TothPix: If I Were KingI cleaned and remastered this sweet Toth story as best I could. Most copies are pretty yellowed. This ran in Sorcery #9 (Red Circle, October, 1974). There's not much to the story, although something could have been done with the concept - here it's pretty rote. As usual with these Toth stories, the genius is in the drawing and in the telling.
TothPix: SafecrackerI grabbed and cleaned up some choice panels from an obscure four-page back-up story from Roy Rogers #111 (1957), about a kid who locks himself accidentally in a vault. A Texas ranger has tracked down a dude long on a run, who exposes his true identity by breaking the kid out using his lock-picking skills. Of course, the ranger let's him off. What guy! Even with this short knock-off story, Toth, as usual displays his superb storytelling chops - varying the shots between close-ups, mid- and long shots, changing the POV, staging, cropping and composition, no-nonsense drawing and expert characterization. Here's a great close-up, a partial profile from slightly below, the panel split in two. Actually, the word balloon breaks up the half-and-half composition, while avoiding a tangent. In this next, the ranger meets with the lock-picker dude. Notice the tilt of the heads, the naturalistic placement and rendering of hands. Toth spots his blacks great here, in an unassuming manner, and places a lantern in the foreground for depth. As the two guys head into town, he shows us what we need to follow the story - the town, the main players, the crowd) but also love the way the lock-picker leans from his horse, the tilt of the guy's head looking up, his gesture to the crowd. That post in the foreground helps again with depth, as well as the shadow on the horse. Our three dudes move in, seen here in the distance framed by silhouettes. And the overhead shot let's us know where everyone is, who's doing what. Nice stuff. Inside, the lock-picker has a decision to make - save the kid and expose his true identity, to shut up. He gets to work, Toth enhancing the drama with a low-angle POV (right). Then, in the most compelling shots of the piece, he gets us right in there with the lock-picker as he does his stuff. We're in so tight, one can almost hears the tiny clicks, feel the subtle turns of the dial. The cropping makes us focus on the hand and the dial. Dang, this is so good! Then the little tyke is saved, and the lock-picker earns his freedom. All in a day's work for a ranger - and the brilliant Alex Toth!
OlafI've been drawing a lotta Snowboy lately, so it's not a huge leap to do a snowman. Here's Olaf, done with marker and colored pencil, a sketch I did at our MN comic con last weekend. I'll do more of these - I have a nice stack of chip board.
Snowboy Bookmark and Art PrintHaving launched the Méto the Snowboy webcomic at Blue Moon Toons in late February, and as I gear up to move into the next chapters of the long form story/graphic novel, I've whipped up some extra goodies for fans of our baby yeti. These bookmarks will be free to those I meet at signings and conventions, and included in packages to those who order books, original art or prints at Blue Moon Doodads - And these extra large Snowboy art prints will be available soon! Both of these pieces spring from a page from Méto chapter 1: Pick-Up Sticks. For the story, I needed Méto to get from point A to point B, while in his own little world, distracted, only to bump into the little boy from Nepal, Jyoti. This sequence never would have materialized had I not been writing Snowboy visually. I'd kind of always thought I had to write with a script or notes at least dialogue - even if for myself and even for comics. And for certain comics projects I still do. But Snowboy always starts visually. It's been a revelation and creatively freeing. My initial take on the color for this page was to knock Snowboy out in a purple, but out of context some folks took it literally and thought Méto to actually be purple. Whoops! Hence, the revised version, below, which obviously informed the bookmark and print.
My Fanboy Letter to Jack Kirby and Devil DinosaurOh...how embarrassing. I wrote a few fan letters for some of my favorite comics in my day, including an impassioned plea to Marvel not to cancel Skull the Slayer, to Scott McCloud's ZOT!, Bill Loebs' Journey, among others. But this one to Jack Kirby and his Devil Dinosaur was spotted by a good friend some time back and has now surfaced online. The letters pages are even reprinted in the hardcover omnibus! I wish I could say I was younger than I was when I wrote this...
There's only way to say it?!?! Gosh, I was trying so hard to impress. What a doofus. I'd say my letter is very much stupid.
Issue 6, where my letter appeared, and #1, which I was writing about.
Moon-Boy really did make an impression on me, as I fashioned my own character, Demon Boy after Moon-Boy and Kirby's Demon. But that's another post for another day...
Creator of the Marooned long-form webcomic, Tom Dell'Aringa asked me to do an illustration for the collection/graphic novel, which has been successfully funded via Kickstarter. Here's the process on my piece.
I'd hemmed and hawed on the content, layout and style for a while, finally tossing out all my ideas and scribbles at the last minute for a different stylistic take on the Marooned characters. I modeled the alien terrain on The Garden of the Gods, in Colorado, where I spent a week with my my family on vacation in '76, taking some color cues from that area, as well. With a couple green creatures in the piece, I made my stars lean green, for balance. Then, for the last touch, I added four different textures, but I'm not sure you can really tell the diff. I gotta stock up on more textures!
Even if you missed the campaign, copies of the Marooned book may available once Tom has them printed up, and it's off to press as I type. In the meantime, visit pixelmech.com to see what else Tom is up to!
TothPix: Character Types and Body Language
Toth was awfully good at varying his character types, making them distinct, yet universal. And the body language he employed tells us more about each character and is integral to his visual storytelling. I captured and isolated a batch of images from his Romance comic, Undecided Heart (Intimate Love 21, 1953). At the time he drew this, he was 24.
For the splash panel, Toth uses unorthodox positioning and clever overlap (above) to focus attention on the heroine, and to convey her distress.
Unwelcome potential suitors (below) - a great opportunity to design and draw interesting bit players. Just look at those face shapes and features!
Sans glasses, and with a new hair do, Eve cleans up nicely. Toth trained early for these female profiles by tracing and copying his Mother's drawings.
In a switcheroo later, this big doofus ends up being the slimeball of the piece:
What's not to like about this bellhop kid? I love everything about this drawing:
Ain't that that truth?! More bits & pieces:
And Eve ends up in lowly Chris's arms after all...
Mad Paul III: With a Vengeance
A new semester of my Intro to Comics class at MCAD begins today. In just a few short hours, I'll unleash the Hounds of Comics on a room full of unsuspecting students, and my Reign of Terror will begin. Comics is not all fun and games, oh, no. It's Hard Work. If they didn't know that already, they will soon, as they slog through my new syllabus for a Comics Boot Camp.
I'll either break them, or they'll break my syllabus, or...we'll all be fine.
Aw, it'll be OK. It's Comics! What could go wrong?
Mad Paul cartoon by former student, Chan Chau