Alex Toth speaks about Doug Wildey
© 2001, Lyle P. Blosser. All rights reserved.
Excerpts taken from Alex Toth: By Design
by Alex Toth & Darrell McNeil
Gold Medal Publications, 1996.
Thanks to Scott for making this info available!
Doug Wildey's "Jonny Quest" was in work and about to change TV/Animation for a
very long time, it's effect still evident -I'd hired Doug for "Angel at Cambria
during my art directing of the first series-brought him out from Arizona, put
him up at my home his first week or so, til he found his own place to bring his
wife and kids to live in, from Tucson-the hiring almost didn't happen, but Hi
Mankin urged me to do so-despite my fears that Doug's reliance on photoswipes in
his comic strip/book work would be a disadvantage in the studio when/where we
all had to make it up/brain it out/imagine it-and draw it, cold!
Now I was the hired hand on his "Quest" at H&B-thru Joe and Bill I'd drawn some
presentation boards and art as entr�e there-then the in-house/sit-down job of
"Quest" layout and character design of villains, etc, for the last few shows
came along and I took it-I had a mortgage, wife and not quite 4 kidlets and 2
cars to feed-so my freelancing switched to 9 to 6 skeds again-tho' I still kept
up some comicbook accounts for backup! But H&B opened up a whole new bag of toys
for me to play with after "Quest" showed the networks what would sell-big-and
out Sat/morn kid/vid market boomed-in spite of itself! For Bill Hanna turned
down the network's bid for more "Quest" because of its very high costs/time of
production and too small a talent pool of those versed in drawing the human face
and figure-in comic book/strip "realism"-so no "Quest"-til years later.
Re Doug Wildey: The Portfolio was large, heavy, chockful of vari-sized b/w and
color adventure strip/comic book and illustration art-"heavy ammo," indeed!-It
had come in from Arizona that day. The late Hi Mankin and I had stayed after
work, just us two, to open the package and review the samples of art from the
owner/author, Doug Wildey, who wanted a job with us, helping to produce Cambria
Studios' new "Space Angel" limited-animation TV series.
Hi and I shared a comicstripping background, but I was rather new and "green" to
animation, with only a few months' layout experience on Cambria's/Clark Haas's
previous series: "Clutch Cargo"-I was brought back by Clark to design/co-create
graphic styling for "Angel" and to head its 6-man-only art dept. which Hi and I
sought talent for, in a panic-dunno how Doug heard of it, but here we were,
assessing his work-Hi voted "yes, let's phone him and try him out for a week or
two"-I had misgivings-the work was fine-yes-but, I pointed out the obvious, I
thought. Most every drawing was photo-sourced! What we needed was a man to sit
down, without a swipefile to skim thru, and just pull pictures/poses/continuity
biz/ from memory and imagination on demand-and damned fast, too! Rough to
finish-and hew to the style set for the show! Could Doug do that? Sans
I thought not-else I'd have seen such art in his portfolio! But Hi, cooler,
calmer, savvier than I, had me phone Doug-we asked him if he could swing it?
"Sure!"-he cited his daily/Sunday strip years on "The Saint" and ghosting
episodes of Milt Caniff's "Steve Canyon," and comicbook work as well-which his
portfolio evidenced in full.
Next week, Doug was cranking out scenes/figures/faces for our very low-budget
production of "Space Angel"-and doing well-Hi was right again!
Having left his wife and very young family back home in Arizona, 500 miles from
L.A., and missing them terribly, he took to leaving the studio an hour or two
early Fridays and-believe it or not-driving his little VW Beetle home-back by
Monday mornings, on time, 1,000 mile roundtrip, every weekend! Amazing! Even
bought a new Beetle, because dealers then were giving back down payments on
purchase during the slack market woes of the early-mid 60's-allowing him to
manage it-the sturdy gas-stingy Beetle served him well!
I also hired on Warren Tufts (who'd hired me to ghost/assist him on "Casey
Ruggles" daily/Sunday strip in 1950, which'd brought me to California from old
NYC)-and Warren, free to do so, wrote/co-wrote/and drew for "Angel" on a varying
schedule-and-oddly-we three-and Hi Mankin-wound up just a year or two later at
Hanna-Barbera, working in layout on Doug's own "Jonny Quest!" Yup!
He'd left "Angel" and Cambria for H&B, pitched "Quest" and kicked-off the whole
new trend of adventure/comicbook-type Sat. morn kidvid series craze-and I joined
that team for its last few shows, following some touch n' go freelance
presentation 'board work and character designing for "Mr. B," directly-(which
led to designing models for the two or three "Quests" I'd helped lay out as
well)-contact with Doug was limited and random at best-
He fought an uphill battle to give "Quest" a live action dramatic feel, but not
getting it, due to the system and time constraints-truth is, what he wanted the
show to be in sight and sound is what WB/Fox TV's animated "Batman" series at
last created, and so bloody well, too! From voicetracks to layout/lighting and
special EFX/acting and scoring-it took almost 30 yrs to realize such "realism"
and adult subtleties on all levels of cartoon series production! Damn!
Available talent qualified to draw convincing human figures/faces/gestures
/attitudes were very rare at H&B during "Quest" in the 1960s-it showed! The
cheating did, too-timing, EFX/and gimmicks imposed on it-from above-glaringly,
too! Lacked the dramatic nuance and potency of the recent "Batman" series!
Pity-"Quest" was too-early on-in TV cartoon history!
Doug and I went our separate ways-post-"Quest"-and were out of touch-my design
work and layout and presentation art for H&B was a rotating in/out, in-studio
then not, basis for many years.
I was a fan of Doug's shortlived newspaper strip "Ambler," which was well-
written/drawn-that was in the late '60s, as I recall, and it ran in the L.A.
Times-for a year or 18 months-then it was dropped.
In the '70s, Doug produced a series or two for H&B-wrote and 'boarded them-with
good results-making lemonade from lemons! We'd both popped around two
freelancing for smaller, indy studios, and for NYC comic book publishers-in
coincidental parallel markets-constantly expanding ones.
I guess the last real sitdown chat we had was in a Denny's in Sherman Oaks,
reflecting on our up n' down crisscrossing careers-and how I'd thought we
might've once teamed up in a freelance consultancy and design service, providing
character models and storyboards for studios at large-big n' small-Doug blinked
at me, but the idea was soon shunted aside-oh well!
Chance meetings at the San Diego "Comicon" were our last, in the '80s-his "Rio"
color graphic album was new and successful-rumor had it he was seriously
painting (with acrylics) Western scenes, hoping to enter the lucrative fine arts
market, with the "Cowboy Hall of Fame" art world beckoning at the end of that
trail-if he made it.
I'd not heard of his move to Nevada-or of any illness lurking about- (I had once
phoned him some years before when word came to me that Doug, still "local," had
suffered a heart attack)-(from which he bounced back nicely)-thus, his reported
arteriosclerosis comes as a surprise to me-as contributory-factor in his demise.
My condolences to his wife, Ellen, and his family-
To sum up, as best I can, we weren't ever close friends, had awkward and
sometimes testy and/or indifferent contacts thru 30 yrs recrossing each other's
trails, but had a professional regard for each other-enough to recommend him for
offers I had to forego myself, knowing he'd not disappoint the client-
Tho' I never did savvy how he worked with his photofiles, but for his Westerns,
via stills from countless movies of the genre (his favorite)-but I could/do say
the same of others who worked from them exclusively, like Al Williamson, Stan
Drake, John Cullen Murphy, Carlos Garzon and, for years, Lenny Starr-and
numerous European cartoonists-since the 1960s-Doug pulled it off-his second
"Rio" Western full-color comic album was most recent evidence of that ability.
The kid from Yonkers, N.Y., did it his way-did it well. -And that's not bad-
bumpy ride, long road and all-is it? Nope.
-Alex Toth, 1996.