Found in the Collection: Alex Toth (1928-2006)

In memoriam of the anniversary of Alex Toth’s death (this past Sunday, May 27th), we have dug up a few of his works from the late 60s-early 70s. A page from issue number 12 of the DC Comics series “The Witching Hour”, and a page from one of the many romance comics he illustrated (penciled, in the case of our sample), “Young Romance”.

But first, a powerfully simplistic self-portrait that Toth did for collector Mark J. Cohen, whose collection resides here at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and contains over 370 cartoonist self portraits. A number of these pieces were displayed in our 2011 exhibit, Gallery Of Rogues: Cartoonist Self-Caricatures.

Original Alex Toth self-caricature. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Widely considered to be one of the greatest cartoonists of our time, and a protege of Milton Caniff (our founding donor!), Toth is revered not for the creation of any particular character or brilliant strip, but for his absolute command of the comics art-form at large.

Below, an original page from DC Comics’ 1969 The Witching Hour, which quite perfectly displays Toth’s supreme understanding of design and the layout of a page.

Original Alex Toth page from "The Witching Hour #12". From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Known best for his work on Zorro comics and animation work for Hanna-Barbera Productions (including the design of Space Ghost), Toth was an influence on many and a placater to few. He was strong willed and outspoken about disliking much in the field; from gratuitous violence in comics to the abstract and experimental.

To quote his autobiography in Kitchen Sink Press’ 1995 book Alex Toth: “I detest stupidity, ignorance, and arrogant disregard for craft in a “professional,” and I’ve made enemies of such people through the last thirty-three years! Much to my own disadvantage, I might add! But I am what I am, and it’s the only way I know to live a life, in as honest a manner as is possible! Play it, and say it, straight!”

Original art from "Young Romance #163", pencilled by Alex Toth and inked by Dick Giordano. From International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. (click to enlarge)

In May of 2006, Toth passed away at his drawing table at age 77, in his home in Burbank, CA.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for marking his passing and his great contribution. Yesterday would have been his 84th birthday. We miss him daily but through the wonderful work of your foundation his and other influential artists continue to live on.
    Eric

    • Caitlin McGurk

      June 26, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Eric, we are so honored to have a few pieces of Alex’s work in our collection. He was absolutely brilliant, and we are proud to continue celebrating and preserving his legacy.

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