STORYTELLING, COMEDY, COMICS, AND FILM: A CAREER-SPANNING CONVERSATION WITH BERKELEY BREATHED
By Patrick A. Reed
Ever since Bloom County became a sensation in the early ’80s, Berkeley Breathed has had an incredibly varied career. He followed Bloom County‘s initial success with two more popular comic strips, Outland and Opus; he won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning; he wrote and illustrated best-selling children’s books; he adapted his own stories into a pair of animated TV specials, and he provided art for various environmental and animal-welfare charities.
In recent years he’s shifted his primary focus to film (production art and original projects), while also overseeing IDW‘s comprehensive collected editions of his strips. He recently teamed with IDW again for Berkeleyworks, a retrospective volume collecting a number of his paintings, sketches, and illustrations – and last month, he made a rare convention appearance, playing to a packed room at San Diego Comic-Con. ComicsAlliance spoke with Breathed about his career in cartooning, his work in other media, and his upcoming projects.
CA: Was there a point where you decided (or realized) that this seemed to be turning into an actual profession – something you could do and make a decent living?
BB: When I paid for my yearly expenses in my junior year with the sales of the crappy little collection of my cartoons, it dawned on me that there might be a living out of it. If this hadn’t happened, I’m quite convinced I’d be a barista at Starbucks at this very moment.
CA: One of the trademarks of Bloom County was your willingness to take on public figures and corporations. You parodied ad campaigns, mocked celebrity endorsements, clowned political figures, poked fun at supermarket tabloids… How did you manage to get away with all that?
BB: It was shocking only because the internet had yet to be invented. The first few letters from corporate lawyers demanding – at least – that I put a copyright and trademark symbol after any mention of “Whopper” were the first I ignored. My editors panicked. They got used to it.