Thursday, June 5, 2014

Here's a negative review of Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Work of Alex Toth (not by me)

I don't know how I feel about this, mainly due to not having read the book in question.  But I do own the first two volumes, and I've enjoyed the heck out of those.  Does the reviewer have some solid points about them?  More than likely.  Do they paint Alex Toth in kind of a bad light?  Probably.  But at the same time, as this review notes, Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell wrote these books with the cooperation and support of the Toth family.  Maybe something can be overly critical and yet overly sentimental about its subject at the same time.  My slow brain needs time to process and comprehend the reviewer's definitions of cartoonist and illustrator, too.  And you know what?  You know what this review has done, which is probably opposite its intended effect?

I wasn't particularly planning to get this volume despite having enjoyed the others simply because I'm not as into Toth's animation work as I am his comics.  Now I think I will, simply because it has that color Dune Patrol presentation art.  As with the first two, it's full of stuff like that, examples of Toth's art that make the cover price bearable, even if this reviewer quibbles with the actual choices (and I tend to agree with those points now that he's broached them).  You could spend one hundred thousand words telling me a book is the shittiest thing in human existence, then show me a few gorgeous Toth drawings included in it, and I'll start salivating to own it like I'm a starving dog.

The comment attached is something you definitely need to check out for its link to a fascinating and poignant online comic by Dylan Williams about his longterm via mail relationship with Toth himself.  I wish I'd thought of mailing my art to Toth for the privilege of pissing him off and having him rip me a new asshole.  The closest to that experience I've come is when I made the mistake of expressing a mild enjoyment of both Toth's and Iwao Takamoto's (and, I suppose, Doug Wildey's, though I didn't know it at the time) animation designs to John Kricfalusi on his superb blog.  Kricfalusi didn't take my opinion seriously enough to blow his stack like he has with others, and like Toth did with guys like William Stout and Steve Rude, both of whom-- along with Kricfalusi, for that matter-- occupy the rare artistic elevations cats like I will never climb to.  He just brusquely dismissed me as the fool I am with a comment about how dumb it is to like their "little flesh-colored eyes."  His silence on the art I dared show him spoke plenty, too.  I'd rather be told I suck, though.  Receiving a black eye, even a figurative one, is better than being wussy enough in your skills a pro won't even fight you.  Imagine what Toth would have written to me.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

Anyway, getting back to the art choices in this Toth series.  Adding non-Toth stuff without proper attribution is certainly problematic.  That just seems kind of goofy, doesn't it?  I love Wildey almost as much as I do Toth, but I don't want him as a substitute when what I'm really in search of perpetually are complete Toth stories rather than excerpts.

That points out just how neglected up until now Toth has been, perhaps because of the artist's mercurial nature.  The reviewer mentions some of the few good books of Toth art out there, and they're absolutely indispensable.  If you can get them.  I own both Setting the Standard (which seems to be slipping out of print if the listing on Amazon is any indication) and the Zorro volumes (it may be going out of print now, too), and like the reviewer, I prefer them to these because they're collections of Toth's sequential work, with complete stories.  The first volume of Enrique Sanchez Abuli's Torpedo has two gorgeous period tales by Toth (plus Jordi Bernet as a bonus), so that one is a must, too.  But far too many books where his art exists are either out of print or inconveniently feature Toth folded in with a lot of other artists because he did so many short stories for anthologies.  There's no DC Universe by Alex Toth out there with every single thing he did for that company, in the same style of their Neal Adams books or the Gene Colan Batman one.  There's no big collection of his Dell work-- something titled Alex Toth in Hollywood with everything he did for Dell would be my pick for Book of the Year in whatever year some far-thinking publisher chose to put it out.  Oh my stars, there was!  Not one, but two volumes.  Now try to track one down and possess it, though!  Might as well dig for diamonds in your backyard.  And, most frustrating of all, Bravo for Adventure isn't in print anywhere!

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with these giant books because they give me back some of the sketches and examples of Toth I left back in the States when I moved to Japan and for the complete stories they do contain.  But what we really and truly need are some dedicated Toth volumes of just his stories.  Toth's DC Horrors, Toth in Space, Toth Goes to the Movies, Toth at War, Creepy and Eerie Present Alex Toth.

We need more Toth, publishers!  Let's snap it up and get on the ball here!

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