Alex Toth (June 25, 1928–May 27, 2006), pronounced with a long “o,” was an acclaimed professional cartoonist active from the 1940s through the 1980s. Toth’s work began in the American comic book industry, but is best known for his animation designs for Hanna-Barbera throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His work included Super Friends, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Birdman. Toth’s work has been resurrected in the late-night, adult-themed spinoffs on Cartoon Network: Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
Toth’s contributions to the comics medium are not widely known among casual fans. He did much of his comics work outside the current mainstream of superhero comics, concentrating instead on such subjects as hot rod racing, romance, horror, and action-adventure. His stint on Disney’s Zorro is highly regarded and has been reprinted in trade paperback form several times. Also, there are two volumes of The Alex Toth Reader, published by Pure Imagination, which focuses on his work for Standard and Western publishing. Otherwise, the bulk of his shorter stories can be difficult to locate. Nonetheless, he is widely regarded as an “artist’s artist” and is often lumped among such greats as Will Eisner and Jack Kirby as one of the undisputed masters of the sequential storytelling medium.
Journalist Tom Spurgeon wrote that Toth possessed “an almost transcendent understanding of the power of art as a visual story component,” and called him “one of the handful of people who could seriously enter into Greatest Comic Book Artist of All-Time discussions” and “a giant of 20th Century cartoon design.” He was formally inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990.
In spite of the fact that Toth’s design of the Super Friends Batman would arguably become the one most familiar to the children of the 70s, his work on any actual Batman comics was almost non-existent. In fact, Toth only drew one solo Batman adventure:”Death Flies The Haunted Sky”, written by Archie Goodwin and featured in Detective Comics #442 from September, 1974:
This story was reprinted in Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told.
Toth did draw Batman on other occasions though, as seen below in a page taken from a Superman Annual, published in 1983:
Toth’s final Batman piece appeared on the cover of Batman Black And White #4 from 1996. As you can see, Toth’s design excellence is on full display here, as he turns the picture of Batman in the spotlight into a configuration of shapes and shades.
Alex Toth…a true comic book visionary.