The celebrated Mr. K pays a BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE to one of the all-time greats…

NOTE FROM DAN: The late, great Alex Toth was born 95 years ago and this year we’ve got two tributes to one of comics’ finest artists. Dig the piece below by Paul Kupperberg and click here for Peter Bosch’s companion piece. Right on.


Over the course of four years, Alex Toth (June 25, 1928 – May 27, 2006) drew close to 900 pages of movie and television comic book adaptations for the Dell Comics anthology title, Four Color Comics. War, Westerns, comedies, sitcoms. And these were 32 page comic book stories, no ads!

Toth is, of course, one of the most respected creators in the history of comics. He got his start working for a comics packager when he was 15 and, after graduating New York’s School of Industrial Arts in 1948, he was hired by National Periodical Publications/DC Comics editor Sheldon Mayer to draw Green Lantern.

He was soon a DC regular with his art gracing the Justice Society of America, Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, and the Atom and then, after the original superhero craze ended, applying his talents to Westerns like Johnny Thunder in All-Star Western, and Rex the Wonder Dog, which he co-created with writer Robert Kanigher. Editor Julie Schwartz, who worked with just about every major talent of the 1940s through the 1980s called Toth “my best artist at the time” in Les Daniels’ DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes (1995, Bullfinch Press).

Adventure #418

By the 1960s, a new Alex Toth story was a rare treat to be hunted down and savored. It would have blown my mind in 1972, while I was salivating over a two-part Black Canary back-up written by Denny O’Neil that Toth drew in Adventure Comics #418–419, that there were, in those quarter bins I flipped so blithely through, Dell Comics movie and TV adaptations — literally hundreds of pages of that artistic magic that could have been mine.

Of the more than two dozen Toth-illustrated issues of Four Color Comics, the six issues featuring Zorro are probably the best known, but there’s Toth gold in a lot more of them thar pages.


Four Color Comics #790 (April 1957). An adaptation of John Ford’s World War II aviation picture The Wings of Eagles (MGM, 1957), starring John Wayne and Dan Dailey.

Four Color Comics #822 (August 1957). In middle school, I loved the book Johnny Tremaine by Esther Forbes (1943), a young adult novel set in Revolutionary War times that the 1957 Disney movie Paul Revere’s Ride was loosely based upon.

Four Color Comics #846 (October 1957). Stewart Granger! Rhonda Fleming! And… Chill Wills! The 1957 MGM release Gun Glory had it all… but still, this Toth adaptation is the best thing about the film.

Four Color Comics #882 (February 1958). Based on the Disney TV series starring Guy Williams (1957-59, 1960-61), Toth’s half dozen Four Color issues of Zorro have since been recognized as comic book classics and, fortunately, reprinted.

Four Color Comics #914 (July 1958). A bit of fluff starring Andy Griffith, No Time for Sergeants (1958, Warner Bros.) was a sort of a proto-Gomer Pyle (your basic naïve hillbilly out of his backwoods element) that allowed Toth to go big and broad in his humor.

Four Color Comics #1018 (May/July 1959). Toth does John Wayne (again), Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Walter Brennan in one of the great Westerns of the era, Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959, Warner Bros.), with a screenplay co-written by Stars Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’s Leigh Brackett.

Four Color Comics #1041 (October/December 1959). Sea Hunt (1958-1961) was a syndicated TV show created by Ivan Tors that made Lloyd Bridges famous for his role as ex-Navy diver Mike Nelson (and gave acting starts to his young sons, Beau and Jeff).

Four Color Comics #1066 (January/March 1960). The first of three issues by Toth featuring 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64), the hip, popular private eye series starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Roger Smith and Edd (Kooky) Byrnes. Like, outta sight, man.

Four Color Comics #1069 (November 1959/January 1960). As much as I love Jimmy Stewart, The FBI Story (1959, Warner Bros.) is a bit of Cold War propaganda that could only be improved by being rendered in comics form by Toth.

Four Color Comics #1071 (January/March 1960). Too bucolic for words, The Real McCoys was a popular sitcom that ran first on ABC (1957-62) and then CBS (1962-63), starring veteran character actor Walter Brennan as the crusty old patriarch of a struggling Appalachian farm family relocated to sunny California.

Four Color Comics #1085 (January/March 1960). Alex Toth Morlocks! ‘Nuff said!

Four Color Comics #1105 (June/August 1960). Alex Toth’s ZaSu Pitts! More than ’nuff said!

Four Color Comics #1180 (April/June 1961). The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy) was a powerhouse of early TV, running from 1953 to 1964 (on ABC and CBS). It starred actor, nightclub entertainer, producer, and philanthropist Danny Thomas, whose act seemed to consist of lots of yelling and frantic facial expressions. Toth did him justice.



— Bask in ALEX TOTH’s JUSTICE LEAGUE: A Birthday Celebration. Click here.

PAUL KUPPERBERG was a Silver Age fan who grew up to become a Bronze Age comic book creator, writer of Superman, the Doom Patrol, and Green Lantern, creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate, and Takion, and slayer of Aquababy, Archie, and Vigilante. He is the Harvey and Eisner Award nominated writer of Archie Comics’ Life with Archie, and his YA novel Kevin was nominated for a GLAAD media award and won a Scribe Award from the IAMTW. Now, as a Post-Modern Age gray eminence, Paul spends a lot of time looking back in his columns for 13th Dimension and in books such as Direct Conversations: Talks with Fellow DC Comics Bronze Age Creators and Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in Their own Words, available, along with a whole bunch of other books he’s written, by clicking the links below.



Author: Dan Greenfield

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1 Comment

  1. Dell Four Color Comics are great. I’ve been hunting down the Toth issues for a while.
    Amazing how good he was.

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