Berkeley Breathed (born June 21, 1957) is an American cartoonist, children's book author/illustrator, novelist, director, and screenwriter, best known for Bloom County, a 1980s cartoon-comic strip which dealt with socio-political issues as seen through the eyes of highly exaggerated characters (e.g. Bill the Cat and Opus the Penguin) and humorous analogies.
His first regularly published strip, Academia Waltz, appeared in the Daily Texan in 1978. The strip attracted notice from the editors of the Washington Post who recruited him to do a nationally syndicated strip. On December 8, 1980, Bloom County made its debut and featured some of the characters from Academia Waltz, including former frat-boy Steve Dallas and the paraplegic Vietnam war veteran Cutter John.
Bloom County earned Berkeley the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1987. The strip eventually appeared in over 1,200 newspapers around the world until he retired the daily strip in 1989, stating, "A good comic strip is no more eternal than a ripe melon. The ugly truth is that in most cases, comics age less gracefully than their creators".
He replaced this strip with the surreal Sunday-only cartoon, Outland in 1989, which featured some of the Bloom County characters, including Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat. He ended Outland in 1995.
Eight years later, Berkeley began producing the comic strip, Opus, a Sunday-only strip featuring Opus the Penguin, who was one of the iconic characters from Bloom County. He colors the cartoon himself with Adobe Photoshop.
In addition to his syndicated cartoon work, which has produced eleven best-selling cartoon collections, he has also produced seven children's books, two of which, A Wish for Wings That Work and Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big, were made into animated films. Berkeley's writing has also been featured in numerous publications, including Life, Boating, and Travel and Leisure, and he produced the cartoon art in the film, Secondhand Lions, which featured a strip called Walter and Jasmine. The panels he drew for Secondhand Lions appear in Opus: 25 Years of His Sunday Best, and he refers to them as "the comic strip that never was".
Berkeley is a fan of outdoor activities such as power-boating and motorcycling. In 1986, he broke his back in an ultralight plane crash, later incorporated into a "Bloom County" storyline in which Steve Dallas breaks his back after being attacked by an angry Sean Penn. Berkeley also nearly lost his right arm a few years later after a boat propeller severed his humerus bone.
Berkeley, his wife and their two children live in Southern California. Although a private person, he has given interviews to on-line magazines such as The Onion and Salon – but only rarely face-to-face or telephone interviews. He and his wife support animal rights, and his book, Flawed Dogs: The Year-End Leftovers at the Piddleton 'Last Chance' Dog Pound, promotes adopting pets from shelters.