Alex Toth 1928 - 2006
I first became aware of Alex Toth in the letter column of Mike Allred's Madman #2. Toth wrote in to congratulate Allred on his first issue, and praised both the joy in the style and subject matter of the comic. He commended Allred for creating a comic like Madman in industry dominated by grim comics produced, he said, if I'm remembering correctly, by "malevolent wingnuts," or something to that effect. I wondered who this cranky old man was, and though i agreed with his statements, i was sure that such a sweeping denunciation included some comics i liked. Allred, however, had nothing but adulation for Toth, and listed him as one of his heroes.
As I dug around I found out two things: Toth was a cranky old man, but he was also enormously influential. For a good chunk of his career he worked as a concept designer at Hanna-Barbera, designing hundreds of characters, most notably perhaps The Superfriends. Without knowing it, I’d owned a book of Toth’s art for years and I thumbed through it regularly. Whether you read comics or not, you’ve seen Toth’s work.
In comics, Toth is regarded as an artist’s artist. Creators whose work looks nothing like Toth’s cite him as an influence, and envy his economy of line. I think Ty Templeton said once that anyone can draw an arm using fifty lines, the difficulty lies in draw it using one line. Toth was a master of doing more with less. His clean line style lent itself to animation, but even in his comics, he created credible scenes using only a few lines and well placed black areas. He was a proponent of storytelling above all else, and his notes show that he was always teaching and always learning. He left comics a better place for his having been there.
You can see more of Toth's work at this link, or at his official site. Go over to The Comics Reporter to read a proper eulogy.