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Archive for July 2010


TothPix: Faces

Last week, artist Ashley Holt and I and others got into a lively debate about Alex Toth's work on his Facebook Wall. He issued the challenge, thus:

"I think Alex Toth was an incredibly talented artist, but his page layouts consist mostly of incredibly lazy decisions. All those silhouettes and extremely crowded close-ups.... He avoided faces so much his characters never really came to life. Anybody wanna fight about it."

Well, I don't know about a fight, but I linked to these several Toth posts I've been doing in response to show how and why I disagreed. Well, Ashley tore into my posts with a fervor and we had a fun exchange. To read it all, you may have to friend him on Facebook, which is recommended, if he'll have you. He's a great cartoonist and a brilliant caricaturist. And while I admit he's got a point or two about specific panels or Toth tendencies, I submit below for your observation and approval a couple dozen faces Toth drew which put the lie to Ashley's assertion.


Fricke Family in Neighborhood Magazine

The Blue Moon Crew were featured in the July issue of the Four Estates Guardian magazine, which focuses on neighborhood news and one family in our area per issue. Below are reduced images from the sections in which we were featured, as well as the text of the article.

Mind Your Neighbor’s Business: the Fricke Family of Artists

Art has a way of keeping people young at heart, and so it is with the Fricke family. Paul, Mary, Laura, 14, and Emily, 10, are a family of artists who live in Silverthorne subdivision. Despite humble beginnings, they show that following one’s dreams and inborn talent can take a person farther than any college degree. Though none of their four parents were artists, Paul and Mary were encouraged to draw at a young age. By age 12, Paul knew he wanted to be an artist. In the early 80s, Paul and Mary took classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago (though neither knew of each other at the time). By age 22, Paul had co-created and independently published the comic book Trollords with his former high school pal Scott Beaderstadt. It was Paul’s first breakthrough into the comic book industry, a success that led to a decade of work with other comic book companies in Chicago and New York, such as DC, Topps, First and Image Comics. Paul and Mary met in 1985–not at the Academy, but on a trip to Florida–and quickly discovered they had much in common. While dating, they took more classes at the American Academy of Art, though neither of them ever graduated with degrees. They began collaborating on projects together in 1986. Meanwhile, Paul had quit his non-artistic job to become fully self-employed in freelancing. They were married in 1989 and celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary this June. Paul has been in professional artistry for 25 years. In 1993, they moved from Chicago to Plymouth and settled into their newly built home in Silverthorne subdivision in 2001. They are the owners of Blue Moon Studios that specializes in cartooning, comics, storyboards, and illustration, “a one-stop-shop from concept to final digital art.” Through his art, Paul helps companies, both large and small, to communicate ideas and to educate. He has done a variety of projects, specializing in historical, religious, and educational comics for companies such as Microsoft, Scholastic, and the National Kidney Foundation. Another facet of Blue Moon Studios is storyboards, which are preliminary, rough sketches for broadcast or online commercials or print ads. These storyboards are for a company’s internal use. Paul’s hand has been behind a majority of Best Buy commercials, and has drawn comps for ads featuring such popular characters as the Pillsbury Doughboy. Inspired in their art by countless painters, book illustrators and comic book artists, Paul adds that inspiration comes from the fact that, “To make a living doing what we love – on our worst work day, we’re drawing.” Cartooning keeps Paul “a kid at heart,” he says. “It’s fun, expressive and nearly everyone can enjoy and relate to it.” Mary’s passions are painting and drawing, and she has exhibited her portraits and landscapes at local art fairs. Working from home is a delight for them. The whole family contributes to Blue Moon Studios in one way or another. Mary colors a majority of her husband’s comics and illustration drawings. Paul says she is a “reliable sounding board with good creative instincts.” While their daughters have helped with art and lettering on a few projects, they are also a constant inspiration to their parents. Laura and Emily have inherited a double-portion of their parents’ creative genes and entrepreneur spirit. Emily runs her own cookie business called “Emily’s Funky Munky Kookies.” The girls hobbies include art, music, gymnastics, swimming, sculpting and reading. And as a family, they all enjoy drawing and painting together, playing music, and gathering around the table for a board or a card game. At work or at play, the Fricke family finds inspiration to keep their art alive and their hearts young. They say to their neighbors, “Thanks for all the happy hellos, waves and chats, and your support during times good and difficult.” Night of the Bedbugs is Paul Fricke’s colorful, rhyming story book published this year by Image/Silverline Books. The book tells the story of how a little girl’s nighttime fears are calmed when a friendly bedbug and his pals join her for a pajama party and sing her to sleep. To learn more, visit and


TothPix: Space Ghost

Starting in 1962, Alex Toth began working in the field of animation with the semi-animated Space Angel. He then began a long stint with Hanna-Barbera Studios, doing character creation and design and storyboards on shows such as Super Friends, The Herculoids, and Birdman. But perhaps he's best known for the creation and design of the Space Ghost show and characters.

Toth's design for the character are strong, sleek and simple. It looks like he drew these straight with a  marker, fully formed, like they were traced directly from his brain, even if it probably ain't so. This first crack isn't the Ghost we all came to know, but most of the elements are there already:

Wisely, he simplified the design further, adding the black hood which gives his face/head a dark, mysterious look, while he drops the gloves, boots and tights, leaving the rest of his costume largely white which conveys ghost. I love the triangle chest logo, and that Toth moved the power ray buttons from the belt to metal sleeves - it looks better and is more functional for the character when in action.

And these various head shots show how Toth thought through how the hero would look from any angle, still keeping things as simple as possible for animation. Unfortunately, even though it was one of the best animated TV shows at the time, animators usually didn't follow Toth model sheets closely enough, placing his eyes too high on his head.

The rest of the team is rounded out by teen sidekicks Jan and Jace, as the always fun Blip - loved that little monkey when I was a kid!

Though the show was among the best of its time, the cartoons and villains are kinda silly viewing them now years later, but it was a show designed for kids, after all! Here's the weekly intro:

Many of the full cartoon episodes can be found at YouTube, so give 'em a look-see.

Extra - Check out a short Space Ghost comic drawn by Toth hisself!


TothPix: Bird and...Egg?

As I mentioned in my first post of this series on the art of Alex Toth, he worked in a variety of styles and genre. He handled adventure, romance, war, superhero, horror and humorous material, among other types. And whether he was drawing something more realistic or exaggerated, rough or cartoony, he handled it all following the same premise of keeping things simple; using only the lines that are essential. Strip out the rest.

Towards that end, he doodled in sketchbooks and on scads of letter-sized sheets, with no penciling, directly with a marker, just so he would edit himself and force himself to think while he drew, before and as he lay down lines.

The cartoon strip below is an excellent example. The drawing in this strip couldn't be more simple and stripped-down. And with the easy give-and-take between this bird and "egg" and choice of three punchlines, it'd be easy to dismiss as inconsequential and a trifle. But it takes a lifetime of drawing and the instincts of a master to design the bird as he has, and to convey so much with so little in the body language.

It's astounding, really, how he chooses and puts down these lines, obviously having seen them in his head before he put marker to paper. Notice as well where he does not connect lines to convey movement and depth, how he creates a rhythm within this short piece and the egg/ball bounces and sticks to and fro, and as the bird observes it go here and there. What is that thing, really - an egg? A tennis ball? Some kinda yin-yang sphere? All of those, I say...

I scanned this cartoon from the now fairly rare 1995 book published by Kitchen Sink Press. More Toth doodles can be found in the superb book from 2006, Dear John, The Alex Toth Doodle Book, published by Octopus Press.

Next: Space Ghost!