A bilingual blog by Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero dedicated to all things fun, like music, cinema, comedy and sci-fi. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org - Un blog bilingüe de Carmelo Ruiz Marrero dedicado a todo lo que sea divertido, como música, cine, comedia y ciencia ficción. Contacto: email@example.com
“This summer Harper Collins cashed in on To Kill a Mockingbird … and they published Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, and I watched, slack-jawed in horror, as they threw one of the 20th century’s most iconic fictional heroes, Atticus Finch, under the bus. They almost killed him and he was as real to me as my own father. Believe it or not, there is a connection here.
At the time, and this is just a couple of months ago, it made me think that there would have been no Bloom County without Mockingbird because I was 12 when I read it, and the book’s fictional southern small town of Maycomb had settled deep into my graphic imagination and informed it forever. If you look at any of my art for the last 30 years there’s always a small town flavor to it. So when it came time to concoct a comic strip in 1979, 1980 when I was first syndicated, it became Harper Lee’s Alabama. Bloom County should’ve probably been called Silly Shit in Maycomb because that’s essentially what it was. So this summer, when Go Set a Watchman was causing an uproar, I went back to my files and I pulled an old fan letter from years ago. It was scripted in a shaky, handwritten scrawl and … it says:
Dear Mr. Breathed,
This is a plea from a dotty old lady and from others not dotty at all: Please don’t shut down Opus. Can’t you at least give him a reprieve? Opus is simply the best comic strip there is and depriving him of life is murder – a hard word to describe the obliteration of your creation. But Opus is real. He lives.
Sincerely yours, Harper Lee
So that was June, just this last June, when I pulled it out. I hadn’t seen it for 25 years. I choked up and I thought about the preposterously ironic impossibility of my literary heroine from my childhood demanding that I not kill one of her fictional heroes 30 years later. The universe throws us some obvious little pitches sometimes and we need to be awake enough not to let them slip by. Within 10 seconds I just thought, “I’m not gonna let them do to Opus what they did to Atticus Finch.” So that night I found the blank four frames of Bloom County from years before in my files and I sat down to draw the first one in 30 years and I had a picture of me doing it and posted it on Facebook in sort of a what-the-hell moment, “Here’s what I’m doing right now.” And that’s exactly how much careful reason, sober forethought went into the whole thing, and then it exploded after that.”