The Berkeley Breathed news roundup

The normally reclusive cartoonist (except when he has a book out) has made some appearances and given some interviews. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat has a follow-up to his speaking and book signing appearance at the Charles M. Schulz museum last Saturday. Naturally the big topic is his decision to end his Opus Sunday comic strip – one of the exclusive sits to carry the Sunday feature has posted their interview with him. Opus’ finality seems certain. The reasoning, he assures Salon is “anger” about the current political atmosphere and a desire to spend more time on his Children’s books.

Breathed says it’s the anger that led him to close the book on “Opus,” that the increasingly nasty political climate has made it too difficult to keep his strip from drifting into darkness. Breathed has described his work as a hybrid of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz’s gentle humor and Michael Moore’s crusading social justice. Perhaps losing touch with his inner Charlie Brown, Breathed has said that “a mad penguin, like a mad cartoonist, isn’t very lovable,” and wants Opus to take his final bow before bitterness changes him forever.

As for Breathed, he says he will turn to other projects, such as his children’s books. His latest, “Pete & Pickles,” is just out, a delightful love story of sorts between a practical pig and a whimsical circus elephant.

And lastly, The Washington Post offers yet another interview in which they discuss the current comic climate. Berkeley opines that the last great comic strip character to grace the printed newspaper was Calvin and Hobbes.

MC: Any passionate opinions you’d like to share on cartooning today as a changing business — be it about newspapers, the Web, online animations, books, prime-time TV shows or Pixar-like films? And is there one “best” way today for a cartoonist to have a real voice and reach a worthy audience?

BB: The last newspaper cartoon character invented, destined to be a true, ubiquitous American household word, was done so 23 years ago. Calvin & Hobbes. There have, and will be, no more. This speaks to technology and culture, not talent. As newspapers make their painful transition to Something Else, I don’t see the Comic Page going with them. Not in the way we know it — something allowing the entire nation to be reading the same features at the same time … in the millions.

There will be great cartoons. They will have a fraction of the public profile as in the past. Under a fraction. It will be boutique entertainment. The masses will be elsewhere.

10 thoughts on “The Berkeley Breathed news roundup

  1. Calvin and Hobbes was the last great comic strip…said the “bitter” old cartoonist. Is it possible he’s exaggerating just a wee bit? I mean, not that cartoonists know anything about hyperbole.

    Get Fuzzy, Lio, and Cul de Sac are all newcomers to the comic pages, and are all gaining a nationwide audience – not just of hardcore comic readers.

    If anything, the web is allowing more people to read comics and talk about them. Ten or twenty years ago I would have been shocked and amazed to see an interview with Berkeley Breathed. Now I read and hear quite a few cartoonists speak outside the confines of their own strips. In these ways, comic strips actually have a higher profile than before.

  2. I miss Calvin & Hobbes as much as the next person, but with all the exciting things going on with online comics, I’m still pretty optimistic about the future of this art form. It would be so cool to see Berkeley Breathed or Bill Watterson do an online comic, to be released from any format constraints or editorial control and just make the comics they want. Do you think such a business plan (where they’re no longer splitting profits with a syndicate) would be instantly profitable because of their name recognition, or would they basically be starting from square one?

  3. I think that within the fanbase of the comics there are alot of names that will come to the forefront of the industry, Cul de Sac is the one that comes to mind the quickest.

    Perhaps what Breathed is getting at is that under the changing media climate, there will not be another strip to dominate so universally as C&H and Bloom County did in the 80’s and become, as he put it, a household word.

  4. There are several great comic strips being created at this time. Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, Cul de Sac, and F Minus are just few that immediately come to mind.

    I think it’s time for Opus to exit stage left.

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