“Alt-weekly cartooning in particular has always been about stitching together a living from various sources — I’m just trying to open up one more source.”
So says DAN PERKINS, who goes by the nom-de-toon Tom Tomorrow as creator of one of alt-cartooning’s leading comics, ”This Modern World.” Perkins has announced that he is ending his 15-year run at Salon to become comics editor — “comics curator” really, he tells us — at the Daily Kos.
“It’s an experiment,” Perkins tells Comic Riffs about hitching his expertise to the efforts of Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. “And the timing was good: For whatever reason, Markos wanted me to anchor the comics section, and my yearly contract at Salon was up.”
Not that Salon, which has posted its final Tom Tomorrow cartoon, was apparently ready to see him go.
“Salon would have been happy to renew, and had this not come along, there would have been worse things than continuing on the site I’ve been associated with for 15 years,” Perkins tells us. “Salon’s a great site, with a lot of great content. But Salon is also a good example of the trend I hope to counter. For many years they had a regular roster of cartoonists, but I was the only one left. We need expansion in this field, not contraction.”
Some in the comics industry have painted this as an attempt by the left-leaning Perkins to “save political cartooning” — but that, the artist says, misses the mark.
“It’s really not that grandiose — it’s just an attempt to open up another new market,” Perkins, 49, says to ‘Riffs. ”The online world is constantly evolving, and we’re at a point where several blogs that began as small operations have become new media powerhouses — I’d like to establish the precedent of including cartoons as a natural part of the mix.”
The Daily Kos calls itself “the largest progressive community blog in the United States.” On the matter of new-media powerhouse blogs, the artist also poses the question: “Why did the Huffington Post, with verticals devoted to almost any topic you can imagine, never launch a comics section?”
Perkins says that the Daily Kos’s comics rollout “will take place over the next couple of months, and may be incremental at first.” (He says his own cartoon will begin appearing there Monday.) The new Kos hire also notes: “We will be paying, though not a huge amount.”
The artist knows all too personally the challenges of trying to stitch together payments from many clients. Launched two decades ago in SF Weekly, the oft-controversial, national-award-winning “This Modern World” has appeared in nearly 100 alt-weeklies. When the Village Voice chain suspended all syndicated cartoons in 2009, however, Perkins lost 12 newspaper clients. (That loss spurred a Perkins pal — Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder — to launch a campaign to support “The Modern World”; later that year, Perkins designed the album cover for Pearl Jam’s 2009 Grammy-nominated album, “Backspacer.”)
As for his new title at Kos, Perkins tells us: “We’ve been calling me the ‘Comics Editor,’ but I think a more accurate description would be comics curator. I will make informed — and opinionated — suggestions, but Markos will make the final decisions.”
What Perkins has the potential to help curate, especially, is some visible stand against the all-too-painful contraction of political cartooning. As many newspapers have pink-slipped their staff cartooning positions, nothing online — new media sites, new apps, even new “miracle” iPads — has emerged to fully fill that void.
“The niche that editorial cartoons filled in newspapers,” Perkins writes, “is almost entirely occupied by ‘Daily Show’ clips online.”
Now, Perkins writes, “I’ve got a chance to help counter that trend, in some small way.”