Liminal Criminals: A Fake Crime Podcast

A Criminal Cartoonist: Mike Tommy, Part 1

May 02, 2023 SCWR Productions Season 2 Episode 3
A Criminal Cartoonist: Mike Tommy, Part 1
Liminal Criminals: A Fake Crime Podcast
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Liminal Criminals: A Fake Crime Podcast
A Criminal Cartoonist: Mike Tommy, Part 1
May 02, 2023 Season 2 Episode 3
SCWR Productions

On today's episode of Liminal Criminals, we delve into the origins of the famous, and infamous, animator Mike Tommy, ranging from his humble origins in Sorghum Point Indiana, to his tumultuous transfer to Hizzy Productions and the Sofa King Adult Animation block. How did this unassuming young man find his niche in the world of late-night cartoons? How did his life fall to pieces in a whirlwind of failure and crime? We'll answer these questions (well, the first one anyway) here, only on Liminal Criminals.

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CONTENT WARNING: Liminal Criminals is a fictional crime/comedy podcast, and contains elements which may not be suitable for all audiences. Listener discretion is advised.   

Show Notes Transcript

On today's episode of Liminal Criminals, we delve into the origins of the famous, and infamous, animator Mike Tommy, ranging from his humble origins in Sorghum Point Indiana, to his tumultuous transfer to Hizzy Productions and the Sofa King Adult Animation block. How did this unassuming young man find his niche in the world of late-night cartoons? How did his life fall to pieces in a whirlwind of failure and crime? We'll answer these questions (well, the first one anyway) here, only on Liminal Criminals.

 Follow us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Tumblr.

Follow, rate, and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or your podcast platform of choice.

Find us online at

CONTENT WARNING: Liminal Criminals is a fictional crime/comedy podcast, and contains elements which may not be suitable for all audiences. Listener discretion is advised.   

 Every field has its modern hero. In physics, there’s Stephen Hawking. In zoology, there’s Jane Goodall. In absolute bastardry, there’s my old college roommate, Chet Bahls, who projectile vomited a cocktail of cheap beer and expired ramen onto my computer the day before I had an essay due. 

 In the field of films and animation, there’s Mike Tommy. If you’ve ever watched a modern cartoon, if you’ve ever taken part in modern pop culture, or if you’ve ever spent three days forgoing sleep so that you could sit in the dark in your underwear, lit only by the computer monitor as you engaged in vicious online arguments about your favorite TV show, odds are you’ve seen his work. Throughout 2000s, Mike Tommy contributed a panoply of shows to the field of animation, largely catering to young adults, ultimately inspiring countless animators to follow in his wake.

 But behind the scenes, the life of this gifted artist, writer and director was plagued by external turmoil, his own inner demons, and a decade-long campaign of failed ventures and white-collar crime, leading up to his disappearance in 2017. 

 How did Mike Tommy get his start? How did he rise to prominence, and how would this set up the events that shattered his life into pieces? We’ll find out on today’s episode. 

 I’m Sam Putnam. And you’re listening… to Liminal Criminals. 

 [Intro Theme] 

 Mike Tommy was born Milos Tokmakov on October 4th 1975 in Sorghum Point, Indiana. His parents, Tatiana and Alexander, had worked as mechanical engineers before fleeing the USSR in 1969. His childhood was largely uneventful. He had a small group of friends. With them he would spend time playing games and indulging in the most popular pastime of youth in Indiana during the 1970s, namely, wishing that they were anywhere other than Indiana. He performed satisfactorily in most of his classes; of the teachers who remembered him, most said that he was a talented and personable boy, but rather lazy. “Milos wouldn’t hand in assignments half the time,” said his math teacher Henry Plemons, “Most of his time was spent daydreaming or doodling on his papers.” These doodles would prove to be his true calling in life. Milos adored art and animation; while daydreaming in class, he would often make intricate drawings in his notebook, ranging from a relatively accurate bird’s eye view of his town, to a series of detailed sketches depicting the highway leading north, across the border into Michigan. Animation historian Mark Wilcox noted that these sketches formed a flip-book. When put into motion, they displayed Milos walking along this road. The animated boy then broke into a dead sprint until he crossed the interstate border, whereupon he fell to his knees and began weeping tears of joy. 

 In 1993, the young Tokmakov enrolled in the Schmedmann Art Institute in Southern California, hoping to pursue his passion in the rapidly-burgeoning field of computer animation. The Schmedmann institute, named after the now-infamous industrialist Joshua Schmedmann, had been founded in the early 1960s, with the intent of nurturing future generations of artists who would help steer the hearts and minds of the American public for years to come. With a faculty consisting of renowned artists and professors, a willingness to embrace unusual pedagogical styles, and a 97 percent survival rate, the Schmedmann Institute was known for its belief that its students’ artistic development took precedent above all else, including the students themselves. 

 While at the Schmedmann institute, Milos was hand-picked to be part of an experimental educational program, run by the professor and former animator Pierre Blanchet. Under Blanchet’s tutelage, the young Tokmakov, accompanied by fellow students Jerry Lee and Maxine Plant, underwent a curriculum that was considered grueling even by the standards of his institution. The students’ waking hours were spent either perfecting their creative and technical skills, studying historic and contemporary art, or, for reasons clear only to Monsieur Blanchet, learning how to spear-fish. 

 Pierre Blanchet’s expectations for his students were high, and the punishment for failure was dire. After failing to provide a sufficiently-complete summation of the techniques used in Emil Cohl’s Fantasmagorie, Milos Tokmakov reportedly suffered through a 20-minute long tirade wherein Professor Blanchet denigrated Tokmakov’s intelligence, his parentage, and quote, “his stupid stupid face.” When Maxine Plant messed up the proportions on a technical drawing, Blanchet drove her ten miles away from campus to the nearby town of Villa Castigo, and told her to walk back home. When asked to relate his experience with Pierre Blanchet’s rage, Jerry Lee’s only response was to state, “He made me eat an encyclopedia.” When animation historian Mark Wilcox asked for clarification as to which volume of the encyclopedia he was forced to eat, Mister Lee began weeping and ran from the room. 

Blanchet’s program was brought to a premature end by Institute Dean Arthur Fine. While details surrounding the incident are sparse, most sources agree that Dean Fine became aware of the torturous nature of this pedagogical experiment when he saw Professor Blanchet locking his students into pillories, which he had evidently constructed in the middle of campus the prior night. Blanchet had drawn odd scribbles onto the ground surrounding the students’ restraints, and was raving madly about “true art requiring suffering.” A collection of cages, allegedly full of squirrels, lay by his feet. It was then that the Dean walked by this scene on his morning stroll. While Arthur Fine was willing to tolerate experimental teaching methodologies, this acceptance did not include public humiliation and certainly did not include scenarios which stood a statistically significant chance of culminating in human sacrifice. Furious, the Dean sprang into action, bum-rushing Blanchet, catching him in the solar plexus with an outstretched fist, then pinning the enraged professor to the ground until campus security arrived on the scene three minutes later

In the ensuing tribunal, Pierre Blanchet refused to apologize or admit wrongdoing for his actions, proclaiming that he was “teaching the art of the future,” that the college failed to prepare students for the world to come, and that in about fifty years’ time, “they will look on my works and smile.” While the administration of the Schmedmann Institute rightfully dismissed these as the incoherent ravings they were, it was noted that Blanchet was protected by that greatest of all forces: academic tenure. As such, Blanchet was allowed to keep his job at the Institute. However, he was banned from teaching or initiating contact with other members of the student body and faculty. He was transferred to a new office, a 5x5 janitorial closet frequently referred to as “The Hole,” and informed that he was to remain there between the hours of 9 and 5 unless it was an emergency. 

Of the students known as “The Blanchet 3,” only Tokmakov remained at the Schmedmann Institute. Jerry Lee quickly transferred to the equally-prestigious Pleasance School of Fine Art in New York, while Maxine Plant decided to hitchhike south, to the Gulf of California, where she pursued her newfound talent in spearfishing. 

 The sixth months that Milos Tokmakov spent under Blanchet’s tutelage had fundamentally changed him; his new personality was nearly the complete opposite of his former self. While Tokakov was once a talented and amiable but largely-shiftless young man, he soon developed a reputation for being a diligent worker, a gifted artist, and an all-around exhausting person to deal with. Tokmakov was known for getting into arguments with whoever attracted his attention; he would quibble with his professors about technique. He would get into screaming arguments with his classmates, insisting that they were deliberately breathing in a way that made it impossible to focus. On one spring morning in his sophomore year, he sneaked into the cafeteria’s kitchen, where he berated a worker for using too much salt. As if to prove a point that only he knew or cared about, Tokmakov shoved the man out of his way, strolled over to a stove top and began to cook, still excoriating anyone within earshot while doing so. In the time that it took for the flabbergasted staff to get over their collective shock, he had whipped together a passable Denver omelet, before they grabbed him and ejected him from the premises, indignant and attempting to hurl pieces of his creation at his assailants. This pattern of petty, contentious, and often bizarre behavior would continue throughout the remainder of Milos’ life. 

 Tokmakov quickly attained notoriety on campus, gaining nicknames like “Milos the Menace,” “Tokmakov the Tyrant,” and “Oh Christ, it’s him again.” Students quickly learned that the best way to avoid Tokmakov’s ire was to stand out of his way and allow him to do whatever he thought was best. According to one of his fellow students, who wished to not be named, “If you were on a group project with him, it was understood that nothing you did would make it to the final product. It was M.T.’s project, not yours.” The faculty at the Schmedmann Institute bore a similar view of him; on one occasion when Tokmakov enrolled in her art history class, professor Leslie Park faked being ill, claiming that she had come down with “chronic stomach flu,” for an entire semester. 

 Milos, for his part, seemed to take a perverse pride in his reputation as a generally insufferable human being. He had next to no social life to speak of, spending most of his time in his room or the computer lab, working tirelessly on his drawings and animations. His sole friend during this time, was, strangely enough, his former tormentor Pierre Blanchet. On the rare occasions that Tokmakov peeled himself away from his work, he spent most of his time in Blanchet’s office, enjoying spirited conversations, largely at the expense of their peers, with his old professor. 

 In September of 1997, Milos Tokmakov and his fellow seniors at the Schmedmann Institute were required to begin work on their capstone project, which was due at the end of the year. Tokmakov threw himself into his work, neglecting his other studies, his health, and his personal hygiene. On multiple occasions during his senior year of college, he nearly failed his courses, nearly collapsed from exhaustion, and had the police called to his off-campus apartment on the grounds that his odor constituted a chemical weapon under California law. 

 At the end of the year, Tokmakov revealed his project at the senior art show. Dubbed “Computer Hell,” the installation constituted of dozens upon dozens of projected animations, a feat which required over a thousand square yards of space and the use of the Institute’s soccer field as an outdoor viewing gallery. In his blurb submitted for the project, Tokmakov likened his piece to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. While this comparison was obviously exaggerated, Tokmakov’s work, like Michelangelo's before him, showed many of his critics, as well as most of his teachers and fellow students, suffering eternal torment. His cinema professor, Trevor Beckwith, was show getting bitten on the genitals by a snake. His art history professor Leslie Park was displayed getting ripped apart by bears. His digital art and design professor Bradley Orvitz was shown being cuckolded by insurance adjusters. 

 Despite the obviously-confrontational and potentially-threatening nature of his work, Milos Tokmakov’s capstone project was accepted. The artwork, while clearly the product of a severely disturbed little man, was beyond reproach. What was more, nobody on the faculty at the Schmedmann Institute wanted to contend with the ordeal of trying to reprimand or expel Tokmakov. In this, dear listener, there is a lesson to be learned; if someone is both undeniably talented and a complete chode, they are generally unstoppable. 

Upon graduating from the Schmedmann Institute, Milos, already planning his rise to fame and power within the animation industry, changed his name to Mike Tommy. He believed this new name would be distinctive enough to give him an edge in professional matters, while also being banal enough to lull others into a false sense of security before they had to deal with him. 

 The newly-rechristened Mike was initially hired by Laidlaw Studios, who are primarily known for producing cartoons and live-action shows for Animation Station, an American TV channel. In the 90s, their most successful show was the classic merchandising juggernaut “Triple Trouble,” which ran from 1991 until its unexpected cancellation in 1996. Following Triple Trouble’s abrupt end, Laidlaw was scrambling to find another flagship show to bring in revenue. Its top brass were on edge. Its writing and animation staff were overworked and borderline feral. It was quite possibly the worst environment for any fresh hire to come into. 

 Mike Tommy took to the new studio like a lit match to grain alcohol. Within a week of his hiring, he had become universally reviled among the studio staff. “Mikey stormed into my office two days after getting hired and slammed a binder down onto the table,” said Triple Trouble creator Dan Omar, “He said that he had written some suggestions for what I could do for a new show. When I opened it, he had written the words ‘You Suck’ onto every page of the binder. When I looked up at him, he was flipping me the bird with both hands. I didn’t even know how to respond.”

 As one might expect, Mike Tommy’s attitude did not go unchallenged. Dan Omar eventually filed a formal complaint against the upstart animator soon after the two’s first encounter. Storyboard artist Wilma Lahey got into a screaming match with him after he ate the lunch she brought from home and left a note criticizing her cooking in said lunch’s place. Tensions between Mike Tommy and senior animator Darryl Tulsa escalated to a physical altercation after Mike, irked by some unknown irritant, decided to draw every male character with visible, foot-long nipples. Mike Tommy’s toxic personality would have been his downfall, were it not for the audacity with which he inflicted it upon the world. Normally, an antisocial employee at Laidlaw studios would have been swiftly fired. However, Mike Tommy’s brazen campaign against his fellow workers, his fellow humans, and the concept of basic social decency, attracted the attention of the higher-ups at Laidlaw and the Animation Station. By his second week at Laidlaw studios, he had been called into a meeting chaired by Darryl Tulsa, studio executive Oscar Guerrero, and network executive Kenny Smith. Tulsa and Guerrero, who knew of their employee’s irascible nature, believed that they would present him with a pink slip by the end of said meeting. They had bought a cake to celebrate the occasion. However, Kenny Smith, who had axed two of Laidlaw Studio’s shows on account of them using quote, ‘too much goddamn purple,’ had other ideas. 

 Smith took one look at Mike Tommy and saw a self-righteous, self-obsessed jackass with no regard for anything other than his personal vision of reality. In other words, he saw a kindred spirit, bound for success and an executive position of his own. Kenny Smith forbade the Laidlaw brass from firing Mike, insisting that he instead be reassigned to a different studio working under the Animation Station banner. Enraged that Mike would suffer no meaningful consequences for his actions, Darryl suggested that the young upstart be moved to Hizzy Productions, the founding studio of the then-fledgling Sofa King Adult Animation Block. 

 Sofa King would achieve popularity in the early 2000s, particularly among teenaged boys, college students, and asocial, perpetually-stoned men in their mid-to-late 20s. In 1998, however, Hizzy Productions and their plans for market domination were considered questionably-viable at best among Animation Station insiders. The studio was staffed by a skeleton crew who had been transferred over to Hizzy for their unique visions, their unusual ways of relating to their colleagues, and their revolutionary contributions to the field of bad personal hygiene. The studio operated out of a former pizza parlor, which had been abandoned after it was discovered that the building set off Geiger counters. Staff at other Animation Station studios had established a betting pool about how Hizzy Productions would be shut down. In photos taken from the Animation Station during this era we can see that the top three bets were “gas explosion,” “flesh-eating bacteria,” and something called, “The Big Roach.” 

 Laidlaw Studios viewed Mike Tommy’s transfer as the next-best thing to firing him. “I’m not proud of it, but I was thinking that Hizzy would get the axe after we transferred Mikey over,” said Darryl Tulsa, “Well, actually, scratch that. I had seen some of the people that Hizzy had hired in the early days; I was thinking they’d eat the little bastard’s face off as soon as he opened his mouth. Maybe give him a light stabbing. Something like that, you know?”

Few records exist of Mike Tommy’s early years at Hizzy Productions; most of the studio’s original staff have left to join paramilitary groups of various political leanings across the Pacific Northwest, and few journalists or historians have been willing, or able, to dodge gunfire and mantraps to get an interview. We do know, however, that Mike Tommy had evidently found a home among the burnouts, social misfits, and mad geniuses of Hizzy. 

 “They let me do my own thing,” said Mike Tommy in an interview with Cartoonist’s Weekly, “They didn’t bother me with a bunch of bullshit questions like ‘How are you,’ ‘Where is your report for the month,’ and ‘Could you please shut up and go away.’ They just pointed me to a computer suite in a back room and told me to get to work.” 

And work he did. During Mike Tommy’s career at Hizzy, he contributed to, and occasionally created, countless shows on Sofa King’s lineup. Among his contributions to late night TV were the parody cop show “Double Boiled,” the animated sitcom “Videoville,” the hand-drawn nihilistic office comedy “Chunchramp,” and its ill-advised ultraviolent sci-fi spinoff, “Chunchramp Supreme.” By the end of his first three years at the studio, Mike Tommy had spearheaded two separate shows, worked on eight others, and had attained the unique pallor and persistent scent of goat urine that marked him as a true employee of Hizzy Productions. 

It wouldn’t be long, however, until Mike Tommy became a victim of his own success. How did this troubled, prolific artist’s career spiral out of control, ultimately leading to his untimely disappearance? We’ll find out on the next episode. 

This has been Liminal Criminals. I’m Sam Putnam. I’ll see you next time, and remember: they acted once, and that was enough. 

[ending theme]

Liminal Criminals was originally a true crime podcast by Liminal Studios. It was originally researched, written and created by Sam Putnam. It is edited for broadcast and distribution with the generous support of the Chthonic Riviera government and Deeps Self-Preservation League. Up next, I’ll be bringing you the news with another installment of Studio Community Worldwide Radio. 

Also, Krysta, if you’re listening, could you please explain to me why the hell it’s raining inside the studio? I knew that things got nutty in the last couple of decades, but I figured that the weather would still follow the same rules it used to. 


Liminal Criminals is a fictional podcast by SCWR productions. It is written and edited by Sam Putnam. It is cowritten by Krysta Golden. Our theme song is Chthonic Riviera by Cornu Ammonis. 

Follow us on Twitter at “liminal cast,” or like us on Facebook. We may also be found on Tumblr at liminalcast dot tumblr dot com. Rate and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or your podcast platform of choice. Tell your friends about us. Tell your enemies about us. Tell your dog about us. Tell him he’s a good dog. Oh yes he is. Yes who’s a good dog. He is. Yes he is. All links are in the show notes.