So I interviewed "Bloom County" creator Berkeley Breathed for Ain't It Cool News. I think I'm legally allowed to die now.
Berkeley Breathed spent years saying in interviews that no one would want to buy an omnibus collection of his rude, rash and much-loved 1980s newspaper comic "Bloom County." So how the hell did editor Scott Dunbier finally talk Breathed into allowing IDW to publish the five-volume "Bloom County: The Complete Library"?
"By getting Scott to agree to do it himself," wrote Breathed in an e-mail. "It's really 'Bloom County by Scott Dunbier' now. A jaw-droppingly monumental job, compiling all that stuff. Most of the originals looked like the Dead Sea Scrolls. The difference being that my material actually did prove that Jesus existed."
For newspaper-comics fans of a certain age, Breathed was sort of the Chuck Jones of the funny pages -- a storyteller with ridiculously sharp comic timing who worked with a cast of talking animals and screwed-up humans. He could make you laugh with tiny facial expressions and anarchic bits of slapstick, much of the latter involving a diseased cat. Drawn in feverish, last-minute all-nighters, the strip was so reckless and awesomely crass that finding it on the same page as "Marmaduke" and "Garfield" almost felt like getting away with something. Breathed tends to play his gifts down in interviews: He told me he was "destined to be an outsider" in the cartooning community -- despite winning a Pulitzer prize for it in 1987, at age 29 -- "because cartooning was a means to an end: humorous expression and storytelling in whatever medium would have me. Cartooning happened to lay in my path and I rode it." He's selling himself wildly short. If Bill Watterson was Disney Studios, Breathed was Termite Terrace -- and part of the last truly comedically badass trio of newspaper cartoonists, along with Watterson and "The Far Side"'s Gary Larson.
Breathed ended his second "Bloom County" sequel strip, "Opus," in 2008, and seems to have quit the business for good this time (his third attempt, after retiring "Bloom County" in 1989 and "Outland" in 1995). These days, he develops TV projects and makes children's books, including "Mars Needs Moms!" -- which is being made into a film by Disney and Robert Zemeckis' production company. (A teaser trailer should debut any day now.) He's also become something of an elder-statesman cartoonist, which probably gives him hives: He enjoyed a blockbuster appearance at his first San Diego Comic-Con this year, and starting in February 2011, he'll have his first-ever retrospective exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. "The show is scheduled to run February to June, and will be split between Berkeley's children's-book work and 'Bloom County,'" said Dunbier. "There will be a reception at some point with Berkeley in attendance."
Almost exactly one year ago, I interviewed Dunbier for Ain't It Cool News about his mad scavenger hunt to assemble "Bloom County: The Complete Library." Now Dunbier's paved the way for an AICN interview with Breathed himself -- in support of the just-released "Complete Library" Vol. 3. Breathed agreed to be interviewed by e-mail, as is his wont. He answered over 40 questions -- talking about deadlines, copyrights, Watterson, Schulz, Trudeau, college, editors, newspapers, disrespect, IDW, "Opus," the Internet and Hollywood triumphs and horrors. (God, the stuff about the Weinsteins.)
Mike Russell Talks BLOOM COUNTY And More With Pulitzer-Prize Winning Humorist Berkeley Breathed! (Ain't It Cool News, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010)