Alex Toth by Michael Netzer
June 25, 1928|
New York City, New York
|Died||May 27, 2006
|Birdman and the Galaxy Trio
Alexander "Alex" Toth (June 25, 1928 – May 27, 2006) was an American 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 spin-offs 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.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Legacy
- 3 Awards and recognition
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
Early life and career
Alex Toth's talent was noticed early, and a teacher from his poster class in junior high school urged him to devote himself to art. Enrolling in the School of Industrial Art, Toth studied illustration. He began his career when he sold his first freelance art at the age of 15, subsequently 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. Green Lantern #28 (Oct.–Nov. 1947) was one of the first comics he drew for the company. He drew four issues of All Star Comics including issues #38 and #41 in which the Black Canary first met the Justice Society of America and then joined the team. A canine sidekick for Green Lantern named Streak was introduced in Green Lantern #30 (Feb.–March 1948) and the dog proved so popular that he became the featured character on several covers of the series starting with #34. He worked at DC for five years, drawing the Golden Age versions of the Flash, Doctor Mid-Nite, and the Atom. In addition to superheroes, Toth drew Western comics for DC including All-Star Western. He was assigned to the "Johnny Thunder" feature in All-Star Western because editor Julius Schwartz considered him to be "my best artist at the time." Toth and writer Robert Kanigher co-created Rex the Wonder Dog in 1952.
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.
Animation and later career
Returning to the United States in 1956, Toth settled in the Los Angeles area and worked primarily for Dell Comics until 1960. In that year, Toth became art director for the Space Angel animated science fiction show. This led to his being hired by Hanna-Barbera, where he created the character Space Ghost for the animated series of the same name. His other creations include The Herculoids, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, and Dino Boy in the Lost Valley. 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, contributing to Warren Publishing's magazines Eerie, Creepy and The Rook. For DC Comics, he drew the first issue of The Witching Hour (February–March 1969) and introduced the series' three witches. Toth illustrated the comic book tie-in to the Hot Wheels animated series based on the toy line. His collaboration with writer Bob Haney on the four page story "Dirty Job" in Our Army at War #241 (Feb. 1972), has been described as a "true masterpiece". Toth worked with writer/editor Archie Goodwin on the story "Burma Sky" in Our Fighting Forces #146 (Dec. 1973–Jan. 1974) and Goodwin praised Toth's art in a 1998 interview: "To me, having Alex Toth do any kind of airplane story, it's a joy for me. If I see a chance to do something like that, I will. He did a really fabulous job on it." The two men crafted a Batman story for Detective Comics #442 (Aug.-Sept. 1974) as well. Toth and E. Nelson Bridwell produced a framing sequence for the Super Friends feature in Limited Collectors' Edition #C-41 (Dec 1975–Jan. 1976). Toth's final work for DC was the cover for Batman Black and White #4 (Sept. 1996).
Alex Toth was the father of four, sons Eric and Damon and daughters Dana and Carrie. His marriage to Christina Schraber Hyde ended in divorce in 1968 and his second wife Guyla Avery died in 1985.
Toth did much of his comics work outside 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, James Counts and Billy Ingram compiled personal anecdotes, hundreds of unseen sketches from famous Alex Toth comic and animated works combined with correspondence with friend and comics dealer John Hitchcock in the book Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book (Octopus Press). Launched at ComicCon 2006, the first printing sold out within weeks of first publication.
Awards and recognition
- Inkpot Award from the San Diego Comic Con, 1981
- Inducted into the comic book industry's Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990.
Gold Key Comics
- "Alex Toth". Lambiek Comiclopedia. June 14, 2012. Archived from the original on June 5, 2014.
- Hevesi, Dennis (June 6, 2006). "Alex Toth, 77, Comic Book Artist and Space Ghost Animator, Dies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014.
- "A Talk With Alex Toth". Comic Book Artist. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (11). January 2001. Archived from the original on March 30, 2014.
- Wallace, Daniel; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1940s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
This issue featured some of the earliest work by talented young artist Alex Toth...Alongside other newcomers such as Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino, Toth helped bring a fresh look to the pages of DC.
- Thomas, Roy (2000). ""The Men (and One Woman) Behind the JSA: Its Creation and Creative Personnel". All-Star Companion Volume 1. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 1-893905-055.
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 57: "In a sign of the character's growing popularity, Black Canary made her first appearance outside of Flash Comics in a feature by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Alex Toth...By the story's end, Black Canary was considered for JSA membership but wouldn't officially join until All Star Comics #41."
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 59: "The debut of Streak the Wonder Dog in a story by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Alex Toth wasn't a good sign for Green Lantern...Streak took over the cover of issue #34 in September, but he couldn't save his master's series from cancelation the following year."
- Alex Toth at the Grand Comics Database
- Irvine, Alex "1950s" in Dolan, p. 66: "With work by artists Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Alex Toth, and writer Robert Kanigher, among others, All-Star Western would run for ten years as a bimonthly title."
- Daniels, Les (1995). "Go West - Cowboys Conquer Comic Books". DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. p. 99. ISBN 0821220764.
- Irvine "1950s" in Dolan, p. 68: "Rex the Wonder Dog leaped into comics with his own bimonthly series...written by Robert Kanigher and [drawn by] Alex Toth."
- Markstein, Don (2010). "Casey Ruggles". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014.
- Markstein, Don (2006). "Space Ghost". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014.
Space Ghost endured and is still popular today. In large part, this is due to the artistic input of comic book veteran Alex Toth...who, on staff with Hanna-Barbera as a designer and idea man, is generally credited with having created Space Ghost.
- Markstein, Don (2007). "The Herculoids". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014.
Like the majority of Hanna-Barbera's late '60s adventure characters...The Herculoids were created by designer Alex Toth.
- Markstein, Don (2008). "Birdman". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014.
- Markstein, Don (2010). "Dino Boy in the Lost Valley". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014.
- McAvennie, Michael "1960s" in Dolan, p. 132: "For the first issue, writer/artist Alex Toth provided a framing sequence...that introduced readers to cronish Mordred, motherly Mildred, and beautiful maiden Cynthia."
- McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 138: "Toth's aerodynamic storytelling fueled a series that took licensed tie-ins in a bold new direction."
- Levitz, Paul (2010). "The Bronze Age 1970-1984". 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Cologne, Germany: Taschen. p. 540. ISBN 9783836519816.
It was undeniable, however, that the audacity of depicting the Prince of Peace's crucifixion in Our Army at War was attention getting. This story, arguably veteran writer Haney's most prestigious work, enriched by the magnificent [Alex] Toth art, was certainly that.
- Reed, Bill (May 22, 2007). "365 Reasons to Love Comics #142". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 7, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
- Cooke, Jon B. (Spring 1998). "Archie's Comics - Archie Goodwin talks about DC in his last interview". Comic Book Artist. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (1). Archived from the original on March 7, 2012.
He had always wanted to do a Batman story.
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dougall, Alastair, ed. (2014). "1970s". Batman: A Visual History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 117. ISBN 978-1465424563.
Two masters of sequential storytelling, writer Archie Goodwin and artist Alex Toth, joined forces for an unforgettable Batman lead story.
- Franklin, Chris (December 2012). "The Kids in the Hall (of Justice) A Whirlwind Tour with the Super Friends". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (61): 24–28.
- Levitz "The Dark Age 1984-1998" p. 574: "Only fate understood the juxtaposition of having the first cover [to the series] be Jim Lee's debut as a DC contributor and the last be Alex Toth's final contribution, placing the star artist of DC's next decades against the artist's artist of its Golden and Silver ages."
- "Comic artist Alex Toth dies at 77". BBC News. June 5, 2006. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012.
- Salisbury, Mark (2000). Artists on Comic Art. London, United Kingdom: Titan Books. p. 11. ISBN 1-84023-186-6.
- Spurgeon, Tom (May 28, 2006). "Alex Toth, 1928-2006". The Comics Reporter. Archived from the original on March 30, 2014.
- "Twenty Questions with Alex Toth". TVparty.com. n.d. Archived from the original on February 29, 2012.
- "Inkpot Award Winners". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012.
- "1990 Harvey Awards". Harvey Awards. 2013. Archived from the original on November 8, 2013.
- Alex Toth edited by Manuel Auad, Kitchen Sink Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0878163823
- Toth: One For The Road edited by Manuel Auad, Auad, 2000, ISBN 978-0966938111
- The Toth Reader Pure Imagination, 1995, ISBN 978-1566850155
- The Alex Toth Reader vol. 2 Pure Imagination, 2005, ISBN 978-1566850346
- Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book by Alex Toth and John Hitchcock, Octopus Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0972555319
- Alex Toth: Edge of Genius Volume 1 Pure Imagination, 2007, ISBN 978-1566850377
- Alex Toth: Edge of Genius Volume 2 Pure Imagination, 2008
- Alex Toth in Hollywood Volume 1 Pure Imagination, 2009, ISBN 978-1566850551
- Alex Toth in Hollywood Volume 2 Pure Imagination, 2010, ISBN 978-1566850827
- Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954 Fantagraphics Books, 2011, ISBN 978-1606994085
- Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell, IDW, 2011, ISBN 978-1600108280
- Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell, IDW, 2013, ISBN 978-1613770245
- Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell, IDW, 2014, ISBN 978-1613779507