Liminal Criminals: A Fake Crime Podcast

Arts, Animation, Avarice: Mike Tommy, Part 2

October 09, 2023 SCWR Productions Season 2 Episode 4
Liminal Criminals: A Fake Crime Podcast
Arts, Animation, Avarice: Mike Tommy, Part 2
Show Notes Transcript

On today's episode of Liminal Criminals, we finish the tale of infamous animator Mike Tommy, starting at his final days at Hizzy Productions, and continuing through his final days of, well, existing on this mortal coil in general. How did animation's most abrasive genius fall from grace? How did he manage to bring down multiple startups? How did he create one of the most infamous events in network broadcasting history? We'll answer these questions here, only on Liminal Criminals.

Please disregard Sam Putnam's commentary over the final parts of the track. He didn't know he was broadcasting live until it was too late. Direct all complaints to Management at the SCWR corporate headquarters in the Chthonic Riviera.

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

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

Find us online at, or on our Neocities page.

Play our interactive fiction game, "Finding Mister Breadsticks," on

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.     

Previously on Liminal Criminals: 

Mike Tommy was born Milos Tokmakov in Indiana, where he developed an interest in arts and animation. After being accepted to the Schmedmann institute, a prestigious art school in southern California, he was hand-picked for a grueling, and essentially abusive, educational program by the deranged professor Pierre Blanchet. 

Following this ordeal, Tokmakov’s personality took a turn for the worse. The once-amiable young man became contentious, self-obsessed, and generally nightmarish to be around. Upon graduation, Tokmakov renamed himself to Mike Tommy and was hired by Laidlaw Studios, where his audacious and toxic behavior got him reassigned to the up-and-coming Hizzy Productions, an adult-oriented animation outfit. There, he found success, and even a certain sense of belonging, among the unwashed misfits who staffed the studio. 

But these good times were not to last. Soon, Mike Tommy would end his career as a creator of edgy low-budget cartoons and embark on a journey that would lead to a string of artistic failures and a rash of embezzlement which in turn would culminate in his disappearance.

How did this abrasive-but-applauded creator fall from grace? We’ll find out on today’s episode. 

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

[intro theme]

[brief discussion]

Despite Mike’s success, he wasn’t truly happy with his position at Hizzy Productions. When interviewed, he would continually insist that his work for the Sofa King programming block was something to pay the bills and make a name for himself. His true goal was to greenlight his pet project. Mike refused to elaborate on the nature of said project, proclaiming that the industry was full of hacks who would try to steal his ideas. The only time that he revealed any details of his work were in an interview with Cartoon Castle, a children’s magazine. There, he stated that his show would, quote, “have a budget of a hundred and fifty million dollars per season and would make every other work of art in human history look like the dogshit that it is.” 

This level of bluster and profanity was generally expected from Mike Tommy, and both his coworkers at Hizzy and his superiors at the Animation Station tolerated his ambitions. That is, they tolerated his ambitions until they realized that he was serious. Over the coming few years, Mike Tommy grew more and more insistent that Hizzy Productions greenlight his project. Given that Mike refused to reveal the details of his alleged magnum opus, and also given the fact that the estimated cost of even the most bare-bones of pilots was two million dollars, these demands were refused at every turn. 

Management’s refusal to greenlight Mike Tommy’s nebulous series enraged him. While he had typically been more considerate and less abrasive during his time at Hizzy Productions, he soon began to take his frustrations out on his coworkers. These artistic tantrums initially either went unnoticed, or were taken with a measure of good humor. When Mike Tommy subtly inserted drawings of a fully-erect male armadillo into the Sofa King ad bumpers, for instance, most people were able to laugh off the affair as an example of a creative genius blowing off steam. Soon, however, Mike’s antics took on a darker tone. When he was tasked with creating concept art and sample dialogue for an upcoming project, he instead submitted photographs of wheat-thresher accidents and transcripts of Andorran nationalist rallies to his superiors. The final straw, however, came when entertainment industry veteran and reality show specialist Carmine Rollins was brought on to run Hizzy Productions. This did not sit well with Mike. Rollins, after all, was an outsider to the field of animation. What was more, Rollins’ most recent endeavor before coming to Hizzy was the TV show “Slaughterhouse Celebrities,” where Hollywood C-listers were forced to live and work inside a functioning meat-packing plant. This show, in particular, frustrated Mike Tommy; it was, in his eyes, crass, shallow, and, worst of all, an apparent rip off of one of his less-successful projects, “Abattoir and Costello.” 

To express his frustration with the regime change at Hizzy, Mike, in his words, “created an installation piece,” in Carmine Rollins’ office. That is to say, Mike Tommy did his level best to turn his boss’ office into what he dubbed a “temple of butchery.” He filled the cabinets with mincemeat. He nailed roadkill to the walls. As the piece de resistance, he stole the monitor from Rollins’ desk, replaced it with a severed pig’s head, and wrote the words “THIS IS YOU” around it in blood.

Mike Tommy was immediately fired, which should come as a surprise to nobody. Oddly, however, the higher-ups both at Laidlaw and Hizzy alike agreed to conceal the reason for Mike’s firing. Even Carmine Rollins took the defilement of his office in stride, calling Mike’s act of vandalism “not the worst meat-based meltdown [he] had seen this year.” On the official docket, Mike Tommy was let go due to a “difference in culture” with the new management. The justification for this was that maybe, somewhere in this universe, there is a culture where turning your boss’ office into a cut-rate death metal album cover is a sign of respect. 

In 2006, Mike Tommy was released into the world with a second-to-none portfolio, a reputation for creating largely-successful shows on time and under budget, and a list of references who had agreed to keep the whole gore-soaked office thing under wraps. He could have gone on to any studio, or been signed on to any project. The world was his oyster. 

It is tragic and baffling, then, that he agreed to take a senior position on the TV show Daddy Says. 

For those of you who have been blissfully unaware of pop culture for the past two decades, Daddy Says is an animated domestic sitcom surrounding the lives of a dysfunctional middle-American family, featuring the bumbling father Mervyn Piper and his long-suferring wife Clara. It ran on HVN from 2003 until 2005. In 2006, however, it was revived following a wave of fan outcry. Grateful for a second chance and desperate to keep his program on the air, showrunner Hal Haddock decided to bring on as much new blood to the show as he humanly could, in an effort to avoid the mistakes of the program’s first run, Among these new employees was Mike Tommy, who Haddock initially brought on as an animation director. 

Why Mike Tommy, a fiercely-independent iconoclast, decided to accept a position on a TV show that devoted itself to the mainstream, is unknown to this day. Most animation historians agree that he likely viewed it as a career stepping stone on his path to find a network that would let him produce his pet project. If so, the decision was an egregious misstep. Despite the control he had been given, pressure from Haddock and network executives hobbled his vision. His request to incorporate mocap technology into the show was ignored. His suggestion that the visuals of cutaway gags be replaced with psychedelic stop-motion vignettes was outright rejected. When he held a meeting with Hal Haddock and demanded that the introductory credits to the show be replaced with an extended sequence of Mervyn Piper screaming while ritually flaying himself, he was escorted from the building by security. 

Being denied complete creative control over the animation of Daddy Says only drove Mike Tommy to seek control over other aspects of the show. On multiple occasions, he attempted to pitch one of his drafted scripts, wherein the Piper family is forced to relive the siege of Leningrad in a shared hallucination, to the show’s writers. He showed up at a cattle auction and attempted to convince Leroy Molina, owner of the Morose W ranch in northern Texas, to agree to a product-placement deal on the show. In 2007, Ted Fletcher, a custodian who worked in the HVN corporate headquarters, came in to find Mike Tommy wearing his clothing, mopping the break room floor and glowering at him while repeatedly muttering, “he never gets the lines right.” 

By 2008, when it looked as though Mike Tommy was about to be fired yet again, a minor miracle happened. He quit his job instead, saying that he had “gotten what he needed” from HVN. With that, he proclaimed in any blog, magazine, or online forum that hadn’t blackballed him that he would be starting his own production company, where he would at last create his masterpiece.

There was just one small problem in Mike Tommy’s ascent to creative superstardom: by now, it was common knowledge that he was unstable, unpredictable, and, to quote Hal Haddock, “the coked-up chihuahua of the animation world.” Nobody wanted to work with him, and no networks or investors would even consider working with his new production company. Even Mike Tommy’s former colleagues at Hizzy Productions, who ostensibly at least tolerated him, bristled at the thought of having to answer to him in exchange for a paycheck. In short, he was alone in the world. 

Mike Tommy brushed off this setback at first. After all, he had long gotten used to the fact that nobody wanted to work with him, talk to him, or live on the same planet as him. He would simply need to apply his prodigious creative genius to his task and make the entire pilot himself. If nobody would greenlight his show, he’d put it online and let the world witness his magnum opus for themselves. After that, the fame and money would inevitably come rolling in. With his heart full of hope and his mind full of delusional confidence, he threw himself into his project. 

It was then that Mike Tommy realized that while he was a gifted animator and a decent writer, he had no talent for voice acting, music composition, budget management, or any other aspect of running a creative studio. At this point dedicated to the purity of a solo project, Mike voiced all of the characters himself, composed his own theme tune, and burned through his startup funds in about three months. These efforts yielded a five-minute short. A lack of funding and meaningful results, however, did not deter him. Figuring that his product would be enough to attract attention, he decided to posted his masterpiece to the controversial online animation portal Ballspot. On November 6th, 2008, Mike Tommy uploaded the first glimpse of his most ambitious project: Mutamen. 

It wasn’t very good. 

While the animation in Mike Tommy’s short video was impeccable, everything else about it was immediately mocked. Of the short’s five-minute runtime, 2 minutes were devoted entirely to its intro sequence and theme song, which you can hear playing in the background. Another minute and a half was dedicated to a text-crawl/infodump which attempted to explain the details of the show. The basic premise was simple enough; the show was set in a post-apocalpytic world, where the only way goods and people could safely be transported from one place to another was with caravans of heroic, frequently-grotesque-looking mutants. However, in an apparent attempt to make his show more marketable to children, Mike added an abstruse and completely unnecessary series of Pokemon-like typing systems to each mutant. Given that there were five separate layers to said typing system, including the mutant’s original job, their favorite word, and their stance on taxation in a post-apocalyptic economy, Mike’s attempt served only to confuse and irritate his audience on Ballspot. Moreover, Mike Tommy made another mistake: he got involved on the Ballspot forums. In the 3 hours that it took for him to get banned, he accused famous online animator SenorSwinky of bestiality, told a thread of high schoolers, quote, “it’d be really funny if you fuckers got hit by a car and nobody came to help you,” and revealed the address and phone number of one of the moderators, who has been in hiding ever since. 

Mike Tommy was booted from Ballspot with extreme prejudice, and his clip of Mutamen was removed from the portal. The only readily-accessible fragment of it is its preview image. Said image is displayed on the Animation Abomination subpage of the website, which is dedicated to immortalizing the most infamous clips ever uploaded to Ballspot. Among those sharing in this dubious honor are a Congregation of the Oversoul propaganda film and an alleged recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies that was, in fact, instructions on how to make napalm. 

Mike Tommy’s failure to gain any form of traction in the online animation community left him at an impasse. Television networks and fan communities wouldn’t accept his work, and he was rapidly running out of money. To make end’s meet, Mike Tommy began taking odd jobs at small startups around the country. Among his many jobs during this period, he worked as a graphic designer for Urb, an app for tourists, Dweedlez, a new-media advertisement firm, and GllGllGll, a new-age lifestyle company dedicated to expanding the human mind beyond materialism, mundane worries, and, apparently, coherent company names. Mike rarely worked at a single corporation for more than a year. One might expect that such a tumultuous resume would have been due to his abrasive personality, but this was not the case. By and large, Mike Tommy seemed chastened. Of the many jobs that he had, he was only fired from three, and only one time was due to him using animal products to voice his displeasure with management. Rather, it seemed as though every company that Mike worked for collapsed shortly after he began working for them. Urb, the longest-lived of them, went bankrupt in December of 2009. Dweedlez went under in 2012. GllGllGll declared bankruptcy in 2015, and the yurts that served as its headquarters were burned to the ground shortly thereafter in a poorly-thought out attempt at insurance fraud by its C-suite. 

In the times in between jobs, Mike Tommy continued to work on Mutamen. He would release episode fragments on public access TV and to any video-hosting site that hadn’t banned him. As time went on, he became increasingly erratic in his activity. Typically, months went in between releases. Other times, he would broadcast his works within mere days of each other, but would release one only on local television and another only online. The quality of these shorts varied wildly, with some having gorgeous animation but no audio whatsoever, and others having fully-fledged vocal casts but consisting entirely of still images. With an irregular level of quality, and an even more irregular release schedule, Mike Tommy only attracted a small group of viewers, consisting either of niche media enthusiasts or online voyeurs interested in watching a once-beloved artist crash and burn. After releasing a small batch of work, Mike Tommy would return to work at another, presumably-doomed startup, where he would either be fired or lose his job after the company went under. 

If you find this pattern of working, jumping ship, releasing content, then going back to work a little strange, you aren’t alone. Business consultants, local police departments, and the IRS all took an interest in Mike Tommy. All of them noticed the same trends that followed him for the past few years. Any startup that hired him seemingly had one of two options: fire him or go under. He was seemingly able to take periods of months in between jobs to work on his passion project, which, while largely produced by a solo artist and of unpredictable quality, was still presumably expensive to produce. At a certain point, Mike Tommy’s creative drive, entrepreneurial spirit and spartan lifestyle could not explain away his circumstances. 

A years-long string of theft and embezzlement, on the other hand, could. As it turns out, despite his failure as a small business owner, Mike Tommy was quite the proficient criminal. Security footage revealed that, when unattended, he would steal office supplies and embezzle company funds; during his tenure at Urb in 2009, for instance, he pilfered, among other things, six thousand dollars’ worth of printer ink. At Dweedlez in 2012, he hid personal purchases of high-end electronic equipment under his department’s expense budget. In 2014, at GllGllGll, recognizing that a company with an unpronounceable name was doomed to fail with or without his help, Mike Tommy hired an unnamed accomplice to show up with a truck three days before the company declared bankruptcy. Said accomplice told staff that he was there to “defrag the company’s digital charkas,” loaded every computer and orgone collector in the yurts into his vehicle, and drove off with them. After fencing his gear and laundering his stolen money, Mike Tommy funneled his cash into his personal projects, keeping himself alive while he continued to work on Mutamen. 

By 2017, however, Mike Tommy recognized that the law was closing in on him. Men with crew cuts, polo shirts, and shifty looks were hanging around his low-rent apartment in the Little Estonia neighborhood of New York. Forensic accountants began sifting through the surviving vegan vellum scrolls that GllGllGll used to keep track of expenses. A new wi-fi network, titled “Absolutely Not an FBI Surveillance Van,” kept popping up on his computer’s list of nearby signals. With his time at a premium and his artistic vision in dire need of realization, Mike Tommy tossed his cell phone onto a Greyhound bus headed for Toronto, packed up his computer, gathered enough prescription amphetamines to keep a college campus tweaking for three weeks, and fled to a nearby motel. Over the ensuing twenty-four hours, Mike Tommy worked feverishly, stopping only to pace through the halls every few minutes, demanding to know if passing guests were, quote, “with the goddamn Feds.” Mercifully for him, the actual goddamn Feds wouldn’t show up until several hours after Mike vacated the premises, having wasted their time combing the Canadian border for the deranged artist. By then, Mike had taken off running, leaving his personal belongings in his room, urine stains on the walls and carpet, and a rambling, profanity-riddled message to investigators, daring them to come find him, on the monitor of his PC.

The race was on. 

[static somewhere in here]

At 11 PM Eastern on November 1st, 2017, Mike Tommy arrived at HVN headquarters, nearly a full decade after he left job at the network. There, using a still-valid security badge, incredible ferret-like violence inflicted upon an unfortunate security guard, and heretofore unseen cybersecurity skills, he made his way to the station’s master control, and uploaded his magnum opus to the network’s feed. 

[Second track, also voiced by Sam Putnam, will be represented by text in brackets]

At 11:30 PM Eastern, on November 1st, 2017, the only known full episode of Mutamen was broadcast across the country on HVN. And ATC. And, somehow, every other national network. 

[Second track: "Okay, I remember that--"]

How Mike Tommy was able to hijack the signals of multiple competing TV networks is unknown to this very day. We do know, however, that the episode was fairly decent. Dubbed the “Screaming Plains Ale Incident,” 

[second track: "Huh. Okay, that's a coincidence--"]

the episode focused on a man named Skin Glue, 

[second track: "Wait, no, nonono-"]

the leader of a mutant caravan, as he tried to deliver a cask of the titular beer to a reclusive radio DJ.

[Second track: "But Skin Glue's a real guy, and I'm a--uh--"]

At 11:42 Eastern on November 1st, 2017, the FBI broke down the door to the master control room at HVN’s headquarters.

 [Second track: "No, no, go back and talk about the episode, you asshole! Go back!"] 

Mike Tommy was nowhere to be seen. 

[Second track: "Who gives a shit?! Go back and talk about the episode!"]

Mike Tommy, in fact, has remained missing for the past four years. 

[Second track, muffled and exasperated: "Oh my god--"]

While no formal declarations have been made, he is assumed to be dead. On that fateful November night, the life, work and legacy of animation’s most deranged visionary came to an end.

What has happened since then? 

Mutamen has gone on to enjoy a certain degree of popularity among lost media enthusiasts. 

[Interrupt: No, no, no, we’re not doing this]

[Cut to static]


[Cut to static again]

[exasperated]: Okay, guess I already had my mic unmuted there, that's great--who cares--

Hey. Krysta. Solaire. Henderson. Anyone who was around before all—this started happening. If one of you’s listening, can you drop by the studio later today? Because I’ve got some questions. 

Also, Skin Glue, if you’re listening, I have some questions for you too when you stop by with the beer. Thanks for that, by the way. I know it’s like your job and all, but—still, thanks

Anyway. Everyone else, I—sorry, I’m a bit rattled. Studio Community Worldwide Radio’s up next. 

[Long sigh]

Man, what the fuck. 

Wait, am I still—oh shit!

[Cut to static]

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, or on Bluesky at (whatever the URL is). Rate and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or your podcast platform of choice. Tell your friends about us. Climb to the top of the tallest building near you and let the spores in your head sprout; it’s the only way the fungus can spread. All links are in the show notes.