Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Alex Toth: Genius Isolated

Alex Toth - Genius Isolated: Yet more proof that we live in the golden era of comic book journalism. This massive volume collects a wealth of Alex Toth's art, much of it shot from the originals, as well as presenting a well researched biography that explores his complicated life.

Toth's work was a stylistic wonder. Often with just a few lines and a scattering of black, he created dynamic images with more power than a gazillion over-rendered lines. But for all his immense talent, Toth was also legendary for being "difficult", which sometimes meant he refused to suffer fools, often in the most self-destructive way imaginable. The authors recount when Toth, fed up with a particular editor at a California based comic book company, drafted a list of reasons why the editor was incompetent, collared the editor himself so he could hear it, then read the list to the editor's boss. Needless to say, Toth's freelance career at that particular company came to a dramatic close.

When he turned his wrath against editors and writers it meant his business life suffered, but sadly, he would also turn on family and friends at the drop of a mercurial hat, ending years-long friendships permanently over even the hint of a perceived (but never intended) slight. He was the classic angry man, frustrated by life and his own demons. I think Toth was an artist trying to find fulfillment in a field where "artistic integrity" would often collide with deadlines and editorial fiat. But he loved comics, so that and animation were his worlds.

Anyhow, it's a great book. If I have any criticism, it's that I wish there had been a little more later "pure Toth" presented. A lot of his 50's DC work was heavily inked, but when left to his own devices (like his occasional post-70's work for DC, his stories for Warren's Creepy/Eerie books, or his humor stories for Drag Cartoons) he was at his finest. My guess is those were difficult to license, and it is a minor caveat indeed!