Collecting Alex Toth's comic book stories in the 1960s-1980s was a haphazard pursuit. As with many "illustrational" cartoonists, Alex was not strongly connected with a particular comic book title, superhero or character. Most of his work at that time was done for horror, western, war or romance anthology comics as "one-shot" stories. True, he had a nice little run on DC's Eclipso character ( House of Secrets numbers 63-67) and over at Dell on Zorro (first on the "Four Color" series and then later on Gold Key's Zorro numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, & 9), but for the most part his work was found in the occasional Warren magazine and DC "mystery" title. Few were the fans that sought out his brilliant 1960-70s DC romance work. (Who knew?).
Appraisals, Interviews, and Checklists:
One of the first appreciative critical reviews of Toth's work in the fan press was delivered by his peer Gil Kane in the fanzine Alter Ego, vol.1, # 10 (1969). During an interview of Gil Kane by John Benson, Kane praised Toth's "...contemporaneous style, with a real feeling for the angularity and pattern that is reflected in everything from mechanical design through fashion and architecture..." in this groundbreaking interview.
Gil Kane also delivered another perceptive analysis of Toth's art which appeared in The Art of Alex Toth (1977). He wrote, "...Toth had started as a Caniff-type artist whose emphasis was on characterization and design. By 1950 he had transcended all of his influences and had become the finest artist that comics ever had. Toth introduced the techniques of magazine illustration into comic books. His focus was on picture making and its elements, drawing, composition, pattern, tonal values, depth of field, and shape. Toth's investigation into stating form and design with utmost economy lifted the craftsmanship level of the entire field. Next to Eisner he was its most important educator."
A major Toth interview was conducted for Graphic Storyworld # 10 (spring, 1969) by Vince Davis, Richard Kyle, and Bill Spicer. This interview was later reprinted (with new illustrations) in The Comics Journal # 98 (5/85).
Perhaps the last lengthy interview was conducted for Anvil Anthology #1 (1995) by Darrel Bowen.
Collecting Toth's artwork became much easier thanks to the hard work "art sleuth" Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. did for his Indispensable Index # 2, The Alex Toth Index. I received my copy on July 5, 1991 and it has proven so complete I have never ordered an undated version. It is highly recommended to anyone seriously interested in collecting Toth's work and remains "the gold standard" of all the Toth checklists.Alex Kahlstorff and San Milan have produced a "European edition" of the Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. checklist.
Robin Snyder occasionally runs a segment of his "Alex Toth bibliography" in his excellent newsletter The Comics and often has fascinating correspondence from Toth to share. (See the Essay section).
Mike Benton's book The Masters of Imagination, The Comic Book Artists Hall of Fame (Taylor Books, 1994) has the advantage of presenting a condensed version of the Toth checklist as "A Chronology of Major Comic Book Work". Toth was inducted into the "Harvey Award's: The Jack Kirby Hall of Fame" in 1990 (along with Ditko that year) and to "The Will Eisner Hall of Fame" (along with Robert Crumb that year) in 1991.
Three excellent books have been produced on Alex Toth:
The first is the fannish labor of love by Feature Associates (Al Dellinges), The Art of Alex Toth (1977). This is a 60 page "potpourri" of various Toth artworks and essays. Interestingly it also provided Toth's mailing address and this is how many fans first wrote Toth, as I did in 1980.
Devoted Toth fan and friend Manuel Auad produced Alex Toth (1995), an "Eisner Award" winning book for Kitchen Sink Press. It boasts superior reproduction, rare artwork, and essays on some of Toth's artistic influences by Toth himself. Manuel is hard at work on a sequel (editor's note: Auad completed both this book, "Toth Black and White," and just recently released another, "One For The Road". Click here to read Don's review of that book and a few comments from publisher Manuel Auad).
Darrell McNeil added his flip patter to the otherwise astounding Alex Toth: By Design (Gold Medal Productions, 1996) which is jam-packed with animation conceptual drawings, storyboards, essays, observations, and comments about animation, storytelling and drawing. The scope of the work and thought in this book by Toth is breathtaking.
Other Noteworthy Collections: Also of note are the two handsome Zorro trade paperback collections first released by Eclipse (1988) and later reissued by Image (1998), Zorro. The Complete Classic Adventures by Alex Toth. These reprint some of the Dell "Four Color" Zorro stories in black and white and were toned for the trade paperbacks using guides prepared by Toth.
Glamour International Magazine # 24 (10/97), edited by Alberto Beccattini is a special issue dedicated to "Toth on Women...and More" and also contains a checklist of his work.
Dragon Lady Press collected Alex's "Bravo for Adventure" work in a great repackaging job in Bravo For Adventure # 1 (1/87).
Greg Theakston put out an "All Toth Issue" featuring seven reprinted Standard Comics stories in Buried Treasure # 3 (1988).
Warren Publishing's Creepy # 139 (7/82) was a "Collector's Edition Special! The Art of Alex Toth" which reprinted seven of his Warren stories.
TwoMorrows Comic Book Artist #11 (1/01) is devoted to "Celebrating the Art & Life of Alex Toth!", and contains an autobiographical essay by Toth.
Alex Toth has written a number of important essays on the work of his peers and also on aspects of cartooning. I present this checklist and encourage further study:
Amazing World of DC Comics # 5 (3/75)--Sheldon Mayer
Comics Journal # 85 (10/83)--Robert Kanigher
Comics Journal # 142 (6/69)-- Letter about Walt Kelly
Comics Journal # 148 (2/92)--Sheldon Mayer Obituary
Comics Journal # 200 (12/97)--Charles Schulz
v5:4 (4/94)---lettering essay
v6:3-(3/95)--letter re Lev Gleason
v6:4 (4/95)--Frank Robbins tribute
v7:5 (5/96)--letter re Batchelor and O'Mealia
Happy Hunting Toth Tyros!