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Archive for July 2011

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Sketch: Old Nazi

Old Nazi. Photoshop. No pencils.

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TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 6

The Land Unknown picks up on page 13 with a bang - a quintessential Toth comic book panel. This shot is so ahead of its time, it would fit right at home in his superb Bravo For Adventure, drawn nearly thirty years later. A big ol' bold sound effect, daring silhouette figures and objects, negative graphic symbols, and impressionistic inking of the grassy foreground. This frame makes me wanna go "OOOOOOOOOOO!"

Every panel in this two-page sequence is strong, as well as the full page compositions. Toth expertly mixes silhouettes, close-ups, mid-range shots, low and high angles and clever cropping to tell the story, all within a basic six-panel grid, which he blows out to stretch across the page in one tier for the debut of another monstrous creature.

The cropping and shadows on this frame focuses attention on the ransacked boxes and supplies, arranged with an assortment of angles which carry through to the following panel, where the characters are placed and cropped for a natural appearance; it doesn't look staged.

The colors on page 14 couldn't be more basic, well-balanced and drawing the eye to the most important elements.

A nice chase shot opens the page, before Toth cuts to a heroic low angle for Hal atop a rock. The two panels are tied together compositionally and with the lizard's growl across the top. Typically of Toth, he spots his blacks and places his shadows with authority to dictate center of interest. I love the loose, expressionistic rendering on the surroundings by this disciple of Noel Sickles and his Scorchy Smith strip.

A classic, heroic adventure comics panel, full of movement and bravado. What lyrical, expressive outlines, sweeping shadows and folds!

When Maggie trips, Toth chooses an unlikely, difficult and extremely effective pose, set against the crazy close-up backdrop of the lizard's massive head. But it only stands out because it doesn't look like a typical, cartoony tripping pose - it's totally naturalistic. Next, he pulls back to another long shot, once again using silhouette, a light line for the creature in the background, and a return of the curve of the display lettering as the horn sounds again.

(These panels have been rearranged side-by-side for display on this blog.)

Capping an incredible sequence, Toth pulls out all the stops with this brilliant shot, the lizard moving away from tiny Maggie, but towards us and out of frame. The size of the creature is thus enhanced, receding towards the background, the curve of its body and path shown by its markings and texture, and the perspective and shadow of and from the fins. All of this surrounded by a variety of shapes and textures of the foliage and trees.

Most artists, I think, might feel compelled to show more of the creature, or have it move away from us, or make Maggie more prominent in frame. Toth's approach in terms of composition, cropping, relative proportion of figures/objects is unorthodox, but superb storytelling and picture making. Gorgeous!

As an extra bonus, check out John Kricfalusi's (Ren & Stimpy) take on Land Unknown, who offers some prime panels and interesting insights of Toth's work, like "He has a knack for drawing buttocks wrapped in khaki." Spot on! Toth really does!

Move on to Part 7, or visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other 14 parts of this blog series. As always, one can read the story in its entirety on line.

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TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 5

On page 12 of Alex Toth's adventure adaptation of The Land Unknown, the crew encounter the T-Rex. This set of panels from the middle tier of the page are a real eye-grabber! A quarter century after King Kong (1933), thirty-five years before Jurassic Park, kids must've been enthralled by this confrontation, far more exciting in the comic book than in the movie from which it is adapted.

It's a fine page, kicking off with a bang as shots are fired and the crew heads to the 'copter to defend themselves and send the T-Rex away.

Toth draws our eye from the upper left to Maggie's figure (indulging in some subtle cheesecake) to the bottom center, bouncing back up on a diagonal to the upper right, lead by Hal's shadowed outstretched arm as he shoots. In panel 2, the pattern is repeated somewhat, across and down by the helicopter and gunshot, then up again to the dinosaur. Panel 1 is superb - great action and composition; and while we view the action in panel 2 from 3/4 above (nice storytelling), the rendering of the grass obscures things as it gets too busy. An older, wiser Toth would've simplified more the backgrounds.

Panel 3 is a daring, exciting tour de force, juxtaposing and balancing light and dark areas, effective in B&W and in color. The chiaroscuro angles of the copter and Hal's leg jut into and across the panel, cutting towards the approaching T-Rex. Nearly in silhouette, the 'copter is pushed into the foreground, broken up smartly by the foliage (colored red to heighten the sense of danger), the dinosaur the only cool element in the frame, surrounded by warm and hot colors (see above). With panel 4, we get a close-up of the T-Rex as the blades tears into him. Ouch!

From inside the 'copter, we see the dinosaur depart, the crew largely in silhouette, a splash of light on one face, the character faintly defined with subtle and careful rim lighting.

The final panel gets the job done, but isn't a standout. Sure, it makes sense that eschewed the angled action of the rest of the page, but it's too static for my tastes. It'd probably be fixed if the dinosaur was less upright, instead partially cropped in an action-packed pose, heading off-panel, tail flailing behind him. In this and a couple others, Toth's T-Rex looks all too similar to the "man-in-a-dinosaur-suit" look of the movie. It's puzzling, since he handles the other creatures so expertly in the rest of the story, as you'll see in future installments...

Continue now with Part 6, which features a couple superb pages, or visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other 14 parts of this blog series. s always, one can read the story in its entirety on line.

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Stair Climber

A rejected storyboard digital pencil...

Pages:12