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80s Comic Strips

By: Lazlo

Back in the '80s, one of my daily routines was to read the comics section of the paper. And the '80s were an excellent time to read the comics.

One of my fave comics was Bloom County, a topical comic full of outlandish characters who made light of the culture of the eighties. It featured an oddball menagerie of characters, such as the hapless Opus the penguin (or "flightless waterfowl" as he would characterize himself) who found himself in any number of odd situations. 

In addition to Opus, the characters included smarmy attorney Steve Dallas, young newspaper editor Milo Bloom, and the catatonic feline Bill the Cat, whose verbiage was limited to monosyllabic guttural responses. When life became too intense, there was always the dandelion patch to retreat to.

Another Bloom County character was a sensitive young boy named Michael Binkley, who had an "anxiety closet" containing his worries. I always thought this was wonderful metaphor for the real life worries that kids (and adults) have. And there was a young genius named Oliver Wendell Jones, who was frequently seen in front of his computer. At one point, he hacked into the Soviet newspaper Pravda, where he attempted to further peace by posting the fake headline "Gorbachev Urges Disarmamant: Total! Unilateral!", but his faulty translation of Russian made it instead "Gorbachev Sings Tractors: Turnips! Buttocks!"

Bloom County started in 1980, and grew and evolved with the decade, finally posting its last strip in 1989. It gently dealt with all the stuff in all our '80s anxiety closets, and when things got too intense, we could always seek refuge in that dandelion patch in our own minds. Bloom County would frequently make me laugh out loud... and often, I would remember the comic throughout the day. While I was in many a high school class, I would often struggle to stifle a laugh from the memory of some Bloom County strip I had read earlier.. I found it that funny.

Afterward, the comic's creator Berkely Breathed produced a follow up strip called Outland in the '90s, and an Opus strip in the 2000's. But I (and many others) remember most fondly those wonderful '80s era Bloom County strips. It provided an opportunity to laugh at the '80s culture and happenings around us, both good and bad, in a thoughtful and good natured spirit.

Along with Bloom County, The Far Side was one of my daily "must reads" in the comic pages of the paper. The Far Side was a single-panel comic that exhibited a wonderfully bizarre sense of humor. 

I'm not sure exactly how unusual The Far Side would seem today, but back in the '80s, they brought forth a refreshing sense of absurdity. And it was a comic that, seriously, once read, often remained in my mind for the rest of the day. It was one of the things that defined my teen years in the oddball colorful '80s, and it was one of the things that got me through my adolescence . . . the humor and the sense of absurdity about life and culture and reality.

There was also one more comic that I read daily, except it was less cutting edge in its style. The strip was the relatively mild, "down to earth" Garfield, which featured a lazy, fat lasagna-loving feline. I found the strip's light humor enjoyable, however, especially since my own family actually had a cat (a Garfieldish yellow-orange striped cat, no less) which had a personality very much like the strip's protagonist. My mother, in particular, would comment that the strip so accurately captured the feline personality.

The eighties, for all its good and bad, had a particular sensibility . . . one that allowed for a particular, lighthearted, sometimes oddball, sometimes absurdist, comedic view of things. Notably, the '80s featured a blossoming of the comics pages with this quirky sensibility, with the likes of Bloom County, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbs, and the more mainstream Garfied.

For so many of us, the comics pages of the '80s brought many a joyful time. But, as they say, all good things must end. When the '90s came with its darker worldview, it swept all of that away. The end of that era really was something that many of us still feel . . . the feeling of something we knew in our youths, but now missing.

This article by the writer of Retro-Awesomeness (An 80s Blog)


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Lazlo Posted on Oct 10, 2017 at 02:30 AM

I'm inclined to think that the '80s were kind of a golden age of comic strips, there were so many quality strips including the ones mentioned here. Good times!

Hoju Koolander Posted on Oct 09, 2017 at 01:11 AM

Bloom County and Doonsbury we're so over my head as a kid. I mostly stuck with Fox Trot, Garfield and Dick Tracy. I always flipped through The Far Side books at book stores though, endlessly entertaining.

Superman Posted on Oct 04, 2017 at 12:07 PM

I used to like to read the comic strips in our paper each Sunday, though it was the '90s by the time I was reading them. Garfield was probably my favorite.

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