Speed Reads

remembering harper lee

Harper Lee pleaded with Berkeley Breathed not to 'murder' Opus the penguin

Harper Lee never wrote another published novel after To Kill A Mockingbird, but she was evidently a prolific pen pal. One of her correspondents, from 1994 to 2008, was Berkeley Breathed, the cartoonist revealed after Lee's death on Friday. Breathed shared five of those letters with The New York Times, which published them late Sunday. Theirs was a mutual admiration society, with Breathed basing Bloom County on Maycomb, Alabama, the fictional setting of Mockingbird, and Lee growing to love Opus, the penguin who starred in Bloom County. Breathed made direct reference to Mockingbird in about a dozen Bloom County strips, The Times reports:

Lee was such a fan of Opus that when she learned Breathed was putting the penguin out to pasture, she pleaded for him to reconsider. "OPUS is simply the best comic strip there is, depriving him of life is murder," she wrote in 2008. "A hard word to describe the obliteration of your creation, but Opus is real. He LIVES." Breathed was floored. "How ironic is that here, she is desperately upset that I'm letting my character die for her when millions around the world, for generations, have been upset that she let her characters end?" he told The Times. In honor of Lee, Breathed brought out Opus for one more Bloom County comic about Lee and her timeless book — he posted it to Facebook on Sunday. You can read that comic here, and a selection of Lee's letters to Breathed at The New York Times.