Alex Toth
By: Douglas Wolk | Categories: Comics, HiLo Heroes

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ALEX TOTH (1928-2006) occupies one of the strangest positions in the pantheon of great cartoonists: an artist of enormous power and lasting influence, he produced almost nothing but ephemera, throwaways and hackwork. Toth could strip any figure down to a handful of perfectly brash lines; he composed every panel and page with immaculate attention to its dramatic force and storytelling fluidity. A master of character design, he devised the look of Space Ghost and the Super Friends cartoon. But Toth was enough of a perfectionist that he became impossible to satisfy — in 1991, he dismissed contemporary comics as “the ugly, mean, vile, banal, twisted, sick, bloody celebration of torture, rape, cruelty, filth, demonic and socio-political psycho-babble.” (His handwritten evisceration of a Steve Rude-drawn Jonny Quest story from 1986 still circulates among cartoonists.) So Toth’s admirers seek out the dopey, gorgeous little stories he scattered across decades of grade-Z funnybooks — Hot Wheels, Red Circle Sorcery, Our Fighting Forces — and try to follow his example, knowing that he could never approve of their efforts.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Ricky Gervais |

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).

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Douglas Wolk, author of Reading Comics and Live at the Apollo, is an arts critic and comics writer in Portland, Oregon. His new book is Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two, with artist Ulises Farinas. Twitter: @douglaswolk