Just as 1980 was closing out, comic strip readers were introduced to the bizarre world of Bloom County, a screwball, politically charged comic written and drawn by Berkeley Breathed. More than 40 years later, Breathed announced that his strip, which concluded in 1989, was being turned into an animated comedy television show.
The strip’s earliest form was for the student newspaper The Daily Texan, under the original title The Academia Waltz. Since Bloom County ended, Breathed has continued to utilize his characters in other spin-off strips throughout the years. In 2015, Breathed continued Bloom County through postings on his Facebook page.
Some people may be surprised, especially those who have not heard of Bloom County, that comic strips could be turned into new media, much less hold their own in an entire show. Comic strips are not a dominant comedy form now. Most people probably could not name five of the strips in their local newspaper.
But not so long ago, big newspaper cartoonists were some of the most famous artists in the United States, and comic strips had a much bigger influence. Bloom CountyBloom County openly drew inspiration from, Doonesbury, won the Pulitzer in 1976. No other comic strip has won a major award of any kind since then.
In recent years, newspaper sales in general have plummeted, and the comic strip page has shrunk. But decades ago, popular up-and-coming comic strips were significant parts of American culture. Characters like Charlie Brown and Garfield have became some of the most marketable characters in the world. And yes, they’ve had their share of animated television series and movies.
A lot of animated television originates from comic strips. roe example, Popeye began as a strip in the New York Journal in 1929. And we’ve written previously about how the comedy franchise of The Addams Familycame about almost by accident from a series of just a few New Yorker cartoons from the 1930s. In 1973, The Addams Family also got an animated television show spinoff and animated tv and movie takes on the show are still being made to this day, literally, a live action take on Wednesday Addams premieres on Netflix this week.
The decision to create a new animated show based on an old comic strip comes at a time when networks seem eager to focus on animated comedies targeted at older audiences. Adult Swim has recently stripped its lineup of live action shows to focus more on animation. Comedy Central has similarly turned to focus on their property that brought them to prominence, South Park. And shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons are still chugging along.
Recently, Amazon announced that a television adaptation of the adult animated comedy Sausage Party would be coming to their streaming service in 2024. Executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg joked that their decision to turn to television was prompted by the death of film and the new dominance of the small screen.
It’s a joke that might have a kernel of truth. It seems that executives are trying their best to capture the out-of-control success of animated comedy franchises like Garfield and The Simpsons. And there is a lot of indication that comedies have more success as television shows than as movies.
The Bloom County show will include Tim Long, who has worked on The Simpsons for the majority of its run, as Showrunner. We will see if this will help give the show some of that Simpsons viewership.
Dilbert, Heathcliff, and The Boondocks have all made the leap to animated television shows, to varying success. And the list goes on and on. Still, it’s been a while since anyone gave a comic this treatment. Maybe this new show, whenever it comes out, will help bring new attention to the funnies.