Archive | Alex Toth

T Minus 0: It’s Toth Time

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Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth goes on sale today. Two years in the making, we’re mighty proud of our efforts. Bruce Canwell and I recently sat down for a stimulating interview with Dan Nadel over at the Comics Journal.

Dan also offers the first review of the book, calling it “an astounding achievement. Through thoroughly researched text and a gob-smackingly great selection of visuals, Mullaney and Canwell have done what the best biographers should: Both illuminate their subjects life and decisively show what, precisely, made him worthy of their (and our) attention…

“This book is, for me, a game-changer: The first (literally) expansive visual biography of a classic comic book artist that manages to show and tell just what made the man and the work…

“As a fellow historian, I’m still, weeks later, in awe of it. Anyone with an interest in the medium should own and study this book. It’s one of those.”

Talkin’ Toth—and Toths Talkin’ Back

April 27, 2011 marks the official on-sale date for Genius, Isolated, the first volume in our massive three-book examination of the life and career of the great Alex Toth.  We know this book has been eagerly awaited by Toth’s fans, many of whom are some of the most popular and prestigious names in comics, animation, and motion pictures. We hope, as our readers make their way through the thirty thousand words of biography and twenty complete comics stories—many of them printed from the original art—contained in this 325-page, 9.5″ x 13″ tome, they will recognize it as a true labor of love, and will feel it has been worth the wait.

Certainly we were encouraged by the reactions to the book expressed by Alex’s four children. They received a pre-publication edition for their review and approval and what they had to say was an affirmation that we had successfully achieved our goals.Toth_kids_mom_1970

Three generations of Toths. Alex in 1970 with (from left to right) his mother,
daughters Dana and Carrie, and (in front) Eric and Damon.

Eric Toth read his copy of the book while traveling (in China, if memory serves). “The work looks great,” he sent via his Blackberry from halfway around the world. “This is very exciting. Thanks for all of your hard work.”

Eric’s sister, Carrie Morash, was in her home when she wrote to us, saying, “I couldn’t go very far without feeling emotional and missing my dad while reading your book. From the preface, which was thoughtful and kind, to the introduction by Mark Chiarello, I think my dad is being given a very fair biography. I loved the story of Mark’s where he asked my dad for a drawing—the words and description of how dad responded were so him—“OK, pest…” A picture popped in my head of him sitting there and saying those words with one eyebrow raised as he often did. And, the quote of his—”See kiddo it’s simple”—is all dad. Endearing. Heartwarming to me. The art work was a joy to read and view. So much has been gathered—it’s hard to comment on all that went through my head as I read the story of my father. I don’t think that I will ever stop discovering new things about him and his life now.”

Like his brother, youngest son Damon also had to pass along his thoughts to Dean while on the run. “I want to thank you and Bruce for such a wonderful job you did on Genius, Isolated. I enjoyed reading every page and learned a great deal about dad. I look so forward to Genius, Illustrated and Genius, Animated.”

Alex’s first child, Dana Palmer, had this to say in two separate e-mails: “As I sit here in tears with a lump in my throat – this, this is a beautiful body of work. The layout/graphics/scans – done so impeccably. What a tribute. This was my father—Alex Toth. Wow. It sort of hit me in a new way during this process, and this book will be my bible when it comes to his legacy. My father would have loved this. I wish he were here to read it, and it makes me miss him even more. I wished I’d known some of the things discovered in this body of work. It explains a lot.”

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This is, in some ways, The Year of Toth. Several publications dedicated to the work of this unique talent are being released during 2011, but Genius, Isolated is the only project undertaken with the approval of and in cöoperation with Alex’s estate, and the only project returning money to that estate. We went into this project enthusiastic about presenting Alex’s life story and artwork to modern audiences, but the relationship we’ve built with Dana, Carrie, Eric, and Damon over the past two years has made the Genius series even more special.

 

 

Talkin’ Toth: Part Four

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:
ALEX ON SWORDFIGHTING ON THE ZORRO TV SHOW from a 1958 letter –
This week’s TV Guide—Guy Williams Catalano tells of his dad teaching him the art of foil and saber from Guy’s seventh summer. What hokey tripe…he’s a clumsy ox afoot…and admitted to our editor that he’d fenced not a stroke prior to Freddie Cavens’ first lesson at the Disney lot gym… [Fred Cavens was Errol Flynn’s old fencing master at Warner Brothers.]

Britt Lomond (Monastario) was always the better blade…

The above, Guy and Britt, costumed, will fence in person at Disneyland this weekend…restaging their TV duels for the hot dog crowd.

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

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A page from “Zorro’s Secret Passage” (© 2011 Zorro Productions Inc.)

 

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:
ALEX ON ANIMATION, EXCERPTED FROM A 1981 LETTER –
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…

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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…

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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 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.”

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

 

TOTH REFLECTS ON HIS ROMANCE WORK IN A 1978 LETTER

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!

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

 

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.

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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.

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth

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We’ve been keeping this project under wraps for the past year, but it’s time to release this little note from the “Coming Attractions” Department: this fall sees the release of a big stand-alone project that will bookend 2008’s Scorchy Smith & The Art of Noel Sickles. It’s a little number we call Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth.

Odds are you recognize Alex as one of the true icons of 20th Century comics art, and know the broad strokes that comprise his career: a working professional artist by his late teens; set the industry on its ear working for DC and Standard Comics between 1947 and 1954; did incredible work at Dell, particularly his classic and definitive Zorro; migrated into animation, and is perhaps best known for his designs for Hanna-Barbera Studios’s Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Super Friends; and marked a return to comics in the 1970s and 1980s, doing new work for DC and also publishing his much-beloved, creator-owned Bravo for Adventure. He ended his career feeling largely disillusioned with the comics of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, though he continued to comment on the industry through forums such as Comic Book Artist.

There is, of course, much more to Alex’s story, and we’ll bring it to you in Genius, Isolated. This book is being produced with the cooperation of Alex’s family. We’re also hearing from well-known “Friends of Alex,” as well as folks close to him who have never before spoken publicly. We’ll examine several of his artistic influences, names both familiar and less-well-known. Captured between two covers for the first time ever will be the complete run of Jon Fury in Japan, created while Alex was in the Army in the mid-50s. We’ll also present other complete Toth stories—from the original artwork!—that will show newcomers or serve to remind longtime fans why Alex Toth’s legacy will long endure. And then there will be page after page of rare and previously unseen art.

We’ll release some teasers from the book in this blog over the next couple of months…just to make sure you’re paying attention!

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