Remembering Alex Toth - Part 3
Contributed by: tothfans on Mon, September 18, 2006 / 12:09am CDT
Official Alex Toth website :
Remembering Alex Toth - Part 3
Remembering Alex Toth - Part 3 [Part 1 here][Part 2 here]
San Diego Comic-Con
Sunday, July 23rd 2006, 6:00-7:30pm
Panel : David Armstrong (moderator), Irwin Hasen, Dana Palmer, Eric Toth, Mike Royer, Paul Power, Rubén Procopio, John Hitchcock and Tom de Rosier
Trascribed by Kirsten Rose
Transcript Copyright 2006, The Estate of Alex Toth all rights reserved.
David Armstrong: I think we?ll open it to questions from the floor because they said we could stay a half hour late and we?re about 5 minutes over. We have about 25 minutes.
Audience Member: [Question inaudible but related to Alex Toth?s ability to change and grow within his art]
Eric Toth: It?s funny because over many conversations I asked him if there was one thing he wished he?d been able to do in his career. He remembered that I asked it 10 years before. He said [that he would have liked] to work on a daily strip and have it be his. So I wonder that if he had that opportunity and it had worked out, how he would have might have grown that. Or maybe that would have not been a good thing for him.
John Hitchcock: Caniff hand-picked him to do Steve Canyon. If it was to be continued, Alex was the guy he wanted to do it. Alex was just blown away that one of his idols would even consider him that way. Of course, there was no way he would do it because there was no way he would get into that kind of grind. That was something that totally flipped him over his head that the great Caniff would consider him to be the logical choice to follow his 40-year run of Steve Canyon if it was going to be continued.
David Armstrong: He also did a strip [inaudible] which he did sample on. And he worked with [Warren] Tufts in the 50s.
Mike Royer: At one time I had a 700-piece collection of Warren Tufts? Casey Ruggles original art. And the strips that I loved to look at the most were the strips that were 90% Alex and all Warren had done was ink the faces. And Warren really just wanted to write the strip and have Alex draw it but, of course, the syndicates said, ?It?s your strip and it needs to be Warren Tufts??. But Alex?s work on those strips is just so gutsy, so bold. I think Warren Tufts was an excellent artist, he was from the Alex Raymond/Hal Foster school, but it makes one wonder what that strip would have been if Alex been given the full reins and just let go.
Irwin Hasen: I don?t think Alex Toth was geared to do a daily comic strip. That takes a special kind of patience. Not because I did it for 35 years, Daily and a Sunday. I don?t know how survived it because I?m not that kind of guy either, but I did it. I don?t know how I did it.
But, It don?t think in a million years that Alex, with his mentality and his drive, would have been able to do a comic strip. It?s not his style?.I had the feeling he wouldn?t wanted it to do the daily and the Sunday.
David Armstrong: He would have got bored after a while; he would have wanted to make changes. He would have wanted to change the size of the Sunday funny page?
Irwin Hasen: Absolutely?
David Armstrong: Do we have any more questions?
Audience Member: [Question generally inaudible but concerns the last 20 years of Alex Toth?s life. People who did not know Alex Toth or receive his doodles saw little of what he did in the last 20 years ? did he continue to grow as an artist, why did he not put out much work in the last 20 years?]
Eric Toth: He did a few of covers about 15 years ago but? People were always offering him things but he turned so much of it down.
Audience Member: Did he not have an economic need for working at that point?
Paul Power: I don?t believe that money was ever Alex?s motivation?ever. Yea, he had to earn a living but it was about the story. He was going to do a story with James Robinson, he wanted to do ?Wildcat? which he loved; which Irwin had done. He really wanted to do a ?Wildcat? story. And there was one time he was going to draw Plastic Man that was when I suggested in ?73 that Mike ink it. And he wrote back ?Oh, that would be perfect?.
He really did enjoy doing Bravo For Adventure. He really loved that. When he was in the Army he drew a strip that he wrote which was very much like an Errol Flynn character that was an American Indian called Jon Fury. And that was a hell of a strip. I thought it really was for Stars and Strips but it was just for the base he was on in Japan in ?54, ?55. If he had the right script from Nick Cardy or Archie Goodwin he would have done it. But, he was a very temperamental guy ? if he was in the mood for it he would do it, if not then the hell with it.
David Armstrong: To answer your question, he didn?t do a lot of stories in that last 20 years, he did some covers for DC, he did some special projects, he did some specific things that he loved that were tied to strips from the ?30s and 40s as covers for compilations. He worked in the animation business long enough to have a pension, so to answer your question, he had enough economic freedom to do what he wanted.
Dana Palmer: My Dad used to say, ?How much money do you need Dana? You just need enough?. And Daddy had enough. You just need enough and that?s true.
Eric Toth: His mortgage payment was $87 the last time he had to pay it.
Audience Member: [Generally inaudible but a question directed at Eric Toth: how Alex Toth?s well-known love of automotive design influenced his decision to enter that line of work.]
Eric Toth: I always knew he was interested in mechanical things but it wasn?t something that physically came naturally to him ? taking things apart and all that. My brother Damon, who?s in the audience, and I inherited that from my Mom ? I quess. I didn?t really realize until I started talking about going to [art school]. He knew I drew cars since I was a kid, but not until I wanted to go to school to be an Automotive designer did that he shared [this].
He actually looked into going to the Art Center for one of their full programs in the ?50s but because of his work schedule he wouldn?t be able to do everything at night. He kept that close to him but it came out in his work probably more than anything.
Audience Member: Did he encourage you?
Eric Toth: He was an interesting parent that way. He and my Mom weren?t encouraging about those types of things other than once you told him about it he would [say], ?Hmmm, let?s figure out a way to do this?. But he didn?t plant the idea, it kind of just came through by osmosis. He loved model airplanes. He took Damon and all four of [the children] ?every weekend we had a routine where we go to the model shop in Van Nuys. We would go do all the things he really enjoyed doing and I think that?s how it rubbed off on us.
David Armstrong: I just wanted to let you know that although he may have not said much to Eric I know he was extremely proud of his accomplishment and what he was doing ? while he was going to school and after he graduated and started working in the industry because he would talk about it.
Eric Toth: He loved following the industry and what I was doing.
Dana Palmer: It was through osmosis. If I had a dime, though, for every camera my daddy gave me and I disregarded throughout my childhood. But, I fell into it. And I actually spent 10 years not talking to my father, which, those of us who know him well know that?s possible. I don?t regret it; it couldn?t have been any other way. I do know that two of my father?s favorite mediums are photography and writing and I think that?s because the eluded him slightly. He was so used to being able to master things and it would be a frustration of his on some level. But, very supportive. And the thing about my Daddy is even though we were apart he was such a part of me when I went back and looked at his negatives later. I ended up having an exhibit that was his photography from the ?50s and ?60s and my words together because our styles were very similar. He liked very photojournalistic ? he would shoot his kids, he never posed us, it was all very natural. Still life was his first love. He would shoot some old camera on a table, three rolls of film, in different [angles]. And he loved light of course. When I started photography, Eric had his old darkroom equipment, which I still have and so he sent all of that to me. Daddy used to stay up at night and do darkroom in our kitchen.
Ruben Procopio: To add something to this gentleman?s question as to why you haven?t seen a lot of his work in the last several years. It?s a good question because it hasn?t been brought up that it?s been about 15 years since Guyla passed away.
Dana Palmer: And his Mom.
Ruben Procopio: And his Mom. Who were two of the dearest persons to him. Especially Guyla, who was the love of his life. I think he sort of gave up on the world, gave up on a lot and he certainly given a lot of opportunities from many publishers including DC, from Mark Chirello ? who?s here. He had turned it down many times because, I think, he just lost that ?oomph? in him that he had many years ago. He had reached such a pinnacle and, I think, in his mind he thought he had done enough and that was it. But, that was a big part of why you didn?t see much and that was a frustration to everybody, to all of us. I know it was to me and that?s why I sought him out.
It?s hard for me to talk about his work, to analyze his work because if you can?t see that he?s a genius then something?s wrong. [Laughter] For me it?s more about this part of Alex that I got to know ? the man. Alex said if you were able to withstand the Bianca blast that he would gave you, and you were still left standing there with your hair singed or whatever. If he saw that you were sincere and wanted to get to know him. The more you got to know him the more you loved the man ? not the artist. The artist was just something that you knew how to get to him because that?s what you know about him. But when you got to know that man he was just an incredible person, a very giving, a very loving person - contrary to popular belief. As Dana explained, it is easy to understand why a lot of people were alienated or he would make friends and then, all of a sudden, make enemies. But then again, if you stood there long enough you would understand that he was just a wonderful man. Just like a turtle ? hard on the outside and soft on the inside.
Dana Palmer: This was always my belief ? that?s one reason why writing became very difficult for him because when you?re not leaving the house, when you?re not having experiences. It was a frustration of his because he could always visually generate work. That played a piece to it and it was a great frustration of his.
David Armstrong: Any more questions?
Audience Member: [Generally inaudible but a comment on how Alex Toth?s animation work made more of an impression on people of a certain age than his comic book work ? i.e. More people probably saw Alex Toth?s Superman (through Superfriends) than anyone else?s.
David Armstrong: And it?s not just limited to the animation field. When Alex and Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert came up they were the second generation of artists and creators to come up through the comic book business. But, those three guys basically defined the look of DC Comics for the next 30 to 40 years and there were a lot of artists that ended up chasing that look or chasing that design sense and the way the story was told until the ?70s or ?80. So, from that standpoint they totally changed and shaped the way the comic book business was until Marvel came along, I think.
John Hitchcock: That?s an interesting point because it was the second generation but it was the first generation that grew up wanting to be comic book artists. Instead of say, the great Will Eisner, who kind of invented the comic book. [They] were the first generation to say, ?I want to do that?. I was talking to a couple of guys and they asked, ?Why did Alex sign his comics in early ?45 ?Sandy Toth??? and that was his father?s nickname. In Hungarian, I think, it was?Tandor?
Dana Palmer: Sandor
John Hitchcock: Sandor. He told me he wanted to name Zandor of the Herculoids after his father. I guess, in a way, to prove - ?Hey, I did that?, as a sign.
David Armstrong: Any other questions?
Audience Member: [Generally inaudible but audience member remembers his work on Space Angel. That it was not ?cartoony?]
Paul Power: Clark Haas asked him to do that right at the back end of ?Clutch Cargo?. He really loved it. He worked with Doug Wildey, [inaudible] a lot of good men.
Audience Member: [Generally inaudible but audience member asks the panel about what was Alex Toth?s favorite period of his work.]
David Armstrong: Well, Bravo For Adventure and the, probably, Vanguard. I think that period is his favorite. Is that right, Ruben?
Ruben Procopio: Yeah, I would say that Bravo is his opus. His?
David Armstrong: His ?piece de resistance?.
Ruben Procopio: Yea ?piece de resistance?. It was something that he loved. You could even see it in the look of Bravo. It looked like Errol Flynn ? his favorite movie star, his favorite inspiration. Everything about it was Alex. It was Alex at his best.
David Armstrong: Errol Flynn and planes.
Ruben Procopio: I think he pooh-poohed a lot of what he did in the past. That Zorro stuff ? he couldn?t stand talking about it. He couldn?t stand doing another one. Of course if he got fan mail asking for one he would go, ?Aaaargh, all right. I?ll do it?. He couldn?t talk about Space Ghost and all that stuff. And I?m with you, I agree. When my family came to America, the first thing I saw in 1966 was Space Ghost and the Superfriends and it changed the course of my life because that?s what I wanted to do. When I saw his process of animation and that oversized Superfriends comic book that came out in the ?60s, which explained in detail ? there was more writing than drawing ? I was so fascinated by that. He really enjoyed more of his personal things that he liked more than anything else.
Tom de Rosier: I used to hear him talk about the Fox character ? he did two stories. TAPS, Oh La La [inaudible].
Paul Power: Well, The Fox comes out of the Jon Fury script. I kind of got the answer of who that character was and that was great for me. There?s a line of what Alex likes to do. There?s one question I didn?t really get to ask him and maybe someone here can answer it ? his fascination with UFOs?
Eric Toth: I think that?s another panel discussion.
David Armstrong: One more question?
Audience Member: [Generally inaudible but question concerns whether he was friendly with other giants in the business ? i.e. Wally Wood, Frazetta.]
John Hitchcock: I know that he met Wally Wood, one time, briefly. Al Williamson is a good friend of mine and when Al?s first wife, Arlene, died Alex called Al and talked with him at great length and tried to help him through it. And when Guyla died, Al called Alex and talked with him for many hours and tried to help him through it. There was a story written when they [Al Williamson, Angelo Torres, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood] were working for EC Comics in ?52 they would be working in Al?s studio and would be punchy from being up all night working on jobs. They would tell Angelo, ?Hey Angelo, do a Foster.? And he would do a Foster swipe. They would just call out guys, ?Do a Raymond swipe. ?Do a Robbins.? And then they would call out, ?Do a Toth?. And I asked him, ?That was 1952, 1953. Alex wasn?t drawing for all that long.? And he said, ?We were aware of him and we knew how damn good he was?.
Paul Power: Frazetta loved his stuff. If you look at Frazetta?s romance stories you can see Alex?s style right in those drawings.
David Armstrong: Moving to California that meant that he wasn?t that close to the people in the comic book business. Being in the animation business[ meant that] most of the people he associated with were in the animators and people at H&B more than people in the comic book business. Even though Jack Kirby was out here I don?t think they talked all that much.
Mike Royer: In the way, the entire direction my career took I owe to Alex Toth. I got a call one night from Jack Kirby and he says, ?Mike Royer, this is Jack Kirby. Alex Toth says you?re a pretty good inker?. I mean that?s a great recommendation. I never worked on Alex but, apparently, he saw something that I did that would work with Jack.
Ruben Procopio: You know, one more thing I was going to add to that funny story about Jack. It?s very brief but; Alex mentioned one time that he was invited to a barbecue at Jacks? house. And he went. The bottom line was, he said, ? I have nothing in common with this man.? So that was the extent of it. I?m sure they had some communication here and there, briefly over the phone. But as far as Jack goes, I?m mean that was very fortunate, but I think that was it.
David Armstrong: Yea. And he was the only one that lived in Southern California
Audience Member: I was wondering, because he said that Al Williamson of course was really into Alex Raymond and so was Wally Wood. I was wondering what Alex Toth thought.
Mike Royer: Well, I can you now nobody was more delighted than me when I introduced him to Al Williamson, to see how they hit it off so well. What they did, didn?t not mean anything any more.
Audience Member: Was Alex Toth friends with any Actors or Directors?
David Armstrong: He met some of the people he did on the Dell adaptations. Does anyone what to characterize his relationship with some of them? Because some of them really loved his work. Danny Thomas thought he drew his nose too big.
Mike Royer: When he was young he said he took fencing lessons and when he came to the West Coast he looked up the fencing instructor who worked with people like Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn and their progeny to talk about fencing.
David Armstrong: He told me a story about getting stuck in an elevator with Stewart Granger once. He was an actor.
Eric Toth: He actually had the opportunity to storyboard for the first Raiders of the Lost Ark. I guess someone had referred his name because of his fascination with that period. Spielberg sent someone over to pick up his portfolio because he wasn?t traveling and there was some miscommunication. His temper was that short. They were going to send someone else out and he said, ?Nope, I?m not going to give you my portfolio. I?m done with this?. He didn?t even start and he was done with it already. I was a fan of Spielberg?s and I [said], ?Dad, you turned down an opportunity to work with Steven Spielberg?? and to him it didn?t matter. It mattered more to him about that event that went wrong and that was that.
Paul Power: I was working on a film called Radio Flyer and[ I was working] across the hall from some surf movie Jim Cameron?s wife was doing. I ran into Cameron, we?re the same age, and he came in a looked at my storyboards and he asked me if I would storyboard Terminator II. It would start in three weeks and I wouldn?t leave the project I was on. I said, ?I can?t do it but what about Alex Toth?? He said, ?I love Alex Toth? because Cameron draws. And I said, ?O.K. but I?ve had a falling out with him. So when you call him, he?ll do it for about $2,500 a week. But don?t tell him I sent you.? So the secretary calls and they don?t even get past the money and he say, ?Well, Paul Power suggested you.? And [Alex said] ?Well, I don?t want to do it?. [Makes a sound like telephone hanging up]
He might have done Terminator II.
Audience Member: Can you tell the Stewart Granger story?
David Armstrong: Uh, he ran into him in an elevator and he said, ?I really liked your work on Scaramouch?. Scaramouch was one of his favorite pictures of all time because it had the longest fencing duel, I think, ever put on film. He was really impressed with it and said, ?I loved the picture and you were also good in Prisoner of Zenda?. And he [Granger] said, ?O.K., thanks? and that was the end of it. The elevator door opened and he got out.
John Hitchcock: To mention a couple of the Artists who he was very, very good Friends with. Pat Boyette, was very close to him and they talked on the phone for hours, and hours and hours. And Pete Morisi. He was very close to Pete.
Paul Power: John Severin
John Hitchcock: I did not know he knew Severin that well.
Paul Power: He used to have long conversations with Johnny Severin.
David Armstrong: He knew Fred Wray. Was it Fred Wray? Alex was very into historical stuff. He followed people like Jerry De-[inadible] and Fred Wray. They were into both the Revolutionary War and Civil War stuff and they were also into the Flying Tiger?s stuff. I don?t know if you guys know this, but when he was in the Army, he was on leave and he arranged an in-person interview with Claire Lee Chenault. Because he loved the flying Tigers. He set it up to meet with him while on leave in Tokyo. But, he kept in touch with a lot of those people who had the same kind of interests ? Fred Wray was based in Pennsylvania. And there were a couple other people like that who had specific interests that he followed.
John Hitchcock: And Dave Stevens too.
David Armstrong: Yes, David Stevens.
Ruben Procopio: He did have a fascination, though, with movie stars. He would have me get him the National Enquirer every once in a while just so he could see what was going on. He would comment, ?Oh, John Wayne didn?t like him to be drawn certain ways?. There?s another story ? maybe someone knows more detail ? for the Hollywood Reporter he had done a strip for Jack Lemmon. He met Jack Lemmon, he had to go into the offices and, again, not very impressed with him ? that sort of thing.
John Hitchcock: When he was working for Dell Comics, Zasu Pitts made him take all the lines out of her face. She said it made her look her bad and Alex [said], ?But there are lines on her face!?
Ruben Procopio: It ranged from when he was a young man in New York. He stood outside a courtroom when Errol Flynn got into trouble and waited until he got out of the courtroom. All his life he had a fascination with everybody and anybody. You could sit down with him, like you did for eight hours straight [gestures to Paul Power], and it wouldn?t be a simple five-minute visit with Alex. You would go around the world and back. It included movie stars, what was going on, UFOs, the war, and politics. It ranged from everything except art sometimes. Everything but art.
David Armstrong: I would like to thank everyone for coming and I would like to encourage everyone to stop by the Omni Hotel tomorrow in the Gas Lamp 5 room on the fourth floor. All four of Alex?s children will be there off and on during the day and the artwork will speak for itself. Some of it has never been seen. There are a couple of pieces that came down from Oregon that were sitting in your parents? home. Plus, there are some life drawing sketches from a class he took in the ?80s that have never been seen by anyone except a handful of people. I would encourage you to stop by and take a look. It?s pretty impressive. Thank you very much.
Panel : David Armstrong (moderator), Irwin Hasen, Dana Palmer, Eric Toth, Mike Royer, Paul Power, Rub鮠Procopio, John Hitchcock and Tom de Rosier
Trascribed by Kirsten Rose
Transcript Copyright 2006, The Estate of Alex Toth all rights reserved.