Author Archive | Bruce Canwell

Harrowing Heroines

I’ve put a lot of Alex Toth talk into this space recently—and there’ll be more of that chatter to come, you can be sure. Many have told us they’re eager to see Genius, Isolated, and I like to think their patience will be rewarded. Meanwhile, we have two other books featuring two very different female lead characters that will repay your time and attention.

The year got off to a fine start with the release of Little Orphan Annie Volume 6. One of our staunch supporters works as the Trade Book Coordinator for Maine’s Colby College Bookstore (Sopranos fans might remember the first season episode in which Tony and his daughter Meadow visited the Colby campus). In his blog, our friend described Annie as, “a sprawling Depression-era fable about a kid with nothing but spunk, grit, determination, and a great dog. These beautiful volumes belong on the shelves of anyone who takes ‘graphic novels’ (I still call ’em comics) seriously.” Who am I to argue with an assessment like that?


Our sixth volume features the quasi-mystical Punjab and the story of Eli Eon and the miracle substance Eonite, a story treasured by Annie fans everywhere. My sentimental favorite in this book, however, is the “Annie in Hollywood” segment featuring the return of Pee Wee the Elephant. Some complain that Harold Gray didn’t draw convincing dogs, but he sure knew how to depict an elephant! I am utterly charmed and utterly convinced every time Pee Wee steps into a scene.

Little Orphan Annie is unique in the LOAC stable: we started with the rarely-seen original strips from the 1924 debut of the series, then moved in chronological order through the early 1930s strips that were collected by other publishers in decades past. Now we once again move into largely-unreprinted territory, so those Annieologists who have been feeling déjà vu should enjoy the fresh material at the end of Volume 6, and will want to join us again later this year for the debut of The Asp in Volume 7!

• • • • •

While Orphan Annie is arguable comics’ premier kid headliner, there’s no doubt the star of our coming springtime release is all grown up…


We’re pleased to add Miss Fury to the Library of American Comics lineup—her provocative exploits were released by the Bell Syndicate and carried by newspapers nationwide for a dozen years during the 1940s and ’50s. Miss Fury‘s unique place in comics history was cemented by her creator, Tarpé Mills. There were other women cartoonists, but only Mills was interested in mixing it up with the boys in the realm of costumed adventure. Her work blended derring-do with a dash of fashion, and melodrama with a modicum of romance. Oh yes, there’s a certain kink factor as well—Miss Fury’s world comes complete with its share of whips, lingerie, bondage (of a sort), and spike heels.


The book has turned out to be an all-woman project. It’s being assembled by the one and only Trina Robbins, who is of course a cartoonist, a comics historian, and an expert on the subject of Mills and her panther-suited star. The Sunday restoration and overall design is handled by LOAC’s own, two-time Emmy winner  Lorraine Turner. Similar to our 2009 Bringing Up Fatherrelease, Trina is selecting prime cuts from the Miss Fury archives for your reading pleasure.


Meanwhile, over at, Heidi MacDonald gave Miss Fury a shout-out the other day, and printed four other Sundays you won’t want to miss.

As I read and compare/contrast Annie from the 1930s and Miss Fury from the 1940s, I’m reminded that, here in the 21st Century, these crackling good stories help keep us all young at heart.


Talkin’ Toth: Part Three

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot – more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so – here is our latest in a series of Talkin’ Toth:
I wonder why it is that the best of any artform is found at its very beginnings? Before the worst of organized commercialism throttles it of its originality, joy, freshness – Disney, the Fleischers, Harman-Ising, Chuck Jones/Friz Freling/Bob Clampett’s WB Studios, Tex Avery, etc.—all refined and expanded the animation form (Hanna+Barbera at MGM, too)—true! WW II crimped most of ’em—I guess TV did the rest—the ’50s left only Disney doing features, thriving to the ’60s –

Bakshi’s outrageous excursions, rotoscopy and all—banality, sheer shock, noise, insult and injury—still manage to pump fresh blood into the medium—where he goes from here is an unknown—but he’ll always provoke interest—and box office!

I’m admiring of Winsor McCay’s solo films (Lusitania/Flying House in particular—beautiful straight-ahead animation, self-taught, original, so well-drawn)—as I am of his Nemo Sunday page artistry—

And corny or not, I get a kick out of Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell live/cartoon combination films—as, too, Gulliver and Mr. Bugs/Hoppity Goes to Town—especially the rotoscope work! Still held charm and warmth—old-fashioned virtues, worthy…


A Koko the Clown model sheet from the Fleischer Studios

Despite exiting animation and its care-killing TV schedules, I love its storytelling medium (as I do adventure strips)—its ability to give life to any story form (and/or personal statements)—surprisingly, during our current space-film craze, it was overlooked as an alternative to $30-$40 million dollar live-action epics – but its many forms were tapped as SP/FX inserts in those films—All I’ve heard is that Canada’s film board talents are at work on a Heavy Metal animation feature—a mix of fantasy/sci-fi, etc., and styles of art based on original strip art—Am curious to see the results…

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.

A new interview about the book with editor Dean Mullaney is on the Westfield Comics blog.


Talkin’ Toth: Part Two

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot—more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so—here is our latest in a series of Talkin’ Toth:


Hohlwein4A Ludwig Hohlwein advertising poster from the 1920s for Leibniz-Keks biscuits.


I’ve had my ups/downs, love/hate bits with acrylics—and, at present, am keen on the wonders of opaque tempera—forgiving as it is of brushes, very workable, paint-over capacity, nice texture when working, paints don’t dry out/up in cakes (always semi-moist), etc.—I find school-grade brands as acceptable as the higher-priced “Liquitex.”

Am collecting old books on the subject and re-reading my old tomes on its use by my hero illustrators/painters back in the old days of the ’40s, etc.… I’m just doing an occasional small rough, no big deal finished paintings, as it’s all I can do to meet b&w deadlines, the stuff that pays the rent! But I’m daydreaming painting, all the while—my question about tempera is, how and with what does one fix a painting – as the stuff does chip, dust, rub off, etc.—crack, too, I suppose… Do regular spray fixes, varnishes, etc. do the job? Acrylic clear varnish brushed on? I’ve got a C.C. Beck Captain Tootsie poster paint piece that I’m spooked to touch with a fix until I know I won’t screw it up using the wrong stuff!

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.

Thanks to our (and Alex’s) good pal Bill Peckmann for letting us scan some pages, including the above, from his rare 1920s collection of Ludvig Hohlwein’s art. Hohlwein was THE great German poster artist in the modern school and had a huge influence on Alex’s use of negative space and composition in general.

Meanwhile, over at SCOOP, Jeff Vaughn expressed his anticipation for the first book:

“With Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, IDW Publishing’s Library of American Comics imprint redefined the standards for art retrospective books. Now it looks like they’re out to do it again with Genius, Isolated: The Life And Art Of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell.”

Aw, shucks. We just love talkin’ Toth.

2010: The LOAC Year in Review (part two)

Welcome back to our curtain call for 2010. While the weather outside is frightful (a blizzard is pounding New England as I type), in this feature it’s so delightful, with summer in full swing as we look at…


LOAC was in attendance at the San Diego Comic-Con and was humbled (but mightily pleased) to receive the Eisner Award for “Best Archival Project—Newspaper Strips” for Bloom County, Volume One.  Bloom prevailed over another LOAC project, Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea, which I edited—but a win for one is a win for all, so I was cheering Bloom wildly through my tears.



LOAC Assembled celebrates the 2010 Eisner win: Dean Mullaney, Lorraine Turner, Berkeley Breathed, and Bloom County editor Scott Dunbier, displaying the award. Alas, I was back East, on monitor duty.

Hardly willing to rest on our laurels, as the month waned, our collection of Bob Montana’s Archie dailies hit the shelves.



We caught our collective breath in August, even as the rest of the world caught up to us, just a bit. It was highly gratifying to have noted reviewer Charles de Lint praise our inaugural volume ofKing Aroo in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; scroll to the bottom of his “Books to Look For” column and there they are. The San Diego Tribune also gave LOAC front page coverage as an outgrowth of Comic-Con.


Things were popping on several front in LOAC-land during this month. Here’s the rundown:

Beau Smith joined the LOAC family circus as our very own Director of Marketing. One of Beau’s missions is to increase LOAC’s visibility in school libraries and university bookstores.

Bill Griffith dropped a mention of King Aroo into the September 10th installment of his own strip, the immortal Zippy. Thanks, Bill!

Dean appeared as Chris Marshall’s guest on a Collected Comics Library podcast. Through the magic of the Internet, you can listen to the entire program.

X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan Volume 1 went on sale.


Then, if that wasn’t enough, things really got busy in…


How to follow up the release of our first collection of Blondie, running from Blondie Boopadoop’s very first strip to the wedding (and subsequent disinheritance) of Dagwood Bumstead?


Dean and I swooped in on the New York Comic Con (NYCC) for three days, from October 8 – 10.


Move over, Laurel & Hardy! The LOAC editorial braintrust were on hand to hawk their wares and steer hopeful artists to the IDW portfolio reviews at NYCC.

Our feet grew heavy, standing on a thinly-carpeted concrete floor for nine hours each day, but our spirits were light as we talked to hundreds of fans about comics in general and classic comic strips in particular.

And when the fans weren’t visiting with us, we were chatting with the pros. Melissa Singer of Tor Books shared her childhood memories of the great comic strips. James Robinson, Ken Steacy, Glenn Whitmore, Andrew Farago of San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum, David Armstrong, Ryder Windham, and the one-and-only Don McGregor were some of our other visitors. Dean and I both took time to break away long enough to exchange pleasantries with the ever-amazing Jim Steranko. I was also lucky enough to catch Joe Kubert for a chat, and to meet irrepressible Nicky Brown (you can read her words of wisdom at her blog. My most devilish fun: stepping in amidst some of the IDW staff early Sunday morning to introduce myself to Darwyn Cooke after he arrived carrying a distinctive green briefcase bearing the shamrock logo of the NBA’s most storied franchise. “Celtics, bay-bee!” was all I had to say to earn a grin from Darwyn.

Dean and I showed off several of the wonders we’ve accumulated as we prepare our Alex Toth biography, but few knew that we were also grabbing moments throughout the weekend to have serious discussions about the growth of the project, and the ultimate shape it might take…

Bloom County was one of the most popular items at NYCC—more than one fan was disappointed to learn Berkeley Breathed would not be at the show—but in the wake of the convention, BloomVolume 3 went on sale.


Across the Atlantic, Bdartist(e) was releasing its French edition of Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1


Finally, not to be outdone by Dean’s September podcast, near the end of the month I was delighted to appear as a guest on Scott Katz’s Internet radio program at US Townhall. Yes, Virginia, you can still listen to the interview.



Berkeley Breathed joined the interview Parade with a Q&A conducted by Mike Russell at Ain’t It Cool.

Meanwhile, we took a second trip to Dogpatch to learn the origin of Sadie Hawkins Day in Li’l Abner Volume 2:


For days, Dean and I tossed e-mails back and forth using the language of the Mukoy! Yeh, ti desuma su

Around Thanksgiving, Dean and Lorraine embarked on a junket that included visits with Beau and Beth Smith, as well as the hard-working caretakers of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University and Randy Scott at Michigan State University, plus Dana Palmer (Alex Toth’s eldest daughter) and Eric Toth (Alex’s eldest son).pointing

Beau Smith displays his Svengali-like charm over women, to Dean’s bemusement.



The Great LOAC Road Trip paved the way for a pair of major announcements on our website. The visit to OSU was in preparation of 2011’s Caniff, a visual biography of the creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon.



With the endorsement of the Toth family, we also gave readers bad news and good news. The bad news: our original late-2010 solicitation for Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth was pushed back to the first quarter of 2011. The good news: because we have gathered so much excellent material, the Toth project has expanded to fill three books! Genius, Isolated will be part one of our retrospective on Toth, to be concluded in the follow-up volume, Genius, Illustrated. A third book (plus slipcase for the entire set) will follow, with Genius, Animated focusing on Toth’s brilliant career in TV cartoons.


Not only did we release information about some of our 2011 plans—yes, only some. We need to save a few tidbits for the new year, after all!—we stuffed readers’ Christmas stockings with a fine pair of new releases: the third, penultimate volume in our reprinting of Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby…Rip3_large-2

…And the wonderful, must-be-seen-to-be-believed oversize Polly and Her Pals, Volume 1. My heart skips a beat every time I take down a copy of this beautiful collection and start turning the pages. Author Paul Di Filippo calls it: “A monumental object of comic strip bookmaking glory. Phenomenal!” Over at Newsarama, J. Caleb Mozzocco cracked us up in his review of Polly when he dubbed it, “…a perfect coffee table book—not one that you would put on your coffee table…but one big enough to be used as a coffee table.”


And that’s the way it was—fourteen books, a Free Comic Book Day special, appearances at major conventions on both coasts, a passel of interviews, a truckload of work—and several truckloads of fun.

If you enjoyed this website and the LOAC line of books in 2010, keep watching. We think you’ll like what lies ahead in 2011!


2010: The LOAC Year in Review

While hardly an original idea, the thought of doing a “Year in Review” feature for this space struck me as time and effort well spent. After all, during the past twelve months Dean, Lorraine, Beau, and I have been busier than Santa’s elves, ably abetted by Jeet Heer, Joseph Ketels, Brian Walker, and a long list of graphic artists, collectors, and writers who make such important contributions to our line of books.

As we greet the New Year, here’s a look back over our collective shoulder at 2010, LOAC style:


The year began with a project near and dear to all our hearts: King Aroo, Volume 1.



It was a great pleasure to bring this gentle, long-overlooked classic back into print, and to help shine the spotlight on the King’s talented creator, Jack Kent. We look forward to offering more Myopean Misadventures in 2011!



Dean’s joke is that we were “Closed for Repairs” during these two months, when in reality we were girding our loins for all sorts of activity in …



We opened this month with a pair of aces and a pair of deuces. As the baseball season began anew (who dreamed it would result in a championship for the San Francisco Giants?), we emphasized the diversity of our line by releasing our second volumes of both Rip Kirby andBloom County (the latter debuted at number four on the New York Times Best Seller list).



Not only did we serve up thick slices of Berkeley Breathed’s increasingly-topical absurdist comedy and Alex Raymond’s 1950s New York detective chic, we also launched this very website; Dean’s “Welcome to the Digital Library!” posting is dated April 9th. Before the month ended, we were able to announce in this space Eisner nominations for both Bloom Volume One and Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea, as well as listing our initial plans for Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth.

Last, though hardly least, we launched another series in April: our reprinting of Al Capp’s satirical masterpiece, Li’l Abner. For the first time, full-color Sundays were included along with the dailies.



There was a ripple of controversy surrounding our Abner reprint program as a segment of the readership expressed the wish for a series containing only Sunday pages, since they own the dailies in the earlier Kitchen Sink Press series. I’m sympathetic to that perspective – I have all twenty-seven KSP volumes on my bookshelves – and there was internal discussion about how to best reprint Abner. I campaigned long and loudly that we needed to re-publish the dailies with the Sundays; Capp’s work is too important and too dang good not to be preserved for 21st Century audiences in comprehensive LOAC editions. We hope our inaugural Li’l Abner releases have changed the minds of any dissenters, but if not … I still feel we made the right decision.



The first of May was Free Comic Book Day, and LOAC participated with a flipbook featuring our current and upcoming projects.




Our website worked in tandem with the FCBD sampler in announcing our plans for the Williamson/Goodwin Secret Agent Corrigan, as well as Polly & Her Pals in our oversize “champagne edition” format. In bookstores and on-line, we brought Little Orphan Annie into the mid-1930s with Volume Five of her series, featuring a variety of nasties including Charles C. Chizzler, Phil O. Bluster, and the Ghost Gang.



We arrived at the halfway point of 2010 with one of our most popular series reaching its tenth edition, as Dick Tracy squared off against the likes of Itchy, Gargles, and Influence.




The Influence saga remains one of my favorite Tracy storylines, as Gould does a fabulous job emphasizing the sadistic creepiness of the villain’s mind-control powers.

On a lighter note, Bil Keane brought another ring to the Family Circus as a new baby was added to the mix.Layout 1


All that and we’re only halfway through the year! Watch this space for the concluding installment of this 2010 LOAC Year in Review…


Talkin’ Toth: Part One

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot. Much of it will appear in our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist, and some we just couldn’t comfortably fit. Over the next month, we will share some of that material with you in this space, so—here is the first in a series of “Talkin’ Toth.”


The splash page from “I Struck it Rich,” from Personal Love #11, published in September 1951 by Eastern Color.



As I recall, the whole scheme of these comics was to attract the pre-pubescent, if not adolescent, girl readership—those who were too old to read funny animal and hero comics, but still too young to read True Confessions-type “slicks”—so, the writers cut to the middle line, giving just enough, but not too much, story—load it with emotional scenes girls could relate to, and serve it up with credible artwork!

It worked very well, and for a good many years!

It affected my approach to every story I was to illustrate thereon—regardless of type—kinship was established with the writer, his motive, his copy, his delivery of dialogue, and his sequential breakdown of scenes to tell the story! I have had high regard for good writers, always! It’s thehack writer, of low talent, sensitivity, who has come under my fire, of whose work I’d reject, out of hand, returning scripts to befuddled editors who’d never heard of such goings-on before—thus, my reputation as a renegade grew—I’d had the privilege of working from good, sane scripts—and it spoilt me for the hack tripe of other writers, often puffed-up sorts who’d howl to editors about my changes or comments, never acknowledging the obvious reason for them: that their work was mediocre, minus a factor of ten!

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.


As Rouge Would say:

Though comics are one of the bare handful of born-in-America artforms, their appeal crosses all political and geographical borders. Submitted as proof of this hypothesis—as if proof be needed!…one of the first European editions of a Library of American Comics book. In October, 2010, Nicholas Forsans, Jean-Baptiste Barbier, Antonie Mathon, and their fine co-workers at Bdartist(e) released a lovely translated-into-the-French version of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Volume 1. Here’s a look at their familiar-yet-different front dustjacket for the book:


More than two decades after Caniff’s passing and with almost sixty-five years gone by since he abandoned post-War China in favor of Horizons, Unlimited, Bdartist(e)’s release stands as testament to Milt’s unmatched talent and the timeless appeal of Terry Lee and his vivid, unforgettable supporting cast.

Their book follows our own Terry Volume 1 closely, but not exactly. Howard Chaykin’s introduction and my essay were retained; Dean’s preface was not. Like us, Bdartist(e) chose to provide a ribbon bookmark, but Randy Scott’s Index to Volume 1 has been replaced by eight pages of “Hommages:” interpretations of Terry in both color and black-&-white by Continental artists that served as a preview of a December 2010 exhibition on display at the publisher’s gallery, located at 55 rue Condorcet in Paris.

Aside from the text on the front endpapers, the daily reprinted on the back flap of the dustjacket, and the “Character Key to Our Cover” feature, the entire book has been translated into French, all the strips re-lettered. This means our European friends are deprived of Frank Engli’s beautiful lettering, but the work of Maximilien Chailleux is crisp and clean, and certainly it must be no easy task to place translated text within space defined for the “mother tongue.” Well done, M’sieur Chailleux!

As I browsed Terry et les Pirates, I speculated on the considerable challenge one faces in translating Caniff’s dialogue into another language. As the series unfolds, many of Milton’s characters use an increasingly snappy and sometime esoteric American slang, and several of his secondary players routinely fracture the King’s English as a reminder of their Asian or European origins (think of Singh-Singh’s love of “Pappermeents,” or Rouge, using one of her many aliases while confirming what Flippo Corkin has just wryly observed: “Preencess Rojo does have the prett-ee feegure!”). Is it possible to capture even the majority of the insouciance and humor contained in Milton’s scripting? Michel Pagel, who adapted the text in tome 1, will surely handle that considerable task with professionalism, skill, and care.

Alas, I’ll be a poor judge of his efforts—four years of school-years German left me ill-equipped to tackle a French translation!



Believe it or not, this is not the first time my work has been translated for European audiences. I own copies of both the French and German editions of Lee Weeks’s and my graphic novel,Batman: The Gauntlet. (There’s reportedly also a Spanish edition I’ve been unable to find – so if anyone knows where I can get a copy of Robin: Dia Un, I’d be greatly indebted … )LE_DEFI

Cover to the French edition of Gauntlet, which also featured a James Robinson/Lee Weeks
short story reprinted from Legends of the
Dark Knight #100)


On this side of the Atlantic, each week we’re bombarded with e-mails from readers requesting second printings of the LOAC Terry and the Pirates, since many volumes of the initial run are sold out, with copies commanding high prices on the secondary market ($200-300 for Volume Five!). While we have not yet completed our plans—there are scheduling, printing, and economic factors that have to be weighed and balanced—we will be offering second printings of Terry as we look to keep Milton Caniff’s original masterpiece in print during the second decade of the 21st Century. Watch this space for notification when the presses start rolling.

Meanwhile (with a lot of help from Google-Translate): Un grand merci à Bdartist(e) de me donner une copie de leur merveilleuse Terry et les pirates, tome 1! Mes félicitations pour produire un beau livre!

You’ll find the Amazon-France listing for Bdartist(e)’s Terry tome 1 here …

… While the page on Bdartist(e)’s website devoted to Terry – complete with French press coverage – is located here.

Mike Esposito: In His Own Words – Part Three

Mike Esposito, the comic book artist and inker whose career spanned a half-century, has passed away at age eighty-three. In his memory, The Library of American Comics concludes our printing of the excerpted transcript of my interview with Mr. Esposito, who spoke with me in 2009 for our forthcoming Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth.

We begin this final installment with a discussion of work Alex did in the early 1950s for Esposito and his artistic partner and lifelong friend, Ross Andru, while they were publishing comics under the company name, “Mikeross Publications”:



LOAC: OK, I’ve seen Joe Yank, but let me ask you about one of your books that I haven’t seen, a book called 3D Love.

ME: Oh yeah, we published that.

LOAC: And I heard that Alex did …

ME: Yeah, yeah. He did two great covers!

LOAC: All of Toth’s romance stuff is so fantastic. I spoke with John Romita about Toth – and you know how much romance work he did – and Romita said, “I learned how to do all the romance stuff just by looking at how Toth did it.”

ME: Yeah, John was up at DC, Johnny was starting up there, he was very young. In fact, Ross and I wanted Johnny to come to us when we were doing romance, and when we were doingWonder Woman. We wanted him to do the heads for us, and the figure of Wonder Woman only. But he didn’t want to do it, he didn’t want to get involved with the character, he wanted to do stuff where he’d draw the whole thing himself. And that worked for him – he’s done very well!

LOAC: Oh, yeah! And he’s such a nice guy, too …

ME: Oh, sure! We’re very close, still, he and I. We speak once or twice a week. He lives not too far from me.


LOAC: You know, I think we’ve covered all the topics I had on my list. Thanks very much for your time. I still have a batch of people to talk to, but if somebody else tells me something and I want to run it past you, would it be all right to give you a quick call … ?

ME: Oh, of course! Now, what is this going into?

LOAC: Well, here’s a name you may remember – Dean Mullaney, who used to publish Eclipse Comics back in the ’80s and ’90s …

ME: Yeah, yeah, Eclipse, I remember.

LOAC: These days Dean and I are producing hardcover collections of strip reprints. We’ve got all of Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates back into print, and we’re doing Dick Tracy. Last year we did a collection of Noel Sickles’s Scorchy Smith

ME: Oh, great!

LOAC: That’s up for an Eisner Award this year …

ME: Really?

LOAC: So we decided this Toth biography would be a great follow-up to the Sickles.

ME: Well, I wish you guys lots of luck. I think I’m gonna go now – my phone is still running, but my voice is leaving!

LOAC: I understand how that goes! Thanks very much for your time – I appreciate it.

ME: All right, pal. ‘Bye now.



Rest in peace, Mr. Esposito.



Mike Esposito: In His Own Words – Part Two

We continue to honor the late Mike Esposito, who passed away at the end of October, by publishing the second excerpt from my 2009 interview with him. Mr. Esposito and I spoke in support of our upcoming release, Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, and we return to the interview at the beginning of a wide-ranging conversation about Alex:


ME: As far as Toth goes, he was good right to the end. I get the Alter Ego magazine – he did a lot of articles for Jim Amash.

LOAC: Yeah, he really kept his interest in the field down through the years … and he definitely wasn’t shy with his opinions!

ME: Yeah, but he had the right to ’em, he was a real veteran …

LOAC: Sure.

ME: But you’re right about that. And all his articles and notes, every little thing, he would letter it himself – he wouldn’t write it, he would print it. And he had a way of lettering … he would have been a great full-time letterer, he had that knack. When you see my lettering it’s so sloppy, when I write a note to somebody or something. But he had control right to the end of his life. I used to see those little articles of his in Alter Ego – amazing! I couldn’t help but admire him for it. But I didn’t know he died so young. I never knew he was that sick.

LOAC: Well, the medical problems began, and they mounted up. And maybe he wasn’t as quick to get help as he should have been. But years before that, his wife passed away before him and that affected him, as well.

ME: Sure. Did he have any children?

LOAC: Yes, he had four children, two girls, two boys.

ME: I didn’t know that.

LOAC: Actually, we’re working with the kids, we’re doing the book with their approval, and we’re working with them …

ME: What about talent-wise? Are they art-interested?

LOAC: None of them have followed in his footsteps, obviously, but some of them work in design and photography, and there are grandchildren …

ME: That’s what I meant. Sometimes it steers toward music, sometimes it steers toward acting, but it all comes from the creative spark that gets passed along.




LOAC: Let me ask you a quick question in another area. I saw some of the stuff that you and [lifelong artistic partner, penciler] Ross [Andru] had done at Standard, some pages from Joe Yank

ME: Oh, yeah . . .

LOAC: It seemed to me that in some of that work, the two of you were going for a Toth-like look.

ME: Oh, definitely! Ross realized that he would overwork too much, and he tried to get a more visually-readable look to his stuff. Like the way Toth would do it, with the faces, the layouts, the backgrounds, and the figures in the foregrounds.

LOAC: One of the guys who inked a lot of Toth’s work, especially at Standard, was Mike Peppe. And Peppe was the art director there, too, right?

ME: Sure, sure. You know, he wanted to ink Ross. Ross had an argument with him. He said to Ross, “I want to do your inking,” and Ross said to Peppe, “No, Mike’s my partner for life.” We were kids, Ross and I, we grew up together, all the way through high school, the Music and Art High School. He said, “Partners for life.” Ross was young, and an up-and-comer, but he said, “No.” Peppe was actually shocked.

LOAC: Sure. In most businesses, there’s not a lot of that kind of loyalty.

ME: You’re right. But sometimes loyalty is because of your own insecurity.

LOAC: That’s true.

ME: Ross might have been more comfortable with me because he knew me from when we were kids – he trusted me.

LOAC: When you get a good working relationship together … if it’s not broke, why fix it?

ME: Especially if you’re paranoid. And we were! [National/DC editor Bob] Kanigher called us, “The Paranoid Twins!”


The conclusion of my interview with Mike Esposito will appear tomorrow.

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