Alex Toth by Michael Netzer
June 25, 1928|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 27, 2006
Burbank, California, U.S.
Alexander Toth (June 25, 1928 – May 27, 2006) was an American professional cartoonist active from the 1940s through the 1980s. Toth's work began in the American comic book industry, but he is also known for his animation designs for Hanna-Barbera throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His work included Super Friends, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Birdman. Toth's work has been resurrected in the late-night, adult-themed spinoffs on Cartoon Network: Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Sealab 2021, and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
He was inducted into the comic-book industry's Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990.
Early life and career
Toth's talent was noticed early on as a teacher from his poster class in junior high took time to urge that he devote himself to art. Enrolling in the School of Industrial Art, Toth studied illustration and sold his first paid freelance art at the early age of 15. Toth launched his career at the age of 15, illustrating true stories for Heroic magazine through a comic-book packager named Steve Douglas. Although he initially aimed to do newspaper strips (“It was my dream to do what Caniff, Raymond, and Foster had done”), he found the industry “dying” and instead moved into comic books.
After graduating from the School of Industrial Art in 1947, Toth was hired by Sheldon Mayer at National/DC Comics. He worked there for five years, drawing the Golden Age versions of The Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Green Lantern and The Atom. For a brief time in 1950, Toth was able to realize his dream of working on newspaper comic strips by ghost illustrating Casey Ruggles with Warren Tufts.
In 1952 Toth ended his contract with DC Comics and moved to California. It is during that time that he worked on crime, war and romance comics for Standard Comics.
In 1954, Toth was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in Tokyo, Japan. While in Japan, he wrote and drew his own weekly adventure strip, Jon Fury, for the base paper, Depot Diary.
Returning to the United States in 1956, Toth settled in the Los Angeles area and worked primarily for Dell Comics until 1960. In 1960, Toth became art director for the Space Angel animated science fiction show. This led to his being noticed (and hired) by Hanna-Barbera, where he worked as a storyboard and design artist until 1968 and then again in 1973 when he was assigned to Australia for five months to produce the TV series Super Friends. He continued to work in comic books, illustrating contributions for the Warren magazines Eerie, Creepy and The Rook.
Toth did much of his comics work outside the mainstream of superhero comics, concentrating instead on such subjects as hot rod racing, romance, horror, and action-adventure. His work on Disney’s Zorro has been reprinted in trade paperback form several times. Also, there are two volumes of The Alex Toth Reader, published by Pure Imagination, which focuses on his work for Standard Comics and Western Publishing. Brian Bolland has cited Toth as one of his idols.
Journalist Tom Spurgeon wrote that Toth possessed "an almost transcendent understanding of the power of art as a visual story component," and called him "one of the handful of people who could seriously enter into Greatest Comic Book Artist of All-Time discussions" and "a giant of 20th Century cartoon design."
Toth was known for his exhaustive study of other artists and his outspoken analysis of comics art past and present. For example, in a 2001 interview he criticized the trend of fully painted comics, saying "It could be comics if those who know how to paint also knew how to tell a story! Who knew what pacing was, and didn't just jam a lot of pretty pictures together into a page, pages, and call it a story, continuity! It ain't!". Toth lamented what he saw as a lack of awareness on the part of younger artists of their predecessors, as well as a feeling that the innocent fun of comics' past was being lost in the pursuit of pointless nihilism and mature content.
In the 1990s and 2000s, he contributed to the magazines Comic Book Artist and Alter Ego, writing the columns "Before I Forget" and "Who Cares? I Do!", respectively. In 2006, the book Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book (Octopus Press) cataloged his correspondence with John Hitchcock, and included personal anecdotes and previously unseen sketches.
Awards and recognition
- Inkpot Award from the San Diego Comic Con, 1981
- He was inducted into the comic-book industry's Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990.
- Heroic Comics #32 (1945), illustrating the stories “Yankee King,” “One of Our Heroes is...Missing!”
- Heroic Comics #35 (1946), illustrating “The Switchboard Heroine,” “Heroic Traffic Cop”
- New Heroic Comics #44 (1947), illustrating “Mercy Flight,” “Nurse Without Fear”
- All Star Comics #37 (1947), illustrating untitled stories about the Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite written by Robert Kanigher
- All-American Comics #92 (1947), illustrating the cover and “The Icicicle Goes South!”
- All Star Comics #38 (1948), illustrating the cover of the JSA story and “History’s Crime Wave” and “Chapter Four” written by Gardner Fox
- Green Lantern #30 (1948), written by Robert Kanigher
- Comic Cavalcade #24 (1948), illustrating “Forecast: Danger!” (a Green Lantern story)
- All Star Comics #40 (1948), co-illustrating a portion of “The Plight of America” written by John Broome
- All-American Comics #100 (1948), illustrating “Johnny Thunder” written by Robert Kanigher
- Green Lantern #34 (1948), illustrating “Streak Meets the Princess”
- All-American Comics #102 (1948), illustrating “The Bridge of Peril!” (a Johnny Thunder story) written by Robert Kanigher
- Dale Evans Comics #2 (1948)
- Dale Evans Comics #6 (July-Aug 1949), illustrating "Case Of The Colossal Fossil!" (a Sierra Smith story)
- Green Lantern #36 (1949)
- Green Lantern #37 (1949)
- Green Lantern #38 (1949)
- New Heroic Comics #55 (1949), illustrating “Her Baby’s Life at Stake,” “Scout Training Saves a Life,” “Runaway Truck”
- All-American Western #114 (1950), illustrating “The End of Johnny Thunder!”
- Danger Trail #1 (1950)
- All-American Western #116 (1950), illustrating “Buffalo Riders of the Mesa!”
- All-American Western #117 (1951), illustrating “Johnny Thunder vs. Black Lightnin’!”
- Personal Love #11 (1951)
- Strange Adventures #12 (1951)
- Strange Adventures #13 (1951)
- Sensation Comics #107 (1952), illustrating “Johnny Peril”
- Strange Adventures #18 (1952), illustrating “Girl in the Golden Flower!” written by Robert Starr
- Mystery in Space #7 (1952), illustrating “The World Where Dreams Come True!” written by Mann Rubin
- Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog #3 (1952), illustrating “Rex—Circus Detective” written by Robert Kanigher
- Sensation Comics #109 (1952)
- My Real Love #5 (1952)
- Popular Romance #23 (April 1953), illustrating "Free My Heart"
- Uncanny X-Men #12 (July 1965)
- Rawhide Kid #46 (1965)
- Weird War Tales #5 (1972)
- Superman Annual #9 (1983), illustrating "Villain! Villain! Who's Got the Villain?" (Superman and Batman)
- Alex Toth edited by Manuel Auad (Kitchen Sink Press, 1995)
- Toth: One For The Road edited by Manuel Auad (Auad, 2000)
- The Comics Journal #262 (Aug-Sep 2004) inc. article + interview + "War on the Streets", "The Burner", "The Armored Car Murders", "I Played With Fire!"
- The Toth Reader (Pure Imagination, 2005)
- The Alex Toth Reader (Pure Imagination, 2005)
- Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book by Alex Toth and John Hitchcock (Octopus, 2006)
- Alex Toth: Edge of Genius Volume 1 (Pure Imagination, 2007)
- Alex Toth: Edge of Genius Volume 2 (Pure Imagination, 2008)
- Alex Toth in Hollywood Volume 1 (Pure Imagination, 2009)
- Alex Toth in Hollywood Volume 2 (Pure Imagination, 2010)
- Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell (IDW, 2011)
- Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954 (Fantagraphics Books, 2011)
- Kimball, Kirk. "Gaspar Saladino — The Natural". Dial B for Blog Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- Alex Toth Interview - Comic Book Artist #10 - TwoMorrows Publishing
- Salisbury, Mark (2000). Artists on Comic Art. Titan Books. p. p. 11. ISBN 1-84023-186-6.
- The Comics Reporter
- Twenty Questions with Alex Toth
- Alex Toth at Find a Grave
- “Official Alex Toth website”
- Alex Toth at the Internet Movie Database
- Online eulogy from Tom Spurgeon’s The Comics Reporter featuring numerous quotations, images, and links
- incomplete index of comic-book work at the Grand Comics Database
- “Comic artist Alex Toth dies at 77”, BBC News, 5 June 2006
- Obituary in The Guardian, June 23, 2006