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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 7

Page 21 of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac is just a great page, the last panel of which inspired me to cover this full story with this series of posts. That "closing the hatch" panel is still one of my all-time faves in Toth's canon.

In panel 1, the boys are still in the water under the dock, cropped and hidden as they eavesdrop and plan. The page all told is well composed, each panel also superb, working together with patterns of angles and curves, focusing not on a money shot of a particular character or close-up, but establishing the characters and objects in relationship to each other. The hatch is is the prime focus of the page. Rather than showing us more face-front views of the characters in action, Toth forces us to pay attention to that hatch. Storytelling, man - storytelling!


Sure, in Panel 2 we see the Skipper, an incidental character (and a fantastic drawing, by the way), but other than this and the medium/long shot of Clint & Mac in frame 1, that's all we get. Why? Here, we see Toby from behind. The point at which his hat crops said hatch in the background is nearly in the exact center of the panel. We think we're focusing Toby & Skip, the boat, perhaps any of the details that might catch our attention (the joists, light, rope, satchel...whatever), but actually all these elements point us back to the hatch. All of them. The perspective and angles of the joists lead to each side of the hatch, even if one side is obscured by Toby's head/hat. The exchange between Toby & the Skip is secondary. All lines lead to the hatch.

See? Like this:
If we didn't get the point, Toth leaves us no choice in panel 3: the hatch takes up just about all of the frame. Though the satchel is cropped and partially obscured, we get that Toby's hiding it in the locker. The perspective here is spot on. No tangents, all details drawn so well, but so simply - the handle, Toby's hands, etc. So good. What'd Toth say again?

Emphasize what is important in a scene. Save drawing!

Eliminate the superfluous, the unnecessary...In other words: strip it all down to essentials and draw the hell out of what is left!

In panel 4 (above) Toth takes us underneath the dock again, nearly all in shadow or silhouette.

A terrific overhead long-shot re-establishes the boys, the dock and the boat, and despite all the detail of the boat, all eyes are on the boys making their way aboard. Then, of course: the shot. Love it!

On the next page (22), Toth brings us inside the locker with the boys to enhance the immediacy and drama. Much of what works here is weakened by poor coloring, so...


...let's take a look in black and white. Ah, that's better. The shots here are from below, dark, cramped and claustrophobic. Medium-dark coloring would've reinforced what Toth has set up so well. And how more effective panels 3 & 4 would have been without narration and dialogue. An additional panel after panel 4 with that dialogue would've improved things.


Back above: top deck. Our two rascals move the satchel about again. The cropping of the characters put it again at center stage. I love the angle on Toby, so natural and emphasizing his girth. There's a real flow and sway to the gestures, hands, jacket folds and face.

Moving the "camera" above, Toth makes a tough shot to pull off look easy. He usually does....

Next week: More great stuff, go figure. It's hard to believe there's so much done so well in a mediocre kids comics adaption of a sub-par Disney television serial...but there is!

As always, you can refer to and read and view the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog. 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 6

More of Toth's Clint & Mac picks with a nice page with great compositions, blackspotting and tons of folds. There's an illustrative quality to the art here and it looks decent in color...


...But I blew out the color and cleaned things up for a closer look in black & white. Take this first panel from the top of page 18. Toth crops the figure on the left (Smith), his head in a halo of smoke, bathed in shadow which swings us on a curve as we move right to his partner in crime. What natural gesture, and with not the easiest pose, at that. Could Toth have pulled this off without a model or reference? He said yes, his reference file in his head, and that every artist should strive for the same.

This is a comic for kids, but everybody's smoking! So: Smith leans forward. Sweet black areas, expression and folds in his jacket. Toth looks like he could draw this stuff in his sleep. Behind him, the limehouse room walls are decorated with pin-ups of gorgeous women. This guy's lamp is all askew (right), casting dramatic shadows around the room . Most of this frame is taken up by Smith's dominating figure, his buddy taking orders, diminished, then - cropped at right.

(Not facing panels.)

From the lower tier, we cut to Clint & Mac turning over the skiff. Toth achieves tremendous depth, a shadowed post and pier in the foreground, the boys in the mid-ground, surrounded by receding decking and posts underneath the dock. He stages and renders a complex scene simply. By cropping Mac with the foreground post, we focus instead on Mac with the strong diagonal of his body and rope as he lowers the skiff - one can really feel the tension and effort! A more open space between the posts frame and highlight his head, and the impressionistically rendered splashes of water around the skiff add contrast and draw attention to the object, and lets the reader's eye finish the picture.

Here's the entire page in black & white, just for grins.


The top tier of page 19 features to wonderful panels, the boys framed by the opening between the dock and gate, the wake from a ship in the distance providing another halo. Then the boys are in the water and Toth takes us under with them. What beautiful flow and action, as the curve of their bodies leads us to their destination: the skiff. Great composition and design here with a variety of patterns: the long, horizontal ellipses of the ripples on the water surface; the rounded, billowing cloud of their path; the diagonals of the skiff and wood. Just superb.


We're back on the surface in the next frame, the POV just above the water's surface, actually. It brings near the boys' POV, accentuating the anxiety of their situation. In this long horizontal panel, the skiff covers a good portion of the panel, cropping the boys underneath, emphasizing its importance and framing the two gents on the dock.


Before giving us a two-shot of Toby and the Skipper with some cash and the satchel, Toth keeps the camera angle low but from another POV, showing us the skipper's ship. A trail of smoke is in each panel, leading the eye through and framing figures.


Toth continues to vary the shots, this time from above, the top of the skipper's ship and a light in the foreground, the two men cropped by those foreground elements in mid-ground, the ever-present skiff behind. Toth is moving about, showing us who and what is where, objects and people in relation to each other. An overhead shot focuses on that skiff - will the boys be discovered?


Then we cut to a close-up under that boat as the boys decide to take leave, Toby and the Skip pull up the skiff, which has seen some action!


Rather than repeating with another shot of the boys swimming underwater, that action occurs between frames and in the final large panel of the page, Clint & Mac have safely escaped, now under a pier, it and them in silhouette, Skip and Toby ready to set out. Cool shot!


Next week: Some choice panels from the next few pages as we head into the final third of the comic.

As always, you can refer to and read and view the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog. 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 5

Time for more Clint & Mac as drawn by Alex Toth! As always, you can refer to and read the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

From the top tier of page 16, a very sweet illustration by Toth, and a wonderful comic book panel. There's not much to the rendering in this frame, but it creates an impression, with simple lines, dots and dashes - all the details we need are there. The trees bleed into a mass of green, the building a series of steps slitting the middle to frame the limo. Again, he knows his cars. I love the sharp slashes of shadow on the road in the foreground - Toth kept in mind the high sun in the sky so the shadows fall on the surface in proper perspective.

In the middle tier, Toth does plenty. The POV just below eye level, we see on the left indications of the dock and harbor; on the right a man entering the warehouse. Clint & Mac hide behind a stack of boxes in the center, but the main points of interest are offset and not nearly center frame.  This make for a dynamic and interesting composition. Lotsa little details, that help establish the environment, all without distracting: post; rope; rigging; ship; flag; handtruck and tag; hanging lights in the warehouse, etc.

In facing panels on the bottom tier the boys peer through a gate to a pier and boat, which is central to the next several pages.

Kicking off page 17 is a set of two top tier panels. Of a piece, they're drenched in black, the figure dissolving into the shadows, the only light source being the flashlight. Very moody and cinematic, these frames have an illustrator's touch with some hatching for tone and texture and clever, effective coloring - only two colors utilized. But these are not illustrations, but pure comics, great compositions - all about telling the story.

Toth uses plenty of page-space for the next shot under the dock as the two make their way to the skiff. A moody dramatic shot, the boys are shown in silhouette amidst a maze of posts, joists, rails and decking. The perspective is solid, yet Toth found ways to create other various angles. The boat is the obvious center of interest, once again off-center, highlighted by the green.

Inside the warehouse, our heroes become one with the shadows. Cool shot. Then back outside, the boys will be trapped inside. Nice angles, perspective, balance and blackspotting.


Next week: Goons, the Scotland Yard, the Bookworm, the skiff, Toby and...the package.

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 4

Clint & Mac drawn by Alex Toth continues this week with some fine, fine frames, and what has now become one of my favorite Toth pages ever. Just you wait. As always, you can refer to and read the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

Topping off page 11 is a honey of a horizontal panel. Toth arranges it this way so we can read the long name of the shop, being careful not to place anything directly in the center of the frame. This is good example of a rule of thirds composition, which artists and photographers typically apply vertically. Toby with that all-important satchel fill the right third, while Clint & Mac are cropped far left, entering frame. Despite the simple set-up, Toth achieves great depth with foreground and background planes, adding details near Toby's head, with the light post and reflections in the upper window. It doesn't seem much, but there's a lot going on here.

The lower tier of the same page shows a nice close-up of Toby's bag, another figure in deep background. In the next frame, though the principles are placed center-frame (atypically, for Toth), it works nicely and I really like the body language.
All right, here we go: page 12. It's astonishing. A self-contained page, Toth knocks this one outta the park. Just take it in, and don't worry about getting distracted with a couple poorly chosen bright colors - I blow away the color further below and really get into the nitty-gritty.


The smart design, storytelling, blackspotting, perspective and composition are even more evident in black & white/grey. The boys track Toby to the car and hitch a ride before getting bumped off in the last panel. Get a good look at how he's balanced lights and darks here - a sight to behold.


In each panel, though usually not placed middle-frame, Toth makes clear the center of interest (indicated in yellow below). Through a clever use perspective and changing POV, Toth carries lines from frame to frame, leading the eye through the page, action -by action, balancing angles throughout to achieve astounding page composition. None of these lines are perfectly vertical or horizontal, even the side of the building in frame 1. Dynamic!


In frame 1, all eyes are on Toby as he enters the car. His foot/leg jutting into the bright sidewalk catches our eye. The boys knocked out in silhouette in the foreground put them front-and-center, but not to distract us from who they're following, and to add drama/mystery. And boy, this guy knew how to draw cars!


I can't get over these two frames in the middle tier. Toth places us in the driver's seat in the car directly behind Clint & Mac hanging onto the spare, riding the bumper. The heroes, being the center of attention are not placed in the middle of the panel, but offset to the right and cropped. The main horizontal lines either lead us to or frame the boys. Beyond foreground, mid- and background, Toth further separates planes with the exhaust from Toby's car. Extending and reinforcing those lines into the next frame, the artist combines an exterior and interior shot to cleverly crop and frame the boys still hanging on to the rear of the vehicle. Amazing.

Look at any shot on this page, and you'll find no tangents - just brilliant composition and design, subtle and careful placement of elements for great storytelling and picture-making. The final shot couldn't be simpler, again with a silhouette to show the action without details of the boys reactions, expressions or potential pain. A few motion lines, a cloud of exhaust and some bouncy lettering - this is comics!

The color undermines the illustrative shot atop the next page, separating overmuch left and right, drawing to much attention to some cars center frame, and not enough of a knock out of the two boys on the right. But this is a superb drawing, the vehicles rendered in chiaroscuro fashion, and again with no lines exactly straight, even the center line of the street, which could've cut the panel in two.

The middle tier of page 13 is a sweet one with multiple planes, detail, texture and wonderful composition. He's really on his game.

And what about this shot closing the page? Unassuming, but a real winner of a panel. The POV is from behind, so the tilt of his head, hand gestures and trailing smoke tell us what we need to know about the General.
Knocking out the color and tweaking tone a bit help punctuate the power of Toth's silhouette here, the first panel on page 15. Nice profile and pipe. Note the upturned glasses, dangling pipe and collar are not in complete silhouette.

We close with a nice vertical shot of the Bookworm who'd earlier hired Clint & Mac.


Next week: The dock, a boat and the warehouse. Great stuff coming up...!

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 3

Making a return after a month hiatus from Toth Tuesdays due to an increasingly busy schedule, I'm picking up where last we left off, in the middle of page 8 of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. As always, you can refer to and read in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

There's this nice, large shot at the zoo in the middle of page 8, showing three main characters to the left, surrounded by an array of incidental characters. Great body language, folds and blackspotting here. A variety of textures are simply suggested throughout, including the impressionistic, Sickles-like rendering of the tress and bushes. And right near Clint & Mac, there's that turtle again...


The next page (9) is really sweet: great panel and page composition; a variety of angles; smart design, cropping and blackspotting; wonderful details on cars, buildings and inside the flat in the last frame. I blew out the color for this, as a couple minor elements were inexplicably colored a bright red, as you'll see, further below...


Toth opens the page with a wide establishing shot, the sidewalk edge creating the border of the lower left of the panel, Clint & Mac in the background on the right. It's all grounded with the solid black of the street surface. The vertical pattern on the gate on the upper right of the page balance the vertical stripes on a garment on the lower left of the page.

In these two panels from the middle tier (not facing panels), we see a couple nice overhead shots. Viewing Mac from above with his face obscured, we focus instead on his crouch and the card he's picking up. The angled of the sidewalk reinforce and carry through the angle above in panel 1. Strong shadows highlight the panel on the right, the building details picking up only some indirect light in the shadows. For coloring, it'd make more sense to have lightened the green of the truck catching light and using a mid-tone darker color in the background rather than that yellow. Ugh. The artist undermined!

Tons of detailed clutter in the final panel with various shapes, angles and  curves smartly knocked out in cool colors, Mr. Smith cropped by foreground elements, colored brightly to pop.

Smith is confronted by our heroes in these three panels forming the top tier of the next page (10). Smart composition, cropping and expression on Smith's face in panel 2. Love it!

Toth closes the page with a cool overhead of the boys and that car, the shadows of which bleed into the black of the street. Great juxtaposition of positive/negative space. The final two panels couldn't be simpler, but serve the story as we focus on the lock from the inside of the vehicle. and we see these boys so much in the story, it's nice to break things up and go with a silhouette in the last frame.

Next week: To the leather goods shop!

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Gotta Dance!

A Dr. StrangeTroll by my Trollords pal and co-creator, Scott Beaderstadt brought about this sketch of the happy Jerry dancin'.

Roughs & inks were done in Manga Studio, color in Photoshop.

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 2

Continuing some favorite stuff from Alex Toth's Clint & Mac, story pages 5-8. As always, you can refer to and read in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

Page 5, panel 2 - Nice cropping, depth, blocking and composition. Even if we can't see every bit of every character, we see all their expressions, even as he focuses our attention on that package. A tilt of a head, slant of a brim, and angles of the collar, book and cigarette lead the reader's eye through the back & forth through the panel.

This last panel of the same page was colored strangely, what with a bright orange on the bus and and inexplicable bright red on the side of the building - so I blew out the color to better see this 3/4 overhead. Great composition, perspective, angles, detail, shadows and reflections. The four principle characters are not centered, but offset within the drawing. Sharp stuff!

Cool action panel; the bottom tier of page 6. Besides a few action and impact lines, the action is naturalistic - Toth lets folds, shadows and flailing ties carry and convey most of the action. Mac's pose is a little static, but it's fun to see his fist in the face of that doofus. I love how Clint's own fist juts into and obscures part of his face.

Page 7, panel 1: Low POV as the brutes make their escape, silhouetted legs in the foreground.

Another character is introduced a couple panels later, distinct from all the others we've already seen. Toth mixes it up! Nice background detail and slanting shadows.

Simple panel, the last of the page. He keeps the lower half of the frame open, so the car really pops, and boy could he drew 'em! It's fairly centered in the panel for a change, yet with the exhaust, curve of the street, sidewalk and wall, it's interesting. Not much going on with  drawing here, it seems, but he conveys plenty with what he does draw - the dots and slashes for foliage, a few bricks, a simple holding line for the smoke trail and those patented dots on the street for texture.

Atop page 8, Toth leads off with these two sweet frames across the top tier. Strong verticals frame and separate the space, but it's the curves and angles he uses that link the two, lead the eye through and again highlight the important objects: the coin and the package. A hand, a hat, a head and the car obscure and crop faces and figures. The head tilt on Mr. Toby is very well drawn - completely natural. In the second panel, if we'd see more of him we wouldn't focus as much on the transfer of that package.


Here's a closer look...


And of the other...


Thank you, Mr. Toby! See you next week, folks.

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 1

I blogged last week about a favorite Toth panel, so I've caught the bug and will feature favorite panels/pages from his Clint & Mac adaptation, which you can read in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.


Nice opening panel to kick off the Clint & Mac story. It's a straight-on, symmetrical shot, the POV from slightly below. Great, casual body language on the characters, mid-step, each with a cock of the head. Those spotted blacks ground the frame; so solid. The shadows add to that, and fall so naturally. We should all study and observe light source and shadows as Toth obviously did.

The lower tier of page 1 (below) are easy-going and simple, introducing the characters. I like 'em. Though the frame is split down the center compositionally, the figures are Frame Right. Again with the natural posing/acting.

The long horizontal middle frame of page 2 features tons of characters and establishes the boys' surroundings. Welcome to their world!

I love this, the last frame of page 2: interesting characters and expressions; Toth smartly overlaps and crops figures and objects to create depth and planes. And they're all looking off-panel, the tortoise having been shown in the previous frame.

Page 3, top tier: The same guy with Clint 'n' Mac, in a medium shot and from behind in an open panel. Nice.

I like this old guy, too...

Page 4, 1st panel: Classic Toth! This kind of superb shot shows up many times in his work later in his career. Mysterious goings-on. The coloring ain't too great, so I blew it out to see the black-and-white. Marvelous! Solid blacks/shadows, loose brushstrokes, dashes of white within shadow, a bit of feathering and specks for texture.

Page 4, middle tier: low angle, book in foreground; a couple more interesting characters with varied body types and face shapes; spot those blacks; from behind again; smart cropping.

Last panel of page 4: Layers and planes, more cropping for depth and interest. Great stuff!

More next week!

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TothPix: Clint & Mac - Close the Hatch

Years ago, sometime within the last decade, while rooting my way through the archives of scans of Alex Toth pages at the tothfans.com site, I was struck by one panel in particular: a shot of two arms coming up through and opening to close a hatch behind them.

It reinforced for me the idea that Toth would often make unorthodox choices in his storytelling, an approach to material unlike anyone I'd seen. Most artists would show the two boys from below, or from above - in any case we'd see an anxious face or scurrying bodies. Instead, Toth frames the hands and closing hatch through a window from inside the boat adding drama and focusing our attention not on the boys but the main action. From such a low angle, we see just enough to establish planes and depth, where the hands emerge from the opening.

This may seem unremarkable or unassuming, but to me it's daring - superb storytelling and picture-making.

Upon first viewing, I neglected to grab and download the page/story, so for a few years couldn't place where I'd seen it! I scoured his stories to find (for me) this elusive panel (story page 21, panel 6), to finally come upon it in his wonderful Clint and Mac - an adaptation of a Disney TV serial from the Mickey Mouse Club show.

I've tried my best to explain why, but it's one of my all-time favorite Toth panels. No one else would do it this way, especially in 1960. You can view/read the entire story in a couple posts at Michael Sporn's blog. In the next few weeks here I'll be analyzing some stand-out pages and panels. (I should note I took some liberties with the frame above, tweaking and cleaning for clarity.)

'Til next week -- !

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TothPix: Bikini Boom

A couple great stand-along panels/illustrations by Toth, not sure for what he did these, but they're cool, drawn solely with markers by the looks of it. Nice composition, figures, shadows, crosshatch tone, folds, cropping & characters. Super cropping on this second, too. The clothing folds boldly rendered with thick marker - no messing around. The spotted blacks/shadows create interesting shapes and patterns. As is usual, Toth varies his textures (grass, sidewalk, purse, fur, crosshatch skirts) to avoid flatness. The tiny marks and jots in the grass and on the sidewalk also lead the eye through the drawing, mirroring patterns and motifs of other elements.

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