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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Alex Toth: June 25, 1928 - May 27, 2006

I'm never sure what to say at times like this, and no matter what I say, it always seems like it's not enough. To say Alex Toth was well-known in the comics industry is like saying most sports enthusiasts have heard of Babe Ruth. His work has been pleasing fans since the 40's, and never got anything but better. The first page of "Seeley's Saucer" you see there is from Jet Fighters #7, one of the precious few Toth works I'm fortunate enough to own. That should tell you something, right there. I've been a fan and collector for over 30 years, and I've much less of his work than I'd like.

But, I think my favorite project with which he was involved would be the original Johnny Quest cartoon, the characters of which he helped design. Even today, after countless viewings, those cartoons still bring almost the same pleasure they did when I was a child.

Toth was and will remain special to the fans. Never completely understood, but always appreciated. He will be missed.

Following is a slightly edited Suspended Animation piece from 1998 by Michael Vance.

Alex Toth - Comics Legend

"Less is more" never found a more dedicated advocate in comic books and strips than in artist Alex Toth. A true original whose style was never dominant in the field but is still frequently imitated by lesser artists, Toth stands as a giant in the history of the most popular artform in the world.

Adventure was his favorite genre, horror and western his best palette, and a straight-forward honesty in his visual storytelling was his trademark. It is worse than sad that he is unknown or forgotten by a growing number of comics fans today.

Toth's art was influenced by comic strip artists like Noel Sickles, Milton Canniff and Roy Crane. These influences and Toth's own talent produced a unique style similar to minimalism and impressionism in 'fine' art. Characterized by design simplicity, heavy line and carefully spotted blacks, no line was added to a panel unless it was absolutely necessary.
This simplicity produced an art similar to photographic negatives. Direct and dynamic, it is full of movement, emotion and fun. Carried to the nth degree, it has obviously influenced popular comic book artist and writer, Frank Miller.

Toth's animation work includes: Space Angel, Birdman, Johnny Quest, Josie, Super Friends and Robin Hood. He has also done storyboards for movies, advertising art and comic strips. His strip work includes Casey Ruggles, Roy Rogers and Zorro.

Toth's art has been featured by more than thirteen publishers in titles including: Heroic (Eastern Color, '45-'46), Yellowjacket (Frank, '46). Future Worlds (Dougherty, '46), Atom, Dr. Midnite, Green Lantern, Justice Society, Flash, Batman (DC, ‘47-‘52/’53-'57), Two Fisted Tales (EC,'51-'53), X-Men (Marvel, '55,’57) and Time Machine, Twilight Zone (Western. '56-'68).
Some of his most outstanding work appeared in Creepy and Eerie (Warren, '64-6/'68...'76). Toth was a master cartoonist, and his work is highly recommenced.

Michael Vance