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A Brief Look Back At Tom (AKA) Tubs Hale

If you’ve read any write ups about the debut issue of Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! from Kate Leth and Brittney Williams you already know how much fun it is! You might also know Patsy Walker has a history as a successful teen girl centric humor strip turned series from the Golden Age through to the 1960s when it morphed into a hybrid romance series with Patsy and Hedy as young career women. A few years later Steve Englehart rescued Patsy to use as a supporting character in his solo Beast strip featured in Amazing Adventures.

Now writer Kate Leth has reached back* into Patsy’s pre superhero adventuring days and brought back former Pasty supporting character Tubs Hale, renaming (or reverting) him back to Tom and revealing that Tom is now an out and proud bear who owns a gay book shop which he bought from royalties from a revived Patsy Walker comic written by Patsy’s old rival Hedy Wolfe – so you know Hedy’s sure to show up and create some drama! Tom’s a happy, likeable guy who seems grounded and accepting of everyone, based on his hiring Ian Soo, Patsy’s new roomie who’s aldo now a sort of Inhuman – or whatever phrase Marvel is using – after being affected by exposure to Terrigen Mists.

That’s Tom now, but what was the character like back in the day when he was called Tubs? That’s a question I can’t answer definitively with having read only a single issue (#88 cover dated April 1960) though I’ll give you my impression. Tubs appears mainly in a five paged story when he and the rest of the gang go for a ride and stop an elderly couple whose car has a flat tire. Another short story shows him waving goodbye to girlfriend Nan. Yep, Tubs had a girlfriend but it was the Silver Age and times were different. Tubs, Ron, and Patsy’s love interest Buzz Baxter (also the object of rival Hedy’s obsession) seem to be the three main male characters. Ron and Buzz are the ideal boy next door type of that bygone era with wavy hair, nice clothes, and the body type of a varsity star basketball player. In contrast to Buzz and Ron, Tubs is drawn to represent the opposite ideal 1950s boy next door body type with a big belly and just as big butt – visual traits I imagine served as a springboard for Leth to transform Tubs into a modern day gay bear.

Now back to that car ride with the whole gang coming across an old couple stranded on the road. Tubs is eager to approach the couple and offer help, and Buzz and Ron seem to relegate the heavy work to him. The other five kids are shown being helpful and at the same time sniping at one another. Well, Nan isn’t so helpful just standing there in one panel dissing Tubs over his weight. Tubs is a little ticked off that Buzz and Ron refuse an offer of money from the older man for their good deed and he’s quick to let Ron know how lazy he was in not doing any of the hard work, only for Hedy to turn around and tell them both to stop bickering. Back to Tubs’ girlfriend Nan. Anyone who makes a cutting remark about a girlfriend or boyfriend’s weight isn’t being nice or supportive. This other story with Tubs in a single panel is all about Nan wondering if she hasn’t settled and blames her looks for not being able to attract more boys like Patsy and Hedy. And that’s all the invitation Patsy needed to give advice and a friendly makeover that Patsy later regretted when Buzz took Nan to dinner that night!

Of course not having access to all the back issues is a disadvantage here though Patsy and her cast are painted with pretty big brushes which means their characterizations probably didn’t vary or develop much from month to month. Tubs seems to have been a likeable character yet under appreciated and played for comedic relief because of his weight. Was he trying to be affectionate in hoping to put his arm around Nan or being a little possessive? Part of me says he’s just trying to use her as his beard! There’s a measure of dedication shown as he focuses on changing that flat tire while the other teens complain and he may have been a little selfish in hoping to keep the money that had been offered to them. In any case, I’m really intrigued by Leth plucking this obscure character from comics limbo and looking forward to finding out what she has in store for Tom!

Shout out to my brother Jeremy who snapped up a small box of comics from the late 1950s and early 1960s and let me pick some!

* Previously unknown to me is that this PWH! appearance isn’t Tubs’ first post Silver Age appearance. Mike McDermott let me know that Tom appeared in Marvel Fanfare #59 and Avengers Annual 2000. Those stories show he and high school girlfriend Nan were married and had kids. How or if these stories fit into Tom’s history post Secret Wars remains to be seen!

January 13, 2016
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