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Rock Illustration as a Fallback Career

6 Aug

Not that we’re huge fans of Pearl Jam here at Cake In 15, but this cover art for their forthcoming Back Spacer release by comic artist Tom Tomorrow is sweet. But, as always, it’s what’s going on behind the pretty front that is the more interesting story. We’ll admit that when the City Pages (and their parent company Village Voice Media) dropped Tom Tomorrow’s “This Modern World” comic strip- ostensibly because of the economy and the death of print media- it took a while for us to notice. The staunchly liberal voice was always a smart and welcome one, but the end of the Bush presidency meant that spluttering in outrage had really reached a point of diminished returns, not aided by the fact that thecomic-by-photocopier style is not one that lends itself to artistic nostalgia. Still, the sanitizing of the broadsheets of political voice (even if it is coming out of the mouth of a cartoon penguin) is one of those indicators of a nation more concerned with non-controversial entertainment than vigorous or aggressive political confrontation. And when Minnesota Independent asked City Pages Editor Kevin Hoffmann if there is any chance that “This Modern World” might be coming back to the CP, he responded in the negative, saying;

“Sadly, as you know from watching the news, the economy has not improved as fast as Obama (or any of us) hoped, so we’re still in cost-reduction mode. That means hiring and wage freezes, a continued 10-percent salary cut for both me and the publisher, and, unfortunately, no Tom Tomorrow for now (though I continue to be a fan of his work and hope to include him in the paper when the economy improves).”

Which is one of those shuffling, no-but-no answers and prompted in the comments section this response from another cartoonist, the ever dyspeptic and cynical Ted Rall of the more absurdly drawn “Left Coast” fame. Rall writes:

“Color me jealous. That’s an amazing assignment, and Tom rose to the occasion! Very cool art.

But why is the City Pages editor spinning? The current management team at Village Voice Media (former name: New Times, based in Phoenix) never liked comics, particularly not political comics. Every time they acquired a paper, they canceled all or most of their political cartoons. Cartoons are not coming back to the City Pages or anywhere else in the VVM chain of conglomo-weeklies until they sell them to someone sane, or readers complain and complain and complain and don’t stop complaining.”

Which is as interesting as it is damning, considering that Rall went to Afghanistan as a correspondent for The Village Voice back in 2001 which resulted in To Afghanistan and Back- A Graphic Travelogue. Now Rall is a pretty inflammatory guy and really doesn’t like anyone or anything, and his definition of “sane” is probably not a dependable business model, but he does make a point about readers demanding more challenging content. It is forgivable to be unprofitable and interesting, it is a tragedy to be unprofitable and dull.

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