Minor characters in Bloom County

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The following are minor characters from Berkeley Breathed's comic strip Bloom County. Though significant enough to have appeared multiple times in the strip, they were not crucial to the strip's overall development, and disappeared without much (if any) explanation long before Breathed segued into his next comic, Outland.

Though the strip's various compilations do not do them justice, the original cast of characters in Bloom County were Milo, Bess, and Major Bloom, along with a basset hound named "Rabies" whose thoughts could be read à la Snoopy; the first year of strips are mysteriously omitted from all compilations save the Bloom Library, although a selection did find publication in a 1986 anthology collection Bloom County Babylon: Five Years of Basic Naughtiness. Most of the strip's most memorable characters debuted later on, with Milo being the only key character to appear for the duration of the strip's run.

Alphonso Ali[edit]

Alphonso Ali was the first significant African American character in Bloom County. An ardent admirer of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, Alphonso was first introduced as Binkley's opponent in the boxing ring. Later, Alphonso would make appearances as a friend of Binkley and Milo, as well as everyone else in the meadow. He disappeared in 1983, and was replaced by Oliver Wendell Jones later that year.

Banana Jr. 6000[edit]

The Banana Jr. 6000 was Oliver Wendell Jones' sentient personal computer, first introduced to the strip in December 1984 as Oliver's Christmas present. It was a parody of the Macintosh computer, which had been released earlier that year.

The computer inexplicably came with legs and could walk, talk and contemplate its own existence, but could not stray further than the length of its electrical cord. In later strips, the cord disappeared and the Banana Jr. roamed freely. It worshipped the television, and would frequently present its "god" with offerings of household appliances. A Sunday strip featured a parody advertisement featuring Kiss bassist Gene Simmons which warned that not having a personal computer could lead children to grow up, wear fishnet stockings, join a heavy metal band, and stick out their tongues down to their kneecaps - like Simmons.

The computer was Oliver's hacking sidekick (only confiscated by the FBI twice) until mid-1985, when Oliver declared it obsolete due mostly to the bankruptcy of the Banana Computer Company (which only sold two units, including Oliver's). It made its last appearance in one of Bill The Cat's liquidation sales.

Senator Bedfellow[edit]

Senator Lucias Bedfellow was the greedy and arguably evil senator for Bloom County's state. He frequently came under scrutiny from his constituents in the meadow; it somehow got to the point that Hodge-Podge would honk Bedfellow's nose every time that the man spoke (for talking "bull patties"). The local press also made a habit of going after the Senator (mostly in the form of aggressive innuendos by Milo Bloom, much of which questioned his involvement in the controversial disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa). Bedfellow was involved in a number of scandals (albeit mostly cooked up by the local press), the final being the illicit trade of illegal Bill the Cat tote bags in 1983. He was convicted and sent to prison, and was never referenced again in the strip. The last panel he appears in shows him behind bars, being approached by burly thugs angered over his support of capital punishment.

Senator Bedfellow eventually reappeared 22 years later as a recurring character in Opus, with no mention of his incarceration. The new Bedfellow, like the old, was often the target of newspaper articles, and is mentioned several times as having an ex-wife. He disappeared after the first few years.

Tom Binkley[edit]

Tom Binkley was Binkley's divorced father, who is seen in a mid-life crisis and frequently suffered the misfortune of being awakened in the early morning hours to hear Binkley repeat dubious celebrity rumors until he became dependent on those episodes to sleep at all. Tom desperately wants Binkley to be tough and athletic. Tom gives Binkley the nickname "Mad Dog" and takes him on ill-fated hunting trips. When working as a shopping mall Santa Claus, he told Binkley that he wouldn't get back together with Binkley's mother because she was now living in Oakland, California with a Hells Angel. He is a solid Democrat and refers to himself as "liberal and modern", though he had a crisis of faith and extreme guilt when he admitted that he didn't like Jesse Jackson. Tom is also concerned with his approaching middle-age and can be seen fretting about his life and his son Binkley's often well-meaning attempts to help his father accept his aging but in fact making him feel even worse.

Blondie[edit]

Not to be confused with the title character of the comic strip Blondie (for whom she was likely named), Blondie was Binkley's African American would-be girlfriend. Originally from Los Angeles, Blondie immediately found herself to be Binkley's crush. She went on a date with Binkley to see Pink Floyd: The Wall, much to Binkley's father's dismay.

She appeared twice more in the strip, but eventually faded away after 1986 without further mention.

Major Bloom[edit]

A key character in the early years of the strip, Major Bloom was Milo's jingoistic, right-wing grandfather as well as his custodial guardian. He was initially named "Major P. Flynn" in a very early strip, but was thereafter known as Major Bloom, or more commonly, Major.

The Major frequently had delusions about fighting Nazis and Communists (who usually turned out to be ducks), and tried to lead his grandson "the right way." In his spare time, he was head coach of Bloom County's pee-wee football team (which he used to live out his lifelong fantasy of being a military commander, a la George S. Patton), whose players included Milo and Michael Binkley.

Like most of the strip's original cast of characters, The Major faded from sight around 1983, though he did appear in the short story "The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog Massacre" in the 1986 book Bloom County Babylon.

While he stopped appearing, he and his wife were presumably still present, as they were responsible for running the boarding house where most of the characters lived.

Bess Bloom[edit]

Bess Bloom was Major Bloom's wife, and grandmother of Milo Bloom. She was most prominent in the earliest years of the strip. Less rigid than her husband, Bess was a faithful wife and was known for being affectionate for all living beings, including cockroaches, which Major Bloom often waged war with.

Mrs. Dallas[edit]

Mrs. Dallas would occasionally show up for unexpected visits with her son Steve. She was horrified at his slovenly, womanizing ways, and always tried to convince him to get married and go to church. She appeared as a heavy-set, aproned, fifties-style housewife, except that she also wore Steve's signature black aviator sunglasses. Mrs. Dallas apparently thought Steve's father had died, and had accordingly felt free to remarry five times. Steve eventually revealed that his father had actually been sitting in the living room, reading the paper, the entire time. She did not care for Opus, whom she originally thought to be a large rodent. Opus never realized she was referring to him.

She also has appeared several times as a manifestation out of Steve's anxiety closet.

Ash Dashley[edit]

Southerner yacht and baseball millionaire Ashley Dashley III was the arrogant, opportunistic owner and station manager of Bloom County TV; a "visionary", he was prone to butting heads with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and self-imposed television censors such as Otis Oracle. After purchasing the station, he made Limekiller his right-hand man with mixed results. He was a recurring character throughout 1981, then disappeared. Ash was intended as a satire of Ted Turner.[1]

Armand Dipthong[edit]

Armand Diphthong[clarification needed] was the highly stressed Chief Editor of the Bloom Picayune. A common source of his anxiety was the pressure to sacrifice his journalistic integrity for sleazy tabloidesque stories. This pressure inevitably came from Milo Bloom, and was usually succumbed to. He also struggled to write a "truly frank article on the public-health threat of AIDS", at the risk of offending prudish subscribers.

Leona Granola[edit]

Leona Granola is the mother of Lola Granola, and was a recurring character during Lola's engagement to Opus. She strongly disapproved of Opus, and repeatedly tried to convince her daughter to dump him. She even went so far as to offer him cash not to marry Lola right as he walked down the aisle. She was not seen in the strip after the storyline of Opus and Lola's wedding.

The Giant Purple Snorklewacker[edit]

The Giant Purple Snorklewacker was an odd-looking monster and the leader of the monsters who lived in Binkley's closet of anxieties. At night he would make Binkley's nightmares, including such diverse characters as Jesse Helms and Milton Friedman, come alive. Binkley's anxieties were once confused with Ronald Reagan's, causing Yuri Andropov and Fidel Castro to show up in his closet, while the Giant Purple Snorklewacker ended up in the White House.

Frank Jones[edit]

Frank Jones is the father (and often unwitting test subject) of Oliver Wendell Jones. He admitted to voting for Alexander Haig in the 1988 Republican primary. He lost faith in life when his satellite dish stopped working, and Oliver was questioned by FBI agents after attempting to unscramble the signal.

He has fallen subject to Oliver's experiments several times. In one incident, Oliver's "molecular transfer device" put his Jaguar XJ6 into orbit around Pluto. Another time, he accidentally drank some dandelion hallucinogenics that Oliver had prepared for an experiment and thought that Erik Estrada was coming out of his stomach. When he scolded Oliver about the incident, he commented that he wished he had a "ditzy-headed daughter who wouldn't know a test tube if it walked up and bit her." Evidently still feeling the effects of the hallucinogen, he then imagined Oliver having a giant, xeroxed head of Brooke Shields. He also was part of the "cat sweat scalp tonic scandal" when Oliver created a hair restoration product. Frank was the lead test subject but, he continued to use the tonic, he displayed symptoms reminiscent to the behavior of Bill the Cat, who had supplied the main "cat sweat" ingredient. In the end, it caused all of his hair to suddenly fall out.

He was referred to as "Howard" in a storyline in which he is erased from existence when Oliver deleted his record from various databases, including those of the IRS. Also, in a storyline where Tom Binkley tries to give up smoking, their first names are switched (i.e. "Frank Binkley" and "Tom Jones").

Mrs. Jones[edit]

Frank Jones wife (Oliver's mother) seems to harbor an obsession with Michael Jackson, as she repeatedly tries to get Oliver to emulate him. She is normally seen cooking or cleaning and is frequently freaked out by Oliver's experiments.

Dr. Legrunt[edit]

Dr. Legrunt was the beer drinking, hardhat-wearing surgeon who treated Steve Dallas following an attack on Dallas by Sean Penn. Immediately after the operation, he "debrief[ed] the patient" by whispering repeatedly to the still-drugged Dallas, "You will not sue." In response to a query about what restrictions a person with a broken back was under, he told Steve that "Foolin' around is out." Berke Breathed has said that Dr. Legrunt was based on one of his own doctors named Dr. Legant.

Charles Limekiller[edit]

Charles Limekiller was a bum of apparent Australian origin who sought room and board at the Bloom Boarding House. When he was first introduced, it was revealed that Limekiller had been estranged from his wife, Eleanor and their three children. Initially, Major Bloom disapproved of having him around, but Bess was so enchanted by Limekiller's usage of French that he had no choice but to let Limekiller stay (even though what he actually said was "Something like 'Your earlobes resemble fish heads'"). Limekiller would later reappear as the Meadow Party's first presidential nominee in 1983. However, his nomination was short-lived; after taking an impolitic jab at his campaign committee, "a black, a woman, two dips and a cripple" (a commentary on then-Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt), he was dropped from the Meadow ticket before the actual election year had even come. He disappeared shortly thereafter.

Originally, Limekiller was depicted as a somewhat nattily dressed bum, including a battered top hat, and wore a pair of sun glasses. Breathed would later describe him as "a sloppy retread of Doonesbury's Duke.[2] When he was reintroduced for the presidential race storyline, he was changed, presumably to better distinguish him from Steve Dallas. The sunglasses were abandoned, his clothes became the more standard attire of a homeless man, and he now had a jutting chin covered with stubble. It was at this time his Australian accent was introduced, whereas before he'd faked a learned manner of speech when he spoke.

Lola Limekiller[edit]

A very short time after Charles Limekiller's disappearance, a little old lady named Lola Limekiller appeared for a while in the strip. Her relation to the original Limekiller was never explained.

She is a radical environmental activist and good friends with the cockroaches in her kitchen. It is possible she was intended as a reworking of Milo's grandmother, Bess. She only appeared during the latter half of a story arc where Opus, thinking he'd booked passage on a pleasure cruise to Antarctica, instead wound up aboard the Rainbow Warrior on an anti-whaling mission.

Quiche Lorraine[edit]

Quiche Lorraine appeared from 1982 to 1983 as the cousin of Bobbi Harlow and was a shallow young woman who frequently dated Steve Dallas. She re-appeared in 1986 to reveal that she only liked Steve for his looks and was breaking up with him because he had been put in a partial head cast after an accident.

Milquetoast the Cockroach[edit]

Though Breathed had sporadically used cockroaches in Bloom County beforehand, Milquetoast was the first cockroach to become a significant player in the strip. First appearing in the strip's later years, he is a purple cockroach with a large nose, and is often depicted as disgusting and unsavory. He is Opus' recurring nemesis, and frequently bests him in battles of wit. Milquetoast has also done such things as squirt chemicals (like Liquid-Plumr, for instance) up Opus' nose and claim he has no control over his behavior. He also steals food and sends subliminal messages to the other members of the Bloom Boardinghouse while they sleep.

Milquetoast was also one of the original Bloom County characters to cross over into Outland, where he became a major player. During Outland's run, he is revealed to be an occasional cross-dresser. Also during Outland, Milquetoast is depicted as Opus' best friend, after Ronald-Ann Smith.

In the animated Outland Christmas special A Wish for Wings That Work, Milquetoast was voiced by Dustin Hoffman.[3]

Alf Mushpie[edit]

Alf Mushpie first appeared as a blind date fluke with Opus. Unfortunately for Opus, Alf proved to be a virulent feminist, misandrist and lesbian (although Breathed did state in a footnote for one of his books that he tried to cast her in a positive light).

Alf and Opus had some disastrous dates before Opus and Cutter John disappeared over the ocean (and were subsequently presumed dead) in a flying wheelchair accident. Alf was left with the book Learn How to be a Model...or Just Look Like One!, as spelled out in Opus' will.

Later it was revealed that Alf had been seen in Tehran in 1985 lighting a pile of bras and veils, and was forcibly conscripted by the Iranians to be a "minesweeper" on the Iraqi front by 1988.

Ms. Opus[edit]

Ms. Opus was Opus' mother. Opus spent most of his time in Bloom County searching for her, a recurring staple of the strip. While initially discovering (after many unsuccessful attempts) that she had been killed saving soldiers in the Falklands War, he later found her being used for cruel experiments by the Mary Kay Cosmetics company, physically resembling Opus, albeit with a pink petticoat and umbrella. Unfortunately, the two were soon separated in a battle between Mary Kay and the ALF. At the end of Bloom County, he declined Ronald-Ann's offer to enter Outland, and the last strip of the latter showed him finding her in Antarctica and warmly cuddling with her.

However, as shown in Opus, she did not turn out to be the mother figure he'd hoped for (for instance, she constantly doted on him and forced him marry a gluttonous female penguin named Eunice), and he returned to Bloom County (where he tried to find a more likable mother-figure) on a crashed Mars rover. As with Breathed's artwork itself, Ms. Opus' appearance had changed: She physically resembled a real penguin compared to her son, she was much larger, uglier, and had a subtle potbelly, and her behavior was a cross of that of a real penguin and a stereotypical overbearing mother.

Otis Oracle[edit]

Otis Oracle was the head of the Bloom County chapter of the Moral Majority. He was depicted as a short balding man with glasses who held a strong disdain for those who did not listen to him. Otis was also shown to be a right-wing extremist. He constantly decried the actions of the world as sinful, complained about the left-wing, and organized book-burning parties, with objections ranging from sensible, mainstream qualms over sex and violence to ridiculous objections, such as calling for the banning of The Roger Tory Peterson Guide to Penguins due to its portrayal of penguins in cohabitation. However, he proved to be at least a little hypocritical by touching ladies' knees, then blaming the ladies for tempting "the inner demons of sin in men." In addition, once after a New Year's party he woke up in the rafters, apparently drunk. When identified by Milo he quickly explained he had been assaulted, drugged and left for dead (albeit in the rafters, minus his clothes) but this was probably a cover story.

He frequently appeared in the early days of Bloom County, but faded away around 1982.

Editor Overbeek[edit]

Editor Van Overbeek was the alcoholic editor of the Bloom Picayune, the newspaper that employed Milo. Overbeek constantly butted heads with the Federal Communications Commission and other federal agencies, as well as self-imposed media censors such as Otis Oracle. All of his editorials were based on his mantra "it's Reagan's fault." Editor Overbeek's most common response to one of Milo's requests to go to press with an outrageous story he had just written was "RUN THAT BABY!!"

Yaz Pistachio[edit]

Yaz Pistachio was introduced in June 1983 as Bobbi Harlow's sixteen-year-old niece in need of a date for the junior prom. Bobbi's ex-boyfriend, Steve Dallas, was recruited to accompany Yaz. The prom was a horrible failure, as Steve got drunk early on, the school quarterback insulted Yaz, and Steve ended up puking during their spotlight dance, although she and Opus did enjoy a dance together (the latter being supported by Binkley and Milo so that he could reach her). After that, Yaz appeared most often in early Meadow Party storylines, as well as in Binkley's Return of the Jedi dream sequence.

When Yaz challenged Opus to think of a stupider name than Yaz Pistachio, he responded 'Berkeley Breathed.'

Although she had a few storylines of her own in the strip (many of which were left out of subsequent Bloom County collections), Yaz never really caught on as a popular character. After her last appearance in the strip in January 1984, she was promptly forgotten in the Bloom County universe.

Yaz was usually seen wearing a flat cap.

L.H. Puttgrass[edit]

L.H. Puttgrass was a loud man who embraced his right to have his opinions heard, which included 'killing all the lawyers' and 'more skin on HBO'. His commentaries always ended with "This is L. H. Puttgrass signing off and heading for the tub!"

"Rockin' Charmin' Harmin"[edit]

"Rockin' Charmin' Harmin" was a popular disc jockey for Bloom County's classic rock radio station, KRNA. Twice he embarrassed Binkley over the air by exposing Binkley's need for bedwetting and nose-picking self-help literature. Though his voice was heard over the radio in the strip, he was never seen in person, and remained an unseen character. The character's name came from "Charmin'" Jeff Harmon, a popular afternoon DJ at KRNA-FM. KRNA was an actual rock station located in Iowa City, Iowa, where Berke Breathed lived while writing the strip. The station was later bought out by Cumulus Media and moved to Cedar Rapids in 1999.

Rabies[edit]

Rabies was Milo's dog, who could talk. He only appeared during the first few years of the strip, later to disappear at about the same time that Opus became a regular character. Most of his final appearances were simply as part of the Sunday edition, specifically leaning against the logo while smoking a cigar.

Rabies was also a character in Breathed's previous comic strip, The Academia Waltz, where he was Steve Dallas's dog.

Rosebud the Basselope[edit]

Rosebud the Basselope was the world's last basselope (a cross between a basset hound and an antelope). The rest of the basselopes died of clogged arteries, as they liked lots of butter on their Pop-Tarts. Rosebud tried out for Steve Dallas's heavy metal rock band but was unsuccessful and ended up becoming an equipment carrier. After it was revealed that Rosebud was a female, it was discovered that Rosebud had had an affair with Hodge-Podge the jackrabbit, and was pregnant. Rosebud gave birth to 64 jackabasselopes who matured and left after a week. Rosebud made her first appearance while Milo and Opus were hunting for a beast that "easily devours fifty rhinos a day." Basselopes supposedly live extremely long lives due to "taking cold showers." Rosebud was part of three gag government weapon programs against the Soviet Union. One involved Rosebud launching a six megaton atomic bomb from between her antlers with a large rubber band. The second depicted Rosebud as the control system for a space weapon, described as "powered by twinkies, cheaper than a computer, somewhat slow reflexes but can hold [her] breath for six months or more." The third had Rosebud disguised as an old Russian woman and distributing American commercials, Dove Bars, Mickey Mouse clothing, and cheeseburgers.

Rosebud Enterprises is also the name of Breathed's personal business.[4]

Bart Savagewood[edit]

Bart Savagewood was Lola Granola's ex-boyfriend. He is a tall, ruggedly-handsome mustachio'd test pilot for the U.S. Navy. His hobbies include catching sharks, and weight-lifting (it is mentioned that he bench presses 290 lbs.) He made Opus – who nicknamed him "The Human Chin" – feel inadequate.

Opus' television[edit]

Opus' television usually appeared in segments used to satirize consumerism. It would often get on its (until then, unseen) hind legs during infomercials and either browbeat or hypnotize Opus into buying copious quantities of whatever product it was advertising (typically products sold by Ronco, and which always seemed to involve "turnip twaddling").

W. A. Thornhump III[edit]

W. A. Thornhump III was introduced as the fictional CEO of Bloom County Industries in 1986. Thornhump was Breathed's attempt at satirizing the perceived hypocrisy of money-grubbing corporate America, as well as the unreasonable demands of the cartoon syndicate bosses. Typical examples of this hypocrisy were his replacing characters with scab workers when they decided to go on strike and a Sunday strip that showed the results of drug tests of employees of the cartoons and even Berke Breathed himself, who Thornhump thinks should be executed because the drug test revealed that he ate "one marijuana brownie six years ago." Thornhump's test, of course, reveals that he is a serious alcoholic. This point is driven home when Opus appears with his six-martini lunch. Nevertheless, the final verdict of his test declares him to be "drug free."

Thornhump was always prepared to pander to whomever he felt the need to pander to. He also did whatever he could to make a quick buck or rating point, regardless of legal, moral, or ethical issues, even going so low as to schedule a field trip to the "Acme Stewardess Academy" during a "Nudeness Week" in the strip.

Thornhump was not present when Bloom County was "sold" to Donald Trump in Bill the Cat's body, although he was later parodied in an editorial cartoon by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson that attacked Breathed's penchant for allowing merchandising rights for his creations.

Tess Turbo[edit]

Tess Turbo was a rebellious rock star who first appeared at the Meadow Party's 1984 benefit concert, (a satirical take on Steve Wozniak's Us Festival) with Opus playing air guitar behind her. One of the comic strips from this time revealed her inner dialogue in which she characterized herself as a "shy, sensitive, withdrawn young woman who likes Smurf dolls, sad rainy days, and silly, romantic poetry", in contrast to her public image.

She appeared in an earlier strip, in which Steve Dallas won a role in her MTV music video after being unknowingly entered by Opus. Steve unsuccessfully sued her after all his chest hair was permanently burned off during the making of the video (referencing Michael Jackson's similar incident the previous year); during the trial, televised on The People's Court, she called Steve a "total jerkface" who deserved everything that he got. Her songs include "Scuzzbucket From Nantucket".

Tess, along with her band "The Blackheads", was a parody of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

"Weird" Harold[edit]

"Weird" Harold was a classmate of Yaz Pistachio's, presented as a socially awkward geek. He was the only boy who paid Yaz any attention, much to her horror and disgust. He was present at Yaz's prom, telling her his observation of a snake having marital relations with a garden hose and later became her accidental target in a game of spin the bottle. He only appeared in storylines pertaining to Yaz, meaning that he was not seen again after 1983.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Mullaney, Dean (2009). Bloom County: The Complete Library: Volume One: 1980-1982, San Diego: IDW Publishing. pp 89. ISBN 978-1-60010-531-9.
  2. ^ Breathed, Berke (2009). Bloom County: The Complete Library: Volume One: 1980-1982, San Diego: IDW Publishing. pp 46. ISBN 978-1-60010-531-9.
  3. ^ http://www.robin-williams.net/wishforwings.php
  4. ^ Berkeley Breathed. "Customer Service". Retrieved 2010-04-07.