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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #147

In loving memory of one of the greatest artists to ever draw a comics page… Trust me, you love this guy. (Thanks to frequent CSBG commenter Ian Astheimer for the suggestion!)

Also: archive.

5/27/07

147. Alex Toth

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Alex Toth died one year ago today, and it’s an apt time to remember him and what he brought to the medium. Simply put, the man is a legend and will always be a legend, a titan, a champion of comics. He reportedly passed away at his drawing table, a poetic punctuation to a wondrous life and career.

He started with a desire to create comic strips, but moved into the books when it looked like the comic strip was going downhill. This led him to draw all sorts of Golden Age super-characters, like Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, and others. He moved on from DC to draw other genres like war, romance, and crime for Standard Comics, as well as a highly regarded Zorro run in Four-Color, before entering into an army stint. When he returned, he started working in animation, on the Space Angel cartoon. Hanna-Barbera quickly scooped him up after that, and then we got those beautiful favorites like Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Birdman, the Herculoids, and, of course, Superfriends. Those were brilliantly designed cartoons. Even if the animation was a bit dodgy back in those days, the art was splendid. Hell, I even dug Shazzan.

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There are only a few people who really mastered sequential art, and Alex Toth is definitely one of them. He was an artist’s artist– an influence to comicsmiths for years. He probably always will be. From his designs to his brushwork to his perspective to, oh, every single aspect of putting together a comic page.

I have to again link to the story I linked to a few days ago– “Dirty Job” by Bob Haney and Alex Toth. It’s just four pages, but Mr. Toth’s style is blazingly alive on those pages. I adore the way he played with his layouts, composing a page for a stunning aesthetic. Gorgeous, gorgeous, work. Thanks again to Dial B for Blog.

Of course, Toth was also a tremendously talented letterer, too. Everyone pays attention just to the art, but his lettering style was great, too.

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(I hope Steven Grant doesn’t mind me borrowing an image or two from his tribute column last year. In thanks, I urge you all to read it. Go!)

Alex Toth loved comics dearly, and passionately. He probably thought about comics more than anyone else ever did, and wasn’t afraid to shout his opinions from the rooftops. To close this piece, I’m going to let Alex himself speak about the state of comics today. I happen to agree with him on this one. Click to enlarge:

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Damn straight, Mr. Toth. Comics will forever miss you. Thanks for everything.

Be sure to visit The Alex Toth Website, which is one of the most fantastic websites out there. It’s chock full of Toth-y goodness– a new page of beautiful sequential art every day, a plethora of brilliant articles, be they written by Alex or about him. And if you’d like, pick up a copy of Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodlebook.

Finally, I link to Tom Spurgeon’s terrific tribute of Alex Toth from one year ago. The man is a better writer than I, and he’s got some neat stuff mixed in there. Take a look.

12 Comments

(Thanks to frequent CSBG commenter Ian Astheimer for the suggestion!)

Any time, man.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since his passing.

John Trumbull

May 27, 2007 at 7:42 pm

One quick correction: I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but your text seems to imply that Alex Toth was main character designer on Jonny Quest, as he was with Space Ghost, Birdman, the Herculoids and Super Friends. That was not the case. The main designer on JQ was the creator of the show, the late, great Doug Wildey (who would also be a great addition to the list).

Not to take anything away from Toth, though. He was absolutely one of the all-time greats.

Enemy Ace.
Nuff Said.

Space Ghost makes it–thanks to Alex Toth–well desreved to be on your list.

Pedro Bouça

May 28, 2007 at 3:20 am

Enemy Ace.
Nuff Said.

**********

Joe Kubert drew that.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

The Kirbydotter

May 28, 2007 at 6:52 am

You said it Bill, there are very few comic book artists that have mastered all and every aspect of the sequential art. Alex Toth is a true master.

Not only did he have his very own unique signature style, but he was brilliant with layouts and page composition. A magnificient storyteller. It is often an overlooked aspect of this medium and I am glad you pointed that out.

Weird that Alex Toth is today’s reason to love comics (and what a great reason too), because just last nigh I bidded on Ebay for a Dell RIO BRAVO comic book adaptation of the John Wayne/Dean Martin movie drawn by Toth.

I think I own every book every written about the great Master (most of them written by Manual Auad) and try to get as many Toth drawn books I can find. A couple of fun and affordable suggestions:

DC COMICS PRESENTS # 84 featuring a team-up of Superman and the Challengers of the Unknown. It was partly drawn by Challenger’s creator Jack Kirby himself and partly drawn by Alex Toth! It looks like an unfinished Kirby story that Toth completed. Must be one of the very few times these two Gods of the medium appeared together in the same book.

SUPERMAN ANNUAL # 9: by the 80’s it was rare to see new Toth art. Most of the times it was limited to pin-ups or very short stories if we were lucky. Imagine a full annual of Toth goodness in 1983! Well, not full as a short back up story was also included, but still! Again, this is a meeting of two great craftsmen at what they do best. Toth was always his best inker, and normally any inker that worked on the masters perfect pencils could only make it worse. But here, Toth is paired with the best pure inker in the business: Terry Austin! Terry had an impossible job to do, inking someone unique like Toth and he pulls it off with a very decent job. If you are going to get someone else than Toth to ink himself, you might as well get Terry Austin. Of course, an all-Toth art job is always preferable, but the experiment was still a very enjoyable project.

The sad thing is he died on my birthday last year… That’s how I found out who he was, as I’ve only been reading comics for two years.

All I can say is “amen” to the rant.

Does anyone know when that letter was written?

"O" the Humanatee!

May 28, 2007 at 8:01 pm

I confess that I’ve never really been a fan of Toth, but so many people I respect love Toth that I just figure I have a blind spot. (For all my belief that comics art should be primarily about storytelling, I just don’t find Toth’s drawings “pretty” enough for my taste.) But I wanted to note an observation about Toth that I, as a former copy editor, find interesting: In his art Toth tried to strip things down to bare essentials; I’ve read about his inking in black shadows over areas that he had fully drawn becuase he felt it improved the composition and storytelling. But in notes like the one Bill includes above, Toth not only crammed the page full of too tightly spaced (IMO) handwriting but engaged in the most annoyingly redundant, run-on verbiage. It’s as if he had no idea how – or at least no desire – to bring to bear on the written word the same ideals he applied so assiduously in his art.

Alex Toth is possibly the single best artist the medium has ever seen, but that rant… sheesh!

thanks for that.

it’s the first time i heard the name alex toth. and i like him already… may he live forever!

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