01 Tam - Sex Slavers (MP abducted)
Tam is a British artist who usually depicts uniformed, authority figures being abducted, beaten up, humiliated and worse. A typical victim is the MP (Military Police) Sergeant with a moustache and wearing British army battledress from the 1950-60s. My first sample from the story 'Sex Slavers' shows one such NCO* being carried off after being stunned and tied up by professional kidnappers.
(*NCO = non-commissioned officer i.e. Sergeants and Corporals promoted from the ranks.)
02 Tam - Breaking Corporal North (The Set Up)
This uniform had some attractive, erotic styling which Tam captures nicely in this sketch which sets the scene for the Corporal North story. The top is a short jacket with patch pockets on the chest, shoulder epaulettes and the usual badges and signifiers of rank all of which enhance the upper body shape. The jacket is paired with high waisted trousers worn with a chunky, distinctive belt which pulls in the waist and accentuates both the upper body and most notably, the shape of the backside – soldiers used to alter them to get a snugger fit. The trouser bottoms are tucked into gaiters which makes the legs look chunky.
03 Tam – Cock Inn Encounter (MP is Stripped)
A casual pick-up in a bar leads to an unexpected confrontation in this picture. Tam's targeted NCO's are always forced to strip to their under-shorts (which can scarcely contain their excited man-bits) and made to wear with them key elements of the uniform - the cap, the belt and in this case the MP armbands, which in the normal world transform them from ordinary soldiers into policemen. The under-shorts are a genuine design which looked just as sexy on the right man as Tam's pictures suggest (I speak from experience)!
These images have a strong link with the post-war (WW2) era of National Service* in Britain when the abundance of off-duty, military personnel on the streets gave rise to a golden age of casual sexual encounters - probably not like this though! It also spawned the photographic imagery of Royale studio which like Tam featured models wearing 'erotically reconstructed' uniforms (click on GIU/Royale label at foot of this post for more examples). Royale photos usually showed regular soldiers being bullied and punished by their NCO superiors but Tam's stories and pictures show the squaddies taking their revenge for all the harsh discipline, unfair punishments, missed promotions and other petty jealousies.
When I first saw images like these it pressed all the buttons for me, a memorable crystallisation of my own fantasies, so Tam's work has always had a special place in my affections. The combination of normally unseen underwear with the outward symbols of macho job roles plus the idea of grown men forced to dress up like dolls, to become tempting sex objects still seems so sexy to me. I suppose Luger's cowboys and Etienne's 'Cadets' plough a similar furrow, but Tam's more mature physiques, their immobilisation by bondage, and the element of compulsion raises the erotic temperature considerably. Much as I enjoy the sexual appeal of American sailors, Cops and Cowboys, being able to fantasise over a British Soldier is something special. I have explored such imagery myself with Squaddie Steve
(*National Service = 2 years of compulsory military service for all men on reaching 18 years of age. Many men found the discipline hard to handle and learned to hate their NCO's, bullying did occur but wasn't commonplace)
04 Tam - Breaking Corp North (Beaten Up)
Corporal North here is the object of one such vendetta (see image 2 for the lead-in). The physical beating up of restrained captives with fists and feet is a significant part of Tam's work and it marks him apart from most other fetish artists who gravitate to more ritualised, less intimate forms of punishment. Jotto and Kalabro spring to mind as exceptions.
The NCO's in these tales are characterised as arrogant, nasty, physically powerful, very manly and mentally strong in a way that's a little hard to understand these days. In short, eminently worthy of being beaten up and broken. They nearly always wear neat, full moustaches which were symbolic of adult manliness in the 1950's. In the British Army they were the preserve of officers and senior NCO's, ordinary soldiers were expected to be clean-shaven. Tam obviously likes them as an expression of masculinity, but here they also signify rank, power and privilege. (Tagame's preference for moustaches, by comparison, probably derives from the 1980's 'clone' era, he is too young b.1964 to remember the post war years, when Japan was demilitarised in any case).
05 Tam - Cops Colour Book (Captured Cop Tortured)
Tam tells stories in pictures and this example is from Cops Colour Book, an early work with a deceptive title that matches the naïve style. This example shows some more of the brutal street-style punishments that flow from Tam's pencil and this time the victim is a British Policeman who has tried to detain two ruffians up to no good. The apparently simple drawing style is actually quite successful at depicting some fairly complex body action and despite the absence of spectacular angled viewpoints, the venomous nature of this attack jumps out at you. This cartoony story is understandably popular with Tam enthusiasts, there's some interesting psychology going on here and the subversive ideas expressed speak louder than the artistry.
Tam doesn't use the sophisticated, comic design style of Tagame, Fillion and other modern day artists (who use multiple interlocking frames per page), but something more like the 'Kake' format of Tom of Finland with a single picture per page. You will find examples of Tam's work with several sketches on a page (like the one above in fact) but they are not formally framed and integrated into one design and he often breaks them up into separate images for the final book, presumably to make them easier to read. Tam's stories are usually longer than the Kake series running to hundreds of pictures in some epic cases.
06 Tam - Cops Colour Book (The Villains Fall Out)
There are also links to Tom of a stylistic nature in Tam's early work and some elements of Cops Colour Book are actually redrawn versions of Tom images, including the fight scene above which you may recognise (above right). With a couple of minor alterations, Tam's rather less polished version manages to create a sense of immediacy and serious combat which isn't there in Tom's original.
07 Tam – Whipping of a Captured Paratrooper
This picture of a captured British Paratrooper stripped and whipped down South America way is a marvellous example of Tam's very personal take on erotic styling, his kitbag of sexy ingredients. The texture of those flimsy under-shorts comes out particularly well in this image. The power plays are typically Tam too. The Paratrooper badge incorporated into the belt buckle tells us that this is a crack soldier from an elite Regiment and therefore especially prized as a captive – by the same token, he is doubly humiliated - by capture itself and with the degrading mockery of his uniform forming part of his punishment. The background tree detail is a rare luxury with Tam, who in his eagerness to tell the story and focus on the erotic appeal of the suffering captive, usually leaves out backgrounds (or else they are lost during the cleaning up process).
In this later picture Tam has developed his own more angular style, his faces sometimes look a bit like Matt's – see also for example the second image in this article. His shading technique here with fuzzy, parallel lines is very confident and rather classy, but you can still see Tom's heritage in the sensuality of the skin toning and those mammoth pecs with their gleaming nipple discs - which must outshine the para's boots!
08 Tam – Sex Slavers (Ringing the Cop's Tits)
The sensual style of the paratrooper whipping above is a conventional way of expressing the erotic element in S&M pictures, but Tam goes further here as a kidnapper in 'Sex Slavers' inserts rings through the captive cop's nipples. Despite his muffled grunts of pain it hardly seems like a punishment since the two men's groins are pushing together and the cop is leaking profusely over his tormentor's trousers. In Tam's stories the captives usual end up wanting the abuse, which is just as well, but this piercing and ringing of the restrained policeman's nipples is not just about inflicting pain, but the symbolic exercise of control over his body, going beyond mere humiliation. The cop's erotic response registers his susceptibility to this sort of control and his suitability for enslavement. His captor is enjoying this discovery and the sexual moment – perhaps a little too much for his colleague's liking.
I particularly like the drawing of the two henchmen here, their treatment is quite different to the idealised, cop 'hero' figure, being slightly scuffy, more earthy and real. Something similar happens in Tom's later work where the highly stylised Kake character is juxtaposed with more normal-looking men and I will return to this in my article on Tom.
This image has no background detail at all and the high level of contrast creates an austere, flat look. Much of Tam's work looks like this. It looks like the subtleties of the original drawing have been lost which means that multi-figure compositions have to work harder to retain their coherence and avoid the appearance of being assembled poses (the third man's eyes are working miracles here pulling things together). This unusual technique has it's advantages though, once you get used to the look, and I will expand on this in Part 2 of this article.
More on Tam in Part 2 here
Meanwhile check out his work at Tams Art blog