The Great Big Book of Tom Tomorrow
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The Great Big Book of Tom Tomorrow
Tom Tomorrow
St. Martin's Griffin, New York (USA), 2003 (2003)
236 pages, including foreword

It is a sad state of affairs when one finds a more cogent, comprehensive and consistent liberal critique of a Republican administration in a comic book than among the ranks of Democratic politicians in Congress. Yet, I am afraid that is precisely the case. While the Democrats have not dared to open their mouths ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, in spite of the fact that the Bush Administration has launched a more than debateable war in Iraq, appointed a judiciary clearly skewed towards a very conservative approach in spite of their lack of popular legimitacy to do so, thrown the budget surplus from the 1990s out the window, got into trouble with many of the traditional US allies in the name of a simplistic crusade against the Axis of Evil, invariably supported the corporate interests of its financial backers on every single topic, curtailed individual freedoms in a way that no other Administration could have even dreamed of, and failed to take the initiative on any issue not related to the military... well, in spite of all this, liberals in this country have had no one to turn into for guidance but the author of a comic book. So much for the self-correcting capabilities of the American political system.

But let us be honest. Tomorrow's comic strips do simplify the figure of the Republicans, presenting us with a cartoonish and one-dimensional image of people who consistently sell out to corporate interests as a matter of policy, are not very intelligent or accultured, resort to the gun, the missile or the electric chair in order to solve nearly every problem, are bent on imposing the Bible on every single American and hate the poor with a vengeance. The same way Fox News and the conservative talk radio portrait the Democrats as dangerous left-wing nuts who are, willingly or not, working in favor of a Socialist state, Tomorrow's conservatives can never be right, not even half right. Even more, they cannot have anything interesting to say, since it is in their very nature to simply act as puppets of obscure corporate interests. Where Tomorrow excels is precisely in exposing the conservative talk radio diatribes for what they are: self-serving partisan propaganda that treats their listeners as an undifferentiated crowd of brainless automatons ready to get their breakfast with some political instructions of whom to blame for all the problems (i.e., invariably, the left and the Democrats). There is no interest in "political debate" here, but only one-sided monologues that constantly call for actions to save the endangered Motherland. In other words, a campaign machinery for the Republicans that functions 365 days a year. Talk about bias in the media.

However, anybody who might think that Tom Tomorrow's cartoons are music to the ears of your Democrat next door would be up to a rude awakening for he is just as corrosive in his criticism of the Democratic Party. The first section on the Clinton years (1992-1996) is titled "The Song Remains the Same" while the second term (1996-2000) is characterized as "The Tabloid Presidency". Democrats and Republicans are sarcastically portrayed as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the two twin sides of the same being. Bill Clinton himself is depicted over and over again as Waffle Man, yet another politician sold out to corporate interests, someone who compromises his supposed principles for a comfy ride in power, and a lusty man unable to control his own penis, the true political advisor. In other words, Tomorrow appears to take a leftist position that enjoys jabbing at both Republicans and Democrats alike.

Still, there are instances where Tomorrow is quite insightful, as in the strip that shows George W. Bush in a press conference:

Press: Governor Bush, have you ever had sex with underage male prostitutes while dressed in your mother's undergarments?
Bush: Absolutely not! I don't know how these rumors get started!
Press: Governor, is it true you once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die?
Bush: Of course not! You should be ashamed of yourself for even repeating such scurrilous gossip!
Press: Governor, have you rejected your Christian faith in favor of dark Satanic rituals involving animal sacrifice and other unspeakable acts?
Bush: Good Heavens, no! This outrageous slander is clearly the work of my political adversaries!
Press: Governor, one more question. Have you ever used cocaine?
(Bush looks afraid and doubtful)
Bush: Look, how many times do I have to tell you people? I'm not going to answer any questions about what I may or may not have done twenty years ago! At least, not on that specific subject! And I categorically may or may not have danced naked on any tabletops! I have to go now.

(Page 191)

Needless to say, of course, George W. Bush can be replaced with Bill Clinton in this very same dialogue and it will remain just as insightful, for this is precisely one of the most common tricks used by politicians from across the whole political spectrum. The book though is full of many other powerful arguments against Christian fundamentalism, creationism, cheap puritanism, the gun rights movement, a political system rife with corruption at the hands of rich corporations, any form of primitive and blind nationalism, superficial media that only promotes ignorance among the populace... Tom Tomorrow does not draw your regular Sunday paper type of cartoon, which reminds me more and more of our contemporary stand-up comedy: short, to the point, amusing and, above all, stearing out of trouble. On the contrary, his strips demand the attention of the reader, who has to move from vignette to vignette while interpreting dense sentences full of political concepts. Whether one agrees with his positions or not, there is at least little doubt that he speaks to people's minds which takes us, full circle, to where we began: what a pity that no Democrat is getting even close to Tom Tomorrow's eloquence in his defense of liberalism.

Entertainment factor: 9/10
Artistic factor: 7/10