Creator of Outland and Bloom County, two great comic strips, cartoons, whichever you prefer. Main characters in both strips included Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat. Now they can be seen on greeting cards and other assorted paraphernalia at various shopping malls.

Often known better by his nickname, "Berke" Breathed.

The Onion recently interviewed him. The full text is at In case the fact that it exists isn't enought to make you go read it right now, here are three choice quotes which I liked:

"Do you think that's a good way for other artists to work? Should novelists not read other people's books, musicians not listen to other people's music, and so forth?

No, no, no. Art is a synthesis of everything that came before it. Gary Trudeau told me that in 1982, just before he asked me to stop making my characters look like his, goddammit.

People frequently compare you to Bill Watterson, I think in part because both your strips centered on a sense of whimsy, but also because your work left them with few comparisons. Do you think there's a valid parallel?

No. He was the real thing. I was just scampering nude through the aisles before anybody could kick me out. Gary Trudeau was our greatest satirist in the second half of the century. Crazy ol' Bill Watterson created the purest comic strip, after Peanuts, probably. Or before Peanuts became a shadow. Bless him for quitting at the top. It's not easy.

One of the ironies of Bloom County was that the child characters were among the most mature, while the adult characters were prone to egregious silliness and elaborate fantasies. Did you think of yourself as a particularly mature child? Do you think of yourself as a particularly silly adult?

Yes. And, yes, you shrewd little imp. Hanging on to the silly as I sail toward my mid-40s is my current project. The middle-age temptation to get serious about everything is Satan's handiwork. My child may be my aging soul's salvation at the altar of silliness. That, by the way, is why they call us writers.

Known primarily as a comic strip writer and illustrator, Berkeley Breathed is also a children's book author and illustrator. My favorite book is Red Ranger Came Calling, A Guaranteed True Christmas Story which is dedicated to his father.

The author explains in the foreword why he wrote the book and you immediately get a taste for his wonderful, offbeat sense of humor and love of life.

"It is with a bicycle that this story begins and ends- a story that my father, the former Red Ranger of Mars, told us on the Christmas Eves of my own childhood."

The story is told from the perspective of a nine-year-old boy before Christmas during the Depression of 1939, a boy who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, but meets a reclusive old man who is rumored to be the real deal.

The illustrations are so detailed and imaginative, with colors that seem to burst off the pages. Yet, it is the highly wacky simple story line that is what I find both fascinating and somewhat of a eulogy.

"Fifty years later, if you ask if I'm making this all up, I'll say this: The word of the Red Ranger of Mars should be all you need. And if you ask if I believe in Santa Claus, I'll say this: Mind your own business."

I picked up this book for my husband, who was born in 1939 and has always believed in Santa Claus.

ISBN 0-316-10249-0
Little, Brown and Company
New York, New York

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