By Berkeley Breathed (Little, Brown & Co./Storyopolis)
ISBN: 978-0-316-14291-5 (HB) 978-0-316-14425-4 (Album PB)
Iâ€™ve been watching The News and getting upset by politiciansâ€™ obnoxiously blatant disregard for probity and dearth of ethical standards, not just in my own bankrupt-in-every-aspect Britain, but everywhere else too – except maybe New Zealand (Nice One, Jacinda).
As is always the case in such circumstances, I turned to comics and cartoons for solace and found this. Please read, enjoy and act according to the dictates of your conscience, if you have oneâ€¦
Please Note: any similarity to other malign, malformed, bribe-fattened, emotionally stunted, eternally misbehaving overprivileged schoolboys currently serving at the Nationâ€™s expense is just the way things are these daysâ€¦
Throughout the 1980s and for half of the 1990s, Berke Breathed dominated the newspaper strip scene with agonisingly funny, edgy-yet-surreal political fantasy Bloom County and, latterly, Sunday-only spin-off Outland. They are all fully available digitally – so donâ€™t wait for my reviews, just get them now!
At the top of his game and swamped with awards like Pulitzers, Breathed retired to concentrate on books like Red Ranger Came Calling, Mars Needs Moms! or Flawed Dogs: The Year End Leftovers at the Piddleton â€œLast-Chanceâ€ Dog Pound and sequel Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster. They rank among the best America has ever produced. Get them too.
His first foray into the field was 1991â€™s A Wish for Wings That Work: a Christmas parable featuring his signature character, and the most charmingly human one. Between 2003 and 2008, Breathed revived Opus as a Sunday strip, before eventually capitulating to his career-long antipathy for the manic deadline pressures of newspaper production and often-insane, convoluted contradictions of editorial censorship.
It seemed his ludicrous yet appealing cast of misfits – all deadly exponents of irony and common sense residing in the heartland of American conservatism – were gone for good, until the internet provided a platform for Breathed to resume his role as a gadfly commentator on his own terms. Since 2015, Bloom County has mocked, exposed and shamed capitalism, celebrities, consumerism, popular culture, politicians, religious leaders and people who act like idiots. Donald Trump figures prominently and often, but that might just be coincidenceâ€¦
These later efforts, unconstrained by syndicate pressures to not offend advertisers, are also available as book collections. Youâ€™ll want those too, and be delighted to learn that all Breathedâ€™s Bloom County work is available in digital formats – fully annotated to address the history gap if you didnâ€™t live through events such as Iran-Gate, Live-Aid, Star Wars (both cinematic and military versions), assorted cults and televangelists experiencing less than divine retribution and sundry other tea-cup storms that make us Baby Boomers so rude and defensiveâ€¦
Not quite as renowned, but every inch as crucial to your enjoyment, is the lost gem on display today: a paean to the power of principles and effects of honesty, all wrapped up in a childrenâ€™s book about a mean kid with no moral compassâ€¦
As previously stated, after the all-too-brief, glittering outing as a syndicated strip cartoonist and socio-political commentator (usually the very same hallowed function) Breathed left strips to create childrenâ€™s picture books.
He lost none of his perception, wit or imagination, and actually got better as an artist. Even so, he never quite abandoned his entrancing cast of characters and always maintained the gently excoriating, crusading passion and inherent bittersweet invective which underscored those earlier narratives.
Moreover, he couldnâ€™t ignore that morally uplifting component of his work that so upset hypocrites, liars, greedy people and others who let us all down while carping on about being unfairly judged and how we donâ€™t really understand complex issues. Trust me, we – and Breathed – understand perfectlyâ€¦
This crushingly captivating cartoon catechism ruminates on the cost and worth of family and idiocy of arrogant aggrandizement and self-congratulatory self-importance. It is lensed through the fabled truism of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, as little sister Fannie complains again about her idiot brotherâ€¦
Edwurd Fudwupper tells lies because he wants to, because he can and because of the chaotic consequences his dissembling causes. The only thing he isnâ€™t, is convincing. Always in trouble, he narrowly and perpetually weasels out of instant retribution due to his facility for fibs, but now Fannie recalls the day when that stopped workingâ€¦
After a couple of whoppers lead to the disappearance of a neighbour and destruction of beloved family property, Edwurdâ€™s automatic response of lying big and compounding nonsense with bigger balderdash sparks community calamity, mass military deployment and imminent alien invasion. As the Earth stands still in the moment before utter disaster, a small voice speaks outâ€¦
Delivered in sharp and lyrical rhyme like a weaponised Dr. Seuss story, and with lush lavish illustrations painted in the stunningly grotesque exaggeration beloved of Ralph Steadman and Terry Gilliam cartoons, this is a book to trigger personal reflection, audit consciences and promote better behaviour, but it will make grown citizens howl and children sit up and pay attention. Itâ€™s also deliciously funny. Youâ€™ll laugh, youâ€™ll cry, youâ€™ll think hard before calling in sick or blaming the dog – or opposition or asylum seekers – for eating your homeworkâ€¦
Â© 2000 Berkeley Breathed. All rights reserved.