There are few things that can sum up my love of being a cartoonist. Number one, despite her protests that I'd only ever be a cartoonist, was my grandmother. Number two is Bloom County. (And, Calvin & Hobbes, but everyone loves Calvin & Hobbes.)
I picked up "The Bloom County Library: Volume One" on the cheap at Mid Ohio Con last year. I'd really wanted the collection, as I had every other Bloom County collection there is (including the Outland and Opus books). The first volume promised to have Berkeley Breathed's early college work, and I wanted to own some of that stuff. I was not disappointed:
Breathed's first comic strip was The Academia Waltz while he was an undergraduate at The University of Texas, Austin. It was this strip that caught the attention of the Washington Post Writers Group syndicate, and led to Bloom County. (Some of the Academia Waltz was reworked later on for Bloom County.) It was just fortuitous that, shortly after, Reagan was elected, giving Bloom County plenty of material for eight years.
I never read these as comic strips in the paper, I read them all as collections, starting with Loose Tails. As a seven year old, I wasn't necessarily "up" on my national politics. But I contend that a child doesn't need to know who Jeane Kirkpatrick is when there is a talking penguin in the mix. I mean, it's a penguin. That talks.
Opus was way ahead of his time.
Anyway, in this day and age, we have the internet to provide information that we may lack from context clues. But the Bloom County Library doesn't want to take any chances with new readers (honestly, who has never read Bloom County that's going to pick up a 300 page, $40, hardcover book?) and so provides helpful margin notes. Like, I shit you not:
"Jimmy Hoffa, the combative and powerful Teamsters union leader, disappeared in 1975, and is presumed dead."
...when Milo calls Senator Bedfellow to ask him where he dumped Hoffa's body.
Incredibly stupid footnotes like this continue, which almost ruined the whole book for me:
Guh. Sorry kids, but if you don't know your television history (there was actually a footnote explaining who Walter Cronkite was -- but then again, I've met journalism students who don't know who Walter Cronkite was,) I may not want to talk to you until you've Wikipedia'd that stuff. Howdy Doody was a marionette, by the way. And Gumby was... a gumby. Think of it like Moral Orel, but unintentionally hilarious.
By the way, even though there was a talking penguin, and a cat who said "ACK!" a lot, and talking sheep, bears, groundhogs, rabbits, and occasionally, dogs, it was Milo Bloom (and Binkley) whom I really loved. Maybe I have Milo to blame for getting in to journalism in the first place. I always thought of him as an extension of the author, as well.
Anyway, getting back to the book, the first volume actually had a lot more comic strips in it that I hadn't read than I presumed. For the first 50 or so pages, it's all the first Bloom Counties that were never collected before. (Binkley doesn't even show up until page 65.) From then until about 180 pages in, there are strips that were in Loose Tails and whole story arcs that weren't. There are even six out-of-continuity strips that Breathed did in case he went on vacation that never ran, and are included in the front.
Bloom County Volume One is everything from 1980-1982.
I never bothered to get the other volumes of the Bloom County Library, as the footnotes were liable to kill me. But Bloom County Volume Five is every daily and Sunday strip from November 30, 1987 through August 6, 1989, the day that Breathed walked away from Bloom County. It's the last of the series and is $39.99, 272 pages, hard cover, available in stores this month. (ISBN 978-1-61377-061-0. Diamond order code AUG11 0382.) (IDW publishes all these collections.)
The first volume is now available through iTunes for $7.99, but only for the iPad, boo.
If you're a real Bloom County fan, do yourself a favor and at least get the first volume. There are several great notes from Berkeley Breathed, and plenty of stuff you may have not seen in a long time. Occasionally there are actual informative footnotes from the author (instead of the braindead ones from the editors), like when Breathed laments kids today having a lack of general Hare Krishna awareness. (How do they even get the movie Airplane!, then?)
The other volumes are all currently out in bookstores. The single volume of Outland will be released in April of 2012.