"The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog Massacree" is a short story
used as an introduction for Berke Breathed
's first large collection of Bloom County
strips, Bloom County Babylon
. While it also includes illustration
s, the story can be read without them.
The story, at six pages, is densely written. It is supposedly taken from the adult memoir of Michael J. Binkley, one of the two young boys in the Bloom County comic strip. It involves the events of the summer of 1988, when due to a series of unlikely events, the amphibian population of one of Bloom County's main ponds is accidentally killed. The brief synopsis is, that during a fit of nuclear hysteria, followed by a short circuited nuclear alarm, the residents of Bloom County find themselves in a panic, which few if any behave sanely during. One of them, Portnoy the Hedgehog, fires an automatic rifle into a pond, thinking he sees communist invaders. Very shortly, after the haze of battle has passed, he realized he has instead only killed thousands of toads and frogs. His friends tell him that while the frogs may not have been communists, they very well could have been LaRouche democrats, and that therefore he shouldn't feel terribly bad.
The brief synopsis of the plot doesn't do justice to the story, since, much like the regular comic strip, it is the highly woven comedic writing style that is the attraction, as well as the plethora of various references. The story is interesting for various reasons. First of all, while many collections of comic strips included bonus material (Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes collections often had very well done material), this is perhaps the only one I can think of that includes a prose short story. Berke Breathe's writing talents are easily up to the challenge, even without the help of his equally good cartooning talents. The second noticable thing about the story, especially for me reading it in 2006, is the odd zeitgeist, which includes both the waning days of Cold War nuclear hysteria, and the large number of references to popular entertainment and popular culture, that reminds me more of the self-conscious media obsessed mid-1990s. Of course, this same mixture could be observed in the comic strip as a whole.