Tic Toc Tom started out in 1992 as a Toronto mini-comic. It’s creator, Chetan Patel, originally intended to produce just one issue. Tic Toc Tom issue one was given away free of charge to friends of the artists and anyone who happened to be interested.
As it turned out, more people were interested than he thought. Just a couple of months later, issue two hit the stands and was an immediate hit. From it’s limited beginnings (Tom was the guy who “blew things up”), the character has grown in both scope and depth as artists were given free reign over their personal interpretations of the character.
Tom has appeared as a nihilist, a super being and of course a scarecrow. And these were not the only incarnations of the character to bloom.
Eventually, certain aspects of the character became constants. His trademark welding goggles and ink black hair became the norm.
Tic Toc Tom; the book, would eventually open itself up to submissions by the strange, faceless buyers it enthralled. Submissions by fans ranging in age from seven on up to the thirties. Each adding perspectives which were new and alive with creativity.
How did it all begin? He was a card carrying member!
We’re glad you asked! Join us as we retell, rethink and reimagine the story so far and how this all came to be.
Stewart Building. Walking out I hear a voice, “Hey, you work at Dragon Lady.”
But let’s go back a few months. At the comic shop I worked at on Queen street, I met a guy named Joseph Nanni. Later on I saw him again at the Ontario College of Art (OCA) portfolio review session. I think it was fate.
I remember seeing Chetan at the comic shop where he worked. I hadn’t met him at that point. Believe it or not I thought it was cool that he got to work at Dragon Lady. I worked at Bell Canada during those early years of college. But I would have given that up to do what he did. Which seemed to be mostly hanging around, talking about comics and drawing behind the register. Only in Canada, eh?
Joseph and I both had a love for comic books that others at the college did not. We loved all types of them, superheroes and all. We were not the snobbish art students who only liked the work of Chester Brown. I have nothing against Mr. Brown though. I did at one time own a few Yummy Furs.
It was in high school that I discovered comic books and the people who read them are not highly regarded in ‘normal’ society. I never spoke about them in public. So being able to talk and enjoy them with Joseph was great.
We became very good friends. We talked comics, horror movies and anything “geek”. But only around one another and other geeks. I was still afraid of the “comics are not real art” attitude. Yes, even a college like OCA had that thinking.
Along with Joseph, I met the likes of Adam Wajnblum, Jay Stephens, Alan Hunt and others who had the same love for the comic medium.
I have tremendous respect for Jay Stephens. I always felt that he was one of those artists that discovered their voices early and had the talent to do something with it. I didn’t know him well during school but I remember the first time I spoke to him. It was at Dragon Lady. I didn’t know who he was at that moment but he was checking out the new books like I was. I said something lame like, small press book publishers are so self-indulgent. He was of course a small-press publisher himself so my foot was firmly planted in my mouth. He was nice enough to keep talking to me though.
Fast forward to later that year. OCA first-year students had most of their classes at the Stewart Building on College Street. One day as I walking out of the building and I hear someone call out to me.
“Hey, you work at Dragon Lady?”, said Paul Marhue. Paul was outside having a smoke. I do not recall if he had his classic jean jacket on or not. I do not even remember specifically what we talked about. Alternative comics, self-publishing, etc. and other vague topics. He told me about how he and few others students were thinking of putting together a self-published comic book.
Paul Marhue wonders if this photo will be used in 20 years.
I remember that day very well. I was having a smoke and Chetan was talking to a friend of his. It may have even been Jospeh.
They finished up and Chetan was still outside when I asked him if he worked at Dragon Lady. I knew he did but I wanted to strike up a conversation. I saw him drawing and knew he was into comics like I was so, I guess I was looking to connect with people who liked the same stuff.
Wait! There are even more people here at the college that like comic books? I Thought my friends and I were the only ones who liked them! Thankfully this was not the case.
Through Paul, I met Michael Korditsch. The three of us spent hours at the Grange cafeteria across the street sitting around and talking about art, design, fonts and comic books. And if it wasn’t the Grange we would go into each other’s classes and sit and talk, barely paying attention to the professors and what was going on in the classes themselves. How much did we really learn from those courses? We got a good base of knowledge but it seems we spent more time making connections and getting new ideas for our own work.
The first year as the OCA was called the Foundation Year. It was essentially a year where students were encouraged to take a variety of courses and build up their art ‘foundations’. The idea was that this foundation would support them as they moved on to focus on their own art and design interests. It also meant that there was a lot of fucking around. That’s why we could go into one another’s classes and talk about comics.
Too cool for Kuhlbox.
In 20 years from now, will wonder if Paul will still be wearing that jean jacket and eating beef patties.
Paul and Mike wanted to put out a magazine-size anthology comic book called Kuhlbox. And I wanted to be a part of it. Together we did six issues of Kuhlbox and one free giveaway. Each was a collection of random stories from artists at the college and there was no editorial restrictions.
Eventually, more artists would come on board. One in particular I met at another local comic book store. He was also a fan of that geek culture, Kenneth Gallant.
Take note, dear readers. You are reading the origin of Walrus Boy.
We hit it off right away. I showed him the first issue of Kuhlbox and he loved it. Introductions were made to Paul and Mike and the rest; as they say, is history.
I am the Walrus.
So history was made eh?
Well I suppose it was. I loved comic books and had started my own zine in art school called Suicide. It was straight up horror, but I always liked superheroes, so when I dropped into Dragon Lady Comics there was Chetan. I showed him my zine and he told me about Kuhlbox and asked me if I would be interested in helping him and his buddies. Of course, I said yes right away and before I knew I was featured in issue two. I even had the cover, so that was a fun moment of triumph for me!
This is a perfect example of how the original structure of Tick Tock Tom (as it was first presented) was birthed. Kuhlbox started out as an anthology. A collection of disparate stories for various creators assembled in one piece of work. The difference between that book and TTT was that all of the artists were now focused on stories about a single character.
Eventually I got to know Chetan really well and we hit it off as fast friends. We both were huge geeks, loved comics and absolutely adored industrial music. So we had a lot in common right from the start of our friendship. I met all his buddies and together we produced 6 six issues of Kuhlbox.
But ultimately, Kuhlbox outlived itself. There was a deep yearning to do something new and different and I remember Chetan handing me this one-page comic. If my memory serves me right it was like 9 panels revealing this dude who announced that he was going to blow things up. The character in this page wore dark goggles and a clock on his forehead. Chetan told me his name was Tic Toc Tom and as soon as I saw it, I knew there was something exciting going on. Right away, Chetan turned to me and asked me if I wanted the character to write and draw my own stories around. I just couldn’t take the character he was offering because I knew deep down inside this was a bona fide hit.
Note to Tic Toc Tom fans, this was the first time Tom appeared in any stories. We actually produced a mini comic format giveaway to let people know of our larger size (8 1/2 x 11) book. If I remember correctly we printed about 250 copies.
I still have my copy of the Kuhlbox mini. I dug it out recently and think it’s got a lot of quality in it. That’s the thing about youthful exuberance and not having much else to do. You pour your passion into projects. Well, we had stuff to do like part-time jobs, school work, family etc., but all of them took a back seat to working on comics. Or at least a side seat.
I told Chetan straight out this character had major potential and that we should team up and pool all our resources. Obviously, I loved violence in movies and comics, but I also saw the potential of Toc as a bad ass anti-hero. We could really take this character places, so the seeds were sown that fateful day and the mini-comic was born.
Over the years I used to kid Chetan about his foolish attempts to hand me over the keys to the kingdom of what has arguably become the Tic Toc Tom universe. I don’t think I could ever produce on my own something so significant into what Tom has become, but I was smart enough to realize the character had major potential.
This is why I would offer my creations to you first. If it’s good you’ll refuse to take it. If it’s not so good you’ll maybe take it off my hands. You’re my Gallant knight in shining armour. Or a Jester. I haven’t figured it out yet.
I was often made the butt of the joke during the initial run of the Tom mini. There was a “win a date with Ken Gallant” contest that Chetan concocted and also Paul’s crafty scheme to anthropomorphize me into the “Walrus Boy”. I will give Paul credit for coming up with this idea long before film maker Kevin Smith made Tusk many years later.
It was not a butt of a joke. You had that hair, man! Deep down all of us were jealous of your hair. Truth be told, you are a lovable, easy going person. You fit the Win a Date prize. Would anyone want to see our (Paul or my) mug on that page? No! Okay, we did have fun with it.
Don’t forget this updated version of that original “Win a Date” ad. We just had a photocopier back then. Now we have more pixels than we know what to do with. Thankfully, Ken will never change.
But looking back at this now, the camaraderie we all shared was the vital bond that held the Tom legacy together and it’s still going strong so many years later!
When Kühlbox folded, our next project that came up was called My Hero. Once again it featured art students from the college and many other great creative folks. And some of those creative folks went on to do some mainstream work, like Jay Stephens, Steven Platt and Rick Taylor.
The back cover of the book had an advertisement for our next book, Tick Tock Tom that was coming out in November of that year.
Later that summer, My Hero was reprinted. In this reprint, a 4 page Tick Tock Tom booklet was inserted. Which featured art from Kenneth Gallant, Paul Marhue, Adam Wajnblum and myself.
As the summer was passing by, plans were in motion to produce the first issue of Tick Tock Tom. Throughout the summer and start of the new college year we kept writing and drawing.
In college, I met a photographer named Michelle Reardon. I don’t remember what or when we talked about her doing the first cover for book. Michelle did her thing and produced the first cover. That cover caught attention. Everyone loved it.
I recall that Michelle’s cover was a photograph of her boyfriend, at the time. Maybe they got married. If they broke up I hope it wasn’t because of the book. I have no idea. But regardless, it was a stunning image to debut with.
Now to give where credit is due. To the only and one Paul Marhue. Paul designed the logo. Man, did he create a great logo. To this day, I love it.
Now with the photo cover and kick-ass logo we were set to print this book!!! Well, photocopy. This was the golden age of photocopy mini comics! And we were there!
Back then, it was tougher to put together things like logos. Computers were around but they weren’t really a part of the process as they are now. I had to photocopy an image of a clock, combine it manually with the printed text and consider how we were printing it. So, it had to work using a 200 dpi black and white photocopier output. Print it out and use it when we needed, by cutting and pasting it on the master sheets.
The roughness of that original logo, the way it was produced and used was a result of how we made it. It married perfectly with the roughness of the book itself.
Then, with the change from “Tick Tock Tom” to “Tic Toc Tom” we got our buddy Jarkko to design a new logo for us. A wonderful artist. My one and only tattoo was done by him.
That is the logo we use to this day. It’s timeless. And no pun is intended.
to be continued…