Archive for May, 2006



I was planning on moving on from the ‘super gorilla’ drawings for a while…. maybe for a LONG while. However, after drawing the FLASH (non-gorilla version) a couple of posts back– almost immediately after I’d finished it, the image of him as a great ape, loping along at super-speed flashed in my mind and imagination. It’s like it was demanding to be drawn… and I never deny my imagination when it tells me to draw something. After mind-numbingly drawing what OTHER people tell me to draw almost all the time, I’m not likely to turn away my own subconscious when it presents me with an opportunity to do something -I- might want to do. I realize that Art Adams has already drawn FLASH as a gorilla… and I was attempting to stay away from any characters that he might have done in this manner…but this is one that I just couldn’t resist.


This is Entry 234.


ALEX TOTH 1928-2006

It was announced on the TOTHFANS forums Saturday that Alex Toth passed away while working at his drawing table– he was 78 years old. Toth was one of those comic book artists that are often referred to as an ‘artists artist’. He was revered by so many in the comic book artistic community. Toth had been very ill recently, and he was inundated with cards and letters from those who appreciated his work– something that according to his son, Eric, he seemed to be unaware of until the last couple of years of his life. He had been somewhat of a recluse in recent years and only communicated with select people via his famous ‘postcard letters’ that would often include sketches and doodles. He had garnered a reputation for being somewhat of a curmudgeon over the years… of having little patience for stories and art that he found lacking– that came up short, in his estimation, in either craft or content.

That’s because Alex Toth was an artist with a capital ‘A’.

It’s been said that Toth could say more with one line than most artists could with a hundred– and this is true. But his work was much more than an economy of line. Toth was a master of shadow and light… his work has a balance of black and white that is breathtaking. Seeing his art is like watching the best of noir film. Toth was an explorer with his work. A visual journey through the history of his output reveals that he was always striving to improve and coalesce– to refine– his work down to its essence. You can see in his early works the same roots/influences that begat other cartoonists such as Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowski and Gil Kane. But Toth diverged at some point from those beginnings to create a visual language that he was always pushing toward something. I believe this is the core of the true artist. Most of us are nothing more than loiterers– happy to be where we are…. content to have the level of craft we’ve achieved and deathly afraid to move away from it. We fear that to change and/or grow would mean to alienate those who enjoy our work. Toth didn’t think in those terms. His sight was firmly fixed on the next level of achievement. It shows in the plethora of sketches that you can find posted all over the internet if you do a search on his name (and, wonderfully, you’ll also be able to own when DEAR JOHN– THE ALEX TOTH DOODLE BOOK is released in September by OCTOPUS PRESS– Jeff Parker’s publishing company). He was ever drawing– always sketching. I am reminded of something that Donald Early– a teacher of mine in art school– told me once during a conversation we were having. He related a story about Michaelangelo, on his death-bed, struggling with a little piece of clay, still obsessed– even at the end– with his quest for perfection. With Toth’s recent illness…. perhaps he felt that his time was short, I don’t know. But the idea that he passed away at the drawing table, still working– still searching for that thing that the true, obsessed artist looks for– is something that doesn’t surprise me.

He was an Artist.

You can find several books on Toth and his work if you search the web for them. Here’s a list of four that I own and cherish:

I don’t know if these books are still in print, or if they’re available at sites like– but you would be well served to do a Google search on these titles to see if you can scare them up. They collect just a small part of the brilliant works Toth has left us with. He was an original and we’re all so lucky to have his art to inspire and thrill us for all time.

This is Entry 233.




My first monthly (well, I say ‘monthly’… but I’ve never really been an actual monthly artist) assigment was the FLASH series at DC starting back in 1993 (yikes…. just seeing that date makes me feel old). I’ll say right up front that I wasn’t ready for a monthly assignment at the time. Other than sample pages, a mini series for a small publishing company and a couple of short stories for JUSTICE LEAGUE QUARTERLY, I’d never worked on something as daunting as a regular title. And it WAS very daunting. I was lucky in that my writer was Mark Waid and his stories were wonderful constructions to have to work with as a young artist. I’ve said in many interviews that Mark always challenges me with the kinds of things he asks me to draw. They’re always difficult to pull off (and I’ve had varying degrees of success)– but they’re always interesting. The thing about working with Mark on FLASH was that EVERYTHING he asked me to draw was challenging– but that’s because I’d had very little experience in drawing much of anything at the time. There’s nothing like being thrown into the crucible of working on a monthly title early on to make you grow and change as an artist. When I look at my first issue of FLASH I still cringe. I have to give a lot of thanks and credit to Brian Augustyn and Ruben Diaz (my editors on the book) for sticking with me and letting me learn and grow on the job. I also owe a lot to Mark Waid for being patient with me in butchering his terrific scripts early on– but not freaking out and asking for my head.

Now, FLASH is a character that I think I would like to revisit at some time. Maybe it’s the George Lucas in me, but I look back at those early issues, and I feel like making amends for them. I’d like to do at least a short run (no pun intended) on the book at some point to make up for those cruddy early efforts. The funny thing (or disheartening, depending on the mood I’m in at the time) is– I still meet folks at almost every show I go to that count my work on FLASH as their absolute favorite of mine. I feel as though I’ve grown immensely as an artist over the years since then– but I can see where their coming from. It’s fun to watch a new artist really learning on the job and watching them emerge. I’ve enjoyed that with many of my favorites I’ve watched since I first became a fan.

This is Entry 232.




SUPERMAN is a character that I have never been able to be comfortable drawing. It’s one of the reasons why I only lasted (I think) 8 issues on ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN some 5 years back or so. I was thrilled to be asked to work on an iconic character like SUPERMAN at first. He was the FIRST superhero– and the greatest. His history is almost 70 years of constant publication– and he has been written and drawn by some of the most legendary talent in comics. There’s a lot to try to live up to when working on the Man of Steel….and I quickly learned that for me, it was ‘wrong time– wrong place’ with my run on AOS. What made me think of this was that I recently was flipping through a stack of old sketches of mine, and I came across many sheets of studies of the character I had done in preparation for my work on AOS. I’m struck now by the sheer amount of attempts/takes I was trying with the sketches to get a feel for ‘my’ version of the character. Nothing looked like it was working, and seeing them, I am reminded of the vague feeling of frustration I had in not being able to come up with my own ‘definitive’ look for the character. Part of that frustration was also that I felt like I was in Ed McGuinness’s shadow during that time. He had set the bar for drawing SUPERMAN at that point…. and I felt like I was being brought in to further that look– to perhaps be a ‘poor man’s’ Ed on AOS. I made the mistake of actually trying to play in to that feeling… and that didn’t work. By the time I’d finally started to feel a bit more comfortable drawing the character (and his supporting cast, natch)– I was at wits end with the quality of stories that I was being given to draw, and so I quit the book as soon as I could.

Part of me would like another crack at SUPERMAN some time in the future– but I think a bigger part tells me to stay away. All that history and all those expectations weigh too heavily on my mind with this guy. Chances are, I might never even get that opportunity– but I think that even if I did…. I’d have to think long and hard about whether to revisit that underlying weight and frustration. Perhaps some artists just aren’t meant to– or are right for– certain characters.

This is Entry 231.




Just a quick one today….. I felt like drawing some TELLOS characters. And I hadn’t drawn HAWKE or RIKK in quite a while, so I thought I’d revisit that nutty duo again after so long. I think that of the 10 full issue and ‘Prologue’ and ‘Prelude’ issues of TELLOS that Todd and I did, issue #4–which introduced these two guys– is my favorite. I remember talking with Todd about his ideas for the story, and the breakneck ride down the water system of the floating city of LUFTHOLDE– and feeling a little less than enthusiastic about having to draw it. It was going to be very difficult to pull off… and I wasn’t really looking forward to it. But when I sat down and actually started to draw the scene, it was an absolute blast. I fell in love with these two characters immediately, and TELLOS #4 was a real thrill to draw from cover to cover.

Of course, I love all the TELLOS characters…. but the kinetic nature of issue 4 was probably the most fun I had during the whole series.

This is Entry 230.