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hursday night, 11:15, and Berke Breathed has
one cartoon left to go. Over the past 29 hours,
without stopping to sleep, he's drawn 13 days'
worth of daily "Bloom County" strips. But,
wanting to ship the panels at 12:43 on a flight
from Denver's Stapleton Airport, 44 miles away,
he has no time to waste. Working up to the last in the country, running in 999
minute because he likes the energy this gives the newspapers-430 daily, 319
strip, Breathed deftly inks the figure of Opus the Sunday and 250 college. Three
penguin into the first panel. Then he glues photo- earlier books that have collect-
copies of the first Opus onto subsequent panels and ed "Bloom County"-"Loose
adds background details and dialogue. "This is Tails," "Toons for Our Times"
going down to the wire,"he mutters to his wife, who and "Penguin Dreams and Other Stranger
prepares to pack the cartoons into a box. Finished Things"-have eachsold more than600,000copies,
at 11:37,Breathedgrabsthesealedboxofstripsand andanew,comprehensivesampling, "BloomCoun-
sprints out to his turbocharged Mazda RX-7. After ty Babylon," rocketed onto the best-seller lists as
skidding down the mountain on dirt roads, he bar- soon as it was published a month ago. Stuffed-
rels along I-70 at 80 to 100 mph-closely monitor- animal versions of the strip's major character,
ing his radar detector. At 12:21, Breathed trots up Opus, constitute some of the hottest-selling items
to the Eastern Airlines counter and checks in his for Dakin, a leading manufacturer of plush toys.
package with 13 minutes to spare. Still, there's a And more than 1.2 million T shirts adorned with
note ofdisappointment when hesays, almost apolo- "Bloom County" characters have found their way
getically,"Ididn't make very good time." onto the backs of loyal fans. Not bad for someone
Is this any way to run a comic strip? Well, con- who freely admits, "I'm not an artist. Believe me,
sider the results. Six years after Breathed first you don't have to be one to do a comic strip."
started it, "Bloom County" is one Well, maybe yes and maybe no. It takes no small if the prospect of spending I'and Sub Scri sndSu
of the most popular comic strips amount of talent to make believable and even _ a .u pta pe