Monday, 31 March 2014

Alex Toth links

Alex Toth is not only a giant in Comic Book history, but also one of the most intriguing and hard-to-fathom personalities to ever work in the medium.

He is at par with Jack Kirby and Will Eisner: much like them he accompanied the american "Comic book" format from infancy to adulthood and left a lasting legacy in the field.

Many call Toth "the artist's artist". But his name deserves to known beyond the elitist community of of collectors, reviewers, cartoonists, editors and publishers.

Let"s face it: cartoonists are no movie stars. They do not even approach the level of popularity that, let's say, some big-name novelists sometimes enjoy.

In the past, when newspaper comic strips were flourishing, I guess names like of Alex Raymond, Al Capp, Mort Walker and Charles Schultz would have ringed a bell even to the most casual newspaper reader. (Walt Disney does not count)

But even in today's pop-culture-saturated environment, the average Joe would not recognize cartoonists’ names other than Frank Miller or Milo Manara (not to mention that the popularity is often country-bound).

I too was introcduced to Toth's work only in recent years, but I got immediately hooked: he was exceptionally talented but more importantly, he cared a lot about the medium.

Toth devoted a lot of time studying the craft it and perfecting his style; trying to come up with rules or even "laws" for visual storytelling and such perfectionism made him a very stern individual and hard to be around.
Some trace this ruggedness back to Toth's own teachers, who had been just as demanding.
But I guess it went beyond that. He's views about how comics should be (not only in terms of form, but also in terms of content) were really black-and-white and left no room for dispute.
He abhorred the darker and more mature curve comics took in the late 1980s.
And while that position is perfectly understandable (to a certain extent), I was scratching my head when reading his argumentations (basically comics are for kids and should be about positive values). 

(in a sense it reminds me of Steve Ditko who had also a very manichaeist view of things)

Many of his comments read like the outbursts of a grumpy old man.
But then again, he did not spare criticism on himself either: a lot of his annotated stuff point out weaknesses in his own works.

Some reports about his suicidal thoughts suggest personal demons we do not know of.

I'm very uncertain about how to write about him: I do not want to pass judgement when knowing very little about his life and Art.

YouTube has only a handful videos about him, and no interview whatsoever with the man itself.

(This DVD collection features a nice documentary)

But he remains incredibly fascinating to me, as do his proficiency, productivity and relentlessness.
Cartoonists remember Alex Toth in this beautiful Special by Twomorrow Publishing (preview available here)

Toth's points are all valid (again, to a certain extent) and they denote a real passion for the craft, but the tone comes across as overall unbalanced.

A more insightful testimony comes from illustrator Bill Stout:

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Warren Companion

A wonderful "handbook" by TwoMorrows Publishing about one of the finest publishers of all times: James Warren

Warren Publishing was responsable for some of the most revered anthologies in comic book history: Eerie, Creepy, Vampirella, Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as one of Harvey Kurtzaman's most forward-looking projects: Help!

Vintage Goodwin/Williamson interview

Before we owned our own VCR, back in the 1980s, at the very lowest point of the Star Wars merchandising machine, the Comic book adaptation of "The Empire Strikes Back" (together with three 5-minute reels of scenes from the first Star Wars on Super 8mm) has been my only gateway toLucas' galaxy Far Far Away...

As a kid I thought this adaptation was rather unsatisfactory, because some things were not exactly as in the movie.

As I got more knowledgeable about how incredibly HARD it is to make a good comic book adaptation of a movie (especially when it has to be released together with the movie and the movie has a lot of post production to go through) I must admit that this is one of the finest examples ever produced.

Nowadays I'm no longer a big Star Wars fan, but I will forever love Al Williamson and Archie Goodwin.

With thanks to Pete Doree and his Blog The Bronze Age Of Comics

Friday, 21 March 2014

Alan Moore treats

The World Wide Web is flooded with Alan Moore treats, to a degree that makes it even pointlees to dedicate a post to him.
I'll just post anything interesting I find on the Bard of Northampton here, I suppose.

Moore, aged 16 (I guess...)

Considering there are bound paperback copies of WATCHMEN on the right, I suppose this dates around 1987-1988.

This photo comes from the archives of Jackie Estrada, who succesfully funded a Kickstarter to publish a photobook called Comic Book People, with vintage photos of comic book creators back in the 70s and 80s

For some real treats visit the project's Kickstarter page.

-probably insiperd by Neil Gaiman's own comment on this photo about Moore looking like a giant in the picture, some genius on the internet compared it with this:

PLUS: Keep up with Mr. Moore through this frequently updated blog:

PLUS: Reviewer Tim Callahan, went through a year-and-a-half re-read of Moore's comics ouvre (he did not manage to read it ALL, but went pretty close).
His thought are to be found at

(I did not know Moore written Star Wars comics!!)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Eisner, Kurtzman, Lee

Some link about the late and forever missed Harvey Kurtzman, one of the single most important driving forces of american comics.

For someone who invented MAD Magazine and has written some of the most biting satires about politics, war, media and Pop culture, I'm surprised by his soft-spoken and even shy demeanour.

Not being an expert on the man himself, I leave it to the linked content to tell the tale about this amazing cartoonist.

A couple of audio files of interviews with underground cartoonists/publishers/academics Art Spiegelman and Denis Kitchen, reflecting on the work of Kurtzman: