In June 1995, the Nashville Scene hosted the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention. The paper remembers certain highlights from the Clinton-era festivities:
the sublime Lynda Barry; three jokes from Roy Blount Jr. about intercourse with sheep; and a tanked 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner boogieing on a hotel sofa to “Wipeout”Cartoonist Dan Perkins was also in attendance at the '95 AAN. Perkins, whose pen name is Tom Tomorrow, is best known for his weekly syndicated cartoon, This Modern World.
This Modern World was a staple in the Scene for years.
Fast forward to January 2009, when Village Voice Media owned 15 newspapers, including the Scene. At the same time, the economy was in a freefall (remember: correlation does not imply causation).
As a cost-saving measure, Village Voice implemented a network-wide purge of various expenses, one of which was the elimination of syndicated comics, including This Modern World. As a result, that January was the last time Sparky the Penguin was ever seen in Middle Tennessee newsprint.
The absence was meant to be temporary.
In the Scene's February 12, 2009 edition, reader Mark Griffin lamented the loss of the strip, and in an Editor's note, some comfort was offered to Mark and his fellow TMW fans:
Sorry, Mark, we had to cancel This Modern World, the book section, News of the Weird and The New York Times crossword puzzle due to the depression. But hopefully the cartoon will return when times get better.
Since 2009, the economy has improved, the Scene has left the Village Voice network, and the Times crossword is back, but the only comic to grace the pages of our beloved alt-weekly this year is an ad for a used bookstore.
Using my connections as a volunteer blogger for Pith, I asked whether the cartoonist is on deck for future editions of the Scene. The short answer: don't hold your breath. I guess the newspaper model hasn't exactly returned to the good old days (see: "volunteer blogger").
So what's a fan to do? As for me, I'm buying up Tomorrow's two most recent books - giving away Too Much Crazy to friends and reading The Very Silly Mayor to the kids. Yes, I am actually paying more now for his work than when it was taking up column space here in Music City. Maybe the peanuts he gets from me and other individual readers will add up in the end.
Tom Tomorrow — Dan Perkins — still holds out hope for syndication, which he never completely lost. He's slowly been reestablishing some of the newspaper relationships he lost two years ago.
According to Perkins, Nashville would be "particularly sweet to regain." He met his wife at the Ryman Auditorium, at an alt-weekly conference in 1995.
John Lamb is the editor of HispanicNashville.com