Newsletter (11-12-97)

So, to take care of some frequently asked questions --


It's true, I am an official regular contributor to the stodgiest of the three major newsweeklies. Having never thought of myself as a mainstream newsmagazine kind of guy, this is fairly peculiar -- especially considering that I was also entertaining an offer from Time Magazine. Time offered me that narrow space across the bottom of the page that they've been rotating between some other cartoonists recently, but it just wasn't enough room for me to do the sort of work I want to do, and I didn't want to be turning out superficial jokes about the news just for the purpose of getting my work into Time Magazine. And I was already a fan of editor James Fallows book of media criticism, "Breaking the News" and thought that he might be more likely to give me some leeway. (Or enough rope to hang myself, as the case may be.) At any rate, Tom Tomorrow now has Capitol Hill press access, further proof that the world is a much stranger place than you might imagine.

My cartoon runs in US News every other week. I have a six month contract, and don't have any idea if I'll last much beyond that. The editors seem to like my work, but the US News readership still skews, well, stodgy. My cartoon on the Promise Keepers apparently engendered numerous complaints (and numerous subscription cancellations). In fact, two letters out of six or so on the most recent letters page are devoted to complaining about that cartoon -- both of which are a little unclear on the concept of editorial cartooning, with one complaining that I did not present a balanced viewpoint and the other upset that I "made a joke" out of the whole event! At any rate, I'd like to encourage those of you who might happen to be US News readers to please consider writing them and letting them know that you SUPPORT their inexplicable decision to run this weirdo alternative cartoonist guy. The address is: Editor, US News & World Report, 2400 N St NW, Wash. DC 20037 (include full name, address, and daytime phone). Or by email:


At the beginning of the summer, The Nation -- never a magazine to emphasize humor *or* graphics -- decided that this whole crazy notion of including cartoons had simply been a terrible mistake. It worked out well for me -- I moved to New York over the summer and was happy to have my workload lightened during a pretty a hectic time, and by August they had a change of heart (due to the power of reader feedback) and decided to reinstate the cartoon spot on the letters page. I suggested they run more than one cartoon an issue -- I can think of any number of talented, insightful graphic commentators whose work would liven the magazine up immeasurably (including Matt Wuerker, John Jonik, Clay Butler, Lloyd Dangle, just to name a few), but this may have been too, well, radical a notion. In any case, you can at least find my work once a month in The Nation, despite that nasty crack I once made about their ongoing focus on Algier Hiss and the Rosenbergs.


Norman Solomon's new book "The Trouble With Dilbert" is out from Common Courage, and since the cartoon I did about Dilbert awhile back serves as the book's introduction, I expect to start hearing about that one again. After all, it was one of the most controversial cartoons I've ever put out, which is pretty pathetic when you think about it. I mean, global warming, campaign finance, etc.,etc. -- and you people are worried about DILBERT?

Nonetheless, if you ARE still interested in this, there's an old Salon interview with me archived on the topic which can be accessed through my web site ( There's also a pointer to an article I wrote about the Dilbert Empowerment Guide put out by Xerox, a document which underscores the problems I have with Dilbert . Problems which, I hasten to add, are largely about the public perception *of* Dilbert as a radical critique of workplace America. Dilbert's a funny and cynical cartoon, but it is *not* about larger issues. In fact, the social commentary of Dilbert is really little more than an updated version of that offered fifty years ago by Dagwood Bumstead: bosses are stupid, employees are lazy.


"This Modern World" runs in more than a hundred papers across the country, mostly alternative weeklies. If the weekly in your area doesn't carry the cartoon (special attention here, readers in DC and Chicago), find the address on their masthead and write them a letter. MORE IMPORTANTLY, those of you who appreciate the fact that your local paper *does* carry the cartoon should *please, please, please* write them and let them know. (This goes for those of you who read it on Salon, too.) I cannot adequately stress the importance of this. It's wonderful to hear from you directly, but giving the editors this sort of feedback is what keeps me in print and online, and frankly, I'm not qualified to do much else for a living at this point.

There are three books out, all published by St. Martin's -- Greetings From This Modern World, Tune in Tomorrow, and the Wrath of Sparky. Any minimally competent bookstore can special order these for you, and of course there's always The next book, as yet untitled (I'm open to suggestions) will be out next fall.


I'm hoping to actually get the next newsletter out before January 1999 (though I'm not making any promises). One of the things I hope to do next time is include more reader mail. For now, though, I'll close with one of my all-time favorite letters (which I also used as the introduction to my last book, so hard-core Tom Tomorrow groupies will already have seen this):

Dear Dummkopf and all around nuisance,

Recently I saw your asinine cartoon against our beloved President Nixon. Your cartoon was very biased and stupid. Try not to show your stupidity in the future. Fall on your knees and ask the good Lord to give you a little common sense, brother, you need it. People feel sorry for you.

Some say you are a Mongolian idiot! I have been defending you against the charge. Oh ho ho ho! Oh ha ha ha!

Have you no sense of shame and decency? Those who know you and work with you complain about your personal habits. They need a gask mask when they are around you. Take a bath daily and try to avoid gaseous foods in the future.

Good bye for now, Dummkopf

Sincerely, A. Friend.