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Tag: adventure

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TothPix: Z

Zorro by Alex Toth. 'Nuff said.

zorro_4

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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: 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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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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TothPix: Under the Gun

I'm up to my neck, under the gun, behind the eight ball, in a tight spot - way too much work to complete and post my review of Genius, Isolated. Probably next week.

This one one sweet Toth panel from his Zorro run: Sergeant Garcia is caught unawares.Most of Garcia's head and figure are in shadow, as is the gun and finger on the trigger.  This creates the highest contrast  with the gun, so the center of interest, also focusing attention on Garcia's reaction/expression. The gun is cropped, Garcia's head tight to the right side of the frame. So, the point at which the tip of the gun meets Garcia's neck is at lower-center panel, though in shadow, obscured.

All lines and curves of this composition leads one's eye to that center point (as shown below).

Another Zorro page is analyzed here and Zorro sketches here.

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TothPix: The Land Unknown • Closing Thoughts

When I began TothPix 16 months ago, I wasn't sure where it would take me. I thought I'd share some favorite bits by my favorite artist, learn a few things along the way. It takes time and energy to try and keep up with a weekly feature on top of blogging on other things, raising a family, meeting deadlines, staying healthy, keeping the house and grounds cleaned and spruced. I certainly didn't expect I'd embark on a 15-part analysis and exploration of a single Toth story, his adventure comic adaptation of the B-movie, The Land Unknown. Over the last two months I scanned many pages, prepared 119 images (scanned, cleaned, enhanced & cropped). All that has been more than worth it, but I might not have made it if not spurred on by those of you who've read, followed and sometimes commented. Thanks.

To mix things up, and to avoid being pedantic, I varied the approach to the text and presentation, based in part on my whims and as dictated by the story, art and available resources. I hope as a whole the series isn't disjointed, then.

Some closing thoughts on The Land Unknown:

• Alex Toth was 29 when he drew this 32-page story.

• He improved mightily on poor source material, aided by a solid script by Bob Ryder, about whom Toth said,

"Good picture scripting...he wrote, into it, many four-panel spreads and placed the action rather well."

Interesting, as I'd assumed Toth himself may have expanded some panels to cover 1/3 - 1/2 - 2/3 of the 6-panel grid.

• What I'd taken as an okay piece with some great spots is actually one of his best projects of the '50s. Long time Toth friend and fan, John Hitchcock wrote recently on a fan forum,

"Of all of Toth's Dell stories, Land Unknown was one of his favorites. About twenty-six years ago, I asked him to sign my copy. He wrote, 'This is one of my pets.'"

• Thanks to the internet and recently-released Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth book (and interviews for such), I was able to access a few pages of original art, two versions of scanned color comics, along with scans of B&W art from the Pure Imagination reprint book.

• Much of his signature style/approach were already firmly in place by this time, as well as in the early'50s (when he was in his early twenties), not apparent and developed only in his later work. His work was mature for nearly the entirety of his career - amazing! • Toth was obviously a student of film, employing not only an array of camera angles borrowed from that medium, but also was able envision and depict shots from all angles and points-of-view. There is an incredible intelligence, memory and imagination apparent in these pages.

• This artist worked hard to get things right. He obviously did his research, one way or another to accurately render the ships, helicopter, guns and more in this piece.

• Though the B&W reprint books aren't perfect (through a "bleaching" process, much of the fine line work and strokes are not reproduced as well as from the originals), they're still a step up from scans of the printed color comics where much detail and subtlety is lost due to sub-par printing standards. It's fun to see the color as it originally appeared, but what a sight it'd be if this story were to be shot completely from the originals (no doubt impossible) and given the proper treatment by a current colorist, say, Dave Stewart and printed on decent stock. Glory be, that'd be wonderful!

There we go. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, here in comments, on Facebook or at the TothFans Forum. I'm not sure I have in me another series this long and involved, but I've plenty planned for upcoming installments, never fear.

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TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 13

Leaving The Land Unknown, the crew ascends hundreds of feet straight up in their 'copter, trying to make contact with the ships waiting for them in the Antarctic.

Toth then cuts inside the vehicle for a shadowed profile. The way he's back-lit the figure and highlighted the headphones, he's aimed all the focus on the communication apparatus. Contact established in panel two, we get a straight head shot. They made it!

Moving on to the final page, unleashes a torrent of dynamic angles and action, the ships tossed to-and-fro on the wild waves. The 'copter approaches, crashes, the crew rescued on the high seas. Toth employs an array of shapes, angles, curves, positive and negative spaces, zig-zagging the reader through the page (as shown in red below), making one feels as if they're part of the action. Panel one is a bird's eye view, the helicopter framed by the jagged, white glacier far below. Those little specks in a sea of black are enormous ships, giving us a sense of proportion, depth, height and space. This is an acutely abstract composition, off center and asymmetrical, yet balanced in the stark black and white shapes. One quibble: Toth could have placed the 'copter slightly to the right, overlapping the line along the side of the glacier, further enhancing depth, avoiding couching the 'copter so perfectly within the white shape. Spinning blades, billowing smoke, a spider web of masts, splashing waves lead the eye about panel 2, back and forth between the principle elements in a largely triangular composition. All objects are on a tilt, either in the sky or on the sea. Nothing is secure. We're off balance, but naturally so, as dictated by the environment, physics and story. The layers of depth in panel 3 are astounding, the sea in the foreground cropping the helicopter as it splashes down. The 'copter enters the water at a sharp angle, blades spinning and slashing violently within the middle third. A splash of water frames the crashing 'copter, jutting across a line of water and into the ship in the background at a sharp slant on the turbulent sea. What a frame! Wordless, no sound effects - the drawing carries the action and story. More layers and tilted objects, curving waves, sharp angles, stark shadows, creating picture depth. All of this serving the story, framing the rescue launch on its way. I blew out most line art, cleaning and simplifying positive and negative space here, to showcase Toth's sense of design and composition in each panel, and from frame to frame, over the two tiers. A master at work. Once safe on a ship, though surrounded by subtle and sharp angles, the characters are firmly rooted, standing up straight, order restored. The 3-shot of panel 5 is simple, Hunter and Maggie in profile framing Hal in the middle, all excited and relieved, but blanketed by Hunter's shadow. Frame 6, the final panel of the story is a call-back from the beginning of the tale, Hal & Maggie shown once again from behind, in their element, ready for another adventure. Rather than showing their face here, Toth focuses us instead on their parity and partnership, avoiding a saccharine note on which to end. The adventurers look forward to the future, eyes on the horizon. Ah - finished! Well worth the effort. I learned a lot. And though we're finished with the story proper, I've capped the series with my last observations and my final thoughts. href="http://hairygreeneyeball2.blogspot.com/2009/11/alex-toths-land-unknown.html">Read the story in its entirety in color here.

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Server Down!

I was a bit lost for a couple days, the server that supports my direct domain name down. So, no bloggy bloggy, no email, no web site. ARRGGH!

Pollack...or no?

All right, I still had access to the internet so was on Facebook and Google+, my virtual lifeline. But recalled near too late I could use my .mac email account. D'oh! So, I drew a bit on the Cintiq and at the drawing board, finished Doug TenNapel's Ghostopolis while taking in some sun on the patio, and saw X-Men: First Class at the theater with my daughters. Not a bad day, despite my frustration. Not being able to compose posts for my blog, though, I was forced to postpone the last two posts on my 14-part series on Alex Toth's Adventure comic, The Land Unknown. The penultimate post appears on Thursday, the final installment next week!

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TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 12

Trying to make a clean getaway from The Land Unknown, Hal takes a peek out the 'copter door, to see...

...THIS!

And in color:

Page 29, semi-splash detail; color remastered.

Yeah, so this enormous sea serpent pops up from the water, upending Hunter's raft, sending him toppling, and he gets knocked out during the fall. Though Toth is known most for his line and spotting of blacks, notice how he rendered the cascade of water: not held by a line, but drawn with a series of dots and splotches, left open with negative space, obscuring other elements, letting the viewer's eye finish the picture. The final panel of the page is a standard profile close-up with flare gun in Hal's hand...

But even in this seemingly simple 2-frame tier Toth leads us through expertly with a series of angles (raft, body, oars & gun) and finally a curve that sweeps up along the gun and Hal's nose to his steely gaze. Just wonderful.

Page 30 (below) is sweet (and if you have $5000.00 to spare for the original art, Buy It Now on ebay), a tour de force of composition, design, balance of positive and negative space, shot selection and storytelling. The reader's eye is drawn through the page brilliantly, all in service of telling the story.

The first panel is from a bird's eye view, above the helicopter, the 'copter and Hal with his gun framing the creature below. The curve of the serpent's neck leads us to the tiny head of Hunter as he floats helplessly, unconscious in the sea.

Page 30, frame 1 and detail.

No doubt Toth had good reference for this flare gun, drawn simply but all there. The sharp angles, juxtaposed with curves and circles, along with the asymmetrical black and white space (still balanced) convey urgency and action.

Page 30, panel 2.

The 'copter swings in, the gun shot. Pops, smoke and sound effects lead us across the horizontal, widescreen frame to the point of impact. Zowee! Toth draws the 'copter in near silhouette in the foreground, and once again renders only what he needs to: holding lines dropping out from the serpent's head and maw, conveying the hot, bright flash of the flare, the reader's eye/brain completing the image.

Panel 4: The frame is split in half, then quartered in the lower half, the black horizontal slab of water broken by bits of light/waves. The serpent seeks refuge, returning to the sea - the curve of its body amidst the swirling smoke. The 'copter turns, maneuvering towards Hunter in the foreground, his head shown cutting out of the surface of the water, flat, graphic and bold. This is daring, modern picture-making!

Hal leaps to Hunter's rescue in panel 5, not quite centered in the frame. What an angle! And Toth draws Hal's foreshortened figure with a natural ease and flow. The near-silhouette of the 'copter against the expanse of sea beneath is startling, accentuating the free-fall and danger of Hal's dive.

Atop the next page, 31, Toth divvies up the frame, this time in thirds. Not quite flat or straight on, we see a few lines in front of and behind the figures showing the horizon/water surface. The characters are cropped, engulfed in water, as the rescue gear drops down from above, jutting into the upper 2/3 of the frame. Then, an overhead shot, mixing things up nicely. Time to hoist!

Finally, all safe in the 'copter, it's straight up and away through the gloom, the crew-plus-one making their escape!

For the conclusion of the story, and an incredible final page, jump to Part 13. Or - visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other parts of this blog series. As always, one can read the story in its entirety on line.

Note: This post was prepared and composed to the jaunty, jabbing jazz of Thelonious Monk.

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TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 10

We begin this week of The Land Unknown analysis with a classic Toth panel, a strong foreground silhouette, about to give Hunter a whack. Toth's figure is solid black save for a thin slash of light cutting into the hair and a small slot of white on the collar. Hunter's head is framed and cropped by the dark figure and club, Maggie's face by the shirt sleeve.

Now without that set-up and context, this next frame would be less clear. Any other cartoonist would show more, maybe more pedestrian, but readable. This is one of his weakest panels of the story, the artist probably trying to hard to mix it up or be different. How 'bout if we just see a hand on the club? A slip, thankfully infrequent.

That next frame is cool, Steve's face cropped at the nose, his hand firmly gripping the club. The hands tell the story here. Hunter is portrayed in a vulnerable position and interesting angle, turned away from the viewer, looking askance at his attacker.

A nice shot, Hunter's face cropped by his clothing...

I love the look on Steve's face here as Hal draws his weapon...

This is just beautiful. Another frame I could stare at for hours! The curves, angles, spotted blacks, textures, repeating shapes (leaves, vines, star & propeller) - Oh, my!

Toth moves us below, looking up at Steve on the 'copter. What a startling angle! Smart composition, what with the blade, arms akimbo, etc. This is not an easy shot to pull off, and Toth does it with ease, all while serving the story. The crazy angle reminds one of the film compositions of Orson Welles, especially as in Lady from Shanghai (1947), Othello (1952) and Touch of Evil (1958).

Ah, now that's better! Here's a similar shot to a frame from earlier in the story, much improved! Better composition and dinosaur.

Page 26, panel 6 (left) and page 12, panel 6 (right).

Part 11 is but a click away! 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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