Berkeley Breathed

Berkeley Breathed

Infobox Person
name = Berkeley Breathed

caption =
birth_name = Guy Berkeley Breathed
birth_date = birth date and age|1957|06|21
birth_place =
nationality = American
known_for = "Bloom County" comic strip
(1980–1989) and its sequels
occupation = cartoonist, illustrator, screenwriter
religion = atheist(?)

Guy Berkeley "Berke" Breathed (born June 21, 1957) is an American cartoonist, children's book author/illustrator, director, and screenwriter, best known for "Bloom County", a 1980s cartoon-comic strip which dealt with socio-political issues as seen through the eyes of highly exaggerated characters (e.g. Bill the Cat and Opus the Penguin) and humorous analogies.

Early life

A native of Houston, Breathed attended Westchester High School. [" [ His latest opus] ," "Houston Chronicle"]

Cartooning career

Breathed became published when he was hired part-time by the "Austin American-Statesman" to draw editorial cartoons for the paper. This job was short-lived due to one of his cartoons causing outrage, and he was fired shortly thereafter. [cite book |author=Breathed, Berke |title=Classics of Western Literature |page=2 |year=1990 |publisher=Little Brown |id=ISBN 0-316-10764-9] His first regularly published strip was "The Academia Waltz," which appeared in the "Daily Texan", in 1978 while he was a student at the University of Texas. The strip attracted the notice of the editors of the "Washington Post", who recruited him to do a nationally syndicated strip. On December 8, 1980, "Bloom County" made its debut and featured some of the characters from "Academia Waltz," including former frat-boy Steve Dallas and the paraplegic Vietnam war veteran Cutter John. In the beginning, the strip's style was so close to that of another popular strip, "Doonesbury", that Doonesbury's creator Garry Trudeau wrote to Breathed several times to point out their similarities. Breathed has acknowledged that he borrowed liberally from Doonesbury in his early career. In the "Outland" collection, "One Last Little Peek", Breathed even put an early "Bloom County" side-by-side with the "Doonesbury" strip from which it obviously took its idea.

"Bloom County" earned Breathed the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1987. The strip eventually appeared in over 1,200 newspapers around the world until Berkeley retired the daily strip in 1989, stating that he wanted to terminate the strip while it was still popular. At that time, he said, "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 creators."

He replaced this strip with the surreal Sunday-only cartoon, "Outland" in 1989, which recycled some of the "Bloom County" characters, including Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat. He ended "Outland" in 1995.

Eight years later, Breathed began producing the comic strip, "Opus", a Sunday-only strip featuring Opus the Penguin, who was one of the central characters in "Bloom County". He colors the cartoon himself with Adobe Photoshop, claiming that the advances in technology since 1990 have created an opportunity to draw "something that 'looks' cool on a comic page."

In June 2007, announced that they would be carrying new "Opus" cartoons by Berkeley as a weekly Sunday feature.

Several newspapers chose not to run the August 26, 2007 "Opus" cartoon because it might offend Muslims. [,2933,294779,00.html Washington Post, Other Newspapers Won't Run 'Opus' Cartoon Mocking Radical Islam] by Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Fox News, August 28, 2007]

On October 6, 2008, Breathed announced plans to completely discontinue all work on comic strips with the final Opus comic strip to run on November 2, 2008. [ Los Angeles Times, Berkeley Breathed says goodbye to Opus: 'I'm destroying the village to save it'] by Sherry Stern, Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2008] Breathed plans to focus on writing children books.

Other works

In addition to his syndicated cartoon work, which has produced eleven best-selling cartoon collections, he has also produced five children's books, two of which, "A Wish for Wings That Work" and "Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big", were made into animated films. Since 1992, he has designed a greeting card and gift ensemble collection for American Greetings, featuring the "Bloom County" characters Opus, Bill the Cat, and Milquetoast the Cockroach. Breathed's writing has also been featured in numerous publications, including "Life", "Boating", and "Travel and Leisure", and he produced the cartoon art in the film, "Secondhand Lions", which featured a strip called "Walter and Jasmine". The panels he drew for "Secondhand Lions" appear in "Opus: 25 Years of His Sunday Best", in which Breathed calls them "the comic strip that never was".

Breathed has been a supporter of the animal rights group PETA and illustrated the cover of their "Compassionate Cookbook," T-shirts, and other merchandise.

Berkeley Breathed has a (very) brief cameo as himself in the short film, "," a fictional tale about an unhappy cartoonist and his unfunny strip, "The Silver Lining." []

Breathed adapted his children's book "Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big" into a short film produced by Disney. Originally intended to be released as a bonus with a theatrically released Disney animated film, the movie has yet to be commercially exhibited in any format.Fact|date=April 2007 His book, "Red Ranger Came Calling" was adapted into a musical and produced as a Christmas show by Seattle's Book-It Theatre in 2004-2005.

Personal life

Breathed is a fan of outdoor activities such as powerboating and motorcycling. In 1986, he broke his back in an ultralight-plane crash, later incorporated into a "Bloom County" storyline in which Steve Dallas breaks his back after being attacked by an angry Sean Penn. Breathed also nearly lost his right arm to a boat propeller the same year. [ [ The Official Berkeley Breathed Website ] ]

Breathed and his family—a wife and two children—live in Santa Barbara, in southern California. He is reportedly a very private person, and although he has given interviews to on-line magazines such as "The Onion" and "Salon", he rarely gives face-to-face or telephone interviews and resists talking about himself. He and his wife support animal rights, and his book, "Flawed Dogs: The Year-End Leftovers at the Piddleton 'Last Chance' Dog Pound", promotes animal adoption. Breathed befriended humorous sci-fi author Douglas Adams when Adams moved to Santa Barbara in 1999. Adams was also very keen on wildlife preservation.

In the middle of September 1990, while visiting a factory in England, Mr. Breathed noticed he received odd, humorous looks from the workers upon hearing his name. After inquiring about the reason for their strange looks, he learned that his nickname, "Berke" (pronounced the same, but spelled "Berk"), is a vulgar term for women in Cockney rhyming slang. [cite episode
title = [ Berkeley Breathed: "Mars Needs Moms" (Philomel)]
series = [ The Diane Rehm Show]
airdate = 2007-05-08
season =
number =

Breathed once stated he is an atheist [ [ Psychology Today: Berkeley Breathed Pokes Fun ] ] and is now possibly an agnostic [Breathed hinted at possible agnosticism or deism in a "Bloom County" storyline when Oliver Wendell Jones reacted angrily when Opus asked him what there was before the big bang.] as well as a vegetarian. [ [ Berkeley Breathed - Biography ] ]

On May 18th, 2008, in his comic strip Opus, he announced he was suffering from a condition known as spasmodic torticollis. []


;Cartoon Compilations

*"Loose Tails", 1983, ISBN 0-316-10710-7
*"Toons for Our Times", 1984
*"Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things", 1985
*"Bloom County Babylon: Five Years of Basic Naughtiness", 1986, ISBN 0-316-10309-8
*"Billy and the Boingers Bootleg", August 1987, ISBN 0-316-10729-8. Contained a flexi-disc featuring two songs by Billy and the Boingers
*"Tales Too Ticklish to Tell", 1988, ISBN 0-316-10735-2
*"The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos", 1989, ISBN 0-316-10738-7
*"Classics of Western Literature: Bloom County 1986-1989", 1990, ISBN 0-316-10754-9
*"Happy Trails", 1990, ISBN 0-316-10741-7
*"Politically, Fashionably, and Aerodynamically Incorrect", 1992, ISBN 0-316-10701-8
*"His Kisses Are Dreamy but Those Hairballs Down My Cleavage!", 1994, ISBN 0-316-10867-7
*"One Last Little Peek", 1995, ISBN 0-316-10690-9
*"Opus, 25 Years", Little, Brown and Company, 2003, ISBN 0-316-15994-8

;Children's Books

*"A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story", 1991
*"The Last Basselope: One Ferocious Story", 1992
*"Goodnight Opus", 1993
*"Red Ranger Came Calling", 1994
*"Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big", Little, Brown and Company, 2000
*"Flawed Dogs: The Year End Leftovers at the Piddleton "Last Chance" Dog Pound", 2003
*"Mars Needs Moms!", 2007
*"Pete & Pickles", 2008


*Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, 1987


*"It’s never too late to have a happy childhood."

*"Liberal, shmiberal. That should be a new word. "Shmiberal:" one who is assumed liberal, just because he's a professional whiner in the newspaper. If you'll read the subtext for many of those old strips, you'll find the heart of an old-fashioned Libertarian. And I'd be a Libertarian, if they weren't all a bunch of tax-dodging professional whiners." [The Onion A.V. Club, June 25 2003,]


*Strickler, Dave. "Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index." Cambria, CA: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1

External links

* [ The Official Berkeley Breathed Website]
* [ Berkeley Breathed Interview] by Tasha Robinson for The Onion A.V. Club
* [ Another interview] by Scott Kurtz of PvP
* [ "The penguin is mightier than the sword"] , interview at, Nov 2003
* [ "Comic Book Awards Almanac"]

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