Berkeley Breathed is the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator
of the Bloom County and Outland comic strips. Breathed pokes fun at
politicians, celebrities and nuclear weapons. His characters have run
for president, hacked the New York Stock Exchange and joined the
occasional religious cult. To this day, his quirky perspective
continues to influence young cartoonists. Breathed retired from
cartooning in 1995 to write children's books; in 2003, he published
Flawed Dogs. Soon after, he returned to the Sunday comics' page
with the strip Opus, featuring Bloom County and Outland's Opus
Many of your characters have neuroses and anxieties. Do they
reflect your own personality?
The interesting thing is that I
have absolutely no neuroses. I have no mother issues, no issues of
self-actualization, no sibling envy or weight issues. Although I'm
an atheist, I don't fear death more than, say, sharing a room in a
detox center with a sobbing Rush Limbaugh... This is why I'm
returning to Opus. One of us needs to be a mess if this writing business
is going to work.
You've taken swipes at the culture of
"victimhood." What motivates that?
I love victims.
If we didn't have victims, then we wouldn't have lawyers,
alien-abduction psychiatrists like John E. Mack, Oprah, Dr. Phil, daytime
talk shows, lawyers, made-for-TV movies, Oprah weeping, lawyers, Dr. Phil
weeping, Oprah hugging and Opus.
You seem to have a good idea of how therapy works. Have you
ever been in therapy?
I'm married to a psychologist.
I'm in a permanent therapy group of two.
Outland started with new characters, then characters from Bloom
County crept back in.
They were like in-laws. You send them
home, try to get on with your life, and then wham, doggone if it's
not Thanksgiving again. With the new Opus strip, I've warned all
the old characters that they'll be shot if they try to come back.
Not that this worked with my mother-in-law.
Do you have a rigid routine? Do you keep traditional hours? Has
fatherhood changed your habits?
Let me answer those in order.
Oh, yeah, right. Oh, yeah, right. Changed? What would change? I rule my
Is your sense of humor and direction strong enough for you to
ignore what others think?
We're artists with a small "a."
My fans own my ass, that's with a small "a," too. If we get full of
ourselves, we get slapped back pretty fast. But if I'm not giggling
myself, it doesn't see ink.
If you hadn't been a cartoonist, what would you be