Last week marked the surprise return of one of the preeminent voices of 1980s newspaper comics: Berkeley Breathed, the artist and author behind Bloom County — and University of Texas alum. The strip, for which Breathed was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1987, was put to rest — supposedly for good — in 1989. Breathed followed that strip with others, featuring some of the same characters, like Outland in the ‘90s and Opus in the mid-aughts.
Fans reacted with excitement online after Breathed posted a new Bloom County strip, featuring Opus the Penguin, to facebook last week. He’s since posted five more, and has said he plans to continue to create and post new strips online, though they won’t likely be returning to the print format.
As Breathed told the New York Times via email:
“I’ll publish on Facebook, as that’s where my old school readers can reach me,” he said. “I want to hear from them — hear how my characters played a role in their lives — hear how they might still….
“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.”
But, before his years of success and relative fame during the 1980s, Breathed studied at the University of Texas at Austin, where he contributed cartoons to the Daily Texan. He called his recurring Daily Texan strip The Academia Waltz, and like Bloom County, it dealt with the social and political issues of the day, seen through the eyes of animals and humans — and sometimes UT students, faculty and institutions. His Bloom County character Steve Dallas had his original debut in the student publication.
The University’s Briscoe Center for American History maintains an archive of Breathed’s work in a scrapbook that’s accessible to the public. Breathed's Academia Waltz strips will be released in an anthology next month.