Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: Toons for Our Times

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Toons for Our Times
Author: Berke Breathed
Date: 1984
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
ISBN: none
Length: 92 pages
Illustrations: cartoons on every page, some in color
Quote: “He was a crook and a shnook...but I always did like ol’ Senator Bedfellow.”
Bloom County. What more need I say? During the 1980s, fictional Bloom County was the funniest place to be.
The places: A boardinghouse occupied by single and divorced men, their sons, and a bird who considered himself a penguin. (When critics said Opus Penguin looked more like a puffin, Breathed looked up both species and demonstrated that Opus didn’t really look like either.) Young Binkley’s bedroom in the boardinghouse, featuring the Anxiety Closet managed by the Giant Purple Spotted Snorklewacker monster. A meadow, frequently occupied by the boys, occasionally some girls, a thoroughly nice paraplegic man, and a few animals. The office of the Bloom Beacon newspaper, where the children and animals sometimes worked. A barr, where the men spent a lot of time staring into empty glasses.
The population: Binkley, the anxiety-prone middle school boy, subject to frequent nightmares about current news stories. His father, most often seen sitting up in bed when Binkley reported a nightmare. Milo, the verbose boy known for ludicrous exaggerations and tabloid-type news stories. Oliver, the computer geek, whose father absolutely forbids him to hack into government computers and (heh-heh) has no idea why the family never seems to owe any tax. Yaz, the girl who’d rather be hanging out with teenagers but has been discouraged enough on the teen scene to settle for the company of smaller, younger kids. Bill the Cat, who wasn’t particularly popular but once campaigned as the Meadow Party’s presidential candidate. Opus, the penguin who was Bill’s running mate, probably the most lovable character in the strip. John, the paraplegic who’d make somebody a perfect husband, if only...anyway, he spends a lot of time giving the children and animals rides around the meadow in his wheelchair. Steve, the chain-smoking lawyer who sees himself as “An American Stinker.” A few young women—in this book it’s Bobbi—who kiss John, then dump him for Steve, then lose Steve (usually thinking they dumped him because he’s such a stinker). The Snorklewacker. Plus a few grown-up minor characters who don’t live in the boardinghouse, e.g. Senator Bedfellow, who in this book has to spend jail time with a bunch of thugs who remember his advocacy of capital punishment, and some even more ridiculous figures who place ads and file complaints at the Beacon.
The targets of the jokes: News stories of the 1980s, especially nuclear armaments, heavy metal music, TV commercials, computer hackers, inadvertent “discrimination” against people with minor disabilities, personal ads, censorship of cartoons, corporate law, back-masked rock lyrics (yes, young readers, some classic rock artists had a lot of fun back-masking), Academy Awards, single bars, and presidential elections.

The main reason why people might not buy a copy of Toons for Our Times is that most older people already have one. It’s recommended to those who want to replace a lost or damaged copy, for younger “Outback” or “Opus” cartoon readers who warnt to catch up on the back-story, all who remember the 1980s, and anyone looking for authentic 1980s comedy. 

Fair Trade Book price is $5 + $5 for shipping, from which Breathed or a charity of his choice will receive $1.