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I have of course read a chunk of this material before, as Bloom County is one of the great newspaper comic strips of my childhood and we have all the collections, but these new archival editions with notes and commentary and all the strips that Breathed left out of the collections are very nice indeed.

If you don't know Bloom County, well. I don't know what to tell you. It was relentlessly political, but remarkably even-handed, the spiritual successor of Pogo; a funny-animal strip that was tied into pop culture in a way funny-animal strips never were before or since. Breathed jumped the shark eventually, and hasn't jumped back, but his work left an indelible mark on me at a very early age. Both [personal profile] gaudior and I consider "The night is cold. My love is warm. Let me warm you," to be the epitome to which all other pick-up lines vaguely aspire. I quote Bloom County so frequently that I don't even notice doing it anymore. It is without question the thing I conversationally cite most often (followed at a short distance by Singing in the Rain, for whatever that says about me). The entire run of it is comfort reading.

It turns out that the previous publications of Bloom County were not remotely complete. Breathed is something of a perfectionist, I think; about a third of this particular volume had not been released in book form.

... it also turns out that may not have been a problem, mind you. The strips that had been left out tend to fall into one or more of three categories: a) strips that were extremely topical about very ephemeral pop culture; b) strips that closely resembled other strips Breathed likes better; and c) strips that are just plain bad. B) and c) don't add much, and a) benefit enormously from the notes and commentary that they could not have had before this historical retrospective. Bloom County in this more complete version is-- hm. More cynical, a little; racier, definitely (I didn't know you could ever put some of this in the paper, and you couldn't now). More flat-out gonzo newspaper-strips-don't-work-this-way crazy, but also, and this is slightly painful to me, less warm at heart.

The reason to read this edition is definitely Breathed's commentary. There's not a ton of it, but he does go through and say what he likes, what he doesn't, what he was thinking, whether he was high (yes), and what the in-jokes were (his mother and stepfather cameo at one point in the strip, which I had certainly never known about). And he says that he had no idea what newspaper strips were supposed to act like, which I had assumed from context, really, but am glad to have confirmed, and gives updates on the peculiar rivalry/friendship/thingie he had with Garry Trudeau. There are also separate editorial comments going into some of the bits of pop culture which Breathed doesn't mention or claims to have forgotten about. The book does not, however, feel overexplained-- it doesn't gloss things that can be assumed to still be in the popular consciousness, and also doesn't gloss some things that aren't (I will never have any idea what the fuck Breathed's deal was about Jeane Kirkpatrick).

So if you're looking to revisit childhood memories or get the strip for kids, and you could do a lot worse, hunt down the original collections, I think. But if you're curious about all the background and the nooks and crannies and are anything like a completist, these new volumes were designed for you. Let's hope Breathed eventually comes back from wherever he left his brain, although I am not holding my breath given his goddamn terrifying upcoming Disney movie, Mars Needs Moms, news of the existence of which is some of the more depressing film news I have had in quite a while.


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