Unexpected Treasure

Lorraine-1

Recently I had the privilege of doing research at the wonderful Cartoon Art Library at The Ohio State University. I have always loved history; it was my best subject in school…after recess and gym. I am a graphic artist and designer, but my hobby is genealogy, and I’ve become a pretty good researcher.

I say pretty good, because I am not and never will be a sleuth like some of my ancestry.com geeks (sorry, I mean “friends”) who are far ahead of me in this field. But I have to tell you, the thought of leaving 88-degree temperatures and my home facing teal water for the double-sweatered university research room with sterile white tables and SILENCE…well, let’s just say I had some mental adjusting to do. But I was anxious to begin the journey, and Dean had sweetened the deal with a promised Michigan family Thanksgiving. So naturally I was all ears.

I am a novice at comic history and here I was accompanying Dean, the bloodhound, on his mission. He instinctively knows what he’s looking for and where to look. I was just following his lead and pulling out any tidbit I thought we could use in one of our upcoming archival books. I swear, he’s like a hawk…nothing escapes his perception. Is he even human? I digress…

 

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Prior to our trip, we had made contact with a wonderful young man named Matt Tauber, who lived in the area and offered his help. Matt has a wonderful blog on Milton Caniff. He arrived early and was waiting as we walked into the library. Thank goodness…someone who actually goes by non-Key West time (in Key West, an hour late is the same as being on time). Dean and I liked him immediately.

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He wore a million-dollar smile, emitted non-stop energy and a positive attitude that made the day sing. That’s the best way  to describe it…like great harmony. The memory of this day was like listening to a great melody. As I was shuffling through the files, wearing my Ohio State University-issued white cotton gloves, I became aware of a dynamic in the room that became a sort of revelation.

Dean kept stopping, turning, and showing Matt precious gems—obscure articles, original art, letters, memos, pencil sketches, and the mementos of family and friends of the many artists and writers who comprised a historic comics generation that has since passed. Matt would become totally enthralled and the two of them would exchange silent looks of pure joy and understanding.

That’s when it hit me. This was it—this was the reason for the endless hours, the long brainstorming sessions, the meetings, the interviews, the letter writing…all of it. For this…that pure joy. I thought we had embarked on this expedition to uncover facts and art that were useful in telling a story. This was and IS the story. By collecting all this art and information and placing it in a book, we can give others that smile when they see it for the first time and own it for themselves.

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As we continue to uncover more of these little jewels, we can pass them along, too. And it will be there for this generation and for all generations. Joy…pure joy. And here I was fretting over the weather, silly me. I was part of an expedition. Some go to the Arctics…I went to Paradise.

 

ALEX TOTH: Genius, Genius, Genius

Alex Toth is revered as one of the greatest of all comics artists. Others laud his pioneering work in animation, including his groundbreaking designs for Space Ghost and The Herculoids. His work influenced countless professionals in both fields. His biography and talents proved too big to be contained in a single volume. Therefore, we’re releasing the much-anticipated Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth in March 2011 as the first in a three-book set that will be the definitive statement on the restless genius and timeless legacy of Alex Toth.

Isolated

Created by the Eisner Award-winning team of Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell—who produced the ground-breaking Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel SicklesGenius, Isolated is a lavishly illustrated book that includes the first biography of this giant figure. The book has been compiled with complete access to the family archives, and with the full cooperation of Toth’s children.

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Alex Toth in a playful mood in 2005 with Dana (his eldest daughter) and Eric (his eldest son).

 

Associate Art Director Lorraine Turner and I met with Dana and Eric last week to discuss the expansive plans for the three-book set. To say that we’re all excited with the larger scope of the project is an understatement!

In addition to art and photographs from the family, Toth fans and friends throughout the world have loaned original artwork reproduced in the entire series. Included are many examples of Alex’s art, from complete stories to rare pages, as well as —incredibly—a previously unknown, unfinished, and unpublished penciled story from the early 1950s! The tome covers his earliest stories at DC in the 1940s, his defining work at Standard and his incomparable Zorro comics in the 1950s, and a special section collects—for the first time—the complete Jon Fury pages that Toth produced while in the army, a section that alone is worth the price of admission.

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Alex Toth was more than a unique and influential artist. He was a keenly insightful philosopher about comics, cartooning, and animation—with opinions on how they are created as opposed to how he felt they should be created. He wasn’t shy about expressing those thoughts, whether in sometimes-scathing personal letters, essays for publication, or letters to the editor. To flesh out the complete story of his life and art, Mullaney and Canwell have spent more than a year conducting wide-ranging interviews with dozens of Toth’s peers, friends, and family members. With a special introduction by Mark Chiarello, Genius, Isolated is the beginning of a comics biography everyone will be talking about for years to come.

Genius, Isolated details his life story and work through the early 1960s, when he began his sensational move into animated cartoons. The second book in the series, Genius, Illustrated, picks up the story as Toth becomes one of the leading character designers in television animation—continues through his renewed career in comics with Warren, DC, and his creator-owned properties of the 1970s and beyond—and includes an examination of the artist’s poignant final years.

The third book, Genius, Animated, is a wide-ranging art book reproducing hundreds of Toth’s model sheets and storyboards for such successful cartoons as Space Ghost and Dino Boy, Jonny Quest, Space Angel, Super Friends, The Fantastic Four, Hot Wheels, Thundarr, and Shazzan…and also includes many full-color presentation pieces designed to sell new series to the networks.

 

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A slipcase for the three-book set will be available with the third book.

Hunting(ton) Season

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The fact that hunting season opened in the Middle West had nothing to do with why we were in Huntington, West Virginia last week. What could have drawn us nearly 1,200 miles away from the delightlfuly warm temperatures of Key West? Nothing less than a Library of American Comics confab with our marketing and sales guru, Beau Smith. Those who know Beau are aware of the fact that he rarely leaves his home town (the electronic shackles on his ankles may have something to do with it—only kidding!). Oh, he’ll travel up to Mid-Ohio Con each year, but that’s about as far afield as he likes to go.

Luckily for us, Huntington was a convenient first stop on our trip. Beau’s been doing a great job expanding our sales to libraries and universities. Here, he and Associate Art Director (and marketing whiz herself) Lorraine Turner exchange ideas about spreading the word in the halls of academia.

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For as many books as Beau and I have worked together on in the past twenty-five years, we still get a thrill opening that first box from the printer to see the latest release.

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Beau also gave us a fun tour of the town, which included the stadium of the Marshall football team (his alma mater, and the subject of the movie, “We Are Marshall”). Before we hit the road, Beau’s better half, Beth, joined us for a cracklin’ good breakfast. And then we were off to our next stop: Columbus, Ohio. More about that in our next entry.

 

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Overlapping strips

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In working on the layout for The Complete Dick Tracy volume 11, I searched for a specific daily—July 10, 1948—to place in the page design. The search results came up with the requested Tracydaily, but also a Rip Kirby daily and an Archie daily from the same date.

I guess it should have dawned on me earlier because with more than thirty books published as part of the Library of American Comics, we’re starting to see overlapping dates from strip to strip. We tend to look at each series as a distinct collection, but great cartoonists such as Chester Gould, Bob Montana, and Alex Raymond didn’t work in a vacuum—their strips often appeared alongside one other’s.

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So in the interest of imaging what it would have been like to read a daily comics page at the time, here are three dailies from July 10, 1948.

 

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And for more fun, imagine the thrill of reading Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie all on the same day?! Here are those strips from May 21, 1937.

Enjoy!

Terry370521

Abner370521

LOA370521

Overlapping strips

DT480710-1

In working on the layout for The Complete Dick Tracy volume 11, I searched for a specific daily—July 10, 1948—to place in the page design. The search results came up with the requested Tracydaily, but also a Rip Kirby daily and an Archie daily from the same date.

I guess it should have dawned on me earlier because with more than thirty books published as part of the Library of American Comics, we’re starting to see overlapping dates from strip to strip. We tend to look at each series as a distinct collection, but great cartoonists such as Chester Gould, Bob Montana, and Alex Raymond didn’t work in a vacuum—their strips often appeared alongside one other’s.

Archie480710-1

So in the interest of imaging what it would have been like to read a daily comics page at the time, here are three dailies from July 10, 1948.

RK480710-1

And for more fun, imagine the thrill of reading Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie all on the same day?! Here are those strips from May 21, 1937. Enjoy!

Terry370521-1

Abner370521-1

LOA370521-1

 

 

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”:

Espo_09

 

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.

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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.

 

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Rest in peace, Mr. Esposito.

 

 

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