Tom’s taste for police officers and felons—and for sexual tension between the two—developed late in his career. “I’ve never been to prison,” he told a class at the California Institute of the Arts in 1985, “but I hear it’s a closed world where there are different roles and people behave different from when they walk free. It fascinates me. It is another subject I come back to again and again.” By which he meant fantasized about again and again, since only those subjects that aroused him sexually made it into his art.
The uniforms of the California Highway Patrol motorcyclists were his favorite: tan and tight, with high boots and soft black leather gauntlet gloves. He created his own uniform variants as well, a cross between military and civilian police gear, and invented suitably butch criminals for his cops to apprehend, though once apprehended the power struggle could go either way. Tom was determined to show top and bottom as equally masculine roles, and his cops were as likely to end up happily speared by criminal cock as delivering corrective coitus. Though criticized by some for what appeared to be a glorification of power, Tom was always quick to remind that the world he created was a fantasy world, where anything was possible, and everything was consensual—even in prison.
The Little Book of Tom: Cops & Robbers explores Tom’s fascination with criminal justice through a mixture of multi-panel comics and single-panel drawings and paintings, all in a compact and affordable 192 pages. Historic film stills and posters, personal photos of Tom, sketches, and Tom’s own reference photos make this far more than another Tom’s Comics re-tread.