The Wrath of Sparky

Foreword by Tom Tomorrow

Inspired by the first few months of the 104th Congress, I was originally thinking about calling this book *Republicans are Scum Sucking Vermin* (More Gentle Wit and Good Natured Humor from America's Most Heartwarming Cartoonist). Contrary to what you might expect, my publishers loved the idea -- I actually had to talk *them* out of it after I had second (and third and fourth) thoughts. One problem was that Al Franken had just released *Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot*, which was essentially the same joke, and he got it into print first. But more importantly, I began to think about how much mail I already get from clue-impaired readers who seem to believe that I am little more than an obedient foot soldier marching in lockstep with the Democratic National Committee (alongside all my comrades in the monolithic liberal media, of course). One such correspondent, for instance, recently advised me via e-mail to "stand up for normal American values like marriage, heterosexuality, Christianity, and the old-fashioned work ethic and stop writing like a disgruntled child or welfare mama. You may be unhappy about it, but most of America is normal and conservative, unlike the East and West Coast weirdos and the draft-dodging 'President.'" Another e-mail pal (and gosh, I sure have my share of them) wrote: "You are nothing but a partisan flack for the Taxicratic Party. The best thing about your cartoon is that it does get people thinking. This is where you made your big mistake. Because facts refute Liberalism every time. While you may think you are getting people all charged up to vote Democrat, sooner or later, if they continue to search for the truth, they will eventually come around." You can just imagine my dismay at the exposure of my secret plan to rally the cartoon-reading public around the centrist, pro-business Clinton agenda.

Yes, I target Republicans more frequently than Democrats -- how can any honest satirist not focus on a party that so shamelessly champions polluted air, dirty water, and poisoned meat on behalf of their corporate benefactors?-- but this does *not* mean I am blindly in favor of any idiotic corporate sellout the *Democrats* propose. Despite what the diddleheads want to believe, life isn't that simple. In the foreword to my last book, I discussed my own sense that the real conflict in this country "has nothing to do with right or left, conservative or liberal; it has everything to do with up or down, ruling or working class." In the two years since I wrote those words it has become somewhat more acceptable to discuss the ongoing class war being fought (and won) by the rich and privileged against the rest of the population, but its taken Pat Buchanan, of all people, to bring the issue to the table. And meanwhile, having been forced to admit that a problem might even exist, TV pundits and other defenders of the status quo are working overtime to convince Americans that the problem isn't with the nature of modern-day capitalism, isn't with a politically autonomous Fed chairman who seems determined to choke off any hint of job growth in his Don Quixote-ish battle against inflationary threats only he can perceive, and certainly isn't with corporations which act as if they have no obligation whatsoever to the society in which they are allowed to exist -- the problem is, in fact, with American workers themselves! If you lose your job because your company downsizes to appease Wall Street, the pundits helpfully explain, it's your own damned fault! You just don't have the skills required to compete in the fabulous new information economy! Oddly enough, as large companies continue to reduce their workforces while simultaneously posting record profits, Americans seem dubious that a little retraining and a subscription to Wired magazine are all they need to keep their heads above water. AT&T received so much bad publicity for its recently announced layoffs that it was forced to place full-page ads in The New York Times and USA Today imploring other companies to hire their former employees -- which, come to think of it, pretty much sums up the fin-de-siecle corporate credo: "Will somebody *else* please give these people jobs so they can afford to pay for *our* goods and services?" You don't have to have an advanced degree in economics to see that there's something wrong with that -- in fact, given the pronouncements of most economists, it's probably better if you don't. The question, of course, is what can possibly be done -- and frankly, I don't have the slightest idea. But (if you'll excuse the cliche) I do know this: You can't have a debate about what the emperor should be wearing until somebody points out that the emperor is naked, and that's what I figure I'm being paid to do. So listen up, folks: Clinton, Dole, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Greenspan, most of the 104th Congress, and just about every so-called expert yammering away on TV every night ... they're all naked, every goddamned one of them, right down to their flabby white buttocks.

And I'll tell you, it's not a pretty sight.


About this book: Most of the following cartoons are, of course, taken from my weekly self-syndicated feature, This Modern World, which appears regularly in about 100 newspapers -- a fact that astonishes me as much as anyone, particularly given TMW's extremely humble beginnings as a self-published 'zine a decade ago, when I began to experiment with combining my interests in cartooning and collage. The result was a story satirizing consumerism and technology, which was later reprinted in Processed World, and (in a slightly altered form) a comic book called Centrifugal Bumble Puppy, edited by Joe Sacco. I went to the trouble of digging the latter version out of the voluminous and dust-filled Tom Tomorrow archives because no effort is too great for you, the reader (and because we had some space to kill in this book). It's reprinted on pages 32-45, and while I had to resist the urge to clean it up here and there, I think it still holds up relatively well and hope it may be of some interest to readers curious about the evolution of my work. One thing that strikes me in retrospect is the degree to which random chance dictated the story, many parts of which were written solely because I happened to have come across a strange image I wanted to include. (The peculiar meeting between Bill and his boss, for instance, was inspired by an old Timex ad picturing the watch-wearing turtles I incorporated into the background.)uld also note that I cannibalized this story somewhat when I began to work on turning This Modern World into a weekly newspaper cartoon; readers with long memories may remember some of these panels as single cartoons from my first book, Greetings from This Modern World.

There are a few other oddities and rarities in this book as well. "The Trouble with Brains" originally appeared in color on the Endpaper page of The New York Times Sunday Magazine. (And if it had occurred to me to think about it at all when I was working on that aforementioned 'zine, I would have figured I had about as much chance of getting into The New York Times as, well, turtles have of knowing the correct time.)

The Sparkymobile on pages 60-63 was something I designed for fun a few years ago and has never appeared in print anywhere. (A note about that: Certain national copy center franchises have been cowed by the threat of lawsuits and will refuse to make even single copies of copyrighted material without specific permission from the copyright holder, so if you're one of the three readers who is actually going to try to build the model, just show them this paragraph in which I SPECIFICALLY GIVE THE HOLDER OF THIS BOOK PERMISSION TO COPY PAGES 60-63, OKAY, KINKO'S?) (Not that explaining the concept of a pen name every time I want to make a copy of my own damn work has left me irritable or annoyed, you understand).

The somewhat squashed-looking cartoons on pages 100-101 and 112-113 originally appeared on the letters page of The Nation , to which I have been contributing an original cartoon once a month since their recent redesign, much to the dismay of many longtime subscribers who can't believe what the world is coming to. (Numerous ads for spanking erotica can still be found on the magazine's classified page, so at least some traditions remain unsullied.)

Finally, the stained glass Sparky I'm holding on the back cover photograph was made for me as a birthday present in 1993 by my mom, who was killed by a drunk driver later the same year.

Dan Perkins
("Tom Tomorrow")
San Francisco
April, 1996