Berkeley Breathed is a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist. He earned the award for Editorial cartooning for Bloom County in 1987. The Bloom County ran from 1980-1987, and was wildly popular. Breathed retired the strip in 1989, at the peak of his success. He ran another strip, the spin-off Outland (Featuring Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat) from 1989-95, and Opus from 2003-2008. The latter two were Sunday-only comics.
Breathed’s work is known for an endearing mix of heartwarming and child-like characters with biting political and social satire. His most well-known characters are Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat. They appeared in Bloom County, Outland, and Opus.
In 1991, he wrote the Opus-themed Christmas story, A Wish For Wings That Work, which was later made into an animated TV Special. He wrote several children’s books, including Mars Needs Moms! (2007), which was also adapted into animation in 2011.
Breathed finally stopped writing Opus in 2008. In an email that year reprinted in the LA Times, he stated: “30 years of cartooning to end. I’m destroying the village to save it. Opus would inevitably become a ranting mouthpiece in the coming wicked days, and I respect the other parts of him too much to see that happen. The Michael Moore part of me would kill the part of him that was important to his fans.”
In 2015, he restarted Bloom County. He won a Harvey Award (Best Syndicated Strip or Panel 2016) for his work on the revived strip.
IDW is releasing the first new collection of Bloom County in decades.
In the Introduction, Breathed writes briefly but eloquently of his return to Bloom County. He drops an amazing factoid; he received fan mail from none less than Harper Lee, the semi-reclusive author of the American classic (and High-School staple) To Kill A Mockingbird. She asked him not to kill off Opus. He writes movingly of his rediscovery of the joy of creating a comic again.
This collection does not dwell overlong on self-congratulation, nor do they seek to explain their absence. Instead, they step back into the familiar old rhythms. Breathed has a keen eye for politics, and although he approaches current events from a decidedly liberal viewpoint, he is something of an equal opportunity lampoonist.
Most of the Bloom County ensemble are back, the kids Milo and Binkley, Binkley’s long suffering dad, disabled veteran Cutter John, and of course cynical lawyer Steve Dallas. All of them are exactly where they were when we left them, and seeing them back in true form is a joy.
Young readers may not remember the high points of the first run of Bloom County, but there is no need to revisit the old collections in order to understand and enjoy this new material. Despite being out of the business for almost a decade, Breathed has not missed a step. This is vintage Bloom County, and a joy for multiple generations of readers.
Written & Illustrated by: Berkeley Breathed
Review submitted by: Art Boorman