Tom Tomorrow Parties

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While I join Julian in disliking Tom Tomorrow's recent bit of libertarian-bashing, I don't agree that the man has been getting worse in the last couple of years. I do think he went downhill for much of the '90s, culminating in some really witless animations for the Nader campaign—but then he snapped back to life after 9/11, with clever efforts like this one. Indeed, I've sometimes joked that the one silver lining to the terrorist attacks has been the revival of Tom Tomorrow's talents. Does he blow it sometimes? Sure, but he makes me laugh at least once a month, which is more than I can say for most strips.

The political cartoon whose appeal completely escapes me is Day by Day, a comic much beloved in the blogosphere. It's basically a really bad imitation of Doonesbury, except it's conservative instead of liberal. That may make it more palatable to right-wing tastes, but it doesn't make it any funnier.

Update: A reader called "Digamma" informs us that Tom Tomorrow's anti-libertarian cartoon isn't so recent after all. It was originally published in July 2000—in other words, just as Tomorrow was troughing.

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  1. Well, I’m partial to Non Sequitor myself (hey, you think I’m a political junkie 24/7?!)

  2. Witless cartoons are the norm unfortunately, just check out cagle.com and click the editorials.

    And yes, Wiley is good though a little bitter.

  3. Hear, hear. For my money, the best right-slanted cartoons (which which I also find myself disagreeing frequently, but at least they’re funny and visually interesting) are John Bergstrom’s attack cartoons, at http://attackcartoons.com. Bergstrom, sadly, has been on hiatus lately.

  4. Conservative readers: do you agree that “Mallard Fillmore” sucks audibly? Or is just my own bias?

  5. I wouldn?t say ?sucks? but the ?toon is a little dull.

    I?m still trying to figure out how most of these guys, Left and Right, got their gigs to begin with. Those like Mallard and Chuck Asay have decent things to say I suppose but they?re not the least bit witty.

    Everything will be fixed in a couple of weeks though when my cartoon website is launched. I?ll URL it here when it?s done. (I can feel the anticipation around rise.)

  6. Here’s a question for the reason types:

    Whatever happened to John Trever?

    Jeff Smith

  7. The “libertarian think tanks” cartoon was published in the American Prospect on July 19, 2000. Three years ago. Why the sudden fury?

  8. Jeff Smith,

    Try this;

    http://cagle.slate.msn.com/politicalcartoons/PCcartoons/trever.asp

    Or just go to the Albuquerque Journal.

  9. Anybody who doesn’t worship at the altar of Red Meat (www.redmeat.com) should be banished to the burning brimstone fires of Hell.

    Or at least onto the lukewarm coals in my Weber Grill, at a minimum.

  10. It’s about half a step up (if that) from Mallard Fillmore. Of course, every once in a while Mallard came up with something really good. For instance, he once did a theme on the media’s take on the American Revolution if NPR liberals had been around back then (“Antigovernment extremists in the so-called Massachusetts militia….”).

    WLC:
    I like Non Sequitur, too. Far From Home is also pretty good. One of my favorites showed two women talking over a fence. One of the women was a witch with a gingerbread house. The other had a giant shoe in her yard, with children running around all over the place. Witch: “So! I can’t help noticing you have so many children you don’t know what to do.”

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Somebody finally said it out loud — this “Day By Day” strip is simply not very funny.

    I know the blogosphere wants to embrace this stuff so it can continue fluffing itself up as the new, improved Olde Media. But really… honest assessments would go a long way in helping build the blogosphere’s credibility.

    Maybe Glenn Reynolds just has bad taste: Not only does he apparently love “Day By Day,” but he’s always linking to that Scrappleface site, which is an embarrassingly poor stab at news parody. It’s like a high school student’s bumbling attempt at doing The Onion or something.

  12. I vote for Bizarro in the general category and Tom Toles in the political category.

  13. fyodor,

    Vote for the worst you mean?

  14. Actually, that Tom Tomorrow is worse than the one Julian links to at Balko’s blog. For one thing, its very existence, without its resulting in Tomorrow’s being dragged off to the the Secular Humanist Leftist Gulag and Happy Sunshine Camp, undermines its premise. In fact, I have yet to meet a single person who is afraid to express their opinion on either GWB or the Republican administration, and neither is ever positive. This whole “dissent crushing” crap we’ve heard over the past two years simply has not been borne out.

    It’s especially funny that Tomorrow seems to want to attribute the attitude being mocked solely to Republicans. The Democrats have not exactly staked out the humanist, God-free electoral platform. Playing to the Christian masses is part and parcel of American politics, whatever political Garanimal you happen to wear. I predict that, within the month leading up to the New Hampshire primaries, we’ll have a photo of every single Democratic candidate — one of whom actually goes by “Reverend,” remember — either attending church with their families or speaking to a church group.

  15. Thanks Ray!

    I realized after reading your reply (and
    looking at some Trever cartoons) that I
    meant to ask two questions, of which the
    second is, why did Reason drop Trever?

    Anyone know?

    Jeff Smith

  16. I think Bagge is the only cartoonist that was first and foremost a Reason employee.

    The others, I believe, were more or less “featured” artists.

  17. Phil writes: ” For one thing, its very existence, without its resulting in Tomorrow’s being dragged off to the the Secular Humanist Leftist Gulag and Happy Sunshine Camp, undermines its premise.”

    I don’t think that was the premise. I think it was pointing out some of the freedoms that we enjoy that, well, President Bush isn’t going to be mentioning as the things that terrorists hate about us.

    Can you imagine Bush, at a State of the Union, saying that terrorists hate the freedoms of our gays and lesbians and atheists? Not gonna happen. Can you imagine the government passing laws to restrict the freedoms of gays and lesbians? Yup.

    I don’t think cartoon had anything to do with the threat of imprisonment to suppress dissent. Only one panel even addresses dissent.

  18. But the important question is the title of the post. Has somebody been reading William Gibson?
    Oh yea – the cartoon. Never liked Tomorrow, still don’t.
    Ha!

  19. But the important question is the title of the post. Has somebody been reading William Gibson?

    Actually, I was thinking of the Velvet Underground song. I haven’t read that particular book of Gibson’s — haven’t read any of his novels written after Virtual Light, actually — but I assume he named it after the same tune.

  20. I miss Berke Breathed and Bloom County.

  21. Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins might give in to the easy joke now and then, but he’s still one of the very few political cartoonists worth reading. (And his blog often reveals a side that would utterly confuse most alt-weekly readers; he’s a thoughtful writer.) As for the Web-only cartoons, that world pretty much begins & ends with Achewood, probably the smartest, weirdest cartoon world ever to appear in strip form. (Reason fans might be interested in the character Ray, who now writes an advice column that could be easily claimed by libertarians.)

  22. Jesse – Good call on Tom the Dancing Bug. He slipped my mind, probably because he’s too good to be controversial. His nine-panel narrative pulp style is more readable than Tomorrow’s six-panel screeds. And his use of “Judge Scalia!” as a superhero is just splendid. Here’s oneof my recent favorites – it took a whiny lefty meme and made it hilarious.

  23. Yeah, it was named after the VU tune. And, incidentally, the best anti-drug commecial ever would just consist of before-and-after photos of Nico during her time with the Velvets and about ten years later. I didn’t dig the post VL books so much, but Pattern Recognition is supposed to be back on form, and I’m looking forward to getting to it.

  24. Mark Fiore’s cartoons are excruciating. They’re the cartoon equivalent of an especially dull segment of the Diane Rehm show. They’d be okay as a conversation-starter in a third-grade social studies class, maybe.

    With all respect for Pete Bagge’s current thinking-adult work, I liked his indie-rock period a lot more.

  25. Tom Tomorrow has improved? Man, I don’t see it. The last year or so of his cartoons have been one long parade of cliches. He’s got three tricks:

    1.) Strawman arguments bantered about by dumb conservatives, who ignore the brainy penguin and “bearded liberal.” See:
    http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=14550
    http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=14670

    2.) The same strawman arguments made with pop culture references.
    http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=15021
    http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=14791

    3.) Fox News “parodies.”
    http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2003/01/21/tomo/index.html
    http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=14932

    And I will never, ever forgive him for shamelessly ripping off an old Mr. Show skit.

    “Day by Day” is mirthless drivel with bad art, so it’s nice that we’ve got that in the open. “Achewood” is fantastic, and I’d add “Penny Arcade” to the canon of “decent web cartoons.” It’s not political, but it’s cynical and unpredictable. “This Modern World” is way to predictable to earn anyone’s praise.

    Try this – look at 10 consecutive Tom Tomorrow cartoons and see if you find a few jokes or themes repeated. Now try it with 10 Peter Bagge cartoons.

    Point made, case rested.

  26. Fiore was fired a while back from San Jose and man you should have heard the whining.

    Forget that he’s a no talented hack that couldn’t interject some objectivism into his work if there were a gun to his head. He blamed it all on the conservative corporate types running the paper and all they were worried about was making money.

    It was pathetic.

  27. Ray – I’m guessing these were the same conspirators that cancelled The Speaking Truth to Power Hour, a.k.a. MSNBC’s Donohue show?

    Lefty radio and columnists still haven’t gotten over that …

  28. Dave,

    Dirty rotten profit seekers. . .

  29. Dave Weigel writes: “Ray – I’m guessing these were the same conspirators that cancelled The Speaking Truth to Power Hour, a.k.a. MSNBC’s Donohue show?

    Lefty radio and columnists still haven’t gotten over that”

    Nor have MSNBC’s ratings. They just can’t seem to come up with a show that gets ratings as high as Donohue’s were.

  30. As far as online comics go, I have to put in a vote for Dr. Fun, which has been running since the early mid-90s.

    It’s a single-panel, Far Side-style comic.

    Sometimes I just don’t get it because it’s too obscure, but sometimes it’s really good.

    I kinda like this one: http://www.ibiblio.org/Dave/Dr-Fun/df200005/df20000517.jpg

  31. Mallard: nay. Red Meat: yea. Bizarro: double yea. Tomorrow: feh. Day by Day: feh. Bagge: yea/feh alternately. Zippy: potato salad.

  32. What Tom Tomorrow and other critics of the free-market never understand is that many market participants are actual demanders of regulations in order to stifle competition. Even if they do understand this point, their manin argument is that we need to elect more “responsible” people to office.

  33. I like the subtle socio-political commentary of “Fred Basset.”

  34. Peter Bagge does the best investigative reporter style political cartoons out there. In fact, I’m not sure who else is using this format.

    As for daily/weekly single panel stuff, Payne and Bok are both great. But where are they out on the web?

    At MSNBC, Tolls and Danziger are my favorites. Tolls characters are great, not too ugly and not too preachy. The uncle Sam fatass guy is kinda cute, just like the US is. He means well, you know? 😉 Danziger is venomous and draws very well. His viewpoints are a bit left of left sometimes, but he gets it right quite often. Ann Telanes is a slick illustrator and has a few hits occasionally. I can’t get into Seargent due to his grotesque monster lard people. Henderson doesn’t draw often enough and Rall is worthless.

  35. Dave: While I like TT’s work better than you do, I hope we can all agree that Peter Bagge is better. Within the narrow category of political cartoons (and, as you know, Peter does a lot more than just political cartoons), my favorite writer/artist working right now is Ruben Bolling, whose comic “Tom the Dancing Bug” is probably the most consistently funny strip out there.

    On the subject of Web-only cartoons: Am I the only one who really, really dislikes Mark Fiore’s flash animations? I think they’re poorly paced, boring, and stuck in an ideological straightjacket, but he’s got a cult even bigger than the “Day by Day” crowd. What gives?

  36. “Danziger is venomous and draws very well.”

    My biggest problem with Danziger has always been his lame art work so I guess that kind of sums alot of this up as so much of it rests on the subjective.

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