"I have often had the impression that, to penguins, man is just another penguin - different, less predictable, occasionally violent, but tolerable company when he sits still and minds his own business." --Bernard Stonehouse

"When in doubt, run nekid through the periwinkle!!" -- Opus D. Penguin

Though not the main character of Berke Breathed's Bloom County comic strip, Opus certainly was the most predominant throughout the majority of the strip's run, as well as the most lovable and popular. He was a penguin who first appeared in the strip in 1981 when Binkley asked his father Tom if he could keep Opus as a pet, thinking him a german shepherd. Though originally just a pet, and probably intended to be a one time gag, the penguin just kept showing up.

Binkley: "A boy and his penguin!"
Opus: "A penguin and his boy!"
Tom Binkley: "Two dips and a dad."

We soon learned that poor Opus was an orphan, his mother having left him when he was very young under mysterious circumstances. His tragic childhood would be a shadow that would haunt him the rest of his life. He constantly sought a surrogate maternal presence in his life. One of the many places where he sought artificial attention and affection was in worshipping the curious noisy box he found in the living room of Binkley's home: the television.

Mr. Rogers: "Welcome to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, boys and girls! Will you be my friend today? Good! Now today we have a special visitor to my neighborhood... His name is Senator Kravitz. Senator Kravitz is what we call a public servant. My, it's a big word, isn't it? Can you say 'public servant'?"
Opus: "Bozo!"
Mr. Rogers: "Good!"

Opus made friends around Milo Meadow in Bloom County very quickly. He joined Binkley and Milo during their 'No Nukes Rally' at the local apathetic college. He frequently conversed with the clerk at the local Burger King and was astonished to find he couldn't order a herring Whopper. He also occasionally joined Steve Dallas at the local bar for a few brews, and offered the sunglassed preppie advice on improving his lovelife. Perhaps one of the friendships which would affect him the most over the years would be the one he cultivated early on with one Cutter John:

Opus: "Greetings and salutations, sir. Pray tell, what is the purpose of your mobile aluminum gizmo, here?"
Cutter John: "Well it seems I've got a couple useless limbs."
Opus: "Hello! Did you say 'useless limbs'?" FLAP! FLAP! FLAP! FLAP! FLAP! FLAP! FLAP! "Birds of a feather!"

Indeed, besides his periodic pining for a mother he had never known, another wish in Opus' heart is as old as Kitty Hawk:

"Lord, you gave us feet to waddle, a tux for tails and bods like bottles... but 'scuse us if we find no levity, since you also gave us gravity. But to adversity, we say nuts! And when it's time to fly the coop, we flap and beat to lift our butts... and we're left as walking nincompoops. So Lord, I'd think you more than wise, (and me much less a jerk) if only once you might supply... ... some penguin wings that work."

Opus was accused of penguin lust and placed on trial. He often joined Cutter and others from the Meadow in Let's Pretend games of Star Trek, where he played Spock, but not very well. Again mistaken for a german shepherd, Opus once found himself in a dog pound. He starred in the Milo Bloom production of E.P. The Extra-Terrestrial Penguin. He performed in a rock band, at first as the drummer, and then later as lead tuba. He got to play head cow in the Christmas Play. Off and on he aquired a number of odd jobs, and also worked at the Bloom Beacon until he aquired enough regular money to be able to afford room and board at the Milo Boarding house. He sought paying vocations because his temporary quarters were less than adequate.

Major Bloom: "Git out of there!"
Opus: "Major, do you have moths in your closet?"
Major Bloom: "Yes."
Opus: "Do you have cockroaches in the bathroom?"
Major Bloom: "Yeah."
Opus: "Then penguins in the fridge will complete the american suburban experience nicely.."

On at least two occasions, Opus found himself chosen as Vice-Presidential candidate for the Meadowcrat party, but lost both times to complete utter rubes. He narrowly escaped a recreation of the Psycho shower scene featuring a very sweet little old axe murderer lady. He once posed as Michael Jackson's double. He once rescued his dear friend Bill the Cat from a Rajneesh Cult of brainwashed nincompoops. He once witnessed Sean Penn punch Steve Dallas in the kisser. He was once trapped in a web of deceit and lies for claiming to be Doctor Opurt Spock, science officer for the Star Trek Space Defense project but he made a lot of money out of it and with the help of Oliver Wendel Jones they pulled it off. He asked a lovely lady named Lola Granola on a date and allegedly the two of them were snugglebunnies; in fact they almost got married. And many other events transpired for the world's favorite blob-butt, including his eventual success in finding his mother, his lack of success at flying, an insanely dramatic liposuction fiasco in which his nose became smaller than Barbra Streisand's, countless accidents which caused his butt to unceremoniously begin falling off while he was still in his prime, a very exciting battle with a deflated bicycle tire originally believed to be a venomous garter snake, and he was once almost snorted by Mick Jagger.

Never let it be said this penguin did not know how to live. Eventually Bloom County was cancelled, basically because the talented and amazing Berke Breathed is also a lazy prick. He wanted less work, so he created Outland, tried not to draw Opus anymore, and only worked on Saturdays. Imagine! Diehard obsessed stalking fans of the strip were surprised the world didn't end right then and there! But Opus was returned to Outland and there the success of Breathed's career met a slow and painful death. He was probably thankful. What happened to the world's most famous flightless waterfowl? It is unknown. Perhaps he returned to the North Pole. Perhaps he just faded into obscurity. Perhaps he was accidently mistaken for a chihuahua and deported to Mexico. One thing is certain however: there are a number of things to consider if you think you might be a cartoon character.

November 23, 2003
The flightless bird and hero to thousands of cartoon fans returns to Sunday only newspapers across the United States on that date.
Opus will be the name of this incarnation of the cartoon series.

The Washington Post has signed Breathed to a contract that will have him reprise some (not clear how much) of the Bloom county universe. A film version of the strip is also in the works.

Set phasers for stun, Captain!
On to the planet of scantily clad waitresses!!

I can hardly wait.

washingtonpost.com-9/9/03

O"pus (?), n.; pl. Opera (#). [L. See Opera.]

A work; specif. Mus., a musical composition.

Each composition, or set of pieces, as the composer may choose, is called an opus, and they are numbered in the order of their issue. (Often abbrev. to op.)

Opus incertum. [L.] Arch. See under Incertum.

 

© Webster 1913.

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