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Bloom County represents one of those comics that has always seemed a part of my childhood days, even though I didn’t understand a lick of what I was reading at the time. Berkely Breathed’s seminal comic strip of the 1980’s lampooned just about every facet of entertainment and politics of that decade. While Opus and Co. were taking jabs at Reaganomics, the Iran Contra Affair and Jimmy Swagert’s infidelities, I was simply entertained by a talking Penguin and a guy in a wheelchair who pretended to be playing out Star Trek. I remember two of my uncles were big fans of Bloom County and I would take time at family gatherings to pour over the collections that sat in their bookshelves. As such, when it comes to the culture of the 80’s it seems pretty well captured in every line of Bloom County. Now, thanks to IDW and their fantastic new hardcover series, I get to have the whole series from the very start.
For a start, the collection is presented in a beautiful hardbound book with heavy weight paper that really shows off the comic strips nicely. The book is the kind of thing that would look fantastic on your coffee table. The comics are laid out in chronological order with a few that have never been in print or haven’t been seen since the seventies. The books begins with a brief interview with Berkely Breathed regarding the start of the series and even has some of his old comics from his college strip to show where some of the Bloom County characters originated.
Admittedly, some of the early comics don’t look as fantastic as those in other collections you might already own. The Calvin and Hobbes books are a few that come to mind. Both Breathed and the editor mention this in the preface to the book as well. The reason for this is that many of these old strips had to be pieced together after being found in old newspaper archives. For something as awesome and important as this comic was, it’s almost shocking to find out that Breathed never took care to save his Bloom County work. Many of the comics in the collection had to be pulled from cardboard boxes in the creators garage. The result of this is a collection of comics that visually appear uneven throughout the book. Nothing that makes it unreadable or not worth the price. However, for those looking for a pristine presentation, you’re not going to find a set without visual flaws here.
However, I’m of the opinion that these visual faults actually work in favor of the set. Breathed’s early work is a study in inconsistancy and creative direction finding. Breathed himself notes this in many of the sidebar comments he’s added on every page. Many of these comics were finished on the plane ride to the editor as he made a last second dash to meet his deadline. Many of the jokes and characters are complete rip-offs of early Doonsbury, one of Breathed’s biggest influences. The great part is, he doesn’t hide it and even takes great pains to tell you just how rough and early these comics are. I think one of the greatest things about this collection is how much of an open window this is into a creators mind as he develops his work in the early stages. It’s candid, raw and ultimately brilliant.
A great study in the early run of Bloom County and a must own for any fan of the comics scene in the 80’s, IDW did a fantastic job on this set. The best part is that we get more volumes in which we see the true zenith of Bloom County. Rumor has it that Breathed’s follow up, Outland, will also be getting a similar treatment. We can only hope.
The best price for this book can be found at Amazon.com. Follow the link below to check it out: