Tom Browne (1870 or 1872-1910) was a comic strip artist mostly known for creating “Weary Willy and Tired Tim.” He was an early pioneer in British comics and crafted a specific style of using solid bold lines in his work. Though he died fairly young, his short career inspired many artists.

Browne was born in Nottingham and attended St. Mary’s National School until he was 12, when he went to work for a hat designer at the Nottingham Lace Market until 1891. At the age of 14,Browne apprenticed with a lithographer and improved his sketching skills. At this time, he also attended the Nottingham School of Art and then began to freelance for London Comics. His first publication was titled “He Knew How to Do It,” which was published in Scraps in 1888. When his apprenticeship ended, Browne moved to London and began working on comics full-time. In 1895 he published “Squashington Flats” in Comic Cuts.

He eventually found his way on the front page of The Illustrated Chips Number 298 in 1896 with his creation “Innocents on the River” where he introduced the characters Weary Waddles and Tired Timmy. The editor was so impressed, he requested that Browne make the two characters a serial. After some retooling, the characters were renamed “Weary Willy and Tired Tim.” They became an instant hit and Browne was credited with being instrumental in increasing the sales of The Illustrated Chips.

After his success with “Weary Willy and Tired Tim,” Browne went on to create as “Airy ‘Alf and Bouncing Billy,” “Lanky Larry And Bloated Bill,” and “Don Quixote de Tintogs” for various publications. In 1898, Browne and artists Phil May, Dudley Hardy, Walter Churcher, and Cecil Aldin founded the London Sketch Club, a now historic graphic artist club. He even worked for The Chicago Daily Tribune in 1906. In 1910 Browne retired from comics to focus on comic postcards and painting. It was on these postcards that Browne started using many colors in his work.

Though Tom Browne died from throat cancer on 16 March 1910, the “Weary Willy and Tired Tim” comic lasted for almost 60 years and became a strong legacy for more comic artists to follow. His unique style was imitated by many comic artists including Dudley Watkins (1907-1969) and Leo Baxendale (1930).His most popular creation “Weary Willy and Tired Tim” even inspired several early silent films from 1903-1908 starring James and Walter Haggar.

— Michael Baker

Further Reading

  • Gifford, Denis. Happy Days: One Hundred Years of Comics. London: Jupiter Books, 1975.
  • Khoury, George, ed. True Brit: Celebrating The Comic Book Artists Of England. Raleigh: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004.
  • Machray, Robert. The Night Side of London. London: J. McQueen, 1902.