Originally known by the nickname Tubs, Tom is one of the cast in the teen humor Patsy Walker series published by Marvel from 1945 through the mid 1960s. The other cast members were the titular Patsy, her rival Hedy Wolfe, Nan, Buzz, and Ron were the epitome of the girl/ boy next door archetype. Tubs’ character was happy and was paired off with Nan and was typically played for comedic effect by the series writers. Compared to Buzz and Ron, Tom likely was considered dumpy with his less than stylish clothes. Tubs was portrayed as being a less desirable boyfriend as evidenced by Nan’s frequent jabs about his weight.
As the Patsy Walker series progressed the tone of the comic evolved from humor to romance, also aging Patsy, Hedy, and Buzz from teens to young adults. Thanks to Steve Englehart, an adult Patsy made the jump to superhero comics as a supporting character in his solo Beast strip for Amazing Adventures as the first leg of a complicated history. Having ditched the nickname, an adult Tom also transitions to contemporary comics in which he and Nan have married and have a family.
Tom recently resurfaced in the Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat comic. Writer Kate Leth has revamped Tom. He’s now an out gay man and the owner of Burly Books in Brooklyn who reconnects with Patsy through a series of unexpected circumstances. Leth’s version of Tom is happy, hirsuite, upbeat, and grounded, Based on Tom hiring Ian Soo (who’s been affected by exposure to Terrigen Mists), he’s also trusting and accepting. In real life many LGBT people have felt pressured to marry the opposite sex and have children, only to come out at some later stage in life. How Tom’s marriage and family are reconciled, if they are still part of continuity, remains a matter to be seen.
Over the course of ten issues writer Kate Leth hinted at the possibility of a relationship between Tom and Ian by having them flirt and crush. A relationship was confirmed in issue #10.
Read Ian Soo’s profile!
Readily available documentation on Tom’s first appearance isn’t available though it’s presumably in Patsy Walker #1 from 1945. He was shown to be gay, although he may be bisexual, in Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #1. Other contemporary appearances in Marvel Fanfare #59 and Avengers Annual 2000. Thanks to Mike McDermott for info from those two stories. Created (presumably) by Ruth Atkinson.
Art by Brittney L Williams (top) and Al Hartley.
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