Minorities in cartoons: Thomas Kalmaku

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Thomas “Tom” Kalmaku, a supporting character in the Green Lantern comics. Thomas first appeared in “Green Lantern” (vol. 2) #2 in October 1960. He was created by writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane.

Background

Tom was a mechanic employed at fictional Ferris Aircraft, where his pal Hal “Green Lantern” Jordan also worked. Unlike Lois Lane, Steve Trevor, Jimmy Olsen, and other comic characters who’re close pals of the main hero, Tom was in on Hal’s secret identity from the start. He’d also occasionally help Hal’s alter-ego on his various adventures. This happened often enough that the Guardians of the Universe once offered Tom a power ring of his own (which he turned down).

Eventually, Tom married his longtime girlfriend Tegra. The two had two children, son Keith and daughter Kari.

Thomas gained a vaguely-defined power of “bringing out the best in people” during the long-forgotten late 80s event storyline “Millennium.” He subsequently served on a superhero team, the “New Guardians.” The power/superhero team membership didn’t last long, however, and Thomas went back to his usual life. Later, Tom became a co-owner of Ferris Aircraft.

During the time Hal was dead (yes, I know), Thomas undertook one last mission for his late friend. It involved reconstructing the planet Oa (home of the Guardians) and the central Power Battery. The latter is the source from which the Lanterns’ individual power batteries draw their power.

Other media

Similar to fellow Green Lantern character John Stewart, Thomas has also appeared in non-comics media.

Many of the DC heroes made their first animated appearances in the 1967 Filmation series “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure.” However, that wasn’t the case for Tom. Green Lantern’s segments replaced Thomas with an alien sidekick named Kairo.

Tom appeared on the series “Young Justice,” where he was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson.

Most prominently, Tom appeared in the 2011 “Green Lantern” movie. There, he was played by Taika Waititi, a New Zealand actor.

Nickname

I should note I’ve called Mr. Kalmaku “Thomas” or “Tom” in this whole article, and for good reason. When first introduced, Thomas’ nickname wasn’t “Tom,” but instead the unfortunate sounding term “Pieface” (sometimes “Pie” for short). A few later attempts were made at rationalizing Tom’s old nickname. Otherwise, it’s largely been dropped in modern stories, and everyone calls him “Thomas” or “Tom.”

The early Silver Age stories also tried to give Tom the catchphrase “jumpin’ fish hooks!,” another element long since dropped. In spite of all this, Thomas was fully treated as Hal’s friend in stories.

(Updated 10/17/16)

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