For this penguin, dandelions beat ice floes any day

A chat with Berkeley Breathed's comic strip character.

Question: What have you been doing during your self-imposed exile?

Answer: Mr. Berkeley made me sign a nondisclosure statement. I can tell you that it's been eight years since I've had warm summer dandelions under my tuchis and not ice crystals, and let me tell you, dandelions win.

Q: Have you kept in touch with Bill the Cat, Milo and the gang?

A: Good Lord 'n' butter, I haven't heard anything. There was a rumor that Bill was in the Christmas catalog for Baby Gap, modeling thong diapers, but I doubted it. Think about it. His tail would have to go to one side or the other and, boy, that would really stump him into a catatonic episode.

Q: We understand you have acting ambitions. Tell us about your new film project.

A: Bob Weinstein at Miramax/Dimension holds the option at the moment. The interesting thing is that he's thinking of playing me himself, which I'm fine about mostly. Once you get to know him, and he, you know, shaves all over, he's way cuddlier than people think.

Q: Will you be cozying up to the state's new governor for better Hollywood access?

A: I have a lawsuit with Maria right now, and my lawyer suggested I mostly shut up about any of that. She called it "playfulness" but it was far, far from that.

Q: So what's the deal with the half-page strip size? Is it so you'll appear full-size?

A: Personally, I'm very embarrassed about this. Mr. Berkeley says that, given enough space, the Sunday comics could be something we again anticipate looking at as much as reading. He thinks the comic's glory days might not be over. Me, I'm just embarrassed that with all this space, some tired old strips will have to be canned and the people that do them might feel bad. The good part, I suppose, is that many of those cartoonists are hired lackeys, bored silly or technically dead, so, you know, they're past that anyway.

Q: What message are you trying to bring the people with your new Sunday forum?

A: Keep the dandelions under your butt and the ice far away. It's all I can think of right now, but I'm sure something else will come up in the next few years. It always does.

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