Friday, July 31, 2015

Number 1768: Roth by Toth

When Pete Millar branched off into doing companion titles to his Drag Cartoons magazine, he licensed Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Roth’s biography is here. Big Daddy was a car designer, and also the designer of the popular Rat Fink and monster t-shirts kids had to have in bygone days. Rat Fink was everywhere: model kits, decals, and of course the t-shirts.

Alex Toth (who signs with the name “Big Fatty” Toth) did some pages for early issues of Pete Millar’s magazines. I have included the two strips he did for issue #2 of Big Daddy Roth #2 (1964). I scanned them from my copy, bought fresh off the stands when it came out. I bought it because it had art by Toth, including a couple of pages on the Beatles.

When Toth did this two-page dig at the Beatles (did he write it, also?) there was talk that the Fab Four’s fame could not last. Even being a Beatles fan, I wondered in 1964 if they would still be relevant in 1965 and beyond. Over 50 years later, history has answered with its decision.


Ryan Anthony said...

Despite the exaggeration, I thought the German guy's accent was more "authentic" sounding than you usually got in the old comics.

I wonder if Toth remembered that second strip when Lennon died in '80. And that autograph book with Presley's signature from '87 was a mite creepy. Unless he really is still alive...!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I once read on the magazine "Linus" (April 1970) an excerpt from "John and Yoko year one", a Rolling Stone article by Ritchie Yorke.
The excerpt describes a meeting of J and Y with Marshal McLuhan in Dec. 1969 in Toronto, a sort of dialogue about the Beatles craze, (filmed by canadian TV).

Mc Luhan says to John: "You create a mood that involves your audience deeply. Your goal is to create and define a mood.
You project a stylistic pattern, a model that the audience can follow, participate..."

John : "Yes, and as soon as you find such a model, you gotta destroy it. Else you fall into boredom. You dig it, then destroy it. Boredom is the alternative."

McLuhan: "Fascinating. I think the audience wants to know which models you felt were more relevant, more alive for you, and which are those that you now refuse.

John: "The Beatles model is one of those that have to be eradicated, destroyed.
Because if it remains the same is like a monument, or a museum, and if there's something our era does not need is a Beatles museum. The Beatles have to change, move on."

McLuhan: "Or else they just become a fashion?"

John: "This already happened. Now we are bound to change everything, completely".

So, it's funny Toth in his great two-pager imagined the "Silly" Beatles of 1964 doing "nostalgia" gigs for their aged beatles-crazed fans in 1994. Luckily, John was wise enough to avert this. I wish many other musicians could read this.
Forgive bad grammar Pappy, this is a translation into English of an interview translated into Italian. A complete mess.
Peace and Love.

Alicia American said...

OMG Pappy did u C that 1 girl had a 1987 Elvis Presley ottograph in her book? I bet THAT goes 4 a lot on Ebay yo OMG!!

Pappy said...

J D, I remember reading that Lennon interview with McLuhan in Rolling Stone. At the time it didn't mean much to me. I'm sure that John Lennon thought the Beatles could not go on indefinitely as the Beatles and remain relevant. I think we fans were more upset that the Beatles broke up and went their separate ways. Many of us were so into the "Beatles mood" that we took it personally, as if there was a divorce. To compound our hurt, Lennon's death hit many of us like a death in the family.

Yet relevant they were! I was in the Army in Nürnberg, Germany in 1967 when Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. Our post exchange got the British pressing on Parlophone and I bought it the day it came out. I had a little Phillips record player, and went back to my room to listen. Before long I had a dozen or more fellow GIs with all kinds of different backgrounds in my room: black, white, country, city...all of us listened to the album in silence and then talked about it when it was over. I never had that experience with anything other than a Beatles album, and it was when I understood they had a cultural influence far beyond the Beatlemania moptops of their introduction to Americans. What Toth is satirizing in his strip is the ludicrous idea that rock 'n' roll idols could go on as they were in their youthful glory days, become old men, still rocking. Ask Paul McCartney, Ringo, the Rolling Stones, et al., how that has worked out for them.

Pappy said...

Ryan and Alicia, both of you noticed the 1987 Presley autograph; it went right over my head.

Elvis, like some rockers, had an accelerated lifestyle, burning himself out at a young age. When Elvis died he was only what, 42? That seems way young to me now. "Oh, to be fifty again!" is my shout out. I'll bet Elvis had lived the equivalent of a couple of lifetimes already by the time he died. Me, I haven't lived nearly a full lifetime yet, and I want more.

Daniel [] said...

Elvis did not so much burn out as crap out.

Pappy said...

Daniel, "crap out." Good one!

Mike Britt said...

Looking at the Baron Von Roth story...makes me wonder if it was Toth or Kurtzman who did the layouts for the two stories done for the EC war books. The Toth EC stories were so "mechanical" and so unlike other Kurtzman pieces. There were so many highlights in the Kurtzman war books, but the two Toth stories were powerfully exceptional!

Who would have thought that fifty years later that Ringo would look better than Paul?

Pappy said...

Mike, guess I'll have to get out my Cochran EC reprints and look at the Toth stories. Perhaps if Toth did do his own layouts...or maybe substantially changed Kurtzman's, it might have been why he only did two stories for him.

I read something recently...Ringo, who is now a teetotaler, was teased by McCartney about "having a drink." Ringo looked at him and said, "And get to look like you?" Paul told the story and said, "He was right." For a rock star Ringo practices a lot of restraint, and it shows.

Kirk said...

I don't know why I dwell on these things, but Big Daddy Roth going back to 1917 in 1964 would be like going back to 1968 today. That takes you to Vietnam, except I don't know that you could be as comical about that war, even after 47 years as you could World War I. Anyway, Roth beat Snoopy to the skies by about a year.

Now a bit of nitpicking. Did Roth or Toth or whoever wrote this do their math? Why make the Beatles elderly in 1994? As four 50-somethings, you could have portrayed them as balding and overweight (of course, the three surviving members didn't end up that way, but it would have been a reasonable, and I think just as funny a guess in 1964)

Roth's monster decals were still very popular when I was a kid in the '70s. I would describe them today as a kind of cross between Jack Davis and Basil Wolverton. I would have thought any comic book based on Roth would have had one of those creatures in them.

Pappy said...

Kirk, you make a good point. Why no monsters, when Roth was known for them? Maybe no artist available to Pete Millar was capable of drawing them. I never thought about it until reading your comment.

It could have been the reason the Big Daddy Roth magazine was a flop, followed by Millar pouring his money into a Wonder Warthog magazine, which was ahead of its time. yet put Millar into a financial bind. He had to sell his flagship magazine.

I assume Toth made the Beatles look ancient for the purposes of comic exaggeration.

I remember at least one skit on some variety show of 1964 where they dressed some old men up in Beatles wigs. The skit was prescient. We had no way of knowing at the time some of the rockers of the era would, in 50 years, eerily echo that satire.