June 4, 2006

The artist drops dead at his drawing table.

Goodbye to Alex Toth:
Before working in animation, Toth was a comic book artist, widely regarded as brilliant, who had some success but even more frustration.

He rarely held on to an artist job for long because of a simple, subtle drawing style and a stubborn adherence to his artistic principles. And he preferred pirate tales and westerns over the more popular super hero comics.

"Toth was one of the most brilliant artists ever in comic books but also someone who was the odd man out in many ways," said comics publisher and critic Gary Groth. "He was never associated with a particular character, and he was pushed off to marginal titles."

But Toth's forms would prove influential in underground comics and graphic novels in later decades. Comic artist Will Eisner called him "a mastery of realism within a stunning illustrative style."...

Drawing for Hanna Barbera in the 1960s and 1970s, Toth designed characters for adventure cartoons "Jonny Quest" and "The Herculoids" in addition to "The Superfriends" and "Space Ghost," and he achieved the wider recognition and commercial success that had eluded him.
Dying at the drawing table -- how often does that happen? Many times, when someone has died, I have heard the claim made that the person died doing what he loved, and it usually seems to be a sad search for something positive to say. But here was Toth, 77 years old and in failing health, still immersed in his life's work.

UPDATE: If I drop dead next to my laptop, be sure to link to this post and say you know what.


Sanjay said...

But, seriousliy, the question is, if you were feeling really really sick suddenly and thought that moment might be coming, would you in fact run like hell toward your laptop and boot it up on the off chance you might be found that way (stopping only to dial 911 en route)? Isn't that what an artist ought to do? Should you keep some half-finished blog post reay to come up at the touch of a function key ("Dear all: I fear this might be my last blo.........")?

Ann Althouse said...

I'm sure my last dying effort would be to hit "publish."

Troy said...

Perhaps we could post one last comment -- to be put up on screen at your funeral? Sort of a group virtual eulogy....

Or we could all simul-live-blog your funeral. Quxxo could show up one last time and post a comment telling us how Bush lied and Iraqis died. What better way to send you off? Would you be mad if we doodled on the program to the service as we listened? We could post the doodles on your blog.

Perhaps this is getting a bit morbid.

Are you sure you wouldn't rather go out in blaze teaching ripeness or mootness?

phillywalker said...

Reminds me of the main character in Marilyn Robinson's wonderful novel, Gilead. He is an elderly preacher with a heart condition, and he knows he is going to drop dead soon.

"I have thought I might have a book ready at hand to clutch if I began to experience unusual pain, so that it would have an especial recommendation from being found in my hands. That seemed theatrical, on consideration, and it might have the perverse effect of burdening the book with unpleasant associations. The ones I considered, by the way, were Donne and Herbert and Barth's Epistle to the Romans and Volume II of Calvin's Institutes. Which is by no means to slight Volume I."

I love that. Great book.

Ann Althouse said...

Don't worry about being morbid. Althouse laughs at death.

Troy said...

Troy appreciates that Althouse laughs at death.

What if they had to move your funeral for forum non conveniens?

verification word: zgyhrb -- Ziggy herb -- 'nuff said.

Brendan said...

died doing what he loved

Does this apply to men who die in the throes of sex?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Alex Toth was an artist's artist.

His romance comics of the 1950's were beautiful and anything but simple.

Possibly his greatest single story was "Crushed Gardenia"; which can be viewed here in black and white and here in color. Published over 50 years ago, it remains a highwater mark of comics art and remains influential to this day.

(He was also influential outside of comics!)

ignacio said...

Dimebag (guitarist of Pantera) died what may come close to the perfect death. He was onstage playing loud music when a fan came on and shot him dead.

I think that's better than dying of a heart attack because it possibly hurts less and is over more quickly with less anxiety.

Dying in your sleep may be the ideal, but Dimebag perhaps came close.

Ann Althouse said...

Ignacio: Thanks for remembering Dimebag Darrell. Here's my post about his death.

Jeff: Thanks for the great links.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the best way to die is, but here are the eleven worst ways to die, in no particular order.

Eaten alive by an animal.

Burned at the stake.

Drawn an quartered.



Sewn into a sack with a dog and thrown into the Tiber river.


Buried alive.



Hot poker up the yin-yang.

Most of us will not die in any of these ways. Life is pretty good!

(Ironically, of all these horrible deaths, the most likely for a person living in the modern, technological West is the first: being eaten alive by an animal. It seems forever and always we will have to keep an eye on those damn animals!)

Laura Reynolds said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laura Reynolds said...

The "heros" in Monthy Python and the Holy Grail were saved from an attack when the animator dropped dead from a heart attack.

Life imitates art

Kev said...

Dimebag, IMHO, didn't experience the ultimate musician's death because of the deranged fan/gunplay angle (not to mention being so young), but, as a musician, I would agree that, in lieu of ever retiring, most of us would be content to drop dead on the bandstand at a ripe old age, particularly if it happened after an especially good solo.

Ron said...

Imagine if you and RLC passed away while cross-posting on the same topic!

It'd be like the deaths of Jefferson and John Adams...

"They found Prof. Althouse with a spilled glass of white wine near the keyboard. Alas, the screen said 'Blogger 404 error'."

Ann Althouse said...

Well, it would have to be red wine.

Robert R. said...

Those are some excellent links posted by Jeff.

Toth was a terrific artist. I have to say that one of the things that's most memorable about him was his lettering. Not many people have such a distinct and identifiable printing style.

Speaking of convergences, although I think the Chihuly vs. Rubino suit is without merit, I wonder if Toth and other comic book artists might have had a legitimate case of copyright infringement against Roy Lichtenstein.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Thanks for the kind words on the links. I might point out that most of the links are for the whol stories; just click on the page and the next page will load.

I blogged at slightly greater length, with some new scans here.