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Christopher Wheeler | profile | all galleries >> Cartoon(ist) Gallery >> Berke Breathed tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Berke Breathed

Scott and Chris: Are you aware of the web comic phenomenon and do you currently read any of them?

Berke [Breathed]: Another secret: i've never read comic strips. Never read comic books. I read Doonsebury (obviously) in my college years, but that was it.

Scott and Chris: Any cartoonist that grew up in the 80's was probably influenced by Bloom County. However, as more and more people publish their work to the net, we're amazed at how blatantly people will borrow from your work and present it as their own. How do you feel about that?

Berke: Show me. I'll sue their little asses. See, there I'm getting negative and cynical again. Look, I was pretty deeply in debt to Trudeau for years in those early days. But I found my voice eventually. What a surprise to find it so emotionally disturbed. Where did Bill the Cat come from ,for chrissake?.

Scott and Chris: One of the things that's been floating around the web is a speech that Bill Watterson gave on the future of cartooning and where it needs to go. The thing infuriates me personally, as does his stance on how merchandising a comic strip cheapens it. Didn't you and he have some public debate on this matter?

Berke: Bill's a tough cookie. His thing on merchandising borders on the religious. He feels that even to do an animated version of his strip is somehow cheapening it. Certainly, a toy line is not going to add mystique to a comic strip... but we're not talking Doonsebury here.... and Bill - as great a talent as he is - was never writing Hamlet. Taking anything too seriously is as big a threat as not taking it seriously enough. The world could have used a Calvin and Hobbes movie. But then Watterson won't even sign fans autographs. A tough cookie. We exchanged some very funny letters with some truly offensive margin art. No, nobody will ever see it.

Chris: It's no secret that Gary Trudeau sent you a letter when Bloom County first started in regards to the similarities between your strips at the time. Were you and he ever able to get past your differences and do you ever have any contact with him now?

Berke: He wouldn't meet with me many years ago when we were at a conference together. Painful at the time. But I can't blame him. I built heavily on his style, inadvertently lifted a handful of his specific gags the first year (very embarrassing) and then won a Pulitzer Prize. He has license to be fairly unimpressed with my rather glib response to his initial objections. He is, by the way, the best social satirist of the second half of this century.

Source: PVPonline

For fun, compare things from Trudeau's perspective:

Q. (posed to Garry Trudeau): I know Bloom County bugged you and I cannot figure out why. I mean, why didn't the old saw of "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery mean anything to you?
--Peter Zale, University Heights, Ohio

A. (from Trudeau): A critic for the Comics Journal once wrote that to call Bloom County funny is like complimenting a shoplifter on being a snappy dresser. Breathed borrowed from a variety of his colleagues -- even as he scorned their work. He once wrote a series of strips about two characters looking at clouds that was so clearly lifted from a legendary Peanuts strip that the Washington Post called him on it. His reply: It was an "homage" -- never mind that the Peanuts strip had appeared 20 years earlier and was not referenced. The line between emulation and theft is a fairly subjective one, but Breathed developed a poor reputation among his peers because of the specificity of his lifts -- and his arrogance when confronted with them.


To see what they're talkin' about, take a look at the strip posted in my The Academia Waltz -- Bowing Out gallery below.

By the way: it's pronounced "BREATH'-ed."
Images of Berke Breathed
:: Images of Berke Breathed ::
The Academia Waltz (1979) (inscribed with drawing of Opus)
:: The Academia Waltz (1979) (inscribed with drawing of Opus) ::
The Academia Waltz – Bowing Out (1980) (inscribed)
:: The Academia Waltz – Bowing Out (1980) (inscribed) ::
‘Toons for Our Times (1984) (signed)
:: ‘Toons for Our Times (1984) (signed) ::
Tales Too Ticklish To Tell (1986) (inscribed)
:: Tales Too Ticklish To Tell (1986) (inscribed) ::
Bloom County Babylon (1986) (inscribed)
:: Bloom County Babylon (1986) (inscribed) ::
Billy and the Boingers (1987) (signed)
:: Billy and the Boingers (1987) (signed) ::
Happy Trails (1990) (inscribed with original drawing)
:: Happy Trails (1990) (inscribed with original drawing) ::
A Wish for Wings That Work (1991)
A Wish for Wings That Work (1991)
The Last Basselope (1992)
The Last Basselope (1992)
Goodnight Opus (1993) (inscribed)
:: Goodnight Opus (1993) (inscribed) ::
Red Ranger Came Calling (1994)
Red Ranger Came Calling (1994)
Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big (2000) (inscribed)
:: Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big (2000) (inscribed) ::
Berkeley Breathed’s Flawed Dogs (2003) (inscribed with original drawing)
:: Berkeley Breathed’s Flawed Dogs (2003) (inscribed with original drawing) ::
Mars Needs Moms (2007) (inscribed with original drawing)
:: Mars Needs Moms (2007) (inscribed with original drawing) ::
Breathed inscribing 'Mars Needs Mom'
Breathed inscribing 'Mars Needs Mom'
Original drawing
Original drawing