An ‘Opus’ ends: Are newspapers to blame?

I didn’t know that “Opus” was disappearing from the comics page until this weekend, when the strip wasn’t in its usual position in the Sunday edition of The News & Observer. A short note in the features section explained that cartoonist Berkely Breathed had decided to end “Opus” after a five-year run.

It turns out that the uncertain future of newspapers played in a role in Breathed’s decision. He also blames the harsh tone of the presidential campaign.

As reported here, Breathed has a bleak view of the outlook for print media, and he thinks comics may not survive the transition to online media. He says that newspapers and their audiences have changed since the heyday of “Bloom County” in the 1980s:

I hadn’t appreciated that until I came back and realized that if I strolled into a college campus after three years of doing my strip, no one had ever read it. In fact they hadn’t read anything, unless it was something from 25 years ago that their parents had given them the books of. So I already saw that the window was closing, that it was just a matter of a few years.

Breathed certainly has evidence to back up his claim that print media are in peril. It’s been a terrible year for newspapers and magazines. Readers have changed.

At the same time, Breathed should realize that “Opus” was a reunion comic that recycled old characters and familiar themes from “Bloom County” — just as Breathed’s previous strip, “Outland,” had done. Even in good times for newspapers, “Opus” would have been a hard sell to anyone who had not been a fan of “Bloom County.” And perhaps those of us who were “Bloom” readers had simply had enough of Opus, Steve Dallas and Bill the Cat.