Berkeley Breathed On His ‘Jailed Journo’ Comic Strips

By: E&P Staff

On the past two Sundays, Berkeley Breathed, in his comics strip ?Opus,? has chronicled the disaster that befalls the Bloom Picayune’s ?Scruples Boy? after he decides to protect a source for one of the paper’s most scandalous stories (the mayor’s sex-change operation). This leads Opus — who has been connected to the Picayune in various capacities since 1982, first in Breathed’s popular ?Bloom County? — to jail. There he encounters a hulking cellmate named Mr. Rampaige, who rails against the media for, among other reasons, its coverage since 9/11.

While her name is never mentioned in the strips, the figure of jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller certainly hovers over the color panels. E&P wondered what Breathed felt about her current plight, and the inspiration for this month’s strips (which are syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group). Here’s what we found out.

Q. What inspired you to do the current series? How long will it continue?

A. It’s done. If I was still doing a daily strip, I would have gone to town with it. The fact that Ms. Miller is in jail and Karl Rove is not… is just my kind of ironic humor.

Q. What sort of response have you gotten so far?

A. The usual right wing nutcases were a bit flummoxed because I was tweaking their favorite whipping boy, the media, so they were uncharacteristically quiet. The leftie nutcases were off balance because I also had a dig at the Bush subterfuges while digging at the media for ignoring them. Split the difference and you get e-mail peace.

Q. Have you done any strips that took up, in any form, the misleading pre-war reporting on WMDs?

A. Yes, and they weren’t appreciated by my clients a year ago. It’s a different time than it was in my prime years, for sure. I can’t even print the word “gay” in my strip without losing clients. To say the least, editors are weirdly on edge right now. I think they’re all worried that they may have to become religious pamphlets in order to survive.

Q. What do you think of newspapers’ overall performance in the past three years relating to the war?

A. Here’s the preferred order of indictments after the coming investigation by a special prosecutor on the fraudulent build-up and motives for America’s most recent military blood-letting: Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld, Howell Raines, Gerald Boyd.

You notice I mention nobody at the Washington Post. It would be like criticizing my mother.

Actually, that’s probably the same rationale that editors applied when it came to reporting on war issues.

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