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Fiction

October 05, 1986|Charles Solomon

BLOOM COUNTY BABYLON: FIVE YEARS OF BASIC NAUGHTINESS by Berke Breathed (Little, Brown: $24.95, hardcover; $12.95, paperback; 224 pp.). This very funny anthology illustrates the way in which a good newspaper comic strip develops. In the earliest examples, the drawing in "Bloom County" is uncertain, and humor lacks an original point of view: The debt to Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" is obvious. But Breathed quickly hit his stride and turned his strip into something unique. He assembled one of the most wonderfully improbable casts in the comics today, including the cynical Milo Bloom; Michael Binkley, the tremulous observer of a world gone mad; the meek, befuddled penguin, Opus, and Bill, the world's scuzziest cat. Instead of haranguing the reader from a soap box, Breathed makes the seemingly natural interactions of these characters into a vehicle for outrageous social and political satire, like Bill the Cat's "affair" with Jeane Kirkpatrick. But "Bloom County" transcends the facile liberalism often found in contemporary cartoons. Breathed created Cutter John, the only handicapped character in a major strip, and one of the few non-stereotypic black characters--the diminutive computer wizard, Oliver Wendell Jones. Strong characters, bold humor and increasingly sophisticated graphics have made "Bloom County" one of the funniest and most relevant strips on the comics, and this collection one of the year's most entertaining cartoon books.

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