Monday, May 29, 2006

Alex Toth, R.I.P.

On Saturday, comics and animation artist Alex Toth passed away at age 78. He reportedly died at his drawing board.

Ironically, although few in the general public knew Toth by name, or were familiar with his comics work, his versions of the DC Comics characters are likely the most familiar ones to millions of people who grew up in the '70's. That is because he was the initial character designer for Super Friends, the Saturday-morning cartoon version of the Justice League that lasted for nearly 15 years. Further, anyone who saw Hannah-Barbera's various animated adventure series from the sixties and seventies, as well as other studios' series in the eighties, should know Toth's style; he did character designs, storyboards, and layouts for such series as Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Sealab 2020, Fantastic Four, Bionic Six, and many, many more.

Toth was one of the finest creators in the comics medium. He started in the forties, and continued working into the 1990's. He refined and simplified his style into one where every line was essential to his picture. He mastered the dramatic balance of light and shadow, as well as the illusion of kinetic movement. The best artists working today are those who learned from his work.

The above page, from Death Haunts the Skies, a 1974 Batman story written by Archie Goodwin, shows off some of those talents. (It's copyright 1974 DC Comics.)

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