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Blue Moon Blog

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TothPix - CARtoons: Zig-Zag

So much of this blog over the last 2+ years has focused on Toth's late-'50s/early '60s Dell work, which, given the content (TV and movie adaptations) dictated a somewhat realistic approach. Only a few years later (1963-1967), Toth pulled out the stops on his cartoony side with a series of fun and footloose hot rod comics for a few titles, collected in the now-rare One For the Road. Just a quick flip through those pages and it's easy to see that Toth would've held his own along side the best of the best of the MAD crew: Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Mort Drucker, Will Elder and Harvey Kurtzman, among others. Toth displays such verve, versatility and vivaciousness in these comics, writing a good chunk of his CARtoons output, drawing in a variety of styles and approaches. And though having been paid the bare minimum, it's obvious he was having a blast, playing on paper in ways not seen again til perhaps the first chapter of his Bravo for Adventure. Here's a taste -


Fun display/title lettering, a kooky narrator hanging for the side of the page, and some wild, graphic skateboarding action! The dialogue is playful, nonsensical gibberish, a bit of boppin' beatnik poetry which leads us to a zig-zag path, scattered stars, silhouettes and sound effects. As the Beach Boys said, these comics are "Fun! Fun! Fun!"

A closer look:

Superb design here with that winding series of "S" curves and twisty figure. Toth nails the twisty figure of skateboarding Billy with an ease and natural flow that could've been in many artists' hands an awkward mess. I just love that stylized, flappy hand, the stretched folds in Billy's shirt, the twist, bend and balance of the legs and feet. All of which breaks the panel border at bottom left, leading us to the two bottom panels...

Just a joy! These comics sparkle with electricity and energy - dazzling!

More next week...!

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Holy Rocka Rollaz button

My buddy, Mark's band, the Holy Rocka Rollaz, is picking up steam (and gigs) this Summer, so he asked me to remaster, retool and re-purpose some hot rod art I did some time back, this time for a button. He suggested we change the background color, which was a great call! Here's what I came up with...

They're playing almost every Friday night this Summer at the History Cruzer Car Show in North St. Paul. My family and I will be out there a few times this Summer for cotton candy, cheese curds, vintage cars and classic rock 'n' roll! Check the Holy Rocka Rollaz site for details and upcoming shows.

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MCAD: Mad Paul

We'd gotten through to the mid-term of our Intro to Comics class at MCAD and my students knew where they stood. They had their grades-to-date and knew where I thought could improve, what they could work on certain areas and weaknesses for the latter half. Spring Break was a week or two later, and I figured they return for the last push refreshed, but they were exhausted! Within a week or two everyone was on track, with renewed energy for their Final Comic.

One young lady, Chan once again decided to challenge herself by doing a 20-page comic (only 4-6 pages were required). My reaction?


Somewhat skeptical, a little scared for her, a little scared of her (she'd no doubt pull it off, with panache). But she was taking a risk she'd crash and burn.

This exchange apparently kicked off a weekly cartoon she called Mad Paul Mondays, tracking the last few weeks of the semester...







Well, Chan kicked that comic's ass. Behold: Moviegoer!


I still can't believe she was unfamiliar with the work of Jaime Hernandez. Great job, Chan! Everyone did a nice job on their finals, actually.

And now, as of yesterday, it appears Mad Paul may be a series:


What, was she peeking in the window at our house last night?! Mad Paul may be a joke to Chan and her fellow students, but unfortunately for my wife and daughters he all-too-often makes an appearance here at home!

Anyway, they must miss me. I miss them, and it's only been a few weeks since the last class! Not Mad Paul - Sad Paul.  = (

There are more cartoons of me, but I gotta get this scanner up and working or replace it ASAP - then I'll post the rest.

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TothPix: Johnny Hazard covers

In the mid-'80s, Toth did a handful of covers for collections/reprints of Frank Robbins' Johnny Hazard. The first is particularly clever, in regards to concept, composition and color.


I blew out the color and most tone for the cover to #2. The colors did absolutely nothing for me, detracting from a decent action cover.


The colors for the third are better, though faulty. Cool composition and angle by Toth here.


Another action cover for the 4th. Bright, primary colors in the main, with a nice use of white and umber shadows.


All in all, Toth did justice in tribute to one of his comic strip heroes. The first volume of a new series collecting Johnny Hazard dailies is now available.

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TothPix: The Fox


You're kiddin' me, yeah? What a great sketch! I'd never seen this one before. Man, so good!

Not much for me to add, except: superb composition, positive/negative space, what balance - you can feel the hero's weight and weightlessness. Every line is in its place, just a smidge of rimlighting here and there, sometimes clean, sometimes with a rough edge. Clever: the space in the "O" is the Fox logo.

I love that The Fox's eyes are different sizes/shapes.

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MCAD: Intro to Comics Class

On our last day of class, we took a few group pictures, so here's the crew from my first foray with higher-level instruction: our MCAD Introduction to Comics class, Spring, 2012:

Back row, left to right: Amber, Caroline, Professor Paul, Brandon, Aaron, Leigh. Middle row: Olivia, Rachel, Thomas, Tanner. Front row: Jei, Chan, Alice & Nicole.

I had a great group of students with a palpable passion for their art and/or comics. They impressed me, coming into the class with more drawing and storytelling chops than I'd expected. I just read all their course evaluations, and while I'm pleased they all liked the class, their constructive comments will help me focus more on where I can improve if I get the chance to teach again. I hope they learned a lot, but here's...

What I learned:

• If you ask me talk about Comics for hours straight, I can do it. In fact, it's tough to shut me up.

• My Corpus Callosum Dominant condition is a perfect fit for teaching an art class. Relying strongly on both sides of the brain is a big help to handle the aesthetic nature of art class as well as the organizational and structural necessary to keep me and the students on track.

• Regardless of one's age, we can all pursue our passion or bliss, make dreams come alive through action, and have personal challenges, situations and stresses to overcome.

• While grounding ourselves in traditional, tried-and-true methods of art-making, we must also embrace and encourage the use of digital tools and technology. As long as principles of drawing, storytelling, composition, design and clarity are followed and adhered to, it doesn't matter what tools we use.

• Comics makers are a weird, idiosyncratic, smart and sharp, wonderful group of people.

• The future of Comics is in good hands. You'll be buying and reading comics, watching cartoons made by these young people shortly.


Just for grins, our Justice League pose - heroes all!

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TothPix - Casebook: Alcoholism

Looks like Toth did this stand-alone Casebook: Alcoholism page for the military, probably sometime in the late '70s. Kind of a comics PSA (Public Service Announcement). It's dated - the black character is in a position of authority, but still says "Dig?" But Toth's drawing is assured and sensitive, spotting black areas with usual panache, employing a grease pencil (from the looks of it) for tone and texture.


I'm such a believer in line variation - the thick and thin of brushwork to create weight, depth and interest - I'm still surprised Toth created such great work with a "dead line." There are subtleties in his initial marker drawings (expressions, hands, the hair and ear, the 3D treatment of the "US" on Jake's button/pin) which is buttressed by beefing up some lines and blackspotting.

More great stuff in the 2nd panel: expressions, cropping, details of hands and clothing folds. These guys could all look the same, but their faces and noses are different shapes. I'd need reference to really capture the tilt of the head of Jake shaving, but no doubt pulled it off right outta his head.

Check this bit of copy from below the comic! Sounds like recruitment: "Know any would-be alcoholics?" - LOL! Alcoholism is obviously dangerous and destructive - I know - and it's great it was tried to reach people with this PSA, but I'm guessing were it done now that text would include how to deal with such a situation without insinuating one should rat out a fellow soldier! Or am I reading too much into it...?

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Coast Guard Lobster


I recently had the pleasure working on a piece for the Coast Guard, a cartoon lobster illustration to be used on a coin and more. I did the art while the agency I worked with handled the rest of the border design and display font.

My first pass had the lobster simpler and happier:
I was provided more reference for the buoys. They also wanted to see his eyes on stalks and a bit more of his lower body, so...
And everyone liked it fine. But with more time to assess and with more eyes on it, they wanted to go a different direction, so I drew up this new rough:


I like how it turned out, but still have a soft spot for my first lobster.  =  )
Here's a look at my final illustration sans border:

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TothPix: Model Sheets

Alex Toth spent a portion of twenty-five years of his career doing character design and storyboards for TV animation. And for about a decade after artists and animators passed along to each other huge stacks of those designs (and still do). In 1996, Toth friend and fellow animator Darrell McNeil gathered it all together is one big package, the Alex Toth: by Design book. I was fortunate to snap up a copy upon its release, and good thing I did, ’cause the book fetches around $300 nowadays, long out of print. Folks have taken to selling small stacks of portions of what’s included in the book on ebay.

Here's some faves I scanned. (Check out more I posted previously.)  

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Art Students at Work

The latest class was a workshop day - no lectures, demos, guest speakers or in-depth critiques. That leaves less for the teacher to do. Luckily, I had my trusty Pentel Pocket Brush and some marker paper, so was able to sketch some artists at work.

Sure, a good amount of what artists do is drawing, but so much - especially in early stages of the creative process - is the hard brain work of writing and/or planning. Considered and refined are characters, design, composition, layout. Stories are tossed, creative lovelies are snuffed out, the work takes shape as decisions are made, new paths discovered and forged.

Every artist is not only in the process of honing their skills and craft, settling in on their style, but are in the act of creating themselves. Call it exploration, expression, self-actualization. These presentations and personae are experimented with, some discarded for a new look, sometimes they fit like a glove and stick...at least for a time.

Each artist gets comfy with how they like to work: tools, environment, trappings, habits and posture. Most have a tendency to get their noses right down there into the work. I know I do.

Students nowadays come equipped with their own laptop and headphones. They're plugged in to keep inspired and entertained, to research conceptually and visually. Alongside the traditional tools of brush & ink, pencils and a sketchbook is a tangle of cords, and a slick screen.

A relaxed posture can belie a confused creative mind. Those somewhat scruffy-lookin' can have the most ordered thoughts and/or work spaces. Some that appear more together can be most disorganized or work away amidst chaos. I've been all of these and more.

Drawing/writing/creating is part what we see, part what we know. We observe the people and world around us, filter it through our selves, our personality and sensibilities to capture truth, perhaps create new worlds. We explore, test an idea there, make a mark here, feeling things out tentatively, striking out boldly in an effort to convey and connect.