Cartoonist: From Bloom County to Moms on Mars Mars Needs Moms! tells the story of Milo, a boy who re-evaluates the value of moms when Martians kidnap his mother. Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed talks about his book and the sacrifices parents make for their children.

Cartoonist: From Bloom County to Moms on Mars

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


Berkeley Breathed is breaking the mold again. Remember "Bloom County"? The comic strip had Opus, the penguin, slickster lawyer Steve Dallas and a full cast of characters biting and scratching their satire into the funny pages. Breathed style was unconventional, but it won him a Pulitzer Prize. And now he's writing children's books. His new one is called "Mars Needs Moms."

BERKELEY BREATHED: It's about a little boy who doesn't appreciate his mother as much as he should and sees her in a bit of a one dimensional way. And...

SEABROOK: He calls her a bellowing broccoli bully.

BREATHED: Yeah. And that's the one dimension part.


BREATHED: So they kidnapped his and he follows them back to Mars, and something happens and he gets the opportunity to see his mother in a more three dimensional way.

SEABROOK: Berkeley Breathed stopped by NPR West today. He says a children's book with a positive message is a counterpoint to his usual work. But it didn't change the way he writes.

BREATHED: What I've learned from having children is you - there's a few unbreakable rules that you can't stray near. You can't say, in the words, the boy walked down the street and picked up a Coke can and kept going. You better show that Coke can in your painting or your kid stop the story right there as you're reading into them. And they will - and you keep going. Where is the Coke can, dad?


BREATHED: And so I've started with the pictures now so I don't miss that.

SEABROOK: Could I ask you to read a little bit of it? Do you have the book in front of you?

BREATHED: Oh, I don't.

SEABROOK: (Reading) And suddenly he knew why Mars so badly wanted mothers.

BREATHED: Oh dear.

SEABROOK: (Reading) They needed driving to soccer and to ballet and to play dates, parks and pizzas, plus cooking and cleaning, and dressing, and packing lunches, and bandaging boo-boos.

BREATHED: I think, you did it better than me, Andrea.


SEABROOK: There's this wonderful picture of this giant bus full of Martians holding soccer balls and wearing tutus and, sort of, waiting for the mothers to arrive from Earth.

BREATHED: On a giant minivan.

SEABROOK: A giant - a giant Martian minivan.

BREATHED: I got a little trouble with the domestic dream of the Martians when they look down on Earth to see the aspects of mothering that they thought looked pretty cool. That's what they want to be repeated on Mars. What I couldn't fit in is that mom may - as long as - as well, as those domestic duties, mom may well have been coming back from a very high-powered job at IBM.

SEABROOK: This book takes a really serious turn towards the end. The mom actually, in the book actually sacrifices herself, gives her Martian helmet to Milo...


SEABROOK: ...and there's the question about, for a while anyway, about whether she'll survive.


SEABROOK: This is not typical for a children's book.

BREATHED: I don't know. They were uncomfortable with it. I felt, as long as the book ends well and mom is perfectly fine, the fact that she was willing to die for her child should be something that could be easily discussed in a family because it's so unalterably true.

SEABROOK: Berkeley Breathed, you don't fit again. Children's book world, the cartoon world...


SEABROOK: I'm reminded that you won a Pulitzer for your editorial cartooning and the editorial cartoonists of the world are very angry about that.

BREATHED: Yeah. I just can't step into this without causing a stir, can I?


BREATHED: I didn't know that I was breaking all the rules when I drew a Sunday strip as if a doer's booze ad. I didn't know I was breaking rules when my cartoon characters turn to the audience and suggested they were tired of getting ripped off by Garfield up on top of them for all the merchandise and they were going to bring out their own cat to merchandise.


BREATHED: In my mother's case, that was the space helmet that she offered me. You don't have to die to show your love for your child, but sacrifices is all about what parenting is. And I'm hoping the book will remind, not only kids, but the parents, too, to look back on their own lives. To see that whatever issues they've got and you can hear about them all day long in "Oprah," people's issues, especially women's issues with their mothers. If they look carefully enough, they'll see that their parents or their mother did take the proverbial bullet or the rhetorical bullet at some point in their lives.

SEABROOK: Thank you so much for stopping by our studios.

BREATHED: Andrea, it was delightful.

SEABROOK: Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and author Berkeley Breathed's new book is called "Mars Needs Moms."


SEABROOK: You can see some of the illustrations from "Mars Needs Moms" at


NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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