December 8, 1980
August 6, 1989
Current status / schedule
Running, no set schedule
Bloom County 2015 (2015)
Washington Post Writers Group (1980-1989)
Humor, Politics, Satire
A conversation with berkeley breathed creator of the bloom county comic strip
Bloom County is an American comic strip by Berkeley Breathed which originally ran from December 8, 1980, until August 6, 1989. It examined events in politics and culture through the viewpoint of a fanciful small town in Middle America, where children often have adult personalities and vocabularies and where animals can talk. It originated from a comic strip known as The Academia Waltz, which Breathed produced for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, while attending the University of Texas.
- A conversation with berkeley breathed creator of the bloom county comic strip
- Bloom county comic strip reappears via facebook
- Core characters
- Other characters
- Notable storylines
- End and spinoff strips
- Bloom County
- Real world references
- Bloom County books
- The Complete Bloom County Library
On July 12, 2015, Breathed started drawing Bloom County again. The first revived strip was published via Facebook on July 13, 2015.
Bloom county comic strip reappears via facebook
Breathed set Bloom County in a small town, despite the fact that, during the time, small towns in the United States became increasingly marginalized due to cultural, economic, and political forces. Breathed said he made the choice because he had followed a girlfriend to Iowa City, Iowa; Breathed commented, "You draw—literally—from your life if you’re going to write anything with some juice to it. I did just that."
Breathed's hand-printed signature on his strips was usually presented in mirror image, i.e. right to left.
Breathed was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning in 1987 for Bloom County.
At the very beginning of the strip (December 1980), the central setting was the Bloom boarding house run by the grandparents of Milo Bloom. As the strip continued, various boarders (and/or pets) moved into the boarding house. In the order the characters debuted:
For detailed summaries of all storylines, see the entries for the individual books.
End and spinoff strips
Breathed decided to end the strip in 1989. In keeping with the continuity of the Bill the Cat/Donald Trump storyline, Trump "buys out" the comic strip and fires all of the cast. The strip's final weeks were centered around the cast finding new "jobs" with other comic strips. A "goodbye party" was held over the course of the week where characters talked about joining new strips. Portnoy and Hodge Podge get jobs as janitors behind the scenes at Marmaduke; Steve Dallas joins the cast of Cathy and attempts to pitch himself as a new superhero, but is quickly fired from both jobs; Michael Binkley becomes a wild boar skinner for Prince Valiant. Lola Granola says that she's been invited to pose for Playboy, which Opus dislikes. Milo Bloom is seen with a snake swallowing him head first and informing Opus he would be appearing Tuesdays in The Far Side. Oliver Wendell Jones is seen with the distinct features of Family Circus characters. He informs Opus he is being "bussed in" to the strip as part of a court order. Once Bloom County characters are scattered, only Opus is left as part of a plot to transition to Breathed's next strip in Bloom County's final week.
Shortly after Bloom County ended, Breathed started a Sunday-only strip called Outland with original characters and situations introduced in Bloom County's final days. However, Opus, Bill and other characters eventually reappeared and slowly took over the strip. Outland ran from September 3, 1989, to March 26, 1995. Another Sunday-only spinoff strip called Opus ran from November 23, 2003, to November 2, 2008.
On July 12, 2015, Breathed posted to his Facebook page a photo with the caption "A return after 25 years. Feels like going home." The photo showed him drawing a comic strip with the title "Bloom County 2015," with Opus pictured in the first frame. A fan asked in the comments on the picture if this was in response to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and Mr. Breathed responded to the comment that "This creator can't precisely deny that the chap you mention had nothing to do with it." The next day, July 13, 2015, the first comic of the revived strip was officially posted online, also to Breathed's Facebook page. The strip was relaunched under the "Bloom County 2015" title, only to be renamed simply as "Bloom County" at the start of 2016.
On the return of the strips Breathed stated,
Deadlines and dead-tree media took the fun out of a daily craft that was only meant to be fun. I had planned to return to Bloom County in 2001, but the sullied air sucked the oxygen from my kind of whimsy. Bush and Cheney’s fake war dropped it for a decade like a bullet to the head. But silliness suddenly seems safe now. Trump’s merely a sparkling symptom of a renewed national ridiculousness. We’re back baby.
Breathed originally had no plans of publishing the new strips outside of his Facebook page, commenting that “Newspapers need deadlines, alas. Like my departed friend Douglas Adams used to say, the only part of deadlines I enjoyed was the whooshing sound as they sped by.” An archive of the new strips has started at GoComics since then. A new book was announced in June 2016, "Bloom County Episode XI: A New Hope" will be a compilation of strips from 2015 and 2016.
Bloom County has had an influence on other cartoonists, particularly cartoonists who have an irreverent bent or tackle political topics in their work.
For example, Scott Kurtz, creator of the webcomic PvP, acknowledged Breathed's contributions at one point with a strip expressing the opinion that "so many webcomics. ..are nothing but Bloom County ripoffs", then lampooning itself by mimicking Breathed's art and dialogue style in the final panel.
Aaron McGruder, creator of the comic and later animated series The Boondocks, has paid homage to Breathed's work as well, with a few aspects of the strip bearing more than a passing resemblance to important Bloom County features (including at least a couple of artistic similarities), and an episode of the animated series wherein the character Uncle Ruckus calls Breathed "Master Penguin Draw'er".
The series was adapted into the 1991 animated Christmas special entitled A Wish for Wings That Work, which is now available on DVD.
The fictional setting of Bloom County served as a recurring backdrop for the comic and its sequels, although the nature of the setting was frequently altered.
In the comics, the county is presented as a stereotypical American midwestern small town. The small town setting was frequently contrasted with the increasing globalization taking place in the rest of the world; though Bloom County contained the likes of farmers and wilderness creatures by default, it was frequented by Hare Krishnas, feminists, and rock stars.
While the location of Bloom County is never explicitly mentioned, there have been some clues in the strip. When Oliver Jones identified Bloom County as the place where Halley's Comet would crash into Earth, a sign was seen saying that it was at 35.05 N 146.55 E. This would place it in the Pacific Ocean, about 300 miles off the coast of Japan. Oliver's previous calculation was 39.43 N 105.01 W, which would place it just south of Denver, Colorado. In an early strip, Milo gives his address as "Box 163, Bloom County, N.I., 12460", the zip code for which would place it about 30 miles southwest of Albany, New York. Another strip has Opus trying to make airline reservations to Des Moines, Iowa. He balks at the outrageously high quoted price for a ticket stating that "Des Moines is just 94 miles from Bloom County". Geographically, this would place Bloom County in either Iowa or the far north-central tier of counties of Missouri, but likely referring to the distance from Iowa City, where the strip was produced, to Des Moines. (See Real World References below). Also, in a Sunday strip with L.H. Puttgrass, he is holding a King Soopers bag, which would place the comic in Colorado. On January 29, 2016, Berkeley Breathed posted on Facebook that "The Bloom County boarding house still sits in beautiful hayseedless Iowa City, home for this cartoonist for four years."
The county was home to the Bloom Boarding House, Steve Dallas' law offices, the Bloom Beacon and Bloom Picayune newspapers, at least one pond, and Milo's Meadow. In the comic's later years, the county contained what appeared to be a big-city ghetto ("the wrong side of the tracks", as it was known).
The geographical profile of the county was fluid as the artistic style of the strip evolved. During most of Bloom County's run, the rural meadow setting was presented realistically, while in its later years it became increasingly more abstract.
The Outland setting of the strip was originally set apart from the county by way of a magical doorway. By Outland's end, the Outland appeared to be a part of Bloom County itself.
The final Outland strip listed the characters as living at "555 Hairybutt St. Bloom County, Outland".
Opus also takes place in Bloom County.
The setting of Bloom County resembled Iowa City, Iowa, in several ways; Breathed lived there during the early years of the strip. The Bloom Boarding House, for example, which appeared as a high contrast photo within the strip, is modeled after the Linsay House located at 935 East College Street in Iowa City. Another Iowa City landmark, The Prairie Lights Bookstore, was referred to in the strip as the Prairie Lights Newsstand, original Bloom County artwork from Breathed hangs in the bookstore. An original Bloom County strip hangs in the Iowa City Public Library. Breathed used the call letters KRNA to refer to Bloom County's rock radio station featuring "Rockin' Charmin' Harmon". The call letters belong to an actual Iowa City rock station which featured a disc jockey named "Charmin'" Jeff Harmon in the 1980s. Several Iowa City local news items also directly inspired Bloom County storylines. For example, a fictional Ronald Reagan sexist gaffe, referring to women as "little dumplin's", was lifted from University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry's comment, infuriating feminists at the university.
The strip's fictional newspaper, "The Bloom Picayune," is named after the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Bloom County books
Like many other popular comic strips, Bloom County has been republished in various collections. By 2004, the comic strip was reprinted in 11 books, the first having been published in 1983 and the last in that year. None of the reprints contained complete runs of the strip, although Bloom County Babylon contained many of the strips that preceded Loose Tails. All of the daily strips have been reprinted in Comics Revue magazine.
IDW Publishing published The Bloom County Library, a five volume hardback collection of all Bloom County strips, beginning in October 2009. This series is part of their Library of American Comics series. It is a complete reprint of the strip, including side notes about cultural and political references made in the strip, "Headlines" breaks to identify the top stories of the day, and commentary from Breathed. Each volume will have three separate releases: a standard edition, a signed edition, and a signed, remarked edition.
Breathed said that the reason why the strips printed in The Bloom County Library were not published in previous collections was that the publisher would not let Breathed publish 400 pages each year, so Breathed had to reduce the content in each book. Breathed also said that he believes that, "I just closed my eyes and dropped a dart on the ones to be included." He felt relieved the publishers did not "have to ask […] to do this again."
The Complete Bloom County Library
- 1980–82 (October 6, 2009)
- 1982–84 (May 4, 2010)
- 1984–86 (October 26, 2010)
- 1986–87 (April 12, 2011)
- 1987–89 (October 25, 2011)