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Tag: war

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TothPix: Too Many Cooks

Last week in my review of Genius, Isolated, I compared side-by-side the line art to printed color from a panel of the Toth-drawn story, Too Many Cooks. This comparison is afforded us as the line art for this page was printed from the original art in Genius, Isolated. It struck me how crisp, sharp and clean Toth's line was, especially when all I knew of it previously was from the muddy, poor printing on cheap newsprint. It's worthwhile to compare the panels from the rest of the page....

"Too Many Cooks," page 1; This Is War #6 (Standard, 1952). Line art (left) and color scan from printed comic (right).

Toth's line here looks similar to what he produced with The Crushed Gardenia, achieved, he said, by filing his pen Speedball B-6 nib to a chiseled edge. The result is a somewhat flat and angular line, which he fills out with brush for shadows, folds, etc. This panel introduces the characters (and what characters!), enveloped by trademark Toth black and white areas, broken up with the occasional texture: crosshatched stubble; stippled helmet.

The colors of many of the comics from this period lean heavily towards primary. The black swath covering the top third is the underside of the tent, cropping into the sky and hill just below in the background. It would make far more sense to have colored the yellow area blue (sky) and the blue a grey-purple - not only better color choices, but helping to establish the setting.

"Too Many Cooks," panel 2; Line art (left) and color scan from printed comic (right).

Panel 3 could've been nothing but talking heads. But Toth adds interest by extreme cropping of the main character on the left (nearly slicing his face off!), and though his shorter buddy is center-panel and aggressive (in his face!) our cropped man still dominates, wielding his cooking spoon almost as a weapon.

In panel 4, their argument is interrupted by a gun shot, blocked (tellingly) by that very spoon, which Toth highlights on the right, centered in a large open area. Our attention is focused on the ricochet and breaking spoon, as the character is viewed over shoulder, from behind. Pretty smart writing, actually, and very smart storytelling by Toth.

"Too Many Cooks," panel 3 & 4; Line art (left) and color scan from printed comic (right).

That brings us back to panel 1 (which I featured last week). I'm quite taken with this panel: the guy's exaggerated features, jutting jaw, tilted, cigarette, stippled helmet, and unshaven face. It isn't badly colored at all, but oh, how I yearned to see a cleaner version...!

"Too Many Cooks," panel 1; Line art (left) and color scan from printed comic (right).

So, I took the liberty of coloring it myself anew (below). I didn't change much and kept it nearly flat, but was able to add minor modeling, a couple subtle gradations (on the helmet and for the background) and to colorize the cigarette tip and motion lines.

Boy, I like the look of this, and Toth should get such treatment and with a top-notch colorist like, say, Dave Stewart. But given that these stories are finally just being collected and re-printed, we'll probably never see it. I no doubt ask too much. Some Toth stories were re-colored in the late '80s - early'90s, but hand-colored and not well, usually. Toth's stuff works better clean, simple and mostly flat, I think.

"Too Many Cooks," panel 1 with new coloring by me (humbly submitted for your approval).

That said, Too Many Cooks and many other stories are included in the sizable volume from Fantagraphics Books: Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954. The pages are scanned from the printed comics, but cleaned and remastered a bit, looking better (below) than the scans used throughout this post and what one generally finds online. The book is a must for any Toth and comics fan.

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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!