I’m as happy as a clam at high water that the entire run of Bloom County is being published in book form for the first time (the original collections didn’t include every single strip). The first of five volumes is now out — my brother gave it to me for Christmas — with the second volume coming in April, which isn’t soon enough.
Volume one contains strips we haven’t seen since they ran in the newspapers — they didn’t make it into Loose Tails or Bloom County Babylon (Amazon.ca, Amazon.com). Some even had to be reproduced from less-than-pristine or low-resolution copies, but at least they’re there.
The early strips project a lot of exuberant chaos, and feature characters that disappear not too long afterward: Major Bloom, Limekiller, Bobbi Harlow, a local member of the Moral Majority, a local Ted Turner clone. Opus and Bill the Cat make early appearances, and we’ll have to wait until volume two for the Giant Purple Snorklewacker. Also, Chuck and Di show up an awful lot for some reason. As Berke Breathed himself notes in the annotations, the strip hadn’t found its voice yet.
About those annotations. Some of them are by the author; some of them are there to explain the early-eighties gags — thirty years later, the political and cultural figures that served as the butt of Breathed’s jokes are now apparently too obscure. Bloom County was a product of its times; are they really expecting to find a receptive audience for it among people who don’t know, for example, who Alexander Haig was?