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TothPix: Otis Dumm and The Fox

In 1983, Alex Toth's cover for Red Circle's Black Hood comic caught my eye. It may have been the first time I saw his work, I'm not sure. But it made an impression. And The Fox story inside was a hoot, thick lines, simple colors; both the covers, title logo and comics inside were a throwback to comics and and adventure strips of yesteryear.

The front cover is action-packed, with figures flying, compositional diagonals, stars and bursts, a bold, cartoony logo, and inset for the Fox feature. There's so much action, so much going on, that some visual elements cross over the title, integrated and of a piece, yet it's all easy to take in and process. Open at the fold, and one finds it's a wraparound cover, to boot. Fun! I think the cover could be improved with better coloring, but it was plenty enough to get me to pick it up.

Inside, Toth's story at the back of the book jumped out at me, introducing an old man covering the page from head to toe, one Otis Dumm, an unlikely star of a superhero story, breaking up the page and taking center stage.

Making a one-time side character the focus of the story is an old trick, and one Will Eisner used to employ regularly with his The Spirit strip. The old man in a bright red shirt, bolo tie and pants hiked high in an improbable hero, but throughout the story we find there's much more than meets the eye to Otis Dumm. The Fox and readers become impressed with his ingenuity, smarts and resourcefulness. Toth's story is similar in some fashion to David Mamet's play/movie, The Water Engine, about suppression of a new technology. But where Mamet's play is dark, Toth's is lighthearted and a romp.

One can read the story in large scans at the super blog, Atomic Surgery, which also covers other Toth stories, among others' work. One gets the sense Toth would've like a few more pages than the twelve he had to work with, as the last couple are heavy on exposition and text. It could've been paced better, but still is one of my favorite Toth pieces.

One last panel: yet another where Toth focuses on the most important object of the story and frame, by cropping the character's head from the shot. Rest assured, Otis and his face get plenty of exposure, but not in this panel which is the central conflict of the tale.

These may be Dumm Comics, but they're not Dumb Comics!

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