The Future = Now x Acceleration

Media Interactivity – Bloom County & Deathtongue

with one comment

In the days before the World Wide Web and instant connectivity, it took a tremendous amount of effort and the help of the mass media to get feedback on your creative projects. Berkley Breathed was one who achieved that while, at the same time, making a hilarious social and political commentary.

It was 1985 and the conservative wives of influential government officials became convinced that rock ‘n’ roll music was responsible for decay of the moral fabric of America and attributable to the disintegration of the nuclear family.

We were treated to U.S Senate hearings with the likes of Frank Zappa, John Denver and Dee Snider called upon to defend the state of popular music and the First Amendment rights of the musicians to make music.

Breathed drew one of the most popular comic strips in the country at the time, Bloom County, and he used that as a vehicle to skewer all sides of that debate – from the manufactured hysteria to the ridiculous senate hearings to the excesses and false posturing of Ozzie Osbourne.

Bloom County Comic StripFor the next year, Breathed took aim with strips that had Bloom County characters forming a Heavy Metal band named Deathtongue. Then, band manager Steve Dallas gets hauled before the  U.S. Senate to explain the band’s “satanic” undertones. To the chagrin of the seantors, Dallas changes the name of the band during the hearings to “Billy and the Boingers.”

If that wasn’t enough, Breathed devoted an entire Sunday comic panel to announce a contest for garage bands nationwide to come up with songs that the fictitious “Billy and the Boingers” might record. In 1987, a compendium of Bloom County comic strips was published (Billy and the Boingers: Bootleg) that included a two-sided Evatone Soundsheet with the two contest-winning songs: “I’m a Boinger” and “U Stink, but I (Heart) You.”

For fans of the strip, the entire 18-month episode was entertaining beyond words. But consider the effort that it took Breathed to set up the gag in his strip, devote an entire Sunday to announcing the rules for the contest, and the subsequent publishing of his compendium 6 months later.

Imagine how such a contest might be conducted today. What Web 2.0 or social media tools do you think might be used to conduct such an effort and then disseminate the results.

At the time, it was an almost unprecedented level of effort and feedback between a mass media creative artist and his audience. Today, it seems like a quaint exercise.

One thing is for sure. There hasn’t been a comic strip like Bloom County ever since.


Written by digitalanalogues

March 23, 2012 at 5:49 PM

One Response

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  1. Today all of the aspects of the contest could be carried out on the web! In 2012, he could have posted the comic on his website, had users submit song ideas using an online form, and promoted the contest on Facebook and Twitter. It’s amazing how simple it is to carry out a contest like this today, versus 20 years ago where it took months.

    Blake Wood

    March 26, 2012 at 10:32 AM

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