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Comic Legends: The Infamous 'Missing' Alex Toth Enemy Ace Story

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COMIC LEGEND:

Joe Kubert refused to pay for a finished Alex Toth Enemy Ace story, with the story never to be seen again

STATUS:

True

I don't know how I managed to avoid actually featuring this one in the past, as it is one of those classic comic book tales that I typically got around to in the first couple of years of this feature. But oh well, better late than never!

Alex Toth was one of the greatest comic book artists of the 20th Century, but he is perhaps best known for his later work in the world of animation, where he designed some of the greatest Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters of the 1960s and 1970s, including perhaps most notably Space Ghost...

and the Super Friends...

There were two major things that kept Toth from being a more famous comic book artist to the general public. One, he never had a long run on any major superhero character and two, tied into one, he didn't like drawing full comic book stories. He liked to do short stories, since he put so much detail into his work that he liked to keep the stories on the short side.

Toth's comic book career is one of the most eclectic that you'll ever see, even though the guy was a clear artistic genius...

In any event, in the late 1960s, when Joe Orlando and Joe Kubert, both peers of Toth who admired his work a lot, became editors at DC Comics (on the horror and war comics lines, respectively), they both went to go give Toth work as soon as they could.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to Toth doing an Enemy Ace story in Star Spangled War Stories #244.

The comic book cover specifically touted that Toth was going to draw the Enemy Ace story in the comic, as it was considered a big deal to have a long Toth story in your comic book...

Here is where things get tricky. Toth was well known to be a bit of a maverick. The type of guy who would "improve" stories when given the chance, to change dialogue and scenes if he thought he could help the story. Kubert did not like that, and here's the thing - there are two versions of the story. In one of them, Toth hands in the completed (penciled, inked and lettered) story but he has altered Robert Kanigher's script so much that Kubert rejects it. In the other version, Toth doesn't dramatically alter the story, but he alters it enough that the story is a page too long and Kubert did not want to have to edit it so that the extra page could be eliminated without ruining the story, so Kubert rejects it.

In either version, Toth is given the pages back as Kubert refuses to pay for them. So now Toth has a completely finished Enemy Ace story that he can't sell anywhere else, really, because it is so clearly an Enemy Ace story, so he just throws the pages in the trunk of his car and they're never seen again.

With the story now due in a very short period of time and the Toth story missing, Kubert enlists a young Neal Adams, who miraculously produces the story (in the style of Joe Kubert, one of Adams' artistic idols) in a short period of time and the book makes its deadline...

Mark Evanier, one of the few people ever to see Toth's originals, described them as: "As one who actually saw the story in question, I must say that I don't think it was Alex's finest moment, just in terms of the drawing. This is no slam on Alex. Even his worst work was better than most folks' best work, but if I had to rank everything he did for DC during this period in terms of artistic achievement, this story would not have been in the top part of the list." "My recollection is that he was too "in love" with drawing the planes and lost the people in the story… lots of whole pages of tiny aircraft way up in the sky with lots of blank panel below. In a way, it reminded me of that EC story he did with the planes, which I also found rather cold and uninvolving.”

Mark's referring to "Thunder Jet" from Frontline Combat #8 from EC in the early 1950s....

The late Toth never really gave his side of the story, but we know the basic strokes of the story DID happen.

Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed - How many Brady Kids were the minimum amount needed to do A Very Brady Christmas?

OK, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo, which I don't even actually use on the CBR editions of this column, but I do use them when I collect them all on legendsrevealed.com!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

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See you all next week!

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