Tomorrow land

Tom Tomorrow is a syndicated cartoonist who has long been a fixture in the Chico News & Review

image courtesy of dan perkins

Tomorrow land

Regular readers of this paper might be familiar with the name Tom Tomorrow. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you might recognize his characters—a penguin incredulous at the conduct of Congress, a friendly looking drone all too happy to advise children of his military capability, or Invisible Hand of the Free Market Man, a talking hand extolling the virtues of capitalism run amok.

Tom Tomorrow is the pen name of political cartoonist Dan Perkins. His cartoon This Modern World has long been a fixture in the Chico News & Review. He’s currently hosting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of a career retrospective called 25 Years of Tomorrow, featuring every cartoon he’s ever published plus archival photos and annotation by the author. We spoke to him about right-wing humor and the 2016 election season.

How did you develop an interest in cartooning?

I don’t know that I ever really had a choice in the matter. It’s just ever since I was a little kid, I just loved the art form. I was in love with Peanuts when I was 4 or 5 years old. It was always the thing that spoke to me and as I got older, Mad magazine, Doonesbury and Zippy the Pinhead, I was such a big fan of all of them.

It seems that satirical voices tend to be liberal. Do you think that’s true?

You’re gonna get me in trouble here because this is a thing that our friends on the right don’t really like to hear. But there’s just something about right-wing humor that tends to punch down rather than up and comes across as mean.

What’s your take on the 2016 election so far?

People have this idea that this is like my best time, because it’s when everyone is focused on politics, but the thing is the campaigns drag on for so long, there’s so little to say about them. The Republican field is so crowded with lunatics. Presumably they’ll weed it down to a plausible candidate at some point, but right now it’s mostly choked with lunatics who are never going to be president, and I find that those cartoons—when I go back and read over them as I’ve been going back and reading over everything this past year—about those flash-in-the-pan candidates that we’re all chitter-chattering about momentarily, I find that those cartoons have the least shelf life. I went through and annotated a lot of the cartoons to add context, and one of the things I was constantly adding was explaining why I have this character or this politician that you can barely remember who he was, saying this thing that you kind of vaguely remember. Last time around, Herman Cain was kind of that candidate, and this time around Donald Trump is momentarily that candidate. Right now, there’s no really big news, so he’s getting a lot of attention, but I guarantee you in a couple of years we’re going to look back and say “Oh god, remember when Donald Trump was running for president?” and it’ll just be this passing thing.

The Kickstarter is smashing goals. You hit your $87,000 goal in 22 hours, and you’re currently up to $176,000.

The amount we put up initially was the bare minimum amount to get the book printed and to get the people I’ve been working with some profit, but I was not going to make any money at that goal level. I just wanted to get the book printed, and I was actually afraid that we weren’t even going to make that goal. I was afraid that I’d have to ask my friends to pitch in and push us over the line 30 days after it started. I can’t even express to you how almost exhilarating it is to watch it take off like this. It feels like it’s happening to someone else.

—Brian Breneman