From Buster to Whizzer and Chips – the ABC of cartoonist Tom Paterson

8th November 2021

Out on 25 November, The Tom Paterson Collection is a gorgeous hardcover celebrating one of the finest talents in comics.  In his regular look at classic British comics and the Treasury archive, David McDonald explores the career of the madcap cartoonist...

"The English-speaking world is divided into those who prefer the little squelchy things OR the smelly socks which appear in most of Tom Patterson's work.” Not sure if I have that quote quite right, but my favourite joke from the work of Tom Paterson is the 'feed other end' sticker that usually appears on the posterior of any large animal that appears!

Tom Patterson has been a near constant presence in humour comics since the seventies, his art is instantly recognisable - anarchic, inventive, interactive. irreverent, chaotic, and most importantly, funny. Everything the art in a humour comic should be!

Starting drawing professionally at the age of just sixteen for DC Thomson on the strip 'Dangerous Dumplings’, Patterson soon moved to working for IPC filling in for Sid Burgeon on 'Biddys Beastly Bloomer', which appeared in Shiver and Shake.  When 'Sweeny Toddler' transferred from Shiver and Shake to Whoopee, Patterson took over the strip from its creator, Leo Baxendale, and soon made the character his own to the point where it is probably the one he is most associated with. He went on to work on numerous characters right across IPC's humour line like ‘School Belle', ‘Roberts Robot’ and taking over from Fleetway veteran Reg Parlett on IPC's humour comics flagship character 'Buster'.

On ‘Sweeny Toddler' he hit his creative height in the mid-eighties on the front covers of Whoopee and Whizzer and Chips, where the character moved in the merger of the two titles.

Patterson’s now (in)famous ‘Sweeny’ covers - including ‘Sweeny Dredd’, ‘Sweeney Dracula’ and ‘Sweeny He-Man’ - are some of the highlights of IPC humour comics! Indeed, it could be argued that Patterson’s output in the eighties and nineties, along with artist John Geering - who drew ‘Bananaman Man’, ‘Smudge’, and ‘Gums’ - might give the creative output of Baxendale and Reid in the sixties a run for their money. 

With the decline of the comic market in the late eighties, Patterson returned to DC Thomson, Working on characters like ‘Calamity James’, ‘Minnie The Minx’, and 'The Banana Bunch’.

The Tom Patterson Collection from The Treasury of British Comics collects a large swathe of his work from comics like Buster, Whizzer and Chips, Whoopee and School Fun. It shows the progress from his early Baxendale-influenced work to later ‘Full-on Patterson’ that graced Whizzer and Chips and Buster. As well as strips like ‘Buster’, ‘Sweeny Toddler’ and ‘Strange Hill', The Tom Patterson Collection also includes lesser known gems like ‘Guy Gorilla’ from Whizzer and Chips and the brilliant ‘Felix the Pussycat’ from Nipper, and many others. 

Another thing I may have gotten wrong is saying that he hit his creative height in the eighties - looking at his recent work which appeared in the Monster Fun Halloween Spooktacular, it’s clear that he continues to really hit the ball out of the park. If you haven't seen it yet, track down a copy now - you won’t be disappointed!

David McDonald is the publisher of Hibernia Comics and editor of Hibernia’s collections of classic British comics, titles include The Tower King, Doomlord, The Angry Planet and The Indestructible Man. He is also the author of the Comic Archive series exploring British comics through interviews and articles. Hibernia’s titles can be bought here Follow him on Twitter @hiberniabooks and Facebook @HiberniaComics

All opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Rebellion, its owners, or its employees.