Monday, May 29, 2006

Alex Toth R.I.P.

Though I know he had been ill for some time, to actually read the words that he has passed on still comes as a shock. The regrettable news comes to us from the official Alex Toth website. He was 78. The legendary artist/designer was born in New York City on June 25th, 1928. While his design work became well-known through association with a number of comics/animation properties spanning nearly 5 decades, a whole generation will remember him for his work with Hanna-Barbera in particular. Although I should point out that some of my favorite work of his was always 1960's Space Angel (which used the same snycro-vox lip-superimposing process as Clutch Cargo ). This show had a overall design sense much closer stylistically to 1950's EC space adventure comics than H-B. The animation, what little there was, was more along the lines a pop-up book than anything else...but we loved it anyhow. However, I didn't actually start seeing Space Angel cartoons until I was around 10 or 11. My earliest memory of a show I made a point to watch was Space Ghost. Loved the Ghost, Jonny Quest, Mightor, The Fantastic Four, the Herculoids,---every show he designed for in the 1960's, basically --even ol' Birdman. Later he also worked on Josie and the Pussycats, Super-Friends and a TON of other shows. In fact a few years back H-B alumnus Darrell McNeil published a 360 page book featuring nothing but Alex's model sheets he did while at Hanna Barbera. (It wasn't authorized, though --so good luck finding it now.) Alex in essence, nearly single-handedly created the animated Super-hero look of the 1960's. His fans number in the millions and his artistic influence is undeniable by almost anyone who grew up in the 1960's & '70's and draws Superheroes for a living. (or even part-time, like me.)
According to a statement by on Saturday morning by Toth's oldest son Eric "My father did pass way this morning (may 27) drawing/writing at his table. I do not have any further details at this time other than I will forward an adress for those interested in sending cards. We will arrange something appropriate at or around the convention in San Diego this Summer..."
He actually went while he was working...That's our Alex. Any real artist should be so lucky.
Alex was a prolific artist who made it all seem easy and effortless. (And as someone who had to follow in his artistic footsteps and try to live up to his standards --directing the new animation on Space Ghost Coast to Coast--I'm here to tell ya, it ain't!) He was a true original.
One of the greats --he'll be sorely missed.


Blogger Robert Pope said...

What I take mostly from Toth is how SOLID his figures are; not simple, but solid. It's unfortunate that some have labeled Toth's work as simple; it's anything BUT. Ultimately, it has the most ephemeral of qualities: "believability." Looking at Toth, you immediately read weight, motion, character interaction, etc . The greatest challenge we all face as artists is not the super-heroic stuff (anybody can do dynamic poses if you rip off Buscema enough) but drawing the most mundane of things in an interesting and competent fashion. There's more challenge in drawing six people waiting for a bus than any super character.

10:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent observations there Robert. Even though Toth's comic book work often was often shrouded in deep shadow, from what I've heard he always did a full underdrawing in his pencilling before deciding what to fill with black. In his work from the fifties you can get more of a sense of just how full his pencils were...but as great as that stuff is, I like his work from the sixties on even better - when he started spotting his blacks like he was Noel Sickles on steroids or something.

He sort of had a dichotomy going with his animation and comic book styles. His animation designs were generally brightly lit (due to the nature of the medium), and he excelled at superheroes...whereas in comic books, he tended towards the use of heavy blacks and was especially great at genres such as horror, war, western, romance, hot rods, etc. (although he could also draw superheroes with the best of them, although I don't consider it his forte).

Somewere recently I read that a Space Angel dvd is in the works...looking forward to that in a big way. Hey Clay, I have a special blog request for you...back in the eighties you had an issue of CINEFANTASTIQUE which featured ANGRY RED PLANET, and it showed some of Toth's storyboards for the film. Think you could dig it up and scan those panels sometime? Huh? PLEEEEEZE?

The mag Alter Ego just aren't going to be same without his curmudgeonly cantankerous insights. I've been in a state of shock the past few days since learning of Toth's passing...he was one of the last true giants.

6:00 PM

Blogger Ward Jenkins said...

What I admired in Toth (besides his incredible talent for drawing and design) was his attention to detail-- just like an animator gaining insight and reference for a particular project, seeing all the model sheets and reference for HB's The Three Musketeers (swordplay, fencing and that sort of thing) literally blew me away. Unfortunately, the HB animators couldn't do much with what he gave them, but I certainly did for that Don Quixote Limon project I did for Click several years ago. What knowledge I gained from Toth was insurmountable.

And you're right, Pope. His attention to drawing mundane poses and people was amazing. I learned a lot from the guy.

Great write-up, Clay. Alex will definitely be missed.

2:11 PM

Anonymous Ed Catto said...

I feel like Toth's work lives in on the work of his great protege, Ruben Procopio!

10:32 AM


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