Berkeley Breathed

Birth name:

Guy Berkeley Breathed


June 21st,1957 (age 60) Born in Encino, Los Angeles, California


Cartoonist, illustrator, Screenwriter.

Known for:

Bloom County comic strip (1980–1989) and its sequels

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 lifeEdit

Born in Encino, CaliforniaTemplate:Fact and raised in Houston, Texas, Breathed (pronounced BREATH-ed) attended Westchester High School.[1]

Cartooning careerEdit

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.[2] 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.Template:Fact Breathed has acknowledgedTemplate:Fact 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.Template:Fact 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".Template:Fact

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 colored 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".Template:Fact

In June 2007, announcedTemplate:Fact it would carry 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.[3]

On October 6, 2008, Breathed announced plans to discontinue all work on comic strips with the final Opus strip to run on November 2, 2008.[4] Breathed plans to focus on writing children's books.[1]

The last Opus strip appeared on schedule, but in what may be a comic first the final panel required an online link. At, the penguin can be seen sleeping peacefully in the big bed from the children's book Goodnight Moon.

Other worksEdit

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.

Breathed cameos as himself in the short film "Tim Warner: A Life in the Clouds", a fictional tale about an unhappy cartoonist and his unfunny strip, The Silver Lining.[5]

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 as of April 2007 was not commercially exhibited in any format.Template:Fact 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.Template:Fact

Personal lifeEdit

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.[6]

Breathed, his 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," is homonymous with "Berk", a vulgar term for women in Cockney rhyming slang.[7]

Breathed once stated he is an atheist[8] as well as a vegetarian.Template:Fact

On May 18, 2008, in his comic strip Opus, he announced he was suffering from a condition known as spasmodic torticollis.[9]


Cartoon Compilations
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



  • "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".[10]


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


External linksEdit

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