Alex Toth's Zorro: The Complete Dell Adventures

Hermes Press

$49.99, color, 240 pages

Writers: Unknown

Artist: Alex Toth

Reprints Four Color Comics #882, #920, #933, #960, #976, #1003, Zorro #12 (1958-Dec 60)

This was a pleasant surprise.

Not that Toth's work is excellent; that's no surprise at all. But there were several things that jumped out that made this book well worth the 50 bucks.

First, of course, is the artwork. Toth is acknowledged master of action/adventure, accentuated by his mastery of minimalism. With as few strokes as possible, Toth builds a world, pulls the reader along a ride and suggests every face, bush, horse or building necessary -- but no more. Toth's art is always a clean, cold glass of water after a spicy meal.

But an extra bonus is how much of this material has been swiped by other artists! Page after page the veteran comics fan will see panels, layouts, lighting effects, rendering, expressions and body language lifted by one familiar artist after another. And now that I'm seeing more and more Toth, it's obvious the influence he had on later artists, especially Pat Boyette and Frank Thorne.

One other surprise is that, despite these stories being sprinkled into the Four Color anthology with months passing in between, there's actual forward movement in the storyline. For one thing, Zorro actually defeats his arch-enemy, Comandante Monasterio, whom he reveals to the governor as a thief and traitor -- and for the rest of the series, there is only an acting commander at the Pueblo de Los Angeles, much simplifying Zorro's job. That's not only unusual for the 1950s, it's unusual for today's adventure stories -- it would be like Harry Potter killing off Voldemort in the first book, or Flash Gordon deposing Ming in the first reel. While some may feel that's a storytelling mistake, I for one found it refreshing to see a hero actually win, rather than remain in a Batman-Joker merry-go-round.

But, really, if you appreciate Alex Toth, I don't need to review this book, because you've already got it. And if you're not familiar with Toth, this is as good a primer as any to the artist other artists admire.

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I need to invest in Hermes Press. I find soo-o-o much of their output interesting, entertaining and of big-time value! I'll have to keep an eye out for this one.

Toth is such a master of the art form. I have his book collecting the character designs he did for Hanna-Barbera and Ruby Spears, and I just love it.

I'd also love to see a collected edition of Toth's work on the "Hot Wheels" property. Haven't read them, but I want to see all his design work!

I have this in my "to read" pile, but I haven't quite gotten to it yet.

When I pre-ordered this book I was somehow under the impression that it was a collection of comic strips. No matter. Everything you said about Toth’s work is absolutely true. I became a big fan of Howard Chaykin’s back when he was doing American Flagg! in the ‘80s, and in one of the LOC columns he mentioned that he “worshipped the ground Toth walked on.” I was only tangentially familiar with Toth’s work at the time and my tastes were not yet sophisticated enough to appreciate it, but Chaykin’s comments caused me to seek it out and re-evaluate it.

My one criticism of the Zorro volume is that the reproduction is a bit “murky.”

I don't feel the same way about Toth's work. I can see he was a very skilled artist, but most of the time the stories he did just don't excite me all that much. I'm not sure why this is. In the case of some of his Dell work I can attribute it to the writing. I think his later art was too simplified. Sometimes his panels are hard to read because his style and how the image is framed. I think his approach gives me the feeling of being distanced from the characters and stories.

 

Incidentally, Toth did the covers for the last three issues of Marvel's 1990-1991 Zorro series.

Image did a B&W reprint of Toth's Zorro stories in 1998. Both volumes had covers by Toth signed for 1988, but I don't know from where they were drawn. The one on the the first volume has the note "for auld lang syne", and that on the second, which I don't have, "a last riposte".

I finally ready this book last weekend, and I thought it was just wonderful. It was great to see Toth on a series for the long haul (well for him anyways).

I really don't have much to add to what Cap said above. I, for one, was surprised to see the defeat of Monasterio so early in the comic. I just wish that they would have introduced a new comandante. Not necessarily to be quite the foe for Zorro that Monasterio was, but to bring Garcia back down to his station.

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