We all know the economy is bad and likely to get worse in the days ahead. I’m sure you know people who’ve been affected. I want to tell you about a friend of mine who recently took a huge hit, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow, creator of “This Modern World.”
In January, Village Voice Media, the largest group of weekly newspapers in the country, indefinitely suspended all syndicated cartoons. In a single day, Tom’s strip was cut from 12 papers. Obviously that means a loss of income for him. Perhaps even worse is the lost connection to readers who faithfully turn to Tom and his sardonic penguin Sparky to help them survive the absurdities of the world around us.
Political cartoons have a powerful history in the United States. Many cartoonists were the Jon Stewarts of their day, quickly cutting complex issues to their cores. Decades before the Revolutionary War, Ben Franklin sketched a disjointed snake to rally the colonies to unity, creating a lasting symbol of the time. Herb Block’s incisive visual commentaries played a significant role in the public perception of Watergate. Alt-weeklies have provided a home to some of our finest subversive comic art, from Bill Griffith’s “Zippy the Pinhead” to Simpsons-creator Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell.”
Cartoons are a great deal for alt-weeklies: they provide some of the least expensive and yet most popular content. Many times you have picked up Seattle Weekly, the Village Voice, Minneapolis City Pages or LA Weekly – just some of the Voice Media papers – and turned right to the cartoon section. Now that has vanished.
The only way this vital artwork will return is through a sustained outcry from readers. We have to tell editors at our local alternative weeklies that we don’t want them to suspend cartoons; if they already have, we want them brought back. When you write, please be polite and respectful. Many of the editors at these papers are friends of the cartoonists we’re supporting – after all, they’re the folks who gave the cartoons a home in the first place. Suspending the work was a corporate decision made during incredibly tough times for all newspapers.
So send an email, write a letter, make a call, and then ask your friends and families to do the same. I appreciate your help very much – and so does Tom.