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Alex Toth Dies at 77

Comicbook and animation maverick Alex Toth died May 27 at his drawing table at home in Burbank, reported THE L.A. TIMES. He was 77.

"For 50 years he did what he wanted to do smoke cigarettes, sit on the couch and draw," his daughter Dana Palmer said. "But in his final year there was such a great spirit in him, and he had made peace with everybody on Earth that he needed to make peace with."

Toth is best known for his character designs for such Hanna-Barbera productions as SUPERFRIENDS, SPACE GHOST and HERCULOIDS.

"The work he did there touched more lives than anything else he had done," Paul Levitz, president/publisher of DC Comics, said. "He found ways to take characters [like Superman] from their more complicated printed form into a simpler form for animation that still held on to their power and majesty."

Toths achievement in animation came after years of jumping from company to company in the comics business.

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

Some say Toths own attitude hurt his career with his changing styles, personality conflicts with editors and harsh public critiques of peers. In a 1970 interview with GRAPHIC STORY magazine, Toth said, "I expected to have done a lot more with it than I have. I am my biggest disappointment."

Toth was born in New York City on June 25, 1928, the son of a house painter. He developed his childhood love of sketching at the High School of Industrial Arts where, even before graduation, he was making money drawing short stories and small illustrations for Heroic Comics.

In 1947, he got a big break when Sheldon Mayer, an editor at DC Comics, hired him to work on GREEN LANTERN and DR. MID-NITE.

By the end of the 1950s, after a run in the Army, Toth settled in San Jose, a rare decision in the comics and cartoon industry, which was concentrated in New York. Working for Dell Comics, he became a specialist of sorts in titles that adapted comics from television shows and film, which included SEA HUNT, 77 SUNSET STRIP and ZORRO, based on the Disney TV series.

Toth moved to Southern California and, in 1964, did his first work for Hanna-Barbera, which made good use of his affinity for economical composition.

Toth appeared at comicbook conventions and became notorious for his strident views on art and peers.

Groth, who interviewed and sparred with Toth on several occasions, remembers the artist as an outsider of sorts because his politics were "to the right of [Ronald] Reagan," and he detested what he saw as the celebration of liberal or nihilistic comics in the 1980s that earned raves but contradicted his personal values.

But when it came to art, he often told audiences, "I spent the first half of my career learning what to put into my work, and the second half learning what to leave out."

In addition to his daughter Palmer of Mexico Beach, Fla., Toth is survived by son Eric of Holland, Mich., daughter Carrie Morash of Evanston, Wyo., and son Damon Toth of Costa Mesa all from his marriage to Christina Hyde of Wolf Creek, Ore., which ended in divorce many years ago and four grandchildren: Alex, Wyatt, Ethan and Anya.

At the artist's request, no memorial service is planned. The family has set up a mailbox for cards: P.O. Box 1556, Holland, MI, 49422-1556.

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