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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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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 11

This post will wrap up my examination and analysis of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac, in my opinion one of his best efforts for Dell Comics. For context, and/or to check out the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Page 30, panel 2: Bad boy Smith chases the boys back to the chain locker, only to come upon them discovering a box of flares, cropped but positioned prominently in the frame on a bed of chains both in front of and behind the box. A torn flap of the box is in shadow, jutting into Smith's face, bringing even more attention to his reaction than if we had a more unobstructed view of his face. Smith has hightailed it outta there so Mac climbs out of the hatch and the boys light the flares. Smart spotting of blacks on both frames.

Now viewing the seen from behind Toby and Smith, those two ne'er-do-wells largely in shadow from the glare of the flares, frame Clint & Mac. I desaturated this panel as it looks even better in black and white. The rendering on the bad guys is superb here - folds, hair, body language and modeling. On the next page, now outside the boat and from a distance, rescuers make a 180 and are on their way in this action-packed image. The coloring is crude but simple and effective, cools in the foreground, warms in the background with the exploding flares really popping and grabbing our eye. Nice composition! Toby and Smith try to make their getaway, to no avail. Fun! The goons now apprehended, the boys discover what's been in that satchel all along... Not much going on on the last page, but Toth gets to draw one of his much-loved planes in a nice aerial shot. I blew out the color and tone for a look at some signature Toth line art. Beautiful! That's it for Clint & Mac! If you've missed some or all of the previous installments, check 'em out!

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Hai! Sensei!

After an exchange in class last week, one of my students whipped out this quick cartoon - LOL! I was incredulous, throwing my head back, laughing at the notion she plans to do a story 4-5 times the length required for her Final. I wasn't laughing at her, but bowled over by her audacity and confidence. A wonder to behold! And more yet, she'll no doubt pull it off and with panache. The Future of Comics is here, folks. We'd all best get our butts in gear! FYI - I am too large for my own good, do wear Hawaiian shirts, but go sans belt and do not tuck.

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 10

Nearing the end of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to check out the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog.

A single panel comprises the top tier of page 27, a nice shot, almost entirely in silhouette, the boat and all players hiding beneath the dock. I desaturated this because the coloring isn't good and the effect of the searchlights in the background come across more. Other than minor rimlighting all is in shadow, save what is backlit by the lights. Between the swaths of light, Toth rendered those areas with crosshatch.

After a slap to the face, Toby's had enough and strikes back against the bully, Smith. Action! Toth uses motion lines at the point of contact and to indicate Smith is reeling, but otherwise the motion is conveyed by the sweep of a scarf, the flow of jackets, and a cigarette dangling in the air. Though he uses comics techniques and tricks and that vibrant sound effect, the drawing is naturalistic, but not nearly static. Toth's use of shadow and spotting black solidify the figures and action, adding depth and weight.


There's a lot crammed into the next panel, but it all works. Toby's imposing figure looming over the fallen Smith, Clint & Mac and the Skip in the background.
The boat is on the move again, now with Toby in charge. What a wonderful 3/4 overhead view, the composition defined by wake as the boat slices through the dark waters. There's an illustrative touch here again, with the wake bleeding into an open border of the panel. All details of the ship, now from another angle are spot on, the water rendered with impressionistic virtuosity.



Atop the next page, Toby is in control as they head out to sea.


A nice shot of Toby, underlit, finishes off the page. What an expression! What a character!

I'll wrap up Clint and Mac next week. Be here next Tuesday for the fireworks!

In the meantime catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.

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King

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Fractured Fables Trade Paperback

The Fractured Fables anthology (Image) to which I contributed has been released now in softcover. To get a taste, read the Pippi van Wrinkles story I did with my pal, Len Strazewski and wife, Mary at my comics site, bluemoontoons.com.



We're honored to in such great company with creators such as Ben Templesmith, Terry Moore, Doug TenNapel, May Ann Licudine, Bill Alger, Alex Grecian, Christian Ward, Jill Thompson, Scott Morse, among many others. There's such a wide array of tales, tones and styles you're bound to like most presented here. And for only $4-5 more, one can still pick up the hardcover copy. Either way - good deal!

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 9

More great stuff from the next pages of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to read the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Top tier of page 25. The first panel is a 3/4 overhead shot. Of course, the perspective is spot on, the two figures placed properly, also in perspective. The shadows add depth, mass, drama, and lead the viewer's eye. Smith's face is obscured by his hat and shadow. Just behind Smith is the small corridor where the boys had crawled to cut the line. In the following frame, the Skipper discovers the boys, who've been hiding in the locker. Most of this frame is in shadow - more drama! Smith takes a look, and we see him from inside the locker, behind and framed by the boys in silhouette. Extreme cropping in the next panel, by borders and word balloons. Though the close-up and hovering Smith convey danger, they frame and direct our attnetion to Clint & Mac. Toth continues to move us around, in and out of the ship, varying angles for interest, establishing who's where, when. In panel 5, Toby and Smith are obscured by the silhouette of the skipper's foot and the ladder. All three bad guys take a secondary position to Clint and Mac and their plight. That's further developed in the final panel, with Smith shown from behind, separating and dividing the boys as their led to the bunks in the cabin. Though in a different environment, this shot is a 180 from panel 3. Cocky and resourceful throughout the story, the boys continue to plan. I love the angles and body language in these two frames. Mysterious and dark, the villains move about the ship, this time Toth cutting to a close-up of Toby making his way down the ladder. With the characters and ship well-established, this type of shot is atypical for most artists but not unusual for Toth. In this case, it adds to the feeling of danger and claustrophobia. More of that in the facing panel, but from a different angle as the Skip closes the hatch. God, I love this shot! Great angles, composition, spotting of blacks, shadows on objects and figure. That the skipper is cropped and obscured by his tilt of head directs attention to his action and the voice coming from the galley. Next page, frame 1. I wish I could concoct and construct a picture with such apparent ease and sophisticated design as Toth does here. The varied shapes, black areas, bold curve of the tunnel, perspective and car details - wonderful! That said, he's created a couple tangents with the top and bottom of the tunnel shadow which intersect with the top and rear of the car. Had he to do it over, I'm sure he'd move the car a tad further into the tunnel to offset those lines. Back in the boat, the boys are manhandled and silenced in this tight, cropped shot. A superb shot from below - what a stellar composition! The perspective, angles, expressions and action are so good, so natural, yet all in service to heightening the tension. Cropping is so important in Toth's work. There aren't many panels better than this to show how and why. We peer into the cabin from the entrance; an interior shot. The entrance on either side crops Toby and Clint, enhancing the action. Just look at Mac's head turned upward and away from us, drawn in so simple but effective fashion. The angle of Toby's figure in the foreground frames the rest of the panel, balancing the diagonal of Clint's shirt. Smith takes center stage here, but even his gaze and arm lead our eye to his thumb grabbing Clint's shirt. Clint's face is really the center of interest here, and go figure - way on the right side of the frame! The next and final panel of the page is a nice close-up of the skipper, looking a bit frantic as the authorities close in. We're nearing the end now. Maybe a couple more posts to finish off this story. So, more next Tuesday In the meantime, catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 8

Lotsa great panels on these next two pages of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to read the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Page 23 starts with a wide shot, re-establishing the characters and surroundings as Smith rejoins the fray. Same deal here with Toth placing a post in the foreground for depth and to divide the frame into thirds, the figures and vessels in mid-ground, a criss-cross web of the dock behind. The chiaroscuro rendering of the splash and water bring energy to the panel. Positive and negative space are key here. Clint and Mac get wind of what's up above, the upturned head of Clint giving us a sense of placement and sound, even in a close-up shot with a black background. Without showing us again who's where, Toth suggest it cleverly. Back above, top deck with the three men. The POV is just below eye level of Toby and Smith, so we look up at them, then past to the skipper. Perspective, gesture, expression, composition, rendering of folds and hair, spotting of blacks - all are so well done here! I removed the color and cleaned up panel 4 as the coloring was distracting to the power and energy of this frame. With an illustrative touch, Toth leaves open portions of the sides and bottom of the frame, the negative space bleeding beyond its border. Roughly rendered (or printed) all details of the boat, dock, rigging etc. are rock solid, even while Toth draws our attention tot he serpentine rope Smith tosses, leaving the skiff behind. This panel is seriously great. The final panel of the page shows Mac frantic, Clint brandishing his pocket knife for the next action... They make their way out of the locker to the cabin, the drama heightened by Toth's choice of a low angle, the perspective shadowing and cropping used for great effect. Clint begins to cut the gas line in the next frame, the boy's head framing the point at which blade meets tubing. I love the scratchy rendering of Clint's hair and bold stripes on Mac's mac. Next are a couple unassuming panels: a close-up of gas running from the spliced tube; then a long shot from under the dock. Though striking no doubt in black and white, Toth designed his panel for color, the boat and its passengers knocked with a simple outline. Panel 5 is another shot from below eye level, Smith threatening but casual, an effect conveyed and enhanced by how he dominated the frame, the folds in his jacket (suggesting his left hand in pocket) and the slight cock of his head. Toth is nailing it with every panel here: perspective, cropping, loosely-rendered details of the gun and ship, facial expressions and wisps of smoke. Gad, this man makes it look easy! It ain't. As if the previous frames weren't impressive enough, for the final panel of page 24, Toth places Smith in the extreme foreground, with a POV from above, looking down from overhead to the Skipper in the cabin. Man, what a shot! Some challenge his claims, but this is done so naturally I can believe Toth achieved shots like this without reference. Staggering. More next week. In the meantime catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.

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