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TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 9

Picking up where we left off in the middle of page 22 of The Land Unknown...

Rescued by castaway, Hunter, Maggie comes to the conclusion she must sacrifice herself to save the rest of her crew. This moment of thought and respite (above) is a sweet, sweet panel. Toth is not satisfied to simply establish Maggie in thought and the open raft, but does so with style, couching the main two elements in an arrangement of textures and patterns: bushes of star leaves; the curved triangles of large plants; the lines and crosshatch of tall grass; curved ripples on water; spotted blacks of shadow and craggy rock. I could stare at this drawing a long, long time (and have).

Toth prolongs the suspense with a long shot from the weeds in silhouette in the foreground, the calm before the storm. Then, time stands still as Maggie encounters a sea serpent in a wordless panel. This creature is not static, but alive on the page, frightening as it hovers over Maggie who doesn't move a muscle.

Combined with panels covered in detail in my previous post, it's a very nice page, well composed, balancing black areas with negative space, action with stillness, juxtaposing angles and lines with swirling, circular forms as shown on right (below).

All hell breaks loose atop page 23 as the serpent attacks, all teeth and folds of reptile skin circling its long neck. Cropping out the creature's eyes focuses attention on the sharp teeth, accentuating its size. Toth utilizes again flowing display lettering for the growl, weaving it behind and in front of the serpent. Surround Sound on a 2-D page! We see Maggie and the raft from the POV of the water surface.

Maggie faints in the next panel, but I'm not sure we'd know what was going on right away without the caption. Like I said before, when Toth fails, he does so in grand fashion, as with this unorthodox shot from the raft floor: seat and oars at striking angles; the action carried from Maggie's position, hands and the curve of her jaw. Drawing at this angle, a cropped and foreshortened figure is extremely difficult to pull off, but Toth makes it look easy. He certainly made it hard on himself, trying something different.

Then, it's Hunter to the rescue again, blowing his horn, torch at the ready!

Close ups for the dinosaur in the middle tier, looking fierce. No confusion in what's going on here, Toth clear about who is where in a 3/4 overhead shot, then action profile.

No need for dialogue in this frame, the serpent ominous in the foreground, nearly in complete silhouette as it snaps Hunter's weapon, smoke billowing from its powerful jaws. Hunter prepares another torch.  And Toth doesn't let us forget Maggie, her knees poking up from her raft. What a shot! This could very well be an abstract painting.

Then we're right in the thick of the action, an angle that brings to mind Gregory Peck as Ahab in Moby Dick (1956). Reading this, kids musta felt like they were holding the torch themselves! Superb design: swirling shapes for flame and smoke; serpent curve; circular patterns of horn; half-circle bubbles; flowing mop of hair in black; the sturdy line of Hunter's staff and arm.

Unconscious Maggie floats on in the background...

Hunter saves Maggie again in this overhead shot. Curves of boats, diagonals of staff and oars. Then, back at the cave, we get a glimpse of what's next in store for hero Hunter...

An exploration of Alex Toth's Land Unknown comic (1957) continues with Part 10. We're nearing the conclusion, still with 4-5 posts to go. Check 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.


TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 4

In this installment, we'll focus pages 10 & 11 of Alex Toth's adventure adaptation of The Land Unknown, in which the crew deals with mechanical difficulties and faces a T-Rex. As always, one can read the story in its entirety on line, or visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other 14 parts of this blog series.

Having crash landed, the crew discovers broken parts on the 'copter, establish camp and try to make contact with the ships, to no avail. Toth sets up a very nice page, balancing medium shots of in the upper left and lower right, and a shadowed head of the radio man in the 'copter in upper right and lower left. Throughout the rest of the page are smaller figures in long shots, grounded by the four corners.

Each shot is carefully chosen by Toth to tell the story clearly and smoothly. Panel 1 is from a vantage point slightly below so we see the mechanic holding the bent rod, and past him look up into the workings of the main rotor mast of the helicopter. Toth is known for having had a formidable visual library in his head, but I'd be hard pressed to believe he didn't have reference for the incredible detail shown here. The shadows from and on the figure and objects give the pictures and depth.

In panel 2, he moves us inside the cockpit as the radio man tries to establish contact. Hal and Maggie exchange engaging banter and exposition, Hal framed by the 'copter window.

Back outside and from below again, we check out the crew unloading supplies from the helicopter, reminded of its broken parts. Toth uses lots of great diagonals  again here, leading the eye thru the frame and to the two figures. Then, camp set, they hear something from above, looking up, Mr. Radio rushing to his unit. The reader's eye is led from the balloon to the crew then back up towards the sky by black area of the tent, then across with the dark horizontal of the 'copter, reinforces the movement of Radio Man.

With panel 5, we're back inside the cockpit for a classic Toth silhouette, couching the head of the smaller figure just outside. In frame 6, Toth's balloon tail makes us hear the sound from inside then around the 'copter, to the turned face of Maggie, looking on to the mechanic in concern. His down-turned expression tells us all we need to know about their situation. Man, I love those faces, the rendering of the smooth surface of the 'copter and thin lines of the foliage. Toth really mixes it up in interesting ways.

I should mention the coloring on this page is basic, but solid and effective, telling us their locale, balancing warm and cool.

With page 11, just when they might figure they have enough problems, a roar soars through the jungle (across the page), sending critters skittering. Our eye shoots across the page, over the two panels, then back again by half, as Toth smartly send the creatures against our natural reading flow, a jarring effect to prepare us for the debut of the T-Rex.

Opening up that shot to a 2/3-page splash is just right, although the dinosaur is static; he could have more movement and be more menacing. No excuses, but I betcha kids reading it in 1957 thought it was super-cool!

A detail of page 11, panel 2, comparing color to line art. By cropping the heads and tails, Toth conveys movement and action, as well as mystery as to just what creatures inhabit this Unknown Land.

Okay, eleven pages in, we're about 1/3 through the story. Keep reading with Part 5 as Toth really starts heating up! Or visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other 14 parts of this blog series.


Daughter's Dino Drawings

Our two daughters, Laura and Emily have been immersed in art and music as they've grown. And what with their parents both being artists, not only have they been surrounded by art and art-making as we work away at our trade and our personal creative projects, but also seem to have gotten a double-dose of the artistic gene. Laura (14) really stepped up her drawing time this Summer, noodling away in her sketchbook like crazy, experimenting with various cartooning styles, as well as drawing portraits and from life. This recently completed piece of two dinosaurs caught my eye:

She loves animals and most times draws them better than I do, studying and practicing animal anatomy. She's internalized it so much over the years, she can whip out highly stylized characters like these that have so much personality, humor, depth and detail. On the left, I love the eye on the side of the dino's head, the silly little tongue, the swirl at its knee and the heart shape at the tip of its tail. And the expression and body language of the dino on the right just cracks me up. She'd planned a dino-bird for the sky, but changed her mind last minute to add a touch of black humor with the hurtling comet. All is not cute, sweet and light in Laura's DinoWorld.

A close-up detail of the herbivore...

...and the carnivore.

Nice job, Laura! Keep drawing and sculpting!