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Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth

71mFiNGPq4LLet me just say upfront that the production values in the now-complete three-volume biography of the cartoonist Alexander Toth are beyond reproach. Visually, the just-released third and final book, Genius, Animated, compares favorably to IDW’s other collections that I own and admire regularly, such as their exemplary Milton Caniff collections. One can quibble with the editors’ selections and the books’ design and I will—-but all of the art is shown in a generously proportioned format and the printing is very sharp and clear.

But for a series that claims to be the definitive statement on Toth, it falls short, because the text does not do justice to its subject. As biography, the account it presents feels skewed against the artist. Further, because of the books’ tendency to highlight the least interesting and most conservative aspects of what he did while ignoring or misunderstanding or failing to communicate in any meaningful way what makes Toth’s work so exciting and innovative, what is established is that Toth was a contentious man who became a particularly boring and cranky old fart.

There are only twenty pages of text in Genius, Animated, oddly strewn throughout the book, and unfortunately, their content is very thin. The book borrows nearly all of its Toth quotes from Darrell McNeil’s suppressed 1996 Toth animation model sheet and storyboard collection, By Design, but without properly citing McNeil. The present volume also pulls quotes from the autobiography of Toth’s boss, the animator Iwao Takamoto—but it doesn’t qualify Takamoto’s critical remarks about Toth with the information that Takamoto had run afoul of the sensitive artist by removing Toth’s signature from his model sheets. This and other telling information about Toth’s animation career can be found in Alter Ego #63 and Comic Book Artist #11.

The best Superman art Toth would ever do

The best Superman art Toth would ever create

Those two special Toth issues of TwoMorrows magazines contain numerous interviews conducted by comics historian Jim Amash with artists involved in the animation and comics industries who knew Toth—interviews that Mullaney and Canwell liberally appropriated passages from for their two previous volumes of the Genius books without offering sufficient acknowledgement. Amash was not thrilled. But for whatever reason, in Genius, Animated the bulk of testimony comes from original interviews conducted with three animators. Floyd Norman offers interesting anecdotes about working with Toth, but Robert Alvarez and Mike Kazaleh apparently didn’t have any direct interaction with him. Half of the first two-page chapter of Genius, Animated is comprised of Alvarez’s stories of dumpster-diving behind the Hanna-Barbara studios when he was a kid (but not actually finding any Toth art) and reading DC comics (again, not by Toth). Alvarez did eventually work for H-B and utilize Toth’s model sheets, but his main function here seems to be to explain why he and his fellow animators didn’t take advantage of Toth’s elaborate fencing diagrams for The Three Musketeers segments of the cartoon variety show The Banana Splits.

The cartoons Toth was involved with were not good, though the artist cannot be blamed for that. Even if the productions had followed Toth’s designs explicitly (they didn’t), the shows are conceptually and aesthetically weak. But the editors present them as if they are among Toth’s highest achievements—though Canwell seems to rival the reactionary bent of his subject when he writes that The Banana Splits was meant to reflect for kids “the ‘peace, love, dove’ sensibility of the late ’60s,” as if imparting non-violent values to children is something that deserves ridicule. Still, Toth’s model sheets and storyboards are the most memorable aspects of those cartoons and they are well represented here. In particular, a penciled storyboard for Dino-Boy, others done with ink and conté crayon for Super-Friends, and a large number of never-before-published color presentation boards are the best features of the book.

Bugshit crazy: Toth's bizarro characters are apparently redrawn by Dan Spiegle

Bugshit crazy: Toth’s bizarro characters are apparently redrawn by Dan Spiegle

But some of the art in Genius, Animated isn’t by Toth and one wonders if the authors can tell the difference. For example, pieces by other artists on pages 62, 65, 66, 118, and 255 are not credited as such and the storyboards on pages 108 and 109 are clearly by Doug Wildey. What is Toth’s doing is a certain unpleasantness in some of his faces that he or other production artists subsequently altered to make the drawings usable (a mean edge can also be seen in the faces of some of Toth’s early 1960s comics, even in his heroes).

Mean genii: Toth had to lighten it up

Mean genii: Toth had to lighten it up

Toth’s most important work is his comics and those are dealt with in the two previous volumes. I reviewed the first volume Genius, Isolated harshly on the site Hooded Utilitarian; that can be found here. The second book Genius, Illustrated contains some of the artist’s finest efforts, but again the text has serious deficiencies. Even the title mislabels the masterful cartoonist as an “illustrator.” A cartoonist’s contributions to any given story approximate what an entire film production applies to a script. In Toth’s case, his brilliant skills in timing, staging, casting, acting, atmospherics, etc. are also subject to his unparalleled framing and page design sensibility. It is his talents in these areas that advanced comics as an artform and made him so influential. While of course illustration has its own virtues, it can be best described as imagery done to accompany a text that stands complete of itself. The artist only rarely took on such assignments.

Genius, Illustrated does have virtues. The large reproductions of the original art of complete stories like “Lone Hawk”, “Bookworm”, “Case of the Curious Classic”, “Burma Sky”, and the artist’s previously unseen, reworked version of his DC war masterpiece “White Devil, Yellow Devil” are all fabulous. There are some very nice figure drawings done from live models and other pages here and there that I hadn’t seen before, as in the section on his military work. However, I am underwhelmed to see “Tibor Miko” and the overrated “Taps” badly reproduced one more time, as well as other stories that are in Manuel Auad’s Toth collections, like the Roy Crane homage “Oo La La”.  It would have been nice to see all of “Daddy and the Pie” or other Warren stories without the reversed captions by editor Bill Dubay that the artist hated so. Most of Toth’s peak 1970s DC work is disregarded, including the House of Mystery and Witching Hour stories and the sideways-printed “Anachronism”. We are given tantalizing hints, such as that Toth colored the first dozen pages of his magnum opus “Bravo for Adventure” and that he did a splash for a story about the Robert E. Howard character Solomon Kane, but where are they?

The design of the trilogy is elegant but conservative and so it does not reflect the artist’s progressive design tendencies; this is most noticeable in the second volume which deals with his most advanced work. The worst omission is that there is virtually no analysis of Toth’s storytelling or drawing techniques to be found in these three humungous books. The only instance is a brief description in volume 2 of a few devices Toth used in one of his final pieces for Warren, “The Reaper”, that paraphrases part of my own analysis of that story. It is hard to understand why there is so little meaningful commentary. Or, why any sense of the excitement I and so many others have felt about this incredible artist’s work since our childhoods is so entirely absent.

In an interview, Canwell disparages Manuel Auad’s compilation of Toth’s hot rod comics One for the Road as “tough sledding,” but I prefer that book, as well as Greg Sadowsky’s recent collection Setting the Standard for Fantagraphics and Image Comics’ artist-toned Zorro reprint, because they offer complete and significant bodies of work. In the Genius trilogy, the authors offer precious little about Toth’s Standard, Dell, and hot rod magazine work, or his superlative 1960s and ’70s DC and Warren work. Most of the companies’ personnel that were involved are dead and so perhaps there is no one to speak of how it came about, but regardless, his comics work for various companies is sluffed over or even disparaged in an absurdly perfunctory manner. Oh, the late Joe Kubert is given space to unconvincingly defend his philistine overreaction to Toth’s alterations on the lost Enemy Ace story, but why? Apparently, just to emphasize what a dickhead Toth was.

A distinct prejudice of the authors against the artist is exposed in the form of their assumption that Toth’s alterations to scripts were nothing but presumptuous and that they were always something that the writers disliked or took offense at. But contrary to Mullaney and Canwell’s opinions, Toth’s changes were always clearly improvements and so minimal or subtle that most often the writers either didn’t notice them, or they actually figured they had written the stories that way. The overwhelming majority of writers who were blessed with Toth’s art were simply thrilled to have their stories realized on such a high level—including the famously obnoxious Robert Kanigher, who wasn’t foolish enough to complain when Toth made his stories function more elegantly (and it should be noted that Toth could only change the text of a script if he was also the letterer, which happened rarely).

As the books shamble towards the artist’s late career and death, the patronizing tone of the text and the aura of schmaltz become nearly unbearable. I won’t pretend Toth wasn’t difficult, but throughout the series, the opinions given are predominantly those of people he had problems with—and those accounts and the descriptions of his mental and physical health entirely eclipse any discussion of the significance of his work. Many people retire around the time that Toth stopped producing regularly and they are not castigated for it—and his health held up until he was quite elderly. The contributions and opinions of David Cook and other friends who Toth corresponded closely with in later years are conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps they might have conflicted with the overwhelmingly negative picture that the authors paint of the artist.

Finally, while it is hard to argue against the involvement of Toth’s family, it exacerbates a sentimental approach. I understand that his family had to deal with a challenging individual, but at the same time, an artist’s family are not always effective advocates for the work. I do believe that they should receive whatever benefits there are of his legacy, but in most of Toth’s work, there are no royalties to be had, almost everything he did was work-for-hire. Anyway, with art books, the spoils go to the authors. Including, I would imagine, the profits from these three expensive and pretty, but in the end, depressing tomes.

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26 Responses to Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth

  1. Frank Santoro says:

    The best account of Toth’s life in the late 1990s might be this Dylan Williams comic about corresponding with him.
    http://dominobooksnews.com/2011/09/15/my-favorite-dylan-williams-comic/

  2. James says:

    Thanks for the link, Frank. Dylan sent me a copy of that and yes, it’s true.

  3. By the way, just in case anyone thinks I am tripping, here is a drawing that clearly is NOT Toth art, that is being sold now on Ebay as Toth art BECAUSE it is reproduced as if it was Toth art in Genius, Animated:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/ALEX-TOTH-Mightor-ORIGINAL-MODEL-SHEET-ART-Hanna-Barbera-1967-/360951600317?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item540a6454bd

  4. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    That’s ridiculously, obviously not Toth art. I’ve never seen a Toth drawing – even a sketch – that poor, that hesitant, nor was his lettering – even on sketches or postcards – that bad. How can an art dealer not see that? I wonder if there’s any provenance for this piece.

    As for the three IDW Toth volumes… I found the pictures wonderful, but the writing awful. Nadel’s earlier review (actually an introductory paragraph to his Mullaney/Canwell interview) called it “a game-changer” and “one of those” but I found the text hyperbolic, deliberately evasive of the work’s content (which was uniformly garbage, even – perhaps especially – his personal work like Bravo or Taps) and embarrassingly reverential (seriously, how many times was Toth referred to as a “genius” or “the master”? It reminds me of all the dupes who call Ridley Scott “Sir Ridley”).

  5. Mike Hunter says:

    It’s ultra-humbling to look at those Toth storyboards from “Super Friends.” So simple, modest in their detailing, yet so powerful in their composition, use of light and shadow to convey mood and weight…

    And yes, that Ebay piece is indeed “ridiculously, obviously not Toth art”…

  6. Jesse Hamm says:

    I’m more content with the selections in the trilogy than James. These tomes weren’t intended to be nearly as exhaustive as SETTING THE STANDARD (nor could they be). Rather, they successfully present a rich sampling of Toth’s art, with emphasis on rare or celebrated material, and on pieces for which scans of the originals were available.

    I’m also unbothered by their lack of discussion of Toth’s technique. The authors’ strengths appear to lie in the gathering and presentation of art and biographical info, and at this they succeed. Were they to stray beyond their expertise and attempt a critical discussion of his work, the results would likely be more embarrassing than welcome. After all, as James points out, they include several pieces of Toth-less pyrite among the gold; are these the guys he wants to explain Toth’s mastery? Better to let that discussion happen elsewhere, perhaps in future books by other authors.

    I do share James’ disappointment in how Toth’s later years were presented. As he alludes, Toth’s final two decades were a period of rich productivity. Toth carried on countless correspondences with fans and fellow cartoonists, wrote numerous valuable essays on the medium and its history and practitioners, and drew a lot of first-rate covers and pin-ups. I can’t think of many cartoonists who gave the medium more during their golden years. Yet little of this is reflected in the IDW trilogy, which treats Toth’s departures from DC and HB as the final chapter of his creative life. I’m hoping someone will someday take up the slack and collect his essays into a book.

    I’m also hopeful that DC will someday collect Toth’s ’60s-’70s material. I’ve seen such a collection in Italian (hopefully properly licensed?), compiling Toth’s DC horror comics into a nice hardback; maybe such a volume will happen stateside.

  7. Anthony Thorne says:

    Jesse, where did the majority of those essays by Toth appear? Just curious. Is there an online bibliography of his writing somewhere?

  8. James says:

    Toth WAS a genius and a master, the books just don’t really tell how and why.

    I dislike absolute statements. Yes, Toth was rarely given a script that was worthy of the thought and effort he invested in it, but his comics are NOT “uniformly garbage”. A lot of his Dell comics work nicely as what they were intended to be: children’s entertainment. Some of the Standard work has interest, as can be seen from Fantagraphics’ excellent collection. Even a handful of Toth’s own stories are okay: “39/74″, “Comput-err”. The two Torpedo episodes are effective. The Warren and DC stories by such writers as Goodwin, Kanigher, Robbins, Shelly Mayer and Jack Oleck may not be brilliant, but what Toth did to them IS genius.

    A lot of Toth’s essays were published in Comic Book Artist magazine. While some of them have solid historical value, a lot of them have him repetitively harping on about how everything sucks. A good essay about Jesse Marsh was in John Benson’s “Panels”. Irwin Hasen printed an interesting spiral-bound collection of Toth’s letters to him and John Hitchcock made a book of Toth’s letters and sketches, as well. Toth mailed artwork to various people, some of it quite good and finished, better by far than the thousands of random “doodles” (I also dislike that term) that one sees everywhere.

    Mark Chiarello has been trying for years, but DC flat-out refuse to put out a book on Toth. Years ago Paul Levitz told me that it wouldn’t sell, which is sort of a feeble excuse because clearly it would, especially by today’s low number standards; books on Toth routinely sell out of their print runs. Methinks someone up there still holds grudges.

  9. Mike Hunter says:

    Thank you, Patrick; wonderful stuff!

    Some more advice from the master:

    Alex Toth Critiques Steve Rude:
    http://www.artofthecomicbook.com/history/toth-critiques-rude.htm

    Alex Toth’s Rules (10 Rules for Drawing Comics):
    http://www.10rulesfordrawingcomics.com/2013/11/alex-toths-rules.html

    A Talk With Alex Toth — CBA converses with a master of comic book art:
    http://www.twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/11toth.html

  10. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    We disagree. I think he was a visual genius, maybe the best illustrator ever in mainstream comic books. But compare him to someone like Jaime Hernandez (again, just in terms of visual accomplishments) and Toth comes up very short; too many of his characters are from 50s Hollywood Casting 101, while Hernandez’s characters run the diverse gamut of real life. I guess that’s partly due to the junk scripts Toth was given, but also it’s an example of his own personal limitations. Even when he worked with a Kurtzman script he botched it by ending it with a heroic smirk from a leading man asshole. That’s Toth.

    And compare him to Kirby, who was about 1000% more professional and prolific and who took on the most ridiculous assignments (Jimmy Olsen?) and turned out book after book of flawed but utterly singular Art w/a capital A. Even when Toth did his own books, it was no better than mediocre Hollywood swashbuckler swill from 50 years earlier. To hear him and Gil Kane and others of their generation incessantly gripe about the quality of the material is tiresome and disingenuous. They wanna do good work and not be beholden to shitty work-for-hire scripts? Easy: Don’t have kids, stay out of debt, do your own work. I’d gladly trade places with them to live in an era where competency was at least somewhat rewarded and the idea of artists like Leifeld, etc. becoming millionaires would have been an impossibility.

  11. Mike Hunter says:

    —————-
    Ramon De Los Flores says:

    …compare him to someone like Jaime Hernandez (again, just in terms of visual accomplishments) and Toth comes up very short; too many of his characters are from 50s Hollywood Casting 101, while Hernandez’s characters run the diverse gamut of real life. I guess that’s partly due to the junk scripts Toth was given, but also it’s an example of his own personal limitations.
    ——————

    That’s an excellent point. If a creator idolizes works that featured simplistic “types,” all-good versus all-evil conflict (as Toth repeatedly did, with exhortations on how We Need Old-Fashioned Heroes), the complexity and richness of characterizations and stories is bound to suffer. For all the graphic storytelling and rendering brilliance displayed…

  12. Jesse Hamm says:

    Anthony — In addition to the pieces at Tothfans (where I regret to see several of the links are now broken), Toth wrote many articles for Alter Ego and Comic Book Artist Magazine, plus a smattering of pieces that appeared elsewhere. There’s no online bibliography of his writing, AFAIK.

    Ramon — Toth was adept a drawing a greater range of characters than we see in Jaime’s work. I don’t recall Jaime drawing Asians or realistic children, for example, whereas Toth drew children, the elderly, and all sorts of ethnicities and body types often and with ease.

    I’d also disagree with your characterization of the “heroic smirk” at the end of his Kurtzman collab. Looks like more of a sour grimace to me. Those interested can take a look for themselves: http://comicscube.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/thunderjet_pretty_gol_darned_soon_500.jpg
    If anyone’s guilty of corny machismo in that story, it’s Kurtzman himself… PRETTY GOL-DARNED GUILTY!

    Kirby frankly suffers in the comparisons you drew. I wish Kirby had shared Toth’s willingness to ditch clients when they broke a trust or pushed his nose too deep in the dung, and I wish he’d shared Toth’s reticence to trot his own so-so writing before the public.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    “They wanna do good work and not be beholden to shitty work-for-hire scripts? Easy: Don’t have kids, stay out of debt, do your own work.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    As easy as that, is it? Just forgo a family and a mortgage, and spend decades alone in your apartment churning out minicomics between meals of beans and roaches? Your simple devotion to the medium inspires us all.

  13. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    “Toth was adept a drawing a greater range of characters than we see in Jaime’s work. I don’t recall Jaime drawing Asians or realistic children, for example, whereas Toth drew children, the elderly, and all sorts of ethnicities and body types often and with ease.”

    This is patently false. Jaime has drawn – and, unlike Toth, written good, realistic and/or humorous stories about – Asians, children and the elderly, as well as blacks, whites, rich, poor, the disabled, and on and on. No offense, but I’m right on this point and you’re simply ignorant of Jaime’s work. No one in the history of comics has drawn as diverse a cast as Jaime (and Gilbert.) Fact.

    My point wasn’t that Toth couldn’t draw that range of types, but that his stories rarely called for it, and even when he had the opportunity to do so, he generally fell back on cliches — the Kurtzman story mentioned above as one example, but also nearly everything he did, which wasn’t even as carefully considered as pop junk like an episode of The Twilight Zone or an O Henry story. Toth was as I said likely the most gifted illustrator in mainstream comics; the problem wasn’t his chops, the problem was his mind and the decisions he made. To use a film analogy: the list of cinematographers who become good directors can be counted on one hand.

    ———-

    “Kirby frankly suffers in the comparisons you drew. I wish Kirby had shared Toth’s willingness to ditch clients when they broke a trust or pushed his nose too deep in the dung, and I wish he’d shared Toth’s reticence to trot his own so-so writing before the public.”

    Absurd. Kirby is singular even at his worst. He was an idiot savant outsider artist, and I mean that as the highest compliment. Toth was a mere illustrator. As for their relative merits as writers… I assume you prefer the bland balm of Toth’s watered down genre sentiments. I prefer Kirby’s wild, intuitive, uneven wall breaking. Toth was like a TV writer; Kirby was comparable to PK Dick (though not as good).

    ———-

    [ED'S NOTE: A final brief portion of this comment was deleted for violating our comments policy. If you want to try again more civilly, you're welcome to, "Ramon."]

  14. Nemo says:

    Comparing Alex Toth to Jaime Hernandez on their “casting” of characters is ridiculous. These are two artists from entirely different generations and backgrounds.

  15. James says:

    Yes, Toth was able to depict a wide range of human diversity. Jesse said it pretty well; I just disagree with him in two areas. Jaime Hernandez’s depictions of children are among his best work—-and the best of Kirby’s stories are superior by far to anything done by the “writers” who altered his work and exploited his talents.

  16. I don’t like to respond to people who don’t stand behind their opinions enough to sign a real name to them. But “Ramon”, Toth WASN’T an illustrator, I explain how that works above—-and Kirby WASN’T an “idiot savant outsider artist”.

  17. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    It’s got nothing to do with backgrounds. It has to do with artistic intelligence. Any artist can draw any types of characters. It’s free, there’s no SAG involved.

  18. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    “I don’t like to respond to people who don’t stand behind their opinions enough to sign a real name to them”

    All of a sudden then, huh? Knock yourself out.

    ———-

    “As easy as that, is it? Just forgo a family and a mortgage, and spend decades alone in your apartment churning out minicomics between meals of beans and roaches?”

    So… pretty much what your buddy Toth did with the last 20 years of his “life” eh?

  19. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    Again, I didn’t say Toth couldn’t or didn’t draw a wide range of types. I said his stories didn’t allow for intelligent use of a wide range of types, and that his characters were “bad actors” or “poorly directed” to use film parlance.

  20. Mike Hunter says:

    —————————–
    Nemo says:

    Comparing Alex Toth to Jaime Hernandez on their “casting” of characters is ridiculous. These are two artists from entirely different generations and backgrounds.
    —————————-

    …So every comics creator from Toth’s generation and background would, then, produce comics crammed with “characters…from 50s Hollywood Casting 101″?

    Somehow — though searching for “comics artists who were contemporaries of Alex Toth” failed to turn up data with which to confirm or explode that argument– I doubt it.

    Read this demented manifesto of Toth’s at http://comixcube.com/2011/07/18/alex-toth-to-modern-comics-go-to-hell/ ; were all Toth’s contemporaries similarly narrow in their outlook, chest-thumpingly retro-minded?

    Toth was born in 1928; according to http://www.nndb.com/lists/927/000105612/ , his exact contemporaries — rather than being uniformly products of their generation and more-similar-than-not backgrounds — are an exceedingly motley crew, ranging from Edward Albee to Hubert Selby Jr., Noam Chomsky to “The Amazing” James Randi, Andy Warhol to Frank Frazetta (the only other listee to have drawn comics).

    Certainly, one’s generation and background can exert their influence; but people are also individuals, a complicating factor which people seeing the world in more simplistic fashion — and the ideologically-minded, for whom it’s a necessity — minimize or deny.

  21. Mike Hunter says:

    We hear much talk of Alex Toth (as with Krigstein) as an “artist’s artist”; admired by the cognoscenti, yet failing to achieve anywhere near that acclaim among readers at large.

    Yet — while a “Citizen Kane” may be admired by filmmakers, and a “Transformers II” far more popular with moviegoers — this does not necessarily mean a badge of overall quality.

    ———————————
    Howard Chaykin on “Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth”

    …All this, of course, begs the question of what this astonishing graphic artist — for that’s exactly what Toth was, a graphic designer, deeply influenced by the industrial arts, working in the comics’ medium — must have thought when putting this supreme and subtle mastery of shape, form, and craft into the service of such more often than not abysmal narrative dreck.

    In Toth’s case, the awed reaction of professionals has found its perfect diametric opposite in the frequent indifference of readers. The majority of comic book aficionados over the last sixty years have not recognized that the work of Alex Toth has been consistently transcendent almost since his arrival on the scene. And if it has been difficult to convince well informed enthusiasts, how then does one convey to a casual observer Toth’s brilliance, the genuine detached and cool genius of his craft?

    Gil Kane, a cartoonist and contemporary of Toth’s, was one of those aforementioned admirers, who was able, to his credit, to separate his personal feelings about the man — Toth and Kane hated each other’s guts, apparently from the day they met — and continue to worship the work despite that lifelong animus. He said, and I quote, “Toth has never had the popular regard of [Jack] Kirby, [Frank] Frazetta, of [Wallace] Wood, because the bravura styles of these men are infinitely more appealing to comic book readers than the complex subtleties and abstractions of Toth’s style.”
    ——————————–
    http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/aberrant-behavior-on-alex-toth

    “The differences between Alex Toth and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman” ( http://thegreatcomicbookheroes.blogspot.com/2011/09/alex-toth-vs-david-mazzucchelli.html ) concludes its comparison with this observation:

    “…while Mazzucchelli uses this obscuring technique to accent a meaning in the story, Toth does it for no other reason than effect, or for its own purpose…Toth likes to challenge his readers with panels that you have to work a little to get the full meaning, while Mazzucchelli gently and sweetly leads his readers.”

    Consider the panels of the Toth-drawn “Thunderjet!” at http://comixcube.com/2011/07/21/classroom-in-the-sky/ . They certainly are beautifully designed; many clearly based on actual film footage shot from those planes.

    In “F86 Sabre Jet!” at http://spaceintext.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/f86-sabre-jet-harvey-kurtzman-alex-toth/ , we see many similarly superbly composed panels (again, many obviously using combat filming as reference); yet Toth likewise fails to convey with visceral effectiveness motion and emotion. Look at that penultimate page: where a Davis or Severin would’ve shown the pilot sweating bullets, Toth offers a smoothly rotating silhouette, about as dramatic as the movement of the hands of a clock.

    At http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/06/jack-kirby-vs-alex-toth.html , the differences are telling. Compare Kirby’s “Thor vs. the Hulk” page to Toth’s “Black Canary vs. some nasty longhair” page.

    Kirby’s is graphically nothing special, but we get powerful, visually weighty characters clearly grappling in three-dimensional space.

    While Toth’s fight is, well, utterly ridiculous. The plethora of motion lines and cartoony sound effects pull the design together; the series of actions are skillfully combined into a single graphic unit; the rendering of figures is both anatomically convincing and superbly stylized. Yet it all looks silly-ass as hell. There is no sense of an environment in which the fight is occurring. Indeed, the very graphic bravura on display works against readers taking the situation seriously.

    Look at Toth’s Batman “Death Flies the Haunted Sky” splash page farther up. Outstandingly designed, but the space is flattened, sense of three-dimensionality nonexistent. Which, in a scene such as the one being rendered, is a pretty important factor…

  22. Nemo says:

    Yes, if you look at the vast majority of Toth’s american comic book artist contemporaries, their comics were, as you put it, crammed with “50s Hollywood casting 101″.

  23. Nemo says:

    As artistic intelligent as Jaime Hernandez might be compared to Alex Toth (which is discussable), I very much doubt he could or would’ve done the comics he’s done had he been born in 1928.

  24. Alec Stevens says:

    According to Scott Shaw!, “Ramon De Los Flores” was a pseudonym once used by Jack Kirby:

    http://twomorrows.com/kirby/articles/10storys.html

    Regarding a future book analyzing Toth’s storytelling, design, and drawing techniques, I’d say Jesse Hamm (who has posted in this thread) has made some truly insightful commentary on his blog about Toth’s art (and Frazetta as well). Having a lead in the matter, Jesse, I’d say you’re the most likely candidate. Hopefully you can find proper subsidization of such an endeavor.

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