British Cartoon Archive


Tom Johnston was born in Belfast on 18 May 1953. In 1972 he enrolled at Leeds Art College, and from 1975 to 1976 studied at the University of London. His first published cartoon appeared in the Daily Mirror in 1976, and he became a full-time freelance the same year. He was also a bass guitarist in rock bands, and in 1979, while cartooning during the day, became manager of the group "The The", later joining them as bassist. At first his cartoons mostly appeared in the music press, including Melody Maker, Sounds and Smash Hits, but he later moved to the Evening News, then the Evening Standard.

In 1981 Johnston joined the Sun, and by 1989 estimated that he was producing about 32 published cartoons a week, and earning £150,000 a year. His day began at 7.30am, drawing a pocket cartoon at the London Evening Standard, and he was still on duty last thing at night when he watched the BBC's Newsnight. In 1992 he succeeded Franklin as Political Cartoonist on the Sun, moving to the Daily Mirror in 1996 to replace Griffin as Political Cartoonist. He enjoyed working for the tabloids, noting in 1998 that "the only difference between working for the Mirror and a broadsheet is that I no longer make many puns using literary quotations."

Johnston's work has also been published in Today (including the strip "The Yuppies"), News of the World (including the strip "Short John Silver"), Punch and Private Eye amongst others. An admirer of the French cartoonist Reisir and of Michael Heath, he works in felt-tip pen on paper. "I don't like the word 'art' applied to cartoons," he noted in 1998, "I find it derogatory": "Cartoonists use more brain power in a morning than most artists use in a year."


  • Independent, Media Page, 2 August 1989.
  • Tom Johnston, "My Favourite Cartoon", Guardian Media, 2 November 1998.



4 originals (1 catalogued, 3 uncatalogued) [TJ0001 - 0004]


90s [2/3/97 - 27/3/97]

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