Thursday, August 15, 2013
“Truth is Truth” – Alex Toth on Carmine Infantino
In today’s day and age when all we hear is praise from one professional to another, it’s worth remembering that, sometimes, creators in the comic book industry just don’t get along for whatever reason. This previously unseen letter from Alex Toth to a friend of his (I’m not at liberty to reveal the name of the recipient) is a classic case. The only thing removed from this letter is text totally unrelated to the subject at hand. The letter was written in January 1976, shortly after Jenette Kahn took over from Carmine Infantino as DC Comics publisher.
Toth and Infantino went back to the late 1940s when they both began working at DC. Joe Kubert had rented an apartment and used it as a studio, sharing the space with Toth along with other artists such as Irwin Hansen and Frank Giacoia. Infantino never worked there, but often visited and recounted several times later how the artists, and others, would socialise and discuss each other’s work. While at DC Toth worked with Infantino, but that doesn’t mean they were in the same room during this time. From DC Toth moved over to Standard where he worked in the company with Ross Andru, an artist that Toth praised later in life.
While Toth was alive Infantino was gracious when it came to his thoughts. Witness this exchange between Gary Groth and Infantino for The Comics Journal:
GROTH: (Nick) Cardy was terrific.
INFANTINO: Oh, to me, he is one of the best in the business. He and Alex [Toth] I think are the best. That’s my opinion, then and now.
GROTH: Alex’s work from the ’50s was just gorgeous.
INFANTINO: He was brilliant.
(The Comics Journal #191)
In saying that there is a clue to the animosity between the two men, in an interview that Infantino gave to Comic Book Artist.
CBA: Were you friends with Alex Toth?
Carmine: I knew Alex. One time, Joe Kubert brought a story in to me that Alex had written and Joe said to me, "Alex wrote a story I didn't request! What should I do?" I said, "You're the editor. You make the decision." Alex was angered over that. I haven't heard from him since.
(Comic Book Artist #1)
Those two quotes were given by Infantino when Toth was still alive. Once Toth passed away Infantino began to let his feelings out. In October, 2010, Twomorrows published an extended interview with Infantino as a book. Titled, Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur, it had two interesting sections relating to Toth and Infantino.
“Julie (Schwartz) played pinochle with Milt Snappin during his lunch hour. That was a scared time for him. That’s why Alex Toth had that fight with Julie. Alex came in at lunch time and asked for his paycheck. Julie told him to wait until he’d finished lunch. Now, everybody knew not to bother Julie during that time, but Alex didn’t care. He wanted his money now. Julie could have given Alex his check, it’d only have taken a moment of his time, but he didn’t want to do it. He wanted to play cards and have lunch and be left alone. I think there was tension between them anyway. Alex hated drawing Jimmy Wakely and he wanted to draw only what he wanted to draw. Well, you couldn’t take that attitude with Julie. He was the boss and didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense. So they had a fight, and Alex walked out. Both of those guys were stubborn.”
Later in the same book Infantino hinted at the issues between himself and Toth.
“I know his personality went through some mad changes later, but back then he was a nice, quiet, young guy and a nice-looking guy too. He talked when he had something to say, but he didn’t go on like Gil Kane would. Later on I tried to work with Alex to keep him at DC, but it didn’t work out. He became difficult to work with. You know the story about Joe Kubert rejecting Alex’s ‘Enemy Ace’ story? Alex changed Kanigher’s story into one of his own. Joe sent it back to him – the entire story. That was the right thing to do. It was disrespectful to Joe. You don’t do that to your editor. I’m sorry he became an unhappy man. Alex was one of the all-time greats and he could done even more than he did. Well it was a shame to see him not use his talent. There was nothing beyond his capabilities.”
(both quotes from Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur)
Despite Infantino attempting to shift the blame away from himself when it came to Toth’s issues with DC, and it is worth nothing that Toth did work at DC once Infantino was gone, according to his screed, Toth let Infantino and others know the exact reasons why he wasn’t willing to work at DC during Infantino’s tenure as publisher – Toth thought he, Infantino, was incompetent.
Toth was never known for being a shrinking violet when it came to expressing his opinions – his critique of Steve Rude is an industry classic. He was forthright and often brutally blunt when asked what he really thought about people, however this often served him in good stead as his praise was just as honest. If he liked someone then they generally knew about it, if he didn’t like someone, well, they generally knew about it too. And Alex Toth clearly didn’t have much time for Carmine Infantino. Still, Infantino wasn’t about to pick a fight with Toth, not while Toth was alive. He might have been a lot of things, but Infantino wasn’t that stupid.
Here, for the first time ever, is Toth on Infantino.
Alex Toth was no saint, but then neither was Carmine Infantino.