Alex Toth

By | Monday, May 29, 2006 3 comments
Well, as I'm sure you've heard if you're coming to read this blog, Alex Toth died on May 27. It's somewhat mandatory that I say a few words about him here, I think.

In all honesty, I'm not nearly as familiar with Toth's work as I probably should be. Oh, sure, I've seen any number of episodes of Space Ghost, Johnny Quest and Superfriends but Toth's work on those projects was largely over after the conceptual stage. He didn't write the stories that were aired, and he didn't do any of the animation. I've seen a handful of the earlier X-Men comics Toth did, but that's about the extent of his comic work that I've seen. In fact, I've seen more of his "columns" in Alter Ego than I have of his actual comic work.

And that's something that I need to correct.

From where I sit, I want to know how all of comics inter-relate. If Dan Slott says that Fabian Nicieza was an influence on him, I figure I should see what Nicieza did. If Walt Simonson says Jack Kirby was a big influence, I'm going to go back to see what The King did. (In these two cases, I was already pretty well aware of the Nicieza and Kirby before I knew of Slott of Simonson, though!) I've been trying to get my hands on a cheap copy of Steve Canyon and Pogo reprints because I've heard so many people reference those stories. And I can't tell you the number of times I've heard comic creators say that Toth was an influence on them.

But, for some reason, I've never really been able to track his work down. I suppose it was low enough on the priority list that it was never really feasible financially. There are SO many things out there I want to read and study, I can't afford to get them all. And even if I could, I've got a pretty good stack of things that I've bought but haven't read yet as it is! I think my Essential Dracula volume 2 has been sitting on the shelf since it was originally released and my Green Lantern Archives volume 3 is still shrink-wrapped! Not to mention several dozen Golden Age Marvel books that I've had on microfiche for the past two years and haven't even seen the light of day yet. So I have to say that I can't feel terribly guilty for not having studied Toth yet.

That said, he IS on my list of creators to become more familiar with. It's just that... well, I guess it should (unfortunately) become easier as companies start trying to capitalize on his death by releasing reprints of his materials.
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Anonymous said...

I knew Toth first through Creepy, during the mid 60s. He did absolutely DAZZLING marker and wash work for Warren, which is still some of my favorite of his work. I remember being knocked out by his work when I was small, without knowing exactly why. (Maybe I still don't.) But one thing: his stories all moved, they all had a sweeping, vortical motion to them that felt just like a film story board. The very essence of dynamic. Well-drawn for sure, but not "illustratorly", say the way Reed Crandall's own beautiful stuff was. He is interesting to me, and possibly unique among cartoonists of his generation, for growing into a really smart, pared simplicity as he reached old age. His powers never failed and never went lax, but rather were whittled down to an infallable instinct and mastery of essential.

Matt K said...

Almost 15 years have gone by. Update? :-)

Doing some heavy archive digging there, Matt! :)

The short answer is: I'm definitely more familiar with Toth's work now than I was 15 years ago, but still probably not as familiar as I should be.

I've picked up and read much more of Toth's work. Mostly one-off issues here and there. I think the single, longest story of his I've read is Bravo for Adventure, which was released in a special over-size hardcover a few years ago. Some wonderful work there -- incredible command of lighting, great use of spot blacks.

I've also studied some of his animation character designs more closely. Primarily Super Friends and Thundarr. I'm impressed with his ability to convey characters so well with minimal muscular detail and without varying line weights much, if at all. They really speak to his ability to present the most amount of information with the fewest number of lines.

That said, I can definitely stand to study him more. But I can say that about virtually every comic creator. Hell, I still say that about Jack Kirby and I've probably written more about him than most comic fans even know!