By Darryl Ayo
“Thunderjet,” 1952. Written by Harvey Kurtzman and drawn by Alex Toth for FRONTLINE COMBAT #8.
It’s about time I got serious about comics. So let’s go: Alex Toth, one of the most daring cartoonists ever to live. It seems likely that Toth paved the way for Frank Miller to be so bold with black ink in the early 1990s. But while Miller’s use of black is a song for another day, his fields of ink don’t hit quite the same notes that Toth’s do. In my personal opinion, Toth’s black is everything besides subtle. The best way to see just how striking Toth’s work is would be to line up his stories next to those of his peers. Just like in this issue of FRONTLINE COMBAT which also includes Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Bill Elder and John Severin. All, I should add, under the scripting and direction of Harvey Kurtzman, no slouch of a storyteller himself.
But what sets Toth apart is this giant pools of black ink, so thick that they look like holes. So pure that they look like liquid–like syrup poured on the page. Coupled with his unique line and space design that left spaces and fields wide open in each panel. Toth feels like the direct ancestor of the mega-popular Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy. I bought this EC war comic and read it with a straw. Drank those pools of ink in this muggy summer stink. So refreshing.
Not only one of the best illustrative designers in comics, not just one of the best draftsmen, Toth was one of the best storytellers as well. Like seriously:
The Korean War: a jet bombing an enemy train. But let’s rewind that scene a bit, so that you can see some setup as well.
The Thunderjet drops its payload onto an enemy train… boom boom
The plane swoops, leaving a big bomb, falling, yet suspended for our examination, hanging above its inevitable destination.