May 15, 2007

He's too good looking to be a cartoonist

Saturday we walked down the street, ‘picked up’ another couple from church who live at the end of the block, and wandered to Keplers. As one of the largest independent bookstores in the country, they have a stream of amazing authors who come to lecture and do book signings.

This time the speaker was the creator of Bloom County and Outland. Berke Breathed (Burke Breathe-ed) spoke about the children’s book he’d just published, Mars needs Moms. During his lecture he spoke of how a cartoonist’s job, especially a satirist, is to deconstruct. To find something hypocritical and tear it down. The natural job hazard is to become profoundly cynical. On the other hand, a children’s book is naturally constructionist. You want to leave the kid feeling better than when they started. He’s found it to be a nice balance, esp now that he’s a father. And yes, he named his son Milo, after the blond kid from Bloom County…

Here are a few tidbits that came out during Q&A:

  • He was fired from four jobs at his college paper cause he always embellished stories. They finally put him at the cartoonists desk and told him to embellish away. He didn’t grow up reading comics and was never trained to be a cartoonist. He quickly consumed all of Doonesbury to learn satire and all of Peanuts to learn heart. As a result, he didn’t realize he kept breaking the rules. No one had mixed talking animals and humans before. No one had characters break from the script and talk to the audience. No one else stole four of Trudeau gags and used them for his own nefarious purposes. Apparently Trudeau has never forgiven him and they aren’t on speaking terms.
  • When someone wondered if Gary Larson or Bill Waterson would ever come out of retirement, he doubted it. He sees no future for cartooning in this country. “The median age for newspaper readers in this country is 58. No kids grow up reading the funny pages.”
  • He called on a boy who’d raised his hand. The kid piped up, “My Mom made me raise my hand so you’d call on her.” The blushing blond woman stated she’d gone to high school and college with Breathed. He gasped, “Did I date you?” As everyone laughed he continued, “Cause that’s happened before on this tour. ‘Sure, of course I remember you!’ But I didn’t date you? Whew.”
  • An Opus movie was in the works for 5 years at Miramax, but the president just couldn’t grasp the talking penguin premise. “He’d never read the strip, of course. I was overjoyed when the whole project fell apart. I don’t think you’ll ever see Opus in animation now. I’m done.”


Rachel said...

Bloom County was the best comic strip ever. I loved it so much in high school that my brother gave me a stuffed Opus doll one Christmas. How wonderful that you got to see him in person. I'll have to check out his book.

Mama Nabi said...

Dude... I'm jealous. I, too, shall check out his book.