It's unusual but not unthinkable for an artist to retire a certain style or project while it's still popular. Better to be remembered for the high points, the reasoning goes, rather than as the thing that wouldn't die. In the 1980s, cartoonist Berkeley Breathed pushed the outlandish cast of Bloom County to popularity and a Pulitzer. The strip featured an infomercial-addicted, naively optimistic, large-nosed penguin (Opus) as well as a wild-eyed, catatonic tabby (Bill the Cat) who ran for president and coughed up a hairball on Connie Chung. It also offered the most pointed political and social commentary seen in a comic strip since Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury. At its apex, it was syndicated in 1,200 publications worldwide. But unlike Trudeau, Breathed retired his strip in 1989, saying, A good comic strip is no more eternal than a ripe melon. Perhaps, but that doesn't mean the strip or the cartoonist has lost anything over the years. From Bloom County to Mars: The Imagination of Berkeley Breathed features a retrospective of the cartoonists prolific career encompassing the creation of seven childrens books; cartoons; movie projects (including an upcoming film based on his book, Mars Needs Moms); and, of course, a comprehensive look at Bloom County. His inspiration? Well, everything: "You draw literally from your life if youre going to write anything with some juice to it." We respect the right of any artists to do whatever they think is best. Just the same, we'd love to see Opus and Bill have their way with the likes of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 16. Continues through June 19, 2011