‘Bloom County’ Comes to TV as an Animated Series, Bringing Echoes of Iowa City With It

The Lindsay/Linsay/Bloom County Home in Iowa City. -Google photo

Nearly 42 years after its launch, 33 years after its creator discontinued it and seven years after relaunching it, the beloved comic book “Bloom County” is well on its way to becoming an animated series on Fox. And when Berkeley Breathed’s creation hits TV screens, it will bring echoes of Iowa City with it.

“Just like the comic, the TV version of ‘Bloom County’ will focus ‘on a collapsed lawyer, a lobotomized cat and a penguin in underpants and a fruit headgear living in the world’s last boarding house in the place. the most forgotten in the world at the bottom of the dandelion. FlyWayWayOver country deserts. Namely, America Today at a Glance,” Variety reported, citing a press release.

Breathed stopped drawing “Bloom County” in 1989, although it used some of the characters in two Sunday-only syndicated cartoons, “Outland” and “Opus”. In 2015, Breathed relaunched “Bloom County”. Some of his non-Bloom work has been made into animated features, but the Fox show will be his first TV series.

“At the end of ‘Alien’, we saw cuddly Sigourney Weaver fall peacefully into a cryogenic hypersleep after being chased by a saliva-spewing maniac, only to be woken up decades later in a world stuffed with much worse things,” Breathed said in a statement about the upcoming show. “Fox and I did the same to Opus and the rest of the Bloom County gang, may they forgive us.”

This “last guesthouse” Variety mentioned is a central location in the Strip, and it’s based on a house in Iowa City that Breathed once called one of the “Ugliest Houses in the Five-State Area”.

He knew the house because Breathed lived in Iowa City for four years in the early 1980s. And despite his description, by the time the artist first laid eyes on the house built in 1893 by John Jaynes, it had been on the National Register of Historic Places for four years.

“Six different architectural styles in a house is at least a milestone and at most a landmark of bad taste,” is how Breathed described the house at 935 E College Street.

The registry does not comment on the good taste of the house’s style(s), but the “Statement of Significance” section of the listing application suggests that Breathed was right about the confusing impression it creates.

The typed description calls the house “an example of the Jacobean Revival style”, but above that description is a handwritten correction calling the style of the house “Queen Anne”.

From the National Register of Historic Places app for the “Linsay” house.

“Bloom County” began its newspaper run in 1980, but the house didn’t make its first appearance until after Breathed moved to Iowa City from Austin, Texas the following year. That year also marked the debut of his most popular character, Opus the Penguin.

“I was a year on ‘Bloom County’ and I was so bored of drawing people standing in profile,” Breathed told the New York Times in 2020, “Struggling with vertical boxes, I needed an animal that could stand up and fit in the pesky rectangles that wasn’t a beagle or a big orange cat. Any child will tell you that leaves penguins: they’re already up, they don’t look particularly naked, and they have the smug face of always trying to say something nice.

Unlike the boarding house, Opus was not based on a local penguin (there were no local penguins). But its name was inspired by a local DJ (and local booze).

“Name of the new penguin?” It was a scorching June night in Iowa around 3 a.m., I was slightly drunk, and the disc jockey at Iowa City’s only rock station, KRNA, shouted the name of his next song from the Kansas band – one that could only be played at such an hour: “Magnum Opus”. Sometimes things happen. »

But aside from the home’s puzzling appearance and the screaming inspiration of the Opus name, there’s not much else to ‘Bloom County’, according to what Breathed told the Press-Citizen in a 1984 interview.

“It’s a great place to live,” he said of Johnson County in the interview, “but there’s little in the way of everyday eccentricity from humanity.”

Breathed says it computer he relied on reading for inspiration from the strip: “I go to the Hy-Vee newsstand every week and read everything.”

Iowa City may have had a limited impact on “Bloom County,” but it had an impact on Breathed. Before moving to New Mexico in 1985, he presented an original piece of art to the Iowa City Public Library, in which Opus and another “Bloom County” main character, 10-year-old Binkley, talk about Iowa City.

“Iowa City…How will I miss you?…Let me count the ways!” Opus says, “I’m gonna miss the fanciest public library in the known universe…I’m gonna miss the wild women of ‘Barbara’s Bakery’…I’m gonna miss the obscenely delicious hot turkey sandwiches of ‘Bushnell’s Turtle’ miss… the criminally odious name of “Things, Things and Things”… I will miss those warm, sunny spring days lazily lounging around the Pentacrest watching the Hare Krishnas and Maranathas bicker happily… Yes!… Everything I will miss about Iowa. Town!!”

Binkley adds, “Except the water. The water tastes like ‘Spic n’ Span.

Berkeley Breathed Art at the Iowa City Public Library. —Paul Brennan/Little Village

The art is displayed on the first floor of the ICPL in front of the periodical reading area.

Of all the places Opus names as it gets poetic about Iowa City, only the Library and the Pentacrest remain. The house at 935 E College is still there too.

The 10-bedroom house was acquired in 2005 by the River City Housing Collective, “a member-driven non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality, affordable housing for students and community members at a cost lower than the Iowa City market average.” Members of the collective were already calling the place Bloom County home when they decided to contact Breathed and ask him to name it.

After being contacted by a Gazette reporter on the name, Breathed responded and suggested the obvious: the Bloom County home.

On the National Register of Historic Places, it’s still Linsay House, a name that’s both misguided and somehow befitting of the confusing Jacobean Revival or Queen Anne structure. It was known as Lindsay House, since Jayne gave the house to her daughter Ella as a wedding present when she married James Lindsay. But on the registry request, “Lindsay” was misspelled, so her official historical status is recorded under the wrong name.

No date has yet been announced for the television debut of “Bloom County.”

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