Breathed's strips were so good, in fact, that the wrong people are offended. Now that's funny. He wasn't ridiculing Muslims; he was making fun of Americans, especially the macho, hubristic variety who think they know what's best for everyone else.
To paraphrase another cartoon character, we have met the joke and it is us. Where is the outrage?
The first "Opus" strip, which can be viewed on Salon.com and at comics.com, shows Lola Granola dressed in a Muslim headscarf and veil.
"A Muslim fundamentalist?" asks her boyfriend, Steve. "No. Radical Islamist. Hot new fad on the planet." The final panel suggests that, given Lola's new identity, Steve will be denied her affections.
The second strip continues the plotline and shows Lola and Steve preparing for the beach. Steve urges Lola to wear that "smokin' hot yellow polka dot bikini" and reminds her, "You love freedom. You love hotness. And you love that I'm so darned smart about what's best for you." Lola emerges from the dressing room covered head-to-toe in a "burqini."
OK, who gets the joke?
Interpreting cartoons is risky business, as they're not intended to be taken literally. And, reading letters posted at Salon.com, it's clear that everyone has his own interpretation of what the strips are saying. Breathed himself prefers to stay strictly out of it.
What seems clear, however, is that strip is making fun of a certain shallowness on our side of the pond. Breathed is often hard on males and no one looks more foolish in these strips than the character Steve, who is oblivious to all but his own needs and desires.
If anyone is offended, it should be American males.
What is also clear is that the editors who killed these strips surrendered in advance of controversy. Thanks to previous acts of protest and intimidation, radical Muslims have succeeded in directing editorial content of America's free, and formerly courageous, press.
The joke really is on us. And it's not funny.