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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.

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