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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.