Michael Cavna Talks With Tom Tomorrow About Alt-Cartoons

By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tom Tomorrow calls it his "up and down" year, and was it ever: At the beginning of '09, his political cartoon feature "This Modern World" was bleeding newspaper clients; by summer, though, he was toasting his good fortune with a rock-star client.

Tom Tomorrow is the nom-de-toon of 48-year-old bicoastal artist Dan Perkins, whose oft-controversial liberal comic has been a fixture in nearly 100 alt-weeklies for nearly two decades. But when Village Voice Media suspended all syndicated cartoons early this year, Perkins lost 12 newspaper clients.

Fortunately, that's when Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder -- whom Perkins befriended at a Ralph Nader rally in 2000 -- came a-callin', asking the artist whether he'd work on album-cover ideas for the Seattle band's fall release. "Backspacer" was released last month, adorned by his art; the Village Voice restored his comic; and he published his passion project of a children's book, "The Very Silly Mayor." We recently caught up with Perkins by phone.

Were you a longtime Pearl Jam fan when you met Eddie?

No, I just totally missed it, the whole Seattle scene.

How'd the Pearl Jam album cover come about?

I heard from Eddie after I lost the Village Voice Media papers. This very unmistakable baritone calls. . . . He says: "Try your hand at a cover." By the way, a New York Times article said I called Eddie asking him for work. People said to me: "Big, brass [ones], you've got -- calling Eddie for work." But to set the record straight: The only thing I ever asked him for is a couple of concert tickets.

Were there any sticking points, creatively?

Never a moment of conflict. . . . And when I went out to Seattle for a week, I got a private Pearl Jam concert every day. . . . Then, on the last night, Eddie invited me over to his house, we listened to the album and got [hammered].

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