Posts Tagged ‘berkeley breathed’


good-night, opus & the batman betrayal

This is a blog by a cartoonist; you may have already understood that based on the tangential digressions that dominate these here posts. But sometimes I like to talk about comics directly. These two news items, in particular, warrant a little discussion.

First: Opus is going to die! Well, hopefully not die. Like James Bond, who will return (according to the end of every James Bond movie), Opus has been granted a reprieve from the comic character gallows twice before. Every time Berkeley Breathed gets bored of counting his money, he returns to the comic pages. And, honestly, it never fails to make me happy when he does. Bloom County, although I only read it in book form after its run had ended, was a truly hilarious comic strip. Outland, the Sunday-only follow-up to Bloom County, was still funny, better drawn, and even more colorful (har). Lately we’ve had Opus, which is kinda sorta like Outland and Bloom County, but with lots more Bush references. Also, the art improved again.

homesick-for-heaven Now, Mr. Breathed wants to quit Opus before the penguin turns mean. I wasn’t aware of this fact before, but apparently at some point in their lives, penguins become bitter and cling to their guns and religion. Mr. Breathed understandably doesn’t want to be the guy standing next to the angry, resentful penguin.

It isn’t clear whether Opus will return again after Opus ends its run. My personal secret hope is Mr. Breathed will segue into longer comic stories. Not necessarily graphic novel length, but longer than a half-page Sunday strip. This, it should be noted, was also my secret hope for Bill Watterson after he retired Calvin and Hobbes. As of yet that wish has remained unanswered. After a cartoonist has given us ten or so years of brilliance, he or she deserves a little break from the constant deadlines. But, at the same time, there are plenty of formats for comics these days. This all-or-nothing, draw one comic strip per day or else get out mentality should really be re-thunk. We’re losing too many good cartoonists.

That was the good cartoonist news. Now for the bad cartoonist news.

According to The Comics Journal message board and this blog, Bob Kane was a total hack. I haven’t been able to parse the truth from the, ahem, exaggerations, but it seems Kane was a mediocre (at best) artist who used connections to secure him a sweet deal, thus ensuring his lasting fame. He was one of the very, very few cartoonists in comic’s early days to own his character. Because that character happened to be Batman, Mr. Kane was pretty well-off for the remainder of his days.

Kane’s crimes, in the minds of Comics Journal commentors, include being a pretty spotty artist and possibly overstating his role in the creation of the Batman character. Had we been talking about a superhero nobody remembers, there wouldn’t even be a discussion (or at least a fairly muted one). Because we’re talking about THE Batman, there is a feeling that we’d better get straight who did what. It’s kind of like giving Neil Armstrong credit for stepping on the moon first. Had Neil Armstrong been the first human to step foot on the new mall downtown, nobody would care. Since the stakes are high, the credit matters more.

Also, Kane probably stole his signature from Milton Caniff:caniff_kaneI’m not sure what to make of the argument. On the one hand, I’m all for cartoonists’ rights. Lord knows cartoonists have historically been trod upon by newspapers, publishers, and distributors (Clout & Money). For a cartoonist of his time to not only create but own one of the most enduring comic characters of all time is a feat worthy of praise. But if it’s true Kane took credit for other people’s good ideas, that would make him, well, typical. The jury’s still out on this one, dear readers.


great minds

Today brought us Berkeley Breathed’s final Opus comic strip. Will Opus the penguin be gone forever? Who knows, but at least he’s in a happy place.opus_final
However, does Mr. Breathed know that a little-known, unsyndicated cartoonist beat him to the punch a few years ago?5-5-2006colorWhen I ended my comic strip The Family Monster in 2006, I went in a very similar direction.

I also used the expression “good-night Opus” in my blog post earlier this week, a reference to the beloved children’s book Goodnight Moon.

If anyone is paying attention, the unsyndicated cartoonist came up with this idea two years ago, followed belatedly by the world famous syndicated cartoonist.

I expect some royalties, Berkeley.


comic con 2010: watterson’s spirit

A full rundown of Comic Con 2010 will appear at this here blog within the next day or so.  To tide you over until then, I present a series of sketches Bill Watterson sent to Berkeley Breathed – they were cartoonist pen pals back in the heady 1980’s.

Berkeley gave a funny and subversive talk, attended by hundreds of nerds, geeks and dweebs of all stripes.  Since Comic Con is home to Exclusive Limited Editions in all media, where better to show off a bunch of Watterson sketches received by snail mail in the 80’s?

This is probably the closest ol’ Bill will ever get to Comic Con.comic-con-watterson6 comic-con-watterson5 comic-con-watterson4 comic-con-watterson3 comic-con-watterson2 comic-con-watterson1
This last sketch, of a buck naked Ronald Reagan, was Bill’s response to a story told by Berkeley in which Berkeley received a phone call from the President as he emerged from the shower.  Reagan had seen a picture of his wife, Nancy, in a Bloom County Sunday strip, and wanted to thank Berkeley.  Too stunned to think of anything better to say, Berkeley replied “Mr. President, I think you should know I’m not wearing any pants right now.”  The President must have found this charming, because he invited the cartoonist to a State Dinner.  (That time, Berkeley wore pants.)

More fun cartoonist stories to come!


comic con 2010 in photos

How you know you found California:

Your hotel elevator has a mysterious button labeled “Seismic.”

How you know you found Comic Con:
Stormtroopers outnumber civilians by a 5:1 ratio.
Comic Con 2010 was, the second time around, just as dizzying and exciting as ever.

This time, I brought some friends to enjoy the trip.  


As I was the grizzled veteran, I gave handy tips which were summarily dismissed by the ladies.  The last I saw of our female companions, they were headed toward Hall H (the largest of the conference rooms) to see American royalty (movie stars, not cartoonists).  That left me and my partner blogger Nate McGraw alone to fend for ourselves in the pop culture jungle.

The real Gostmobile
Audrey Hepburn as Catwoman, with boobs
Bedazzled Stormtrooper

Comic Con is all about neat toys.  But it is also about people dressed like neat toys. 
(Among other things.)

I had many more celebrity sightings this year than last, because I am a star magnet.  Also, I stayed for all four days instead of two.
This first doesn’t really count, as I “spotted” Berkeley Breathed in the panel called Spotlight on Berkeley Breathed.  For years I had a totally incorrect conception of what the man looked like.  When I was a kid, I had a Bloom County collection in which the author photograph was of a Hell’s Angel on his Harley.  Had I been a discerning adult, I would have immediately gotten the joke.  As it was, for years I went around thinking this cartoonist looked like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson book.
This is what Berkeley Breathed really looks like, from about 50 rows back:

On my final day, I happened upon an unusual book signing: Frank “Dark Knight Returns” Miller and Dave Gibbons.  I centered this photo on Frank, but upon seeing it later I realized that dude on his left totally drew Watchmen.  Comic Con!

Nate and I chose to pose in front of our respective alter-egos.  Nate’s Iron Man to my Snoopy.

San Diego, as usual, brought perfect weather.  Not that it mattered much to those of us choosing to spend glorious summer days inside a crowded convention center.  Still, we got outside for meals.  Not pictured here: the bus on which David Hasselhoff was dancing and singing “Hooked on a Feeling.”  No joke.  Our waitress had bought a disposable camera just for this weekend, and asked us to snap a picture if he got close enough.

Before I go, I have an important announcement.  This blog is proud to be the first to publicly “out” The Man of Steel himself:

That’s it for now.  Tune in tomorrow, dear readers, for the text-heavy version, including my scintillating narrative about how I borrowed someone’s grocery store card to get 50 cents off my tube of toothpaste.
An essential Comic Con experience: being last in line for something and having to hold this sign.