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TothPix - Casebook: Alcoholism

Looks like Toth did this stand-alone Casebook: Alcoholism page for the military, probably sometime in the late '70s. Kind of a comics PSA (Public Service Announcement). It's dated - the black character is in a position of authority, but still says "Dig?" But Toth's drawing is assured and sensitive, spotting black areas with usual panache, employing a grease pencil (from the looks of it) for tone and texture.

I'm such a believer in line variation - the thick and thin of brushwork to create weight, depth and interest - I'm still surprised Toth created such great work with a "dead line." There are subtleties in his initial marker drawings (expressions, hands, the hair and ear, the 3D treatment of the "US" on Jake's button/pin) which is buttressed by beefing up some lines and blackspotting.

More great stuff in the 2nd panel: expressions, cropping, details of hands and clothing folds. These guys could all look the same, but their faces and noses are different shapes. I'd need reference to really capture the tilt of the head of Jake shaving, but no doubt pulled it off right outta his head.

Check this bit of copy from below the comic! Sounds like recruitment: "Know any would-be alcoholics?" - LOL! Alcoholism is obviously dangerous and destructive - I know - and it's great it was tried to reach people with this PSA, but I'm guessing were it done now that text would include how to deal with such a situation without insinuating one should rat out a fellow soldier! Or am I reading too much into it...?


TothPix: Model Sheets

Alex Toth spent a portion of twenty-five years of his career doing character design and storyboards for TV animation. And for about a decade after artists and animators passed along to each other huge stacks of those designs (and still do). In 1996, Toth friend and fellow animator Darrell McNeil gathered it all together is one big package, the Alex Toth: by Design book. I was fortunate to snap up a copy upon its release, and good thing I did, ’cause the book fetches around $300 nowadays, long out of print. Folks have taken to selling small stacks of portions of what’s included in the book on ebay.

Here's some faves I scanned. (Check out more I posted previously.)  


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 11

This post will wrap up my examination and analysis of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac, in my opinion one of his best efforts for Dell Comics. For context, and/or to check out the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Page 30, panel 2: Bad boy Smith chases the boys back to the chain locker, only to come upon them discovering a box of flares, cropped but positioned prominently in the frame on a bed of chains both in front of and behind the box. A torn flap of the box is in shadow, jutting into Smith's face, bringing even more attention to his reaction than if we had a more unobstructed view of his face. Smith has hightailed it outta there so Mac climbs out of the hatch and the boys light the flares. Smart spotting of blacks on both frames.

Now viewing the seen from behind Toby and Smith, those two ne'er-do-wells largely in shadow from the glare of the flares, frame Clint & Mac. I desaturated this panel as it looks even better in black and white. The rendering on the bad guys is superb here - folds, hair, body language and modeling. On the next page, now outside the boat and from a distance, rescuers make a 180 and are on their way in this action-packed image. The coloring is crude but simple and effective, cools in the foreground, warms in the background with the exploding flares really popping and grabbing our eye. Nice composition! Toby and Smith try to make their getaway, to no avail. Fun! The goons now apprehended, the boys discover what's been in that satchel all along... Not much going on on the last page, but Toth gets to draw one of his much-loved planes in a nice aerial shot. I blew out the color and tone for a look at some signature Toth line art. Beautiful! That's it for Clint & Mac! If you've missed some or all of the previous installments, check 'em out!


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 10

Nearing the end of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to check out the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog.

A single panel comprises the top tier of page 27, a nice shot, almost entirely in silhouette, the boat and all players hiding beneath the dock. I desaturated this because the coloring isn't good and the effect of the searchlights in the background come across more. Other than minor rimlighting all is in shadow, save what is backlit by the lights. Between the swaths of light, Toth rendered those areas with crosshatch.

After a slap to the face, Toby's had enough and strikes back against the bully, Smith. Action! Toth uses motion lines at the point of contact and to indicate Smith is reeling, but otherwise the motion is conveyed by the sweep of a scarf, the flow of jackets, and a cigarette dangling in the air. Though he uses comics techniques and tricks and that vibrant sound effect, the drawing is naturalistic, but not nearly static. Toth's use of shadow and spotting black solidify the figures and action, adding depth and weight.

There's a lot crammed into the next panel, but it all works. Toby's imposing figure looming over the fallen Smith, Clint & Mac and the Skip in the background.
The boat is on the move again, now with Toby in charge. What a wonderful 3/4 overhead view, the composition defined by wake as the boat slices through the dark waters. There's an illustrative touch here again, with the wake bleeding into an open border of the panel. All details of the ship, now from another angle are spot on, the water rendered with impressionistic virtuosity.

Atop the next page, Toby is in control as they head out to sea.

A nice shot of Toby, underlit, finishes off the page. What an expression! What a character!

I'll wrap up Clint and Mac next week. Be here next Tuesday for the fireworks!

In the meantime catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 9

More great stuff from the next pages of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to read the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Top tier of page 25. The first panel is a 3/4 overhead shot. Of course, the perspective is spot on, the two figures placed properly, also in perspective. The shadows add depth, mass, drama, and lead the viewer's eye. Smith's face is obscured by his hat and shadow. Just behind Smith is the small corridor where the boys had crawled to cut the line. In the following frame, the Skipper discovers the boys, who've been hiding in the locker. Most of this frame is in shadow - more drama! Smith takes a look, and we see him from inside the locker, behind and framed by the boys in silhouette. Extreme cropping in the next panel, by borders and word balloons. Though the close-up and hovering Smith convey danger, they frame and direct our attnetion to Clint & Mac. Toth continues to move us around, in and out of the ship, varying angles for interest, establishing who's where, when. In panel 5, Toby and Smith are obscured by the silhouette of the skipper's foot and the ladder. All three bad guys take a secondary position to Clint and Mac and their plight. That's further developed in the final panel, with Smith shown from behind, separating and dividing the boys as their led to the bunks in the cabin. Though in a different environment, this shot is a 180 from panel 3. Cocky and resourceful throughout the story, the boys continue to plan. I love the angles and body language in these two frames. Mysterious and dark, the villains move about the ship, this time Toth cutting to a close-up of Toby making his way down the ladder. With the characters and ship well-established, this type of shot is atypical for most artists but not unusual for Toth. In this case, it adds to the feeling of danger and claustrophobia. More of that in the facing panel, but from a different angle as the Skip closes the hatch. God, I love this shot! Great angles, composition, spotting of blacks, shadows on objects and figure. That the skipper is cropped and obscured by his tilt of head directs attention to his action and the voice coming from the galley. Next page, frame 1. I wish I could concoct and construct a picture with such apparent ease and sophisticated design as Toth does here. The varied shapes, black areas, bold curve of the tunnel, perspective and car details - wonderful! That said, he's created a couple tangents with the top and bottom of the tunnel shadow which intersect with the top and rear of the car. Had he to do it over, I'm sure he'd move the car a tad further into the tunnel to offset those lines. Back in the boat, the boys are manhandled and silenced in this tight, cropped shot. A superb shot from below - what a stellar composition! The perspective, angles, expressions and action are so good, so natural, yet all in service to heightening the tension. Cropping is so important in Toth's work. There aren't many panels better than this to show how and why. We peer into the cabin from the entrance; an interior shot. The entrance on either side crops Toby and Clint, enhancing the action. Just look at Mac's head turned upward and away from us, drawn in so simple but effective fashion. The angle of Toby's figure in the foreground frames the rest of the panel, balancing the diagonal of Clint's shirt. Smith takes center stage here, but even his gaze and arm lead our eye to his thumb grabbing Clint's shirt. Clint's face is really the center of interest here, and go figure - way on the right side of the frame! The next and final panel of the page is a nice close-up of the skipper, looking a bit frantic as the authorities close in. We're nearing the end now. Maybe a couple more posts to finish off this story. So, more next Tuesday In the meantime, catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 8

Lotsa great panels on these next two pages of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to read the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Page 23 starts with a wide shot, re-establishing the characters and surroundings as Smith rejoins the fray. Same deal here with Toth placing a post in the foreground for depth and to divide the frame into thirds, the figures and vessels in mid-ground, a criss-cross web of the dock behind. The chiaroscuro rendering of the splash and water bring energy to the panel. Positive and negative space are key here. Clint and Mac get wind of what's up above, the upturned head of Clint giving us a sense of placement and sound, even in a close-up shot with a black background. Without showing us again who's where, Toth suggest it cleverly. Back above, top deck with the three men. The POV is just below eye level of Toby and Smith, so we look up at them, then past to the skipper. Perspective, gesture, expression, composition, rendering of folds and hair, spotting of blacks - all are so well done here! I removed the color and cleaned up panel 4 as the coloring was distracting to the power and energy of this frame. With an illustrative touch, Toth leaves open portions of the sides and bottom of the frame, the negative space bleeding beyond its border. Roughly rendered (or printed) all details of the boat, dock, rigging etc. are rock solid, even while Toth draws our attention tot he serpentine rope Smith tosses, leaving the skiff behind. This panel is seriously great. The final panel of the page shows Mac frantic, Clint brandishing his pocket knife for the next action... They make their way out of the locker to the cabin, the drama heightened by Toth's choice of a low angle, the perspective shadowing and cropping used for great effect. Clint begins to cut the gas line in the next frame, the boy's head framing the point at which blade meets tubing. I love the scratchy rendering of Clint's hair and bold stripes on Mac's mac. Next are a couple unassuming panels: a close-up of gas running from the spliced tube; then a long shot from under the dock. Though striking no doubt in black and white, Toth designed his panel for color, the boat and its passengers knocked with a simple outline. Panel 5 is another shot from below eye level, Smith threatening but casual, an effect conveyed and enhanced by how he dominated the frame, the folds in his jacket (suggesting his left hand in pocket) and the slight cock of his head. Toth is nailing it with every panel here: perspective, cropping, loosely-rendered details of the gun and ship, facial expressions and wisps of smoke. Gad, this man makes it look easy! It ain't. As if the previous frames weren't impressive enough, for the final panel of page 24, Toth places Smith in the extreme foreground, with a POV from above, looking down from overhead to the Skipper in the cabin. Man, what a shot! Some challenge his claims, but this is done so naturally I can believe Toth achieved shots like this without reference. Staggering. More next week. In the meantime catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 7

Page 21 of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac is just a great page, the last panel of which inspired me to cover this full story with this series of posts. That "closing the hatch" panel is still one of my all-time faves in Toth's canon.

In panel 1, the boys are still in the water under the dock, cropped and hidden as they eavesdrop and plan. The page all told is well composed, each panel also superb, working together with patterns of angles and curves, focusing not on a money shot of a particular character or close-up, but establishing the characters and objects in relationship to each other. The hatch is is the prime focus of the page. Rather than showing us more face-front views of the characters in action, Toth forces us to pay attention to that hatch. Storytelling, man - storytelling!

Sure, in Panel 2 we see the Skipper, an incidental character (and a fantastic drawing, by the way), but other than this and the medium/long shot of Clint & Mac in frame 1, that's all we get. Why? Here, we see Toby from behind. The point at which his hat crops said hatch in the background is nearly in the exact center of the panel. We think we're focusing Toby & Skip, the boat, perhaps any of the details that might catch our attention (the joists, light, rope, satchel...whatever), but actually all these elements point us back to the hatch. All of them. The perspective and angles of the joists lead to each side of the hatch, even if one side is obscured by Toby's head/hat. The exchange between Toby & the Skip is secondary. All lines lead to the hatch.

See? Like this:
If we didn't get the point, Toth leaves us no choice in panel 3: the hatch takes up just about all of the frame. Though the satchel is cropped and partially obscured, we get that Toby's hiding it in the locker. The perspective here is spot on. No tangents, all details drawn so well, but so simply - the handle, Toby's hands, etc. So good. What'd Toth say again?

Emphasize what is important in a scene. Save drawing!

Eliminate the superfluous, the unnecessary...In other words: strip it all down to essentials and draw the hell out of what is left!

In panel 4 (above) Toth takes us underneath the dock again, nearly all in shadow or silhouette.

A terrific overhead long-shot re-establishes the boys, the dock and the boat, and despite all the detail of the boat, all eyes are on the boys making their way aboard. Then, of course: the shot. Love it!

On the next page (22), Toth brings us inside the locker with the boys to enhance the immediacy and drama. Much of what works here is weakened by poor coloring, so...

...let's take a look in black and white. Ah, that's better. The shots here are from below, dark, cramped and claustrophobic. Medium-dark coloring would've reinforced what Toth has set up so well. And how more effective panels 3 & 4 would have been without narration and dialogue. An additional panel after panel 4 with that dialogue would've improved things.

Back above: top deck. Our two rascals move the satchel about again. The cropping of the characters put it again at center stage. I love the angle on Toby, so natural and emphasizing his girth. There's a real flow and sway to the gestures, hands, jacket folds and face.

Moving the "camera" above, Toth makes a tough shot to pull off look easy. He usually does....

Next week: More great stuff, go figure. It's hard to believe there's so much done so well in a mediocre kids comics adaption of a sub-par Disney television serial...but there is!

As always, you can refer to and read and view the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog. Catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 6

More of Toth's Clint & Mac picks with a nice page with great compositions, blackspotting and tons of folds. There's an illustrative quality to the art here and it looks decent in color...

...But I blew out the color and cleaned things up for a closer look in black & white. Take this first panel from the top of page 18. Toth crops the figure on the left (Smith), his head in a halo of smoke, bathed in shadow which swings us on a curve as we move right to his partner in crime. What natural gesture, and with not the easiest pose, at that. Could Toth have pulled this off without a model or reference? He said yes, his reference file in his head, and that every artist should strive for the same.

This is a comic for kids, but everybody's smoking! So: Smith leans forward. Sweet black areas, expression and folds in his jacket. Toth looks like he could draw this stuff in his sleep. Behind him, the limehouse room walls are decorated with pin-ups of gorgeous women. This guy's lamp is all askew (right), casting dramatic shadows around the room . Most of this frame is taken up by Smith's dominating figure, his buddy taking orders, diminished, then - cropped at right.

(Not facing panels.)

From the lower tier, we cut to Clint & Mac turning over the skiff. Toth achieves tremendous depth, a shadowed post and pier in the foreground, the boys in the mid-ground, surrounded by receding decking and posts underneath the dock. He stages and renders a complex scene simply. By cropping Mac with the foreground post, we focus instead on Mac with the strong diagonal of his body and rope as he lowers the skiff - one can really feel the tension and effort! A more open space between the posts frame and highlight his head, and the impressionistically rendered splashes of water around the skiff add contrast and draw attention to the object, and lets the reader's eye finish the picture.

Here's the entire page in black & white, just for grins.

The top tier of page 19 features to wonderful panels, the boys framed by the opening between the dock and gate, the wake from a ship in the distance providing another halo. Then the boys are in the water and Toth takes us under with them. What beautiful flow and action, as the curve of their bodies leads us to their destination: the skiff. Great composition and design here with a variety of patterns: the long, horizontal ellipses of the ripples on the water surface; the rounded, billowing cloud of their path; the diagonals of the skiff and wood. Just superb.

We're back on the surface in the next frame, the POV just above the water's surface, actually. It brings near the boys' POV, accentuating the anxiety of their situation. In this long horizontal panel, the skiff covers a good portion of the panel, cropping the boys underneath, emphasizing its importance and framing the two gents on the dock.

Before giving us a two-shot of Toby and the Skipper with some cash and the satchel, Toth keeps the camera angle low but from another POV, showing us the skipper's ship. A trail of smoke is in each panel, leading the eye through and framing figures.

Toth continues to vary the shots, this time from above, the top of the skipper's ship and a light in the foreground, the two men cropped by those foreground elements in mid-ground, the ever-present skiff behind. Toth is moving about, showing us who and what is where, objects and people in relation to each other. An overhead shot focuses on that skiff - will the boys be discovered?

Then we cut to a close-up under that boat as the boys decide to take leave, Toby and the Skip pull up the skiff, which has seen some action!

Rather than repeating with another shot of the boys swimming underwater, that action occurs between frames and in the final large panel of the page, Clint & Mac have safely escaped, now under a pier, it and them in silhouette, Skip and Toby ready to set out. Cool shot!

Next week: Some choice panels from the next few pages as we head into the final third of the comic.

As always, you can refer to and read and view the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog. Catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 5

Time for more Clint & Mac as drawn by Alex Toth! As always, you can refer to and read the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

From the top tier of page 16, a very sweet illustration by Toth, and a wonderful comic book panel. There's not much to the rendering in this frame, but it creates an impression, with simple lines, dots and dashes - all the details we need are there. The trees bleed into a mass of green, the building a series of steps slitting the middle to frame the limo. Again, he knows his cars. I love the sharp slashes of shadow on the road in the foreground - Toth kept in mind the high sun in the sky so the shadows fall on the surface in proper perspective.

In the middle tier, Toth does plenty. The POV just below eye level, we see on the left indications of the dock and harbor; on the right a man entering the warehouse. Clint & Mac hide behind a stack of boxes in the center, but the main points of interest are offset and not nearly center frame.  This make for a dynamic and interesting composition. Lotsa little details, that help establish the environment, all without distracting: post; rope; rigging; ship; flag; handtruck and tag; hanging lights in the warehouse, etc.

In facing panels on the bottom tier the boys peer through a gate to a pier and boat, which is central to the next several pages.

Kicking off page 17 is a set of two top tier panels. Of a piece, they're drenched in black, the figure dissolving into the shadows, the only light source being the flashlight. Very moody and cinematic, these frames have an illustrator's touch with some hatching for tone and texture and clever, effective coloring - only two colors utilized. But these are not illustrations, but pure comics, great compositions - all about telling the story.

Toth uses plenty of page-space for the next shot under the dock as the two make their way to the skiff. A moody dramatic shot, the boys are shown in silhouette amidst a maze of posts, joists, rails and decking. The perspective is solid, yet Toth found ways to create other various angles. The boat is the obvious center of interest, once again off-center, highlighted by the green.

Inside the warehouse, our heroes become one with the shadows. Cool shot. Then back outside, the boys will be trapped inside. Nice angles, perspective, balance and blackspotting.

Next week: Goons, the Scotland Yard, the Bookworm, the skiff, Toby and...the package.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 4

Clint & Mac drawn by Alex Toth continues this week with some fine, fine frames, and what has now become one of my favorite Toth pages ever. Just you wait. As always, you can refer to and read the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

Topping off page 11 is a honey of a horizontal panel. Toth arranges it this way so we can read the long name of the shop, being careful not to place anything directly in the center of the frame. This is good example of a rule of thirds composition, which artists and photographers typically apply vertically. Toby with that all-important satchel fill the right third, while Clint & Mac are cropped far left, entering frame. Despite the simple set-up, Toth achieves great depth with foreground and background planes, adding details near Toby's head, with the light post and reflections in the upper window. It doesn't seem much, but there's a lot going on here.

The lower tier of the same page shows a nice close-up of Toby's bag, another figure in deep background. In the next frame, though the principles are placed center-frame (atypically, for Toth), it works nicely and I really like the body language.
All right, here we go: page 12. It's astonishing. A self-contained page, Toth knocks this one outta the park. Just take it in, and don't worry about getting distracted with a couple poorly chosen bright colors - I blow away the color further below and really get into the nitty-gritty.

The smart design, storytelling, blackspotting, perspective and composition are even more evident in black & white/grey. The boys track Toby to the car and hitch a ride before getting bumped off in the last panel. Get a good look at how he's balanced lights and darks here - a sight to behold.

In each panel, though usually not placed middle-frame, Toth makes clear the center of interest (indicated in yellow below). Through a clever use perspective and changing POV, Toth carries lines from frame to frame, leading the eye through the page, action -by action, balancing angles throughout to achieve astounding page composition. None of these lines are perfectly vertical or horizontal, even the side of the building in frame 1. Dynamic!

In frame 1, all eyes are on Toby as he enters the car. His foot/leg jutting into the bright sidewalk catches our eye. The boys knocked out in silhouette in the foreground put them front-and-center, but not to distract us from who they're following, and to add drama/mystery. And boy, this guy knew how to draw cars!

I can't get over these two frames in the middle tier. Toth places us in the driver's seat in the car directly behind Clint & Mac hanging onto the spare, riding the bumper. The heroes, being the center of attention are not placed in the middle of the panel, but offset to the right and cropped. The main horizontal lines either lead us to or frame the boys. Beyond foreground, mid- and background, Toth further separates planes with the exhaust from Toby's car. Extending and reinforcing those lines into the next frame, the artist combines an exterior and interior shot to cleverly crop and frame the boys still hanging on to the rear of the vehicle. Amazing.

Look at any shot on this page, and you'll find no tangents - just brilliant composition and design, subtle and careful placement of elements for great storytelling and picture-making. The final shot couldn't be simpler, again with a silhouette to show the action without details of the boys reactions, expressions or potential pain. A few motion lines, a cloud of exhaust and some bouncy lettering - this is comics!

The color undermines the illustrative shot atop the next page, separating overmuch left and right, drawing to much attention to some cars center frame, and not enough of a knock out of the two boys on the right. But this is a superb drawing, the vehicles rendered in chiaroscuro fashion, and again with no lines exactly straight, even the center line of the street, which could've cut the panel in two.

The middle tier of page 13 is a sweet one with multiple planes, detail, texture and wonderful composition. He's really on his game.

And what about this shot closing the page? Unassuming, but a real winner of a panel. The POV is from behind, so the tilt of his head, hand gestures and trailing smoke tell us what we need to know about the General.
Knocking out the color and tweaking tone a bit help punctuate the power of Toth's silhouette here, the first panel on page 15. Nice profile and pipe. Note the upturned glasses, dangling pipe and collar are not in complete silhouette.

We close with a nice vertical shot of the Bookworm who'd earlier hired Clint & Mac.

Next week: The dock, a boat and the warehouse. Great stuff coming up...!