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Tag: Dell Comics

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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 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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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 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: FBI Story - Finale

Wrapping up a study of Toth's comics adaptation of The FBI Story (1959)...

The last third of the comic mainly concerns something of a chase, the agents tailing a criminal. Though the panel below isn't part of that sequence, it sure is a nice frame, an agent spying on the enemy. I removed the color and grey tones, cleaning it up as best I could to view the black and white line art. This is awful crude, then, but indicative of how Toth played with shadows throughout his career and reminiscent of a well-known frame from a Fox story he did about twenty-five years later. If only we had access to the original art or line art reproductions of this story. I don't believe this has been reprinted in black & white.


Another decent panel (below), this time of the FBI agents making an escape. Nice to see a frame with plants and trees - this tale is so filled with cities, building and cars. This shot is from slightly overhead, looking through the picture, past the centered foreground figure to the mid-ground and trouble in the distance.


The chase begins on page 27 (below) of the 32-page story. They're hot on the trail of "Whitey," who for much of the sequence is surrounded by black spaces. At times, as on this strong page he's seen through a window, from a distance, sometimes in open view - broad daylight in which reverses the negative space from black. In the last two frames we see the scene from the same POV: the criminals in the background meet and separate, the agents watching, then on the move.


Semi-close-up: Panel 2 is a nice landscape of a church with bold shadows and expressive brushwork. Toth mixes it up - at times we see the agents in the foreground in shadow, at times in the distance, Whitey taking center stage.

Another solid page (below), most shots fairly straight-on, documentary-style. We cross-cut between those at headquarters and agents in the field, tailing Whitey by car, on foot, in a train. All the panels here are straightforward - no frills. But deft spotting of blacks, angled shadows, a well-placed curve here and there raise an unassuming page into something more. In the last frame, Toth moves the POV below eye-level, placing the man making an announcement center-panel, cropping each of the principals on either side of the picture.


From the page above, a couple stand-out frames shown in grey-tone (below). Boy, I love both of these! Panel 2: Great shadow on the awning, which casts a shadow onto Whitey as he exits the building, a dark tone/color popping him to the foreground off the bright cab. Very nice background details of the tenements, the FBI partially obscured. Panel 5: One of the best panels of the story, our agent inside the car in near-silhouette offset to frame right. The brim of his hat, his face, hand, dashboard, steering wheel and angled stairs all frame and direct our attention to the cab he's keeping his eye on. Better coloring would have helped this panel sing.

(Not facing panels.)

Next page, top tier: nice, simple frames, but both could be improved. Panel 1 is split down the center. Boring. Though the guy-in-the-phonebooth silhouette is sweet, one element or the other could be offset more to add interest/drama. Panel 2 - no backgrounds? Gosh, that red is bright (and I even toned it down a little).


The bottom two tiers of the same page. The large black areas turn a daytime chase into something dangerous. In frame 3, Toth places Whitey's head in the lower-right corner, cropping his face so our eye doesn't settle on him but is rather lead back to our agent by the pole. Toth enhances the feeling that the agent is keeping a sharp eye on Whitey, knocking out the crowd with a huge shadow, singling out Whitey, as if he's the only person the agent can see. Brilliant. (For the great insight on this frame, and more, see Jesse Hamm's wonderful posts on Toth's early development).

Toth really moves the POV around then, first with a 3/4 overhead shot of the cab and a telephone booth, back inside the car, then to a worm's-eye-view, Whitey's legs in the foreground, the following vehicle in the background, cropped. The large areas of black and angles tie this 4-panel sequence together.

Chip finally nabs his prey in a diner, Whitey trying to pass info via microfilm to a higher-up.

Gotcha, Whitey!

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TothPix: FBI Story, part 2

Continuing an examination of Toth's comics adaptation of  The FBI Story (1959)...

Both panels (below) are straight-on shots, pretty much from eye level, carrying on the "documentary style" employed for most of the story so far. Again - great folds on the clothing as Chip's on his way out. Then we move on to a domestic Christmas scene. I love how Toth knocks the tree out to black - the decorations colorfully popping...

(Not facing panels.)

...which he carries through the scene. Great compositions here, as he lowers the POV on the first shot, framing the mistletoe kiss and reaction of the characters in the background with the foreground tree and Christmas gifts. Very natural action and body language in the second, Chip nearly cropped out of frame as we center on the exchange between his wife and partner.

(Not facing panels.)

More spotting of blacks to enliven and ground the talking heads. At times (as with the head in the foreground, right) Toth knocks out a figure/object completely in black, others (as with Chip to his left) he allows a tiny bit of light into the shadow for definition and depth.

The good vibe and news turns dark - wife, Lucy realizes the danger of their situation. Black becomes more dominant - with the background, more harsh shadows, pipe, suspender strap and tree. The cropping of the pipe into the partner's face is vérité, seemingly not staged, also focusing our attention on Lucy's reaction. In the second frame, a somber Lucy is shown in dour profile, offset in the panel, enveloped in the dark tree. Even her red dress and the sparkling decorations can not cheer her mood at the thought of wearing black at her husband's funeral.

(Not facing panels.)

A super page (21, below) in a story where overall page composition is not paramount. More action, dynamism, contrast and variation of shots on this page, and it all works together beautifully.

Close-up of frame 2: Dynamic, expressive, chiaroscuro. There's hardly a holding line here - it's nearly all light & shadow, à la Noel Sickles.

Close-up of frame 3: More of the same - all light and shadow. A 3/4 overhead shot, the image has but three colors. Toth not only has the perspective right, but all the details on the car, even while he didn't worry about pristine rendering. Fine with me. More than fine.

The next page is another winner: Varied shots; silhouettes; decent, minimalistic coloring. Frame 4 is great - love the sweep of action, the folds of the suit bleeding into the dark street. I wish Toth had done more with Baby Face in panel 3 - it could've been more dramatic, perhaps more lighting or a lower angle? As is, it's too static.

With the final two panels, Toth pulls way back, enveloping all in black - the characters float in the darkness, no horizon line, setting the stage for the sparse and striking death scene on the following page....

Toth's rough rendering grounds the truth of this death scene, more poignant, honest and touching than most in any genre. Sam's body slumps in panel 2, Toth cuts to a close-up of Chip in the third, the darkness nearly overtaking everything in the last frame as Sam slips away. The lone word balloon in that final panel stands out against the black, spaced far from Chip have the moment last a beat longer. The tails of the balloons trickle down to each speaker like tears on a face or rain on a window pane.

Next Toth Tuesday, I'll wrap up the The FBI Story with the final third. Good stuff ahead....

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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: Gun Glory

In 1957, Toth drew an adaptation of the movie western, Gun Glory, featuring Stewart Granger and Rhonda Fleming. It appeared in Dell Comics' self titled one-shot ("Four Color" #846). Toth did many movie and TV adaptations during the late '50s and early '60s, including Zorro, Roy Rogers, The Time Machine, Sea Hunt, 77 Sunset Strip, No Time For Sergeants and The FBI Story, among many others (some of which I'll cover in future installments).

Toth was a master of spotting blacks, well known and emulated for his shadow work and use of silhouettes, and this page from Gun Glory is a prime example.

gunglory21

He doesn't do it as a time saver, or 'cause he was lazy, or on every page or panel, but when it suited his purposes in creating a mood and telling the story. This scene takes place out in the open American West, with the sun high in the sky, so the light colors and stark shadows are appropriate.

He sets the scene with the rifleman leaving his horse atop a ridge, skipping down for position. Panel two is the true establishment frame, a brilliant bird's eye shot that gives us his location in relation to the rider below. In panel three, though entirely in silhouette, Toth indicates everything the reader needs to know with the gesture of the buck of the horse and turn of the rider as warning shots are fired, all while striking strong angles through the middle of the frame and page. A close up follows to show us the character, jittery, then it's back to another silhouette as the rider regains his defiance and bravado, continuing on. In the last panel, Toth leaves us anxious to turn the page and find out how this conflict is resolved.

Each frame works on its own, and the page composition is superb, all angles and triangles, positive and negative shapes, with cowboy's guns blazing along craggy rock. But my favorite panels are the second and sixth: both simple and clear, yet strong and complex.

Take a look at the whole page at a smaller size, and it's apparent how Toth expertly leads the eye of the reader from panel to panel, through the page, as indicated on the right by my bold red line:

Just fantastic.

I'm unsure whether these are particularly great scans, or if Dell's printer was extremely attentive in laying down a heavy black ink during printing. Toth seems to have drawn this story and others from the period so they'd carry and look good regardless of how well they were colored or printed. In this case, the coloring is kept simple, naturalistic and subdued, which supports well enough the art and story.

I grabbed the art for the entire story from the Toth Fans web site. To read Gun Glory in its entirety, email me directly a request to paul@bluemoonstudios.com, and I'll send you all the pages in a zipped folder.