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October 23, 1986 - Image 28

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-10-23
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p *

Autographing an Opus shirt:
The characters are so
realistically beguiling
that half of the
strip's mail comes
addressed to them

JODY BOYMAN
strip was so popular in Austin that it was reprinted
in book form. And word of this promising talent
traveled all the way to the Washington Post Writ-
ers Group, a top newspaper syndicate. "I was over-
whelmed by his work," says Al Leeds, now
Breathed's editor and sales manager for Writers
Group. "He was very funny and the characters
seemed tojump offthe page."
They still do, and part of the reason is the way
Breathed works. He always produces his cartoons
in marathon sessions, drawing two weeks of
"Bloom County" in one long binge. Breathed refers
to his peculiar state of mind during this process as
"being in cartoonland." "The typical scene here
early in the morning is: the music is cranked up
and I'm dancing around like a 14-year-old," he
says. At the beginning of a session, it may take up
to seven hours to produce the first cartoon, but by
the end Breathed usually puts one out in 90 min-
utes. Even though he's cultivated a fine sense of
how to just barely meet a deadline, Breathed has
had a few near misses. Once, while living in Iowa,
he ran out of time with three cartoons to go. He got
on a plane to Washington himself and finished
them en route, even though, he says, "People keptj
coming up to me and asking me about my life."
Seated at the drawing table in his basement
studio, Breathed is surrounded by a TV, stereo,
personal computer and weight bench. On the wall
to his right is memorabilia. (One
From an l photo, of Breathed with Ronald

Reagan at the White House, has an added cap-
tion: "I get so tickled," says the president, "with
your 'Zonker' and 'Uncle Duke' characters.")
"What I've decided," he says, "is that the air of
chaos that I like to see within the strip itself is
affected by the atmosphere that it's created in,
and I'm afraid that if I did everything too leisure-
ly I would think things out far too long. And most
cartoonists will tell you that you can overthink
an idea-a cartoon can be too thought out. It loses
its edge that way."
Keeping the edge: Breathed also tries to keep the
edge in his personal life. "I'm always deathly
afraid of boring myself," he says. Because he pro-
duces a month's worth of strips in eight days, and
because he makes a comfortable six-figure in-
come, Breathed has a lot of leisure time-and he
makes the best of it. He enjoys traveling, motor-
cycling, speedboating, water-skiing, rock-climb-
ing and ultralight flying. Except, that is, for an
ultralight flight last January. Breathed and a
friend were flying at 40 feet when his plane ran
low on fuel-what he ruefully calls "bad pilot
error"-and crashed. The friend escaped with a
few bruises, but Breathed smashed a lumbar ver-
tebra and was in the hospital for four weeks.
Although he still wears a plastic torso brace,
Breathed is relatively free of pain. And although
he won't get on water skis at present, he has
been coasting around Rocky Mountain lakes on a
kneeboard.
Breathed calls his lifestyle "hedonistic," and if
the accident hasn't done much to slow him up,
neither has his recent marriage. In May he mar-
ried Jody Boyman, a photographer he met a year
ago at the New Mexico State Fair Celebrity Goat
Milk-off. She was there to cover the event and he,
competing in a surgical outfit, came in last. "I'm
leading just the life I want to lead right now,"
says Breathed. "I'm living in a beautiful spot, I
have a wife who loves me, and my time is basical-
ly my own." As he motors back up the mountain
after delivering his comic cargo to Stapleton Air-
port, Breathed considers the possibility of chang-
ing his work habits, and maybe even settling
down and having a kid. But that's a ways down
the road. Pulling into his driveway and shutting
off the Mazda, he has more immediate things in
mind as he drags himself toward the front door.
"Now," he sighs, "for about 15 hours of sleep."
RON GIVENS

Welcome to what is surely one of the
world'stoughestsummerschools,theeight-
week field-training course that the U.S.
Military Academy requires each year of its
1,200 sophomore cadets. The course gives
the second-year cadets-known as year-
lings-a chance to drop the books for a real-
life taste oflife in the foxholes. Most ofthem
seem to welcome their first hard intro-
duction to military existence; although the
academy has an overall four-year dropout
rate of 30 percent, virtually no one quits
field camp. And Boehme, for one, says the
experience actually persuaded him to stay
in the Army. It was while he was rappel-
ling down the face of a steep cliff, he says,
that he learned to take pride in his resil-
ience. "I thought to myself, none of my
friends will ever do stuff like this in college,
not even the guys in ROTC," he recalls.
"That made all the hard stuff, all thethings
you wouldn't tell the people back home
about, seemOK."
Held in two sessions at Fort Knox in Ken-
tucky and at Camp Buckner, a picturesque
forest retreat at West Point in upstate New
York, the field course trains cadets in in-
fantry and artillery operations, weapon-
ry, mountaineering, military engineering,
field communications, survival air-defense
operations and combined-arms operations.
For most yearlings it's a chance to learn
the skills of military service in a nonaca-
demic context, without the anxieties of
having to function as both student and
soldier simultaneously. Seventeen hun-
dred Regular Army types are on hand to
"role-play" the grim-faced enemy and to
serve as teachers. Upperclassmen are
also along to provide leadership and
enthusiasm.
Big guns: In the wilds of Camp Buckner,
the yearlings get an introduction to big
guns and rough living. Some of the exer-
cises are designed to build confidence. Near
the shimmering waters of a nearby lake, a
short young man slides down an insubstan-
tial-looking rope dangling from a cliff. Just
around the ridge, a slender young woman
loads up a 105-mm howitzer with ease. Ev-
erywhere, packs of young cadets holler
shouts of support to comrades stumbling
through exercises they have no choice but
to complete.
Shivering, distraught and bathed in the
perspiration that results from wearing ol-
ive drab in 80-degree weather, yearling
Kevin Barber hangs from a wire 30 feet
above the lake waiting for someone to give
him the go-ahead to jump. "I'm afraid ofI
heights," admits Barber, moments after
taking his plunge. Later, still clad in hisI
dripping fatigues, he performs 10 push-
ups-aid then gets back in line and re- I
peats the whole routine. "I forgot to ask if
I could fall off the rope," he explains, smil-
ing sheepishly. "So I gotta get back up." I
ROSE A RCE at West Point

I m

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IN A1ERICAS FAVORIE
COLLEGE 7I3DWN.

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Spend a semester in America's favorite
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THE
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i

OCTOBE R 1986

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