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Tag: Alex Toth


TothPix: Zorro - Swords, Shots and Leaps!

Here's another fine Toth Zorro, from later in the Secret Passage story. Super composition, storytelling, action, shot variety, body language and draftsmanship. He makes it all look so easy, and tops it off with a patented Zorro leap from a balcony to horse!

Let's take a closer look, tier by tier:

In panel one, the bumbling, stout sidekick, Garcia is called by his capitan for aid. The rendering here is impeccable, loose and easy, confident and expressionistic, from the shadow of leaves dappling the tree, to the rough, grassy terrain, to the folds on Garcia's pants to the simple outline of the background shape which leads us to panel two. Garcia is now inside, taken aback by the sword fight and confusing situation. What a pose! Add Zorro's forward lunge and rumpled rug underfoot as were treated to an unbelievable array of action, light and shadow, composition and texture.

In the middle tier, Toth throws us right in the thick of the skirmish as Zorro knocks the sword from his opponent's grasp. We get a good look at the hero in his element as Garcia fumbles for his gun, just behind. Gunshots zing past Zorro as he turns and retreats, dialogue and sound effects integral elements of each panel. We're in the center of the action! Simple background texture and shapes hint at staircases and stone.In the final, bottom tier, the artist pulls us back outside, first in a long shot from ground level as our hero calls for his horse and prepares to leap from the window/balcony, then from a bird's-eye view as leaps to Tornado and makes his escape. Once again, sound effects are part of the piece, all background and foreground elements rendered as appropriate, whether shadowy bushes and trees, stone wall and floor, varied textures help establish time and place and break things up visually. I love the way his cape sweeps over the ledge int he final panel, casting a shadow.

Throughout the page, Toth's choices with tone thirty years after first doing the art help add depth, clarify the action and lead the reader's eye. Sweet stuff!

Next week, a torrent of Toth links, then back to more Zorro.


TothPix: Zorro Sketches

I grabbed both of these gorgeous Toth Zorro sketches from the Toth Fan Site, but cleaned them up a small bit. Zorro was Toth's favorite hero, I think, and it shows in these sketches. These two are so brilliant, I'm almost at a loss to articulate why and how. Almost.


In this first, Toth strips everything down to it's barest form, but all the details are there, even if vaguely suggested, like the structure of the sword, the buttons on his shirt, the ties of his mask hanging under chin, the belt, the exquisite reflections in the boots, the holster for the sword, and the graceful drapery and flow of the cape. Wow. Couple that with the assured and powerful angles and swaths of black, capturing the character perfectly, along with the playful en garde atop, and lucky Glenn owns a real winner. I'm so jealous.

And as much as I love the first, this next I find even more clever and sophisticated. Toth adds tons of depth and drama as Zorro peers around the corner, the sword poking past the wall, a mirror-image shadow thrown below. And these he balances with all the other angles throughout the piece: the sweep of the cape, the triangle shadow at the base of the wall, the scabbard again poking from below the cape, the diagonal horizon line. Toth has also added grey tone for more depth, the soften the more harsh shapes in semi-shadow and for texture.


Then take in the cock of Zorro's head, the mask, the hat, the ties of the cape, shapes zig-zagging back-and-forth, all adding interest, but again the character and personality of the hero. And Zorro's left foot is raised, weight on his toe as he leans forward, all adding to the suspense, tho we know not what awaits him 'round the corner.


Next week I'll continue with more Zorro - some favorite panels and pages from his superb run for Disney.


TothPix: Witching Hour - "...Toil and Trouble!"

To wrap up Toth Halloween month, I've cleaned and collected a series of panels & pages from batches of Witching hour issues. These are in no particular order, chosen randomly, which either set the tone for the stories to come, or are great shots of the Three Witches, crone Morded, mother Mildred, maiden Cynthia.

Have a Happy Halloween, everyone!


TothPix: Grave Undertaking

Continuing Halloween Month on Toth Tuesdays, here's a scary short story Toth drew for Warren, written by Archie Goodwin, Grave Undertaking. As most Warren magazines were in black and white, Toth often used duo-shade or grey tone washes and other media to take advantage and experiment. Given that these stories originally appeared magazine size, even larger than the typical comic book, it's a shame to present these in a smaller format, but at least the story is here in its entirety, all cleaned up and de-yellowed. I'll post about favorite panels from this story on Thursday or next week. Til then, enjoy...!


TothPix: Bubble, Bubble...

Kicking off Toth Halloween month are a couple unrelated pages featuring the Three Witches from DC's The Witching Hour. Rather than drawing a full story some issues, Toth did the intros and framing pages between stories, the three witches functioning as hosts and setting the tone for the tales to come...

I'm not sure who designed these three, but Toth's take on them is my favorite - big surprise! The colors above are fun and comic-booky, especially effective with the last panel all black and orange. The writing and Toth's art engage and draw in the reader - it's almost interactive!

From another issue, the page above again sets the tone, with coloring mostly more subdued, the witches' faces and clothing draped in shadow. The composition of this page flows very smoothly, Toth creating interesting black/negative shapes throughout. And it's immediately apparent how distinct the three are from each other, with varied face and body shapes and features. Fun stuff!

More Halloween Toth next week...!


TothPix: Colorful Madman

Here's something colorful and fun for a change of pace this week, a Madman pin-up did in the mid-'90s for Mike Allred's crazy character.

There's no doubt Allred was highly influenced by Toth in his art style and design for Madmen, so Toth must've felt flattered and a kinship with Allred and his character. Madman seems a direct ancestor of Space Ghost, or at least a crazy cousin. It's a perfect fit.

I'm not sure who did the colors for this pin-up, but they're simple, flat and beautifully done. Coulda been Toth himself, or Allred and/or his wife, Laura.

As usual, Toth spots his blacks cleverly, sandwiching Madman between an assortment of odd positive and negative shapes, precariously perched atop a sliver. One can view this piece as just plain fun, an abstract graphic exercise, but damned if I haven't found myself feeling something of a Madman lately/the last 18 months. What with a traumatic physical and psychological experience, the inevitable changes within our family as time marches on, and in these uncertain economic, social and global times, I look at this image and can relate all too well.

Although Madman's world here is a bit more fun and colorful!


TothPix: Doomstone

A Toth three-panel sequence originally appearing in DC's My Greatest Adventure #61, reprinted in Phantom Stranger #15. The graphic composition of this sequence from the story, I Battled for the DoomStone! is based on two main shapes: the triangle formed by the three shots of the explorer; and the "C" shape formed by the rock in all three panels, tying them together, reinforced by being the same color.

Each frame is strong and serves its purpose, what with #1 showing the explorer's upward climb (shown from above and the landscape far below) and #3 with his discovery of the Kraka Stone and gorilla (from behind). But the stunning shot is frame #2, with the explorer's legs splayed out precariously between two rocks. The dangerous journey is accentuated as we see him from below, with the landscape in the deep distance. This panel is simply and effectively colored with largely natural tones.

My only two minor quibbles: I wish the thought balloon in frame #2 didn't cover his arm/hand (perhaps Toth would have placed it differently had he lettered it himself?) and: it'd have been nice had Toth added just a few bits of texture to the ground in panel 3 - it looks too stark and bare.


TothPix: Hole in the Wall Interior

This stand-out frame from an adventure story Toth drew illustrates the interesting choices he made panel-by-panel in his storytelling. There are a myriad of ways he could've approached this, but chose to place the viewer inside the opening this explorer and his team have made. In doing so, with askew angles he crops and frames the bearded man, so all our focus is on him, but the huge area of negative space he gives us on the side and top of the block throw the composition off balance, an effect further enhanced by the explorer being shown crouching down and horizontal. It's all a clever method to create suspense and tension, move along the story, and communicate spatial relationships and proportions. It certainly makes me curious what's inside/behind that wall.

The coloring isn't good, doing no service to the story, artist or reader. Though using primary colors, mainly, trying to keep things simple, apparently, the colors are ill-chosen and out of whack. The red used in the narration box draws too much attention, the blue of the opening is too saturated - better if it were toned down and greyed-out a bit. The man and the light we see through the opening is fine, but his hat should be lighter, certainly not the same color as the block.

Oh, well, it can't all be perfect - just a quickly colored and cheaply printed comic, after all. But It'd be fun to see this panel sharper and in black and white, as it would show what time, effort and thought Toth put into a simple frame of a simple comic. If anyone has access to it, please forward to me.


TothPix: I Will Not Fail!

This wonderful and desperate Toth panel speaks to me right now for some reason. Anyone else?

This frame is from the Soldier's Grave story I featured in the previous TothPix post. Analysis of the whole story here.


TothPix: Chiaroscuro Soldier

I was lucky to find scans online of a few pages of the black and white original art from Toth's Soldier's Grave. written by Bob Kanigher. It's a stirring little war period piece, featuring old Mullah, who leaves his family to become a soldier, his only chance to earn enough to provide for his family. And because he has trouble keeping up, he is given an opportunity to fight.

In the page below, Toth employs stunning chiaroscuro techniques with fluid brushwork, marking the landscape with the footprints of younger and more vital soldiers, leaving Mullah in the dust. Toth first depicts Mullah in silhouette in a gorgeous frame...

...then alters his size and placement within the panels to lead the reader's eye through the page, as displayed below.

Next week, I'll post in color and break down the entire story, but until then will leave you with this larger version of the black and white art, cleaning it up and sharpening as much as I could.

More thoughts on Toth, other work, and this story at Bob H.'s Four Realities blog, where he's written about Toth more than once. Enjoy!