TothPix: The Land Unknown • Part 5

On page 12 of Alex Toth's adventure adaptation of The Land Unknown, the crew encounter the T-Rex. This set of panels from the middle tier of the page are a real eye-grabber! A quarter century after King Kong (1933), thirty-five years before Jurassic Park, kids must've been enthralled by this confrontation, far more exciting in the comic book than in the movie from which it is adapted.

It's a fine page, kicking off with a bang as shots are fired and the crew heads to the 'copter to defend themselves and send the T-Rex away.

Toth draws our eye from the upper left to Maggie's figure (indulging in some subtle cheesecake) to the bottom center, bouncing back up on a diagonal to the upper right, lead by Hal's shadowed outstretched arm as he shoots. In panel 2, the pattern is repeated somewhat, across and down by the helicopter and gunshot, then up again to the dinosaur. Panel 1 is superb - great action and composition; and while we view the action in panel 2 from 3/4 above (nice storytelling), the rendering of the grass obscures things as it gets too busy. An older, wiser Toth would've simplified more the backgrounds.

Panel 3 is a daring, exciting tour de force, juxtaposing and balancing light and dark areas, effective in B&W and in color. The chiaroscuro angles of the copter and Hal's leg jut into and across the panel, cutting towards the approaching T-Rex. Nearly in silhouette, the 'copter is pushed into the foreground, broken up smartly by the foliage (colored red to heighten the sense of danger), the dinosaur the only cool element in the frame, surrounded by warm and hot colors (see above). With panel 4, we get a close-up of the T-Rex as the blades tears into him. Ouch!

From inside the 'copter, we see the dinosaur depart, the crew largely in silhouette, a splash of light on one face, the character faintly defined with subtle and careful rim lighting.

The final panel gets the job done, but isn't a standout. Sure, it makes sense that eschewed the angled action of the rest of the page, but it's too static for my tastes. It'd probably be fixed if the dinosaur was less upright, instead partially cropped in an action-packed pose, heading off-panel, tail flailing behind him. In this and a couple others, Toth's T-Rex looks all too similar to the "man-in-a-dinosaur-suit" look of the movie. It's puzzling, since he handles the other creatures so expertly in the rest of the story, as you'll see in future installments...

Continue now with Part 6, which features a couple superb pages, or visit the Land Unknown page for an overview and insta-links to all separate other 14 parts of this blog series. s always, one can read the story in its entirety on line.

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