Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol.1: 1980-1982

Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol.1: 1980-1982
by Berkeley Breathed
The Library of American Comics, 2009

Sublime, frankly. Andrews McMeel have demonstrated with The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and The Complete Far Side that there’s a market for quality reprints of complete runs of daily cartoons, even though the purchaser may be buying them for the fifth* (and final) time. Fantagraphics are reprinting every single Peanuts cartoon in handsome hardback volumes (they’re currently up to 1978 with only 11 volumes to go) and although I can’t imagine buying eighty years worth of sodding Dick Tracy, Bloom County is another matter.

Without Bloom County there would be no Brunswick. I first picked up the compilation Bloom County Babylon in an English-language bookstore in Rome in 1987. I would say it’s second only to Doonesbury in great American comic strips, although ironically its early style is indebted to Doonesbury, which has been the source of amusing tension between the two cartoonists for years. Both cartoons also remind me of the classic Sick Sick Sick work of Jules Feiffer, which no-one ever seems to mention.

Anyway, The Complete Library (the first volume of five, covering its ten year run) is an almost-perfect compilation, printed on high-quality paper with several thoughtful essays. It has only two faults: the pop-culture annotations (surprisingly similar to the paragraphs I wrote under selected cartoons in last year’s Jitterati book) are intended to prod the reader’s memory after thirty years, but I’m not sure why I need to be reminded who Lauren Bacall is and not, say, Dolly Parton. Wikipedia may have figured largely in the annotators’ job. Also, in crossing the Pacific, a $51 hardback (US$40) has become $89.

* For example, it’s possible to have bought the first Calvin and Hobbes strip in its initial newspaper appearance on November 18th, 1985, its first book appearance in Calvin and Hobbes (1987), in The Essential Calvin and Hobbes treasury (1988), the excellent Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book (1995) and in the first volume of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (2003). This puts Bill Watterson’s refusal to commercially exploit his characters through merchandising into perspective.
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