Tom of Finland KAKE (by Touko Laaksonen)

 Tom of Finland KAKE (Touko Laaksonen)- Biography & list of work

Touko Laaksonen

Born on 8th May 1920, Tom of Finland was the pen name of the man who went on to become the most celebrated gay artist in the history of the world. His real name was Touko taken from "Toukokuu" the Finnish word for the month of May. 

As they say, things that shape you start affecting you from a very early age, the same applies to the young Touko. Born 3 years after the country’s independence, Tom grew up in an era where the men were still rough and wild as the countryside (this was true for the whole country except for a few cities). 

The masculinity that reflects in his work comes from the men ( who worked in fields, woods; loggers, and farmers) he observed closely from a very young age.

His parents were teachers and they brought up their only child in the atmosphere of art, music, and literature. He grew up indoors; he was never part of the world of the rugged men who intrigued him, the ones he used to observe from afar. He was really talented that becomes obvious from the fact that he created his first comic strips when he was just 5 years old. In addition to that, he also loved literature and music; he loved playing the piano. But he loved the outdoors-men even more. 

It is said that at the same age, Touko began to spy on a muscular neighbor, a farm boy called ‘Urho’, which in English translates to Hero. Incidentally, Urho was the very first of the many heroes Touko met in his lifetime who held his attention and motivated him to memorize every flex of their muscles, their features, mannerisms, and their smiles & their full lips.

As the year 1939 dawned, Touko was already studying marketing in an art school in Helsinki. This expanded his horizon and his drawings began to get inspired by city men - construction workers, policemen, and sailors (Finland’s capital - Helsinki is a port city). He never asked any of the men out, out of fear. But his life changed when Stalin invaded Finland and he found himself in a lieutenant's uniform. For the very first time, in the blackouts of World War II, he experienced sexual intimacy with the men he had desired for so long; especially after the arrival of Germans.

After the war, Touko resumed his art studies and began taking Piano classes at Sibelius Institute. With peace the experiences he had during blackout also vanished and men in uniform became rare.

He began to spend his days doing freelancing work in advertising & fashion designing and his evening playing piano at parties and cafes. Though he knew all about the gay scene and the areas, he avoided them at all costs. He was not a fan of the effeminate men who were seen at the ‘artistic’ bars. He used to travel a lot and was thus familiar with the gay cruising areas of every region. During one of these trips in 1953, he met Veli, the man with whom Tauko spent 28 years of his life.

By late 1956, Touko was ready to send his secret artwork to a very popular muscle magazine in America. On the urging of a friend, he did send his work but instead of giving his real name, which he also thought was too hard for the Americans to speak, he decided to be cautious & signed his work as ‘Tom’. The editor adored the work and in the very next addition, his artwork showcasing a laughing lumberjack appeared and became a big hit. This is the time when "Touko Laaksonen” became Tom of Finland.

Though the demand for his ‘dirty drawings’ rose, he could not quit his day work as earning from homosexual art was not that good in the 50s. He continued to do other projects in the day and used to devote his evening to the drawings for which he had to give up his piano gigs.

Touko was able to quit his day job in 1973 as Tom of Finland's artwork was making enough money. He was now able to channelize all his efforts into his drawings full-time. In 1973, the first exhibition of his work was organized in Hamburg, but the experience was really bad. It took Touko 5 years to say yes to an exhibition again in 1978 in LA. This was the first time when Touko was visiting America. After exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, the shy artist from Helinski became the international celebrity of the gay world with friends like Robert Mapplethorpe. After that, he began to spend 6 months in the US and the rest in Helsinki. During this time under the capable hands of Durk Dehner, Touko finally got the financial stability he deserved. In 1981, Veli died and the AIDS epidemic began to crush the circles he has begun to love in America. Still, his visits continued until he was diagnosed with emphysema.

He died in 1991 and though he used to credit his work as ‘dirty drawings’, they will always be more than that. He was the main force that helped in changing the image of gay men internationally. His work will always be remembered and cherished for their openness and positive take on freedom of sexuality.

Themes explored in Tom of Finland's gay art work

  • Loggers (this theme is also used to its fullest in Kake #24; Kake in Canada)
  • Motorcycles (Kake's Highway petrol is the best example)
  • Suits
  • Boys
  • Beach
  • Boots
  • Circus
  • Classical
  • Construction workers
  • Cops
  • Cowboys

Tom of Finland: Kake complete comics list

These comics can be bought at Amazon and Taschen. You can search these comics at these online stores using keywords like "Tom of Finland XXL', or simple "Tom of Finland comics: complete work". If you want to buy only the Kake comics, type in the name of the comic, for example, "Tom of Finland Kake in Canada", etc.

Kake 01: The Intruder

Kake 02: The Sexy Sunbather

Kake 03: C***-Hungry Cops

Kake 04: Nasty Nature Trail 1

Kake 05: Nasty Nature Trail 2

Kake 06: The Threesome

Kake 07: Tea Room Odyssey

Kake 08: Hi-Jacked

Kake 09: The Cock D’or (aka Seamanship)

Kake 10: Raunchy Truckers (or Hitchhiker)

Kake 11: TV-Repair

Kake 12: Service Station

Kake 13: Sightseeing the Guards (or Unguarded)

Kake 14: The Sadists

Kake 15: Violent Visitor

Kake 16: S*x on the Train

Kake 17: Loading Zone

Kake 18: Pants Down Sailor!

Kake 19: The Curious Captain

Kake 20: Pleasure Park

Kake 21: Greasy Rider

Kake 22: Highway Patrol

Kake 23: In the Wild West (Cowboy theme)

Kake 24: In Canada (logger/lumberjack theme)

Kake 25: Postal R*pe

Kake 26: Overse*ed Office

Other works:

Beach Boys 1

Beach Boys 2

Jack in the Jungle 1

Jungle Jack 2: R*pe of the Jungle Lord

Jack of the Jungle 3: Jungle Seafood!

Ringo & the renegades