley Dashley's Bloom County television station, and sticks around to become president of the local chapter of the Moral Majority. He later becomes a source of Hypocritical Humor, like the time he puts his hand on the knees of women sitting next to him on a park bench and then lectures them for being too tempting.
- Hilariously subverted. In one series of strips, Lola Granola's mother (who has never liked Opus) sics the local priest (who bears a strong resemblance to Donald Wildmon) on him. However, the priest is a very nice guy, and genuinely enjoys the music put out by Opus' death metal bandnote . You better believe Mrs. Granola wasn't happy with him.
- "HE SITS IN THE FREEZER AND EATS FISH ENTRAILS!"
- Morality Pet: In the revival, Sam acts as one of these for Steve.
- Mouth Full of Smokes: When Steve Dallas gave up smoking, he gave all his cigarettes to Bill the Cat, who was seen smoking them all at once.
- Mushroom Samba: A 1987 story arc had Oliver extracting the hallucinogenic chemical from dandelions for testing, only for his father to drink the entire beaker. He ends up hiding in the tool shed, convinced that Erik Estrada is coming out of his belly button.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: One story arc begins when Oliver hacks into Pravda's computers, and tries to change the headline story to "Gorbachev Urges Disarmament: Total! Unilateral!" However, since he knows very little Russian, he actually changes the headline to "Gorbachev Sings Tractors: Turnip! Buttocks!"
- Nailed to the Wagon: Binkley forces his father to quit cigarettes cold turkey by disposing of all of those in their house and hiding his car keys. Opus comes to severely regret agreeing to assist Steve with a similar operation.
- Nerdy Bully: When Steve Dallas is mistakenly arrested for computer piracy, the police lock him up in the "hacker tank" with some child computer hackers. They try to bully Steve by threatening to slash his credit rating.
- Never Trust a Hair Tonic: One arc features a compound made from cat sweat, originally intended as an underarm deodorant, which causes massive hair growth wherever it's applied. Its creator immediately turns it into a hair tonic instead. Sales are ridiculously, dangerously good for a while... and then customers' hair started falling out. As in, all at once, poof-gone-you're-a-bowling-ball.
- New Year Has Come:
- 1981 ends with Milo working as a waiter at a New Year's party. Much drunken revelry is had. 1982 ends the exact same way.
- 1986-87 has the characters making New Year's resolutions. Steve Dallas resolves, at the point of a pitchfork, to not put ants in Opus's bed.
- Nice Hat: They abound in the strip, especially Opus — if he's wearing a strange hat, it'll fly off at some point.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- One story arc about a concert has "Tess Turbo", an obvious take on Joan Jett.
- Then there's one with Pac-Man in a bar.Opus: Is this a put-on?!
- Ashley Dashley III, who comes to Bloom County in 1981 and buys the TV station in order to make it into a television station, is an obvious goof on Ted Turner.
- No Indoor Voice: FINALLY, A CHANCE FOR L.H. PUTTGRASS TO SPEAK HIS MIND, TO REACH THE PEOPLE, TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. THE MASSES MUST BE TOLD OF MY IDEAS, FOR THEY ARE OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE. THUS, L.H. PUTTGRASS WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HE FEELS IS LACKING IN THE WORLD.L.H. PUTTGRASS SIGNING OFF AND HEADING FOR THE TUB.
- No Matter How Much I Beg:
- When Steve Dallas is ordered to quit smoking, he has Opus tie him to a chair and tells him, "Whatever I say, don't release me." He doesn't even make it a full minute before saying "Gimme a ***ing cigarette before I stick you in a blender."
- The revival has Cutter John getting his girlfriend to chain him to a tree (Oct. 27, 2015) to prevent him from seeing the The Force Awakens trailer.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: A nuclear warhead has them in a 1983 strip.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: One strip had new father Hodgepodge wearing a bib which holds bottles to "allows the modern father to share in the experience of breast-feeding". After a Beat Panel, Hodge turns to the reader and says "That's it. The joke is that we're not kidding. $39, Sharper Image."
- Nothing Is Scarier: When Oliver is trying to extract sweat from Bill the Cat (see Never Trust a Hair Tonic above), nothing works. Milo volunteers to give it a try:Milo: PRESIDENT QUAYLE!! [next panel] He's sweating
Oliver: [looking at his underarm] I'm sweating.
- Not This One, That One: Opus was surprised when his blind date was a hot blond chick ("Your photograph doesn't do you justice"), but it turned out it was a double date, and the hot one was Bill the Cat's date.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Oliver Wendell Jones is a master computer hacker, he invents a device to turn white people black, he builds a working nuclear bomb, he invents a teleporter, he extracts a hallucinogenic chemical from dandelions, and he successfully clones Bill the Cat. In a 1988 Sunday strip he drinks some concoction that temporarily transforms him into a bizarre nightmare beast.
- One-Hour Work Week: Cutter John is a particularly extreme example; in his first two strips, it's mentioned that he's the new doctor in town. We never actually see him doing anything remotely medical the entire time he's in the strip. (As of March 2017 he seems to have changed careers and become a schoolteacher.)
- Out of Focus: Milo Bloom, originally the central character, became increasingly peripheral over the course of the comic as Opus took over.
- Painting the Medium: Bloom County being big on medium awareness from early on, this trope occasionally came into play. In the last strip, the standard Sunday frame setup actually fades away as you go from left to right, with Opus walking away in a White Void Room space on the right side.
- Parking Payback: Steve Dallas illegally parks his corvette in a handicapped spot. Milo wasn't able to move it, but he tried.
- Parody Assistance: Jim Davis drew the last panel in the revival strip that reveals Bill's father to be Garfield.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: Opus occasionally used "renooberate," which Berke said was a Perfectly Cromulent Word his father used.
- Pink Elephants: The January 6, 1985 strip shows the bizarre creatures that Steve Dallas is STILL seeing five days after a particularly epic New Year's bender.
- Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Opus gets picked up and taken to the dog pound for a week of 1982 strips. The result is a week of prison jokes. Opus manages to start a brawl between rival dog gangs in the mess hall.
- The Pratfall: Opus would often perform these out of sheer surprise.
- Raging Stiffie: An August 2015 storyline has Steve Dallas suffering from this after the boner pill he took was apparently too potent.
- Ratings Stunt: Discussed and parodied in a week where the entire cast was naked for the entire week, with Scenery Censor in full effect. When it was pointed out that the cast was overwhelmingly ugly and male, it was floated that Opus would visit the Playboy Mansion. Instead, we get Bill-as-Donald Trump posing with a strategically-placed dollar.
- Reading Ahead in the Script: Opus was once lost without direction in a desert, and finally got a script, and edited it so that the inbred psycho who's picked him up hitchhiking turns into Zsa Zsa Gabor. Then when Zsa Zsa drops him off in Vegas, he leaves the script in the car, and is stuck back in the desert again.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: At one point Breathed was forced to take time off after an accident left him temporarily in a body cast. When he resumed Bloom County, he had Steve Dallas get in a fight with Sean Penn so Steve too would end up in a body cast for a few months.
- Redemption Rejection: A 1983 storyline featured Steve, drinking in a bar, being visited by his better self — a tiny fairy sprite Steve. After showing Steve how he became a "stinker", the fairy challenges Steve to change and be a better man. Steve responds by crushing the fairy with an ashtray and ordering "twenty, count 'em, twenty double martinis."
- Remember the New Guy?: The Nov. 4, 2015 strip introduces Milo's niece, "Baby Boo", which means Milo must have an older brother or sister. Milo's grandparents were the only relatives ever seen in the strip's original run.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Turns out an adult Calvin was the mysterious UFO spotted by the Navy in 2018, essentially to Flip the Bird at Jeff Bezos.
- Rip Van Winkle: Bloom County 2015 begins with Opus having woken up from a 25-year nap.
- Samus Is a Girl: The quest to find the "secret female" on the cast sparked by Spuds MacKenzie hitting on Opus (and conveniently passing out before telling who it was...which was also Lampshaded by Opus at the time) resulted in Rosebud the Basselope being outed as female.
- Scenery Censor: An entire week of strips in February 1989 had the cast going nude in what was supposed to be a "ratings" stunt. Their naughty bits are covered with scenery censors throughout. Parodied with Opus, who suddenly gets his neck, usually covered by his Ring Around the Collar, censored by a flower.
- Yaz Pistachio asks Opus to suggest one name more embarrassing than her own. His answer? "Berkeley Breathed."Yaz: Okay... two.
- Otis Oracle of the National Coalition for Nice TV reveals the ambition of the Coalition itself...
- In a series in Bloom County 2015 about "trump" being used for farting in Britain, the target of these jokes, Donald Trump, responds by sending Milo a copy of "British Cockney Rhyming Slang", and a note telling Milo to check the "B section", in particular, the definition of "berk". The definitions themselves are accurate to the actual British slang usage of "berk", with "vagina" being used as a substitute for a more offensive term.
- Yaz Pistachio asks Opus to suggest one name more embarrassing than her own. His answer? "Berkeley Breathed."
- Sequel Hook: The last few strips set audiences up for Breathed's next strip, the Sunday-only Outland. Opus literally kicks Ronald-Ann through the door to Outland on the last daily strip (Aug. 5, 1989) and goes off to search for his mother. (Soon enough Opus would appear in Outland anyway.)
- Series Continuity Error:
- Major Bloom is originally introduced as Major P. Flynn. Mr. Binkley's name changes from George to Tom to Frank to Tom to Frank. Limekiller's name changes from Skip to Charles. Oliver's father is variously named Howard, George, Frank, and Floyd.
- Opus first appeared in the summer of 1981 and appeared again early in 1982. A December 1988 story arc has Opus's mom sending him away in April 1982 due to the Falkland Islands War.
- Shoot the Television: Mrs. Limekiller loses her mind after watching her 37,492nd violent killing on television. She responds by shooting her TVs.Television: Mmmm boy! I do love these dandy Georgia avocados!
Mrs. Limekiller: EAT THIS, WILLARD!
- Later, Milo stares at a bullet-ridden television while talking to Mrs. Limekiller.Milo: Do we know the victim, or should we check dental records?
Mrs. Limekiller: Vanna White! Got her in mid-spin!
- Later, Milo stares at a bullet-ridden television while talking to Mrs. Limekiller.
- Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Early in Bloom County, Milo and Binkley are shown attending school. Later in the series, the child characters are shown going about their business but never attending school.
- Several strips featured surreal desert background that were likely shout-outs to Krazy Kat.
- Breathed has confirmed in the Complete hardback collections that Milo's name is a tribute to the hero of The Phantom Tollbooth.
- By random chance, the day Bloom County debuted in newspapers (Dec. 8, 1980) also happened to be the day John Lennon was murdered. Six weeks later, Breathed published a Shout-Out to Lennon in which Milo wishes for Lennon in dangerous times.
- In a May 1981 strip the Major uses the tactics of Patton to motivate Milo's pee-wee football team.
- In the September 27, 1985 strip, Opus goes to Lucy van Pelt for psychiatric help, but she isn't in.
- The September 1, 2015 strip has Cozy calling Cutter John Spaceman Spiff.Reader: Nice tip of the hat to Bill Watterson there. Well played.
Berkeley Breathed: Who?
- Then, on September 27, 2015, Cozy and her mother discuss the latter's Hobbes tattoo.
- How many people know that Sam the Lion, the Littlest Cancer Patient in the revival, is a Shout-Out to The Last Picture Show?
- Significant Anagram: Played with in one strip, where it's pointed out that "Opus" rearranges into "soup".
- Sleeping Single: According to Bobbi Harlow's parents, they stopped sleeping in the same bed in 1959.
- Mrs. Harlow: Well evidently I snore like a "congested heifer," dear.
Mr. Harlow: "Snort! Snort!"
- Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: Perhaps one of the only comics to slide all the way down the scale (from solid Fourth Wall to No Fourth Wall).
- It was first broken on August 9, 1981, when Major said, "Stop the cartoon!", his hand resting on the panel border, and announced that he and Milo were going on strike. In the next-to-last panel, a realistically-drawn hand reaches down and redraws them, putting them both in dresses, to which Milo asks, "You had to provoke him, didn't you?"
- It wasn't broken again until November 12, when Bobbi Harlow told Cutter John that he wouldn't be receiving a kiss because "this is the comics page."
- For the rest of 19811982, the strip usually kept its fourth wall intact, save for the occasional Aside Glance or Medium Awareness. By the end of Bloom County, those tropes were increasing in number, along with instances of Fourth-Wall Mail Slot (which didn't use actual reader mail), script-reading, talking to the audience, interaction with the cartoonist and Who Writes This Crap?! comments, etc. By the end in 1989, it was very much at the No Fourth Wall end of the scale. At the end, the characters were even moving on to work at other strips.
- Snap Back:
- There was a storyline about runaway consumerism, where Opus buys a pair of sneakers made only for walking around malls, a salad shooter, a salad scooper, and even silicone-injected lips. Throughout, Milo chastises Opus for such impulsive behavior of buying needless things. At the end of the storyline, he discovers that Milo bought the same kind of mall-walker sneakers and shouts "I'm a-keepin' my new lips!" His old lips are back the next Monday.
- Subverted in a similar plotline. Opus got plastic surgery for a new nose, and in this case actually kept it for a little while, until the rest of the cast forced him to get the surgery for his old nose back. We even got to see him recover from it.
- Sphere Eyes: Opus and Bill.
- Spin-Off: Berkeley wrote several books based on the Bloom County characters, most notably A Wish for Wings That Work.
- Spin the Bottle: Yaz Pistachio goes to a Spin the Bottle party in her second (and final) arc. It doesn't end well.
- Spit Take:Milo: IS THE GUY WHO OWNS THE RED CORVETTE PARKED OUTSIDE IN THE HANDICAPPED SPACE IN HERE? HELLO? ...Actually, it's remarkably similar to the kind of car you own, Steve. The guy had backed it in and locked the transmission, making it totally impossible to get out...
Milo: [holds up a mangled transmission] ...not to say we didn't try.
- Binkley's father does it when his anti-smoking therapy begins with breakfast and an x-ray of a diseased lung.
- Splash of Color: Even in the black-and-white online strips, Hobbes is always in full color.
- Spoiler: Discussed in the penultimate strip — Opus starts to describe Outland after booting Ronald Ann through the doorway to it, but then stops himself — "I'm giving it away."
- Springtime for Hitler: Meta example — Bill the Cat. He was intended to be so disgusting that no merchandisers in their right minds would want to license him. Thousands of dolls and t-shirts later, it became apparent that this didn't work.
- Stalker Shrine: Milo has one dedicated to Betty Crocker here.
- Status Quo Is God: Usually subverted, such as in the case of Steve's personality flip-flop and Bill getting his brain replaced with Donald Trump's, but seems to be the motive in annulling Lola Granola and Opus' marriage a few strips after they did the deed, even though Lola was Opus' fiancee for quite some time.
- Stealth Pun: The famous "Pear Pimples for Hairy Fishnuts"◊ strip, which cemented Opus as the main character due to its popularity, is about an elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna.
- Stock Desert Interstate: Opus the Penguin finds himself on one after losing his script, wandering along the highway and across the desert before eventually reaching a 7-11, an outpost of American civilization.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: In one arc where Opus goes to prison, both he and Steve initially assume his cellmate's claim to have "strangled Oakland" to be a "colorful sports colloquialism" of some kind. "No. I strangled every single per--"
- Straw Feminist: With the exception of Bobbi Harlow, any character who identified as a feminist would be a hairy-legged man-hater. A 1988 arc has "The Radical Feminist and Lesbian Alliance" lay siege to the Picayune's building after a lingerie spread ran in the paper.
- Strawman News Media: The Bloom County Tribune/Bloom Beacon/Bloom Picayune is staffed almost entirely by muckrakers who are perfectly willing to lie and make stuff up in order to sell papers. A Running Gag in the early years involved Milo calling up the local senator in order to get dirt, Twisting the Words to literally turn nothing into something.Milo: [on phone] Senator? This is Milo Bloom at the Beacon. Will you confirm that you sank Jimmy Hoffa in your backyard pond?
Sen. Bedfellow: [over phone] WHAT? OF COURSE NOT!
Milo: [writing] Fine. I'll go with "Sen. Bedfellow denies that pond is where he sank Hoffa."
Sen. Bedfellow: THAT'S NOT TRUE!
Milo: Okay. [writing] "Bedfellow did sink Hoffa in pond."
Sen. Bedfellow: I DON'T KNOW WHERE HOFFA IS!!
Milo: [writing] "'I lost the body,' says Bedfellow."
- Straw Character: Any opposing force (political, societal, economic, etc.) is generally represented by a harried-looking crazed figure running into the strip and spazzing out. In early years this was best exemplified by the corrupt, alcoholic Senator Bedfellow who perpetually wins re-election because nobody else runs. Milo's grandfather was also used as a strawman conservative in the early years.
- Hodge-Podge once described himself as the "sole representative" of conservatives in the Meadow Party, but Portnoy often joined him in stereotypically more conservative behaviors.
- Notably averted with the Jones family, whose Republican affiliation was used for occasional jokes (as in the Sunday strip where Mr. Jones thinks Oliver brainwashed Mrs. Jones into being a Dan Quayle supporter), but otherwise didn't really come up.
- Subliminal Seduction:
- Played with when a Media Watchdog has Milo find messages in records. "Devil bunnies! I snort the nose, Lucifer! Banana, banana!"
- In one arc, Milo discovers that if you play Deathtongue (the cast's heavy metal band) records backwards, you hear "Go to church, say your prayers." Which led to something that readers never thought they would see Milo say: "I don't think I have a story."
- TITHE!!! TITHE!!!
- "No matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney."
- Symbol Swearing: Used frequently, mostly from Steve Dallas.
- Parodied in one week of strips where they purport to have a letter substitution code that censors any swear-words in the strip. In reality, they're just gibberish when decoded.
- Also parodied with Steve Dallas doing Emoji Swearing at Opus in the bathroom.
- Take That!: Lots of them:
- Opus read a parody of the Garfield books called Garfield Gets Old.
- Not to mention Bill started out as a spoof on Garfield and comic merchandising (see quote under Ensemble Darkhorse entry above)...ironic considering Bill's later blitz merchandising.
- Spuds McKenzie has a paternity suit filed against him by Benji, is later revealed to be female, and is replaced as Budweiser spokesman by the Care Bears.note
- A particularly ridiculous storyline was ended with Milo telling Opus that he was acting like a character in a bad comic strip. Opus, brought to his senses but shaken and vulnerable, asks Milo if he thinks Terry and the Pirates was a bad comic strip.
- An unusually prescient Take That!: at the end of a Star Wars parody, Luke Binkley decapitates George Lucas with a lightsaber, saying, "Jedi Knights don't wait 15 years for a sequel." In 1983.note
- Bloom County's final Story Arc is rife with Take Thats, as all the characters try to get jobs at other comic strips. Steve Dallas shows up to take Cathy on a date; Milo Bloom's top half is swallowed by a snake in The Far Side; a busing order sends Oliver Wendell Jones to integrate The Family Circus; Portnoy and Hodge-Podge get jobs cleaning up after Marmaduke with giant pooper scoopers.note
- For strips that parodied cartoon cats that featured characters such as Garfield and Hobbes, Bill Watterson hilariously retaliated with this comic◊. In response Berke Breathed said this:"I have committed other thefts with a clean and unfettered conscience. Garfield was too calculated and too successful not to freely raid for illicit character cameos. Calvin and Hobbes was too good not to. Calvin creator Bill Watterson took these thefts in stride and retaliated in private with devastatingly effective illustrated salvos, hitting me in my most vulnerable places. Bill's sketch is an editorial comment on my addiction to the expensive sport of power boating and the moral compromises needed to fund it. That's me doing the kicking. The chap on the dock represents my cartoon syndicate boss, which says it all, methinks."
- The "chap on the dock" in question is pointedly drawn to resemble Mr. Thornhump.
- When political cartoonist Pat Oliphant protested Berke's 1987 Pulitzer win, Berke began using a character named "Ollie Funt" to satirize Oliphant. And Berke's ire for Oliphant had not ended by the time Opus rolled around; one strip depicted the phrase "Oliphant wears a thong" inscribed in a bathroom stall.note
- When it was still thought of as a compound to make underarm deodorant (see Never Trust a Hair Tonic above), Milo manages to get Bill to produce sweat by yelling at him, "PRESIDENT QUAYLE!".Milo: He's sweating.
Oliver: I'm sweating.
- When Bill the Cat came back after one of his temporary deaths, his life was recounted in excerpts from a tell-all biography entitled Frazzled: The Ugly, Sordid Life, Death, and Rebirth of Bill The Cat. It was a clear parody of Bob Woodward's 1984 book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi (which received criticism from many of Belushi's friends, admirers, and relatives as a poorly researched, exploitative hit piece).
- In 2015, Cutter John's "ship" is now a Star Wars reference. Bill the Cat is now "Bill Bill Binks", "Jar Jar's stupider, uglier brother — now with no testicles".
- Take Our Word for It: During the brief "coded forbidden word" arcnote , Hodge Podge and Portnoy come across] a prostitute uttering the forbidden word "utzaake". They promptly decode it, get shocked by the result, and Hodge comments, "If this gets printed, the republic is doomed." As we've noted earlier, the decoded words are just a jumbled mess of letters.
- Technology Marches On: Invoked, as Opus has no idea what the internet is when he wakes up from his 25 year nap in Bloom County 2015.
- Teleporter Accident: In a shoutout to The Fly (1986), Oliver's experimental research in teleportation results in Oliver getting crossed with Bill the Cat. Oliver starts growing mangy hair, while Bill starts wearing glasses and reading Ebony magazine.
- That Cloud Looks Like...:
- The May 5, 1984 strip has Binkley ask Oliver this, only for Oliver the computer nerd to describe it as "a large cumulus cloud". Binkley goes on a rant about how soulless science like that produced thngs like the atom bomb, and challenges Oliver to do better, only for Oliver to say the cloud looks like "an atom bomb."
- They play this again in the October 17. 1987 strip. Oliver asks Binkley, Binkley gives a long flowery description, Binkley asks Oliver what the cloud looks like, and Oliver says "Rain." Binkley is soaked.
- Three Chords and the Truth: The "meadow rock" band that Milo forms with Binkley in 1982, which is "back to basics"...because they only know two chords.
- Those Two Guys: Portnoy and Hodge Podge.
- To Be Continued: "Or maybe it won't! Ya never know, do ya?"
- Too Many Babies: In one of the last storylines from the original run (June 1989), Rosebud delivers a litter of 64 pups. Hodgepodge, the father, then goes into a blind panic.
- T-Word Euphemism: In one story arc, the Bloom Picayune decides to do a frank, honest article about AIDS. The first draft, submitted by the obviously nervous editor, is full of T-words.Writer: Am I waffling?
Milo: You're waffling.
- Ugly Slavic Women:
- One strip showed the effects of democracy coming to Russia as the Cold War ended, with the same potato-faced woman first in dumpy clothes and headscarf, then in American attire.
- Another briefly showed a dumpy Russian man and woman reading a Pravda headline that Oliver had hacked with a peace message (but mistranslated as "Gorbachev Sings Tractors: Turnip! Buttocks!"). 
- Rosebud the Basselope also dresses as one for espionage. 
- Uncanceled: And Opus is suffering Culture Shock.
- Unfortunate Item Swap: In a 1984 strip Opus wakes up too early and accidentally brushes his teeth with Preparation H instead of toothpaste while he's still sleepy.
- Similarly, another strip has Steve mistake his girlfriend's contraceptive jelly for toothpaste.
- The Unintelligible: Bill the Cat usually said nothing but "ACK."
- Unsatisfiable Customer: The first strip ever (Dec. 8, 1980) features Milo's grandpa going to a burger joint and ordering a burger-without-bun and a milkshake without a cup. Breathed re-did the gag a few years later with Milo in full troll-mode as the customer.
- Unsound Effect: unprovoked KICK!
- Vanity License Plate:
- At least two shown in Opus: a sports car with "NTITLED", and a Hummer with "HUM HER."
- One was mentioned but not seen in an early Bloom County strip, with Bobbi Harlow commenting on Steve Dallas' car: "Charming. A gold jeep with a license plate that spells out HORNY." In other editions, this was bowdlerized to "HEY BABY."
- Vice President Who?: See this strip, in which Meadow Party Vice Presidential nominee Opus proves he is "a natural for the job" by dozing off.
- In a 1985 strip Opus, who has gotten amnesia, is further rattled by Oliver's prediction that Halley's Comet will hit Earth and wipe out all life. He says "No past...no future...and nothin' much to be don' right at this moment. I feel like George Bush!!"
- Opus's second run for VP in 1988 was fodder for more Vice President jokes. In an April 1988 strip Milo urges a depressed Opus to call "the man who finally made the office of V.P. meaningful." Opus does so, only to be shocked by news that Nelson Rockefeller is dead.
- Wacky Cravings: Diana, Princess of Wales, wants pickles.
- Weird Trade Union:
- Santa's elves went on a strike, and were fired by Ronald Reagan, in a 1982 series of strips that referenced the air traffic controllers' strike. Later on, the "comic strip characters' union" went out for larger panels.
- Executive Meddling. W.A. Thornhump was created precisely as a strikebreaker character, the strip's personification of
- Wham Line:
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Referenced and averted with some of the weirder stuff, according to the Complete Library: "Yes, I suspect I was in an altered state. But then, so were many of you back then. A wash."
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted in a Sunday strip that detailed the fates of Bobbi Harlow, Alf Mushpie, and Lola Granola.
- What Are Records?: Binkley asks his dad what the phrase "to wind one's watch" means.
- Where The Hell Is Bloom County?: Never explicitly identified, but a few clues in the strip place it in either Iowa or Colorado (Breathed lived in both states at various times).
- The Bloom boarding house, where the characters live and which is occasionally seen from the exterior, is a depiction of the Linsay House in Iowa City, IA.
- The Whitest Black Guy: Oliver Wendell Jones is Black and Nerdy. In one strip his mother tries to get him to act a little more 'black' by wallpapering his room with a huge picture of Michael Jackson's face. Oliver responds by hanging a picture of Albert Einstein over it.
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: Bloom County characters make many self-deprecating remarks about the quality of the strip they appear in. In one storyline, Opus is an aspiring cartoonist struggling to come up with a comic strip. He pitches an idea for a comic strip exactly like Bloom County, to which Milo replies "Needs work."
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Binkley's dad's attitude toward his son in the early years. When he reappeared after a hiatus of several years, he had basically become a grown-up version of Binkley.
- Written Roar: "AIIGH!"
- Written Sound Effect: "Ptewph!" was common for Spit Takes.
- Wrong Side of the Tracks: Literally. This is where Ronald-Ann lives, and where the doorway to Outland is located.
- Zeerust: The 1987 arc dealing with Opus and Lola's wedding had him get knocked out trying to kiss her and dreaming about their life in twenty years. Apparently in 2007, Lee Iacocca will be President, we'll need ozone shields, and test-tube babies will be grown by Oscar Mayer.
Tropes found in Outland and/or Opus:
- Bedtime Brainwashing: The Command version was a recurring gag in Outland, with Milquetoast the Cockroach whispering in people's ears as they slept. Opus was usually the recipient, but one strip was all about celebrities' crazy decisions being influenced by behind-the-scenes whispering cockroaches.
- The Bus Came Back:
- Opus, Bill, Binkley, Oliver, and Steve all returned as major characters in Outland, and Cutter John and Milo both had one-off cameos.
- Bill, Steve, Lola Granola, Binkley, and even Senator Bedfellow all returned in Opus.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: This happened in Outland. Ronald-Ann, originally intended as the star of the strip, went Out of Focus and eventually disappeared completely as the characters from Bloom County leached back in. An otter character named Tim W. Forty disappeared early in the strip's run, without explanation. Again, this was probably a case of Berke not knowing what to do with the Flat Character he'd created.
- Continuity Cameo: Milo appears as a passenger on a bus in the second-to-last Outland strip.
- Disguised in Drag:
- In Outland, Ronald-Ann plays hookey from school several times. Either Opus or Bill will cover for her by wearing pigtails and wearing her Catholic school uniform. Hilarity Ensues.
- In another Outland strip, Opus and Bill sneak into Seaworld by disguising themselves as an orca and a buxom animal trainer, respectively.
- Nuns Are Spooky: In Outland, Ronald-Ann's teacher, Sister Pecadillo, is strict, wrathful, and tightly-wound.
- Parking Payback: In Opus, Pickles was once interrupted while attempting to trim down a Hummer with a chainsaw to make it fit in the compact space it had been parked in.
- Playful Otter:
- Tim W. Forty, an early Outland character. He was not well-received by the fanbase and chucked within the first few months.
- Parodied in a one-shot Sunday strip, where an oil-coated otter cheerfully tells the readers that oil spills aren't nearly as big a deal as people say. Opus bursts in, shames the otter, and quickly discovers that the otter was paid in oysters by Exxon.
- Outland itself was depicted as a kind of alternate dimension at the end of Bloom County and at the beginning of its own eponymous strip, but this concept was eventually phased out. The final Outland comic revealed Bill the Cat's address as "Bloom County, Outland."
- During the run of Opus, the beginning featured a lot of mystery as to what became of the cast of Bloom County. Despite one comic claiming Binkley grew up and became a hideously mutilated social pariah, in the strips final months he inexplicably started showing up as a child again, despite Steve Dallas being visibly aged 30 years. Opus also retconned the sudden reveal in the end of Outland that Steve was gay by mentioning offhand that Steve was converted back to straight in some kind of therapy — and even before that, an Outland strip suggested that after leaving Bloom County, Binkley became Bart Simpson.
- The first installment of Bloom County 2015 shows Opus waking from a 25-year nap, suggesting that the entirety of Outland and Opus were All Just a Dream.
- Seeking the Intangible: Milo goes to a Lost and Found and tries to recover his youthful idealism and his sense of optimism. When the clerk can't help him, he loses his patience and temper and asks the clerk if he has them. Again, the clerk can't help him, so Milo leaves. When the clerk pitifully asks if anyone has lost something tangible, Opus says that that he's lost his marbles. You can read the strip here.Milo: Excuse me. I've lost my youthful idealism.
Clerk: I beg your pardon?
Milo: My "youthful idealism". I had it once... but recently I've lost sight of it. Now I fear it's been lost completely. I thought you might have it.
Clerk: Oh...well, actually...
Milo: And what about my sense of optimism? Lately I've lost that too.
Clerk: Well, I'm afraid I've got neither of those things—
Milo: Oh boy...Now I've lost my patience. I don't suppose you've found that either.
Milo: That's just great! Now I've lost my temper! So unless you've found that, I'll be off now, you inept oaf! Good day!!
Clerk: P-please? Hasn't anybody lost anything tangible?
Opus: Excuse me. I've lost my marbles.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Pickles and Auggie in Opus, replacing Binkley (who later returned), Oliver, Milo, and Ronald-Ann.
- Take That!:
- A Sunday strip of Opus "outed" Garfield.
- Perhaps Berke's riskiest Take That came when the Disney corporation threatened to sue him if he didn't get rid of Mortimer Mouse (no, not that Mortimer Mouse), a character who looked like a washed-up, chain-smoking Mickey. Breathed removed Mortimer...but not before doing a three-week storyline in which he is kidnapped by then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. The gang storms the Magic Kingdom to rescue him, and many trademarked Disney characters make unauthorized cameos. Eisner himself is portrayed as a petty, creatively-bankrupt bully, who in the finale is attacked with a chainsaw by Bill the Cat dressed as Jason Voorhees.
- What Are Records?: One Sunday Opus strip actually dealt with this, in regards to newspapers of all things. Opus actually had to explain to the guy at least three times what a newspaper was, with each explanation being different.Caveat