Berkeley Breathed: Opus alive and well, ‘dreaming of a more hopeful tomorrow’

Nov. 04, 2008 | 8:15 p.m.


Berkeley Breathed says his flightless bird is just dozing, not dead

Opus finale

Berkeley Breathed has a message for those “Opus” fans who were worried that the penguin was deep-sixed Sunday when his five-year-old comic strip shut down. “Jumpin’ Jehosphat,” Breathed told The Times via e-mail, “Tony Soprano sleeps with the fishes, which is to say, dead. Opus sleeps with a bunny in a feather bed, dreaming of a more hopeful tomorrow morning.”

Most fans got that sweet image when they saw the final “Opus” online at the Humane Society. But others were worried when the penultimate strip in print took place in an animal shelter setting and that in the finale Opus was being put to sleep (so to speak) in the pages of “Goodnight Moon,” the gentle nursery classic. Those fans can rest easy now that Breathed has clarified that Opus is, well, resting easy.

The 51-year-old Breathed’s “Opus” ended its run Sunday with one foot in children’s literature and another in the unpredictable world of technology. The final comic showed Breathed’s pudgy penguin peacefully napping, while Breathed’s farewell note to his readers crashed the comic strip artist’s website.

Some who just saw the image fretted about the flightless bird’s final fate, so Breathed wanted to be especially clear in his e-mail to The Times.

“I assure people in my web note that Opus is in the comforting place that would make me smile when I think of him in the years to come. I can only hope that his fans will smile too. If Opus was cuddling with tropical girls wearing coconuts, I suppose I’d smile too, but tinged with regret that those things just never last after that early giddy stage.”

Berkeley Breathed and Opus

Sunday’s comic ran in newspapers and showed Steve Dallas smiling wistfully as he looked down into the pages of a book that couldn’t be seen by the readers. Online, the last strip revealed it to be “Goodnight Moon,” the beloved bedtime story written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd; in Breathed’s panel the book’s nurturing rabbit sits in her rocker with Opus curled asleep in the baby bunny’s bed. The final words are “Goodnight Opus / And goodnight air / Goodnight noises everywhere.”

Breathed had pulled the plug on Opus because of his frustration with current events and to write books for children.

A contest for readers to predict the ending gave $10,000 to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. The winner was Stephen Allen, one of 55 of some 6,000 entries to guess correctly.

“I thought it was a fitting ending for a character that everyone liked,” Allen said.

On Sunday, an estimated 10 to 15 million people tried to access Breathed’s website, which normally gets 1,500 to 3,000 hits a day. In fact, when Allen got his paper he went right to his computer to see if he had won. But the page took hours to load — Allen found out he won, he said, “at midnight or 1 a.m.”

— Sherry Stern

RELATED Berkeley Breathed says Opus must end: “I’m destroying the village to save it”

Credits: Cartoon image courtesy of Berkeley Breathed. January 2007 photo by the Associated Press shows Berkeley Breathed and his penguin creation.

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10 Responses to Berkeley Breathed: Opus alive and well, ‘dreaming of a more hopeful tomorrow’

  1. erichansa says:

    very interesting artikel. keep so

  2. Jackie Wilshire says:

    Wow, excellent points raised for sure.
    Jiff <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  3. Bluedog says:

    Opus is my favorite comic-strip character, I hate to lose him but I am glad that he is still alive. He will never truly be gone, I read "A Wish For Wings That Work" every Christmas to my daughters and now we watch the DVD. Thank you, Berkeley!

  4. ntopics says:

    Too bad he's down, but knowing that he loves
    what he does I know he will be back.
    I look forward in seeing more work when
    he's back up again.
    thanks from tony

  5. Jan Schulman says:

    I love everything that Berkeley Breathed does and have all his books which I share (but keep for myself except when I give them for gifts) with all my friends, children and adults alike. I helped my son do a special project involving charactes from Opus/Outland for school when he was in elementary school (using those characters was his idea). I am sad to see that he will not be in the sunday comic strips anymore; that was my favorite page and i always saved it for last. but the last read of the last strip was pretty hard to take. i just bought "Pete and Pickles" and loved it! And I have given it to my son to look (not keep…just look) at. I happen to believe that Breathed is an absolute genius and someone who has more heart than can be found in a hundred people! I wish there were more people like him in the world — and more talent also. He is a real artist and some of his drawings/paintings are amazing. "Red Ryder Came Calling" is full of them most incredible illustrations. Absolutely beautiful-strange-original and the ending can knock you off your feet. That is a book that I would recommend to every person. About belief, kindness, patience — and magic. Thank you Mr. Breathed (is that your real name?) for all you have given to me — and to the world.

  6. Brian Kajla says:

    I sure as heck hope Opus comes back, as well as all those other characters and I sure hope this is not “goodbye fans” from Opus. I have a hunch he will come back, and yet hoping. I’m pretty sure what he is doing, makes him happy. Opus lives on, forever dammit.

  7. Nancy says:

    Opus was a very special 'person.' 35 yrs. ago I purchased a stuffed Opus for my husband for Christmas. From that day and always my husband pats Opus' head and as he does he says thank you Opus, you were my best friend and confidant. I miss you. My husband is now 68 years old. Opus taught us all so many things. He is in the hearts of all who loved him. Many thanks Berkeley. oxoxoxox
    Good Night Opus where ever you are.

  8. Cheryl Southgate says:

    Over the past 25 years, our Opus has lived in the UK, Switzerland, Romania and Ireland, and is now living on a very small island in the middle of the Irish Sea. From his sofa, over the garden full of his favourite dandelions, he can see his friends – rabbits, pheasants and ducks. He goes on holiday more than the average penguin, so far he's seen South Africa, Portugal, Tenerife, Spain,Cyprus, Germany, France, Australia, Fuerteventura, Scotland, Wales and Italy. He's very partial to sharing a packet of Oreos on the couch whilst watching England play cricket. He goes with us everywhere. Berkeley, thank you and you can rest assured that your man is spoilt rotten. xx

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