"A good comic strip is no more eternal than a ripe melon.
The ugly truth is that in most cases, comics age less gracefully than their
So said Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed
in early 1989 when he announced that he was pulling the plug on "Bloom County."
That landmark comic strip which - at its height - appeared in over 1,200
newspapers around the world.
Berkeley Breathed and Opus the Penguin (Opus isthe one wearing a bow tie)
Mind you, Breathed didn't stop creating after the very last daily
"Bloom County" ran on August 6, 1989. There were two sets of Sunday-only
strips: "Outland" (Which major newspapers published from September of 1989
through March of 1995) and "Opus" (which ran from November of 2003 through November
of 2008). Not to mention some truly terrific children's books like 1994's "Red Ranger Came Calling," 2000's "Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big" and 2007's "Mars Needs Moms!."
And given that that last book will be coming soon to a
theater near you via Walt Disney Pictures ... Well, the Cartoon Art Museum
thought that it was high time that someone put together a retrospective
exhibition which then celebrated this gifted cartoonist & storyteller.
Which is why - this past Sunday - this San Francisco institution opened From
Bloom County to Mars: The Imagination of
Image courtesy of the Cartoon Art Museum. All rights reserved
This already-popular exhibition takes a comprehensive look
back at Breathed's career. The pieces on display here range from that one editorial
cartoon which Berkeley did pre-Bloom County for the New Austin Statesman right
through to the 1982 Sunday strip which introduced Bill the Cat to the world. The
Cartoon Art Museum is also proud to display - as part of this retrospective - Breathed's
original artwork for the most famous/infamous Outland strip of all time.
From Bloom County to Mars also features 30 piece of artwork & digital
paintings which then showcase Berkeley's children's books and movie projects,
including material from Secondhand Lions
and Flawed Dogs.
And did I mention that the Cartoon Art Museum & IDW
Publishing (i.e. those nice folks who have been publishing Bloom County: The Complete Library. Which is the first
complete and chronological collection of this Pulitzer Prize-winning comic
strip) are teaming up to publish a From Bloom County to Mars exhibition catalog?
Which will debut this April at San Francisco's WonderCon. Which - not-so-co-incidentally
- is where Breathed will be making an appearance to help promote the release of the fourth volume in the Bloom County: The Complete Library series.
Now please let me note here that From Bloom County to Mars:
The Imagination of Berkeley Breathed is only supposed to run at the Cartoon Art
Museum through June 19th of this year. And after that ... Well, who
knows when this many of Breathed's comic strips, pieces of artwork and digital paintings
will ever be on display again?
So if you're like me and your life got a little bit sadder
the day that they paved over Opus' dandelion patch, I suggest that you make
plans now to get out to SF ASAP .Better yet, see if you can possibly score
ticket to From Bloom County to Mars: The
Imagination of Berkeley Breathed's opening reception. Which - again not-so-co-incidentally
- is being held on the night of April 2nd. Which is the exact same
weekend that WonderCon will be underway at San Francisco's Moscone Center.
But trust me, folks. If you're a Bloom County fan and/or only
know Berkeley Breathed through his witty, wonderfully illustated & wildly
imaginative children's books, this is one retrospective that you really don't want
to miss on.
I agree with Breathed about aging comic strips. Looking at the example of Charles Schulz, I applaud Breathed and Bill Watterson and Gary Larson for getting out when their works were at their peaks. The decline of "Peanuts" was something sad to see. The strip got so bad that I can't even read collections of "Peanuts" during its best years with any pleasure now.
I have to say, I grew tired of Breathed not long after he left Iowa City... I thought his work seemed very snide, and I never cared for what I saw of Outland - it just wasn't that funny to me. Somehow the charm was lost.
Setting that aside, though, I really don't like the visual style of the movie adaptation of "Mars Needs Moms" - looks like the same pseudo-realistic animation we've seen too much of in the last 3-5 years. I wish they had stayed closer to the look of the book.