I happened to be in the car with NPR on the radio for an item from “Fresh Air” on the return of “Bloom County” after 25 years (“‘Bloom County’ And Opus The Penguin Return After A 25-Year Hiatus“). This time around, it appears on Facebook, bypassing the newspaper world altogether.
The broadcast piece includes a fabulous interview with “Bloom County” creator, Berkeley Breathed.
He tells of being attacked by the professional “editorial cartoonists,” who tried to get his 1987 Pulitzer prize revoked. After all, “Bloom County” appeared on the comic pages, not the editorial pages.
He also tells of the trials of being syndicated, which he describes as having 1,200 editors, one at each of the newspapers that carried the comic strip.
BREATHED: It’s relevant because I’m doing the same comic strip now without any editing whatsoever. And I would say that in 1985, I had 1,200 editors, each of them having a different agenda, each of them having a different audience, every single one of them feeling that they had the right to edit and to – I wouldn’t say censor – but manipulate the material. You know, the editor of The Salt Lake City Tribune had a different agenda than the editor of the Boston Herald. And they would be perfectly happy and editing and rewriting each strip as they felt necessary, which left some very funny strips out there. There needs to be a book of the various versions of my comic – of each comic – the more controversial ones as it appeared in papers around the country.
And, finally, he comments on the new relationship with readers in the new digital world.
The digital world has allowed me a connection with my reader that I’d never had before. I wrote every single cartoon strip in isolation in a dining room in an Iowa City farmhouse. I didn’t meet the people who read my material. The fan letters were mostly answered by professional people that’d done them for a living. And I didn’t have any daily connection with their response to my work. So the cartooning was just an abstraction. It was an income. It was making me famous. It was allowing me to go and do other things that I’d wanted to do. But I didn’t have a relationship with my audience. And every artist should have it.
You can listen to the “Fresh Air” piece or read the transcript, and of course go to Facebook for the renewed strip.