tom tomorrow | this modern world

17 01 2009


NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.166 | January 17, 2009


(“BYE, BYE BUSH”… AND ALL THAT, and more…)

Editor’s Note: Among my numerous attempts the past 40 years to survive as a ‘local’ writer in this rural Wisconsin location, contribute something to the community culture (via what passes for local newspapers, shopping guides, entertainment sheets here) that might address everything from the stark beauty of the landscape; environmental concerns; portraits of local people (from farmers, fishermen, ministers, etc.…to the ‘movers and shakers’); somewhat and/or slightly satirical pieces on any and all issues that needed an airing out (including political palaver), there was a moment in time when I co-edited (along with John Nelson, who left the scene a year ago) a publication called The Door Voice which we felt had much potential. (Unfulfilled.)

For all of the reasons these things usually fail, wear you down, bleed you dry, so too did The Door Voice. We never expected to make any real money at it. And if you are in any way associated with the arts, this is a given. And you get better at it through the years.

Nevertheless, the dream and the joy work hand-in-hand for whatever amount of time the gods smile down upon you. Not at all unlike, in fact, very similar to small press and literary little mag publishing. You just can’t wait to gather ideas and content for the next issue, contact the writers, artists, people you hope will contribute to making the publication both popular and provocative…not to mention get your own words in edge-wise–essay, column, interview, poem or story.

I read as many ‘alternate publications’ of substance as possible. The Door Voice was definitely that given the two or three parochial publication available. Two of the best alternate publications in the state were/are The Shepherd Express (Milwaukee) and Isthmus (Madison). I had once met the editor of Isthmus, Marc Eisen (former editor, sad to say) on a trip to Madison and in time did a little writing for the paper. For years I received a complimentary copy of Isthmus every week, for which I remain forever grateful.

One of the many reasons I enjoyed the depth and scope of Marc Eisen’s weekly Isthmus each was the presence of a little known (then) political cartoon called THIS MODERN WORLD by Tom Tomorrow. It was usually done in six, sometimes, four, panels. It was always ‘right-on’, given the momentary message and mess in Washington.

headoneTomorrow’s main character is ‘Sparky, the Wonder Penguin’ (with red visor), who can be sardonic, skeptical, soul-searching and smart-ass, all in one. (Not to mention “LIBERAL.”) A Boston Terrier by the name of ‘Blinky’ also appears on occasion. And then he draws the real-life characters—as real as they are/were. Sorta. Tomorrow was the cartoonist’s answer to America’s right-wing, trash-talk radio & TV. Only smarter. Funnier. And you had to really read his cartoon, not just take a free ride on the pictures. However, not everyone was fortunate enough to find Tomorrow’s work then in the mainstream media. Enter (again) …the alternative newspapers and magazines, the small press, etc. That underground heart and soul of American culture—where T.T. thrived.

headtwoOn a hunch I thought maybe I could address the ‘underground heart’ of Tom Tomorrow, ask his permission to reprint THIS MODERN WORLD in The Door Voice—free. Was Door County ready for political satire? Why not? Next to find Tom Tomorrow. I called Marc Eisen at Isthmus, asked if he could help. Within minutes I was talking on the phone to Tom Tomorrow in California (only his name wasn’t Tom Tomorrow, it was Dan Perkins), and he was on his way, moving back to New York and sure, I could use/reprint his work. Just credit the source.

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins, at this stage in his career, appears in major Americans newspapers and magazines. Even magazine covers! You can find his work regularly, on line at Salon. He has books.(Check Amazon) His website is: or just click on the header image.

Finally, in celebration of Bush’s long ride home, back to Texas this coming week, and given the continued bad and growing history he’s left us…I thought it might be appropriate to reprint Tom Tomorrow’s cartoon from the January 2, 2009 issue of Isthmus. —Norbert Blei





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