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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 3

Making a return after a month hiatus from Toth Tuesdays due to an increasingly busy schedule, I'm picking up where last we left off, in the middle of page 8 of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. As always, you can refer to and read in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

There's this nice, large shot at the zoo in the middle of page 8, showing three main characters to the left, surrounded by an array of incidental characters. Great body language, folds and blackspotting here. A variety of textures are simply suggested throughout, including the impressionistic, Sickles-like rendering of the tress and bushes. And right near Clint & Mac, there's that turtle again...

The next page (9) is really sweet: great panel and page composition; a variety of angles; smart design, cropping and blackspotting; wonderful details on cars, buildings and inside the flat in the last frame. I blew out the color for this, as a couple minor elements were inexplicably colored a bright red, as you'll see, further below...

Toth opens the page with a wide establishing shot, the sidewalk edge creating the border of the lower left of the panel, Clint & Mac in the background on the right. It's all grounded with the solid black of the street surface. The vertical pattern on the gate on the upper right of the page balance the vertical stripes on a garment on the lower left of the page.

In these two panels from the middle tier (not facing panels), we see a couple nice overhead shots. Viewing Mac from above with his face obscured, we focus instead on his crouch and the card he's picking up. The angled of the sidewalk reinforce and carry through the angle above in panel 1. Strong shadows highlight the panel on the right, the building details picking up only some indirect light in the shadows. For coloring, it'd make more sense to have lightened the green of the truck catching light and using a mid-tone darker color in the background rather than that yellow. Ugh. The artist undermined!

Tons of detailed clutter in the final panel with various shapes, angles and  curves smartly knocked out in cool colors, Mr. Smith cropped by foreground elements, colored brightly to pop.

Smith is confronted by our heroes in these three panels forming the top tier of the next page (10). Smart composition, cropping and expression on Smith's face in panel 2. Love it!

Toth closes the page with a cool overhead of the boys and that car, the shadows of which bleed into the black of the street. Great juxtaposition of positive/negative space. The final two panels couldn't be simpler, but serve the story as we focus on the lock from the inside of the vehicle. and we see these boys so much in the story, it's nice to break things up and go with a silhouette in the last frame.

Next week: To the leather goods shop!


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 2

Continuing some favorite stuff from Alex Toth's Clint & Mac, story pages 5-8. As always, you can refer to and read in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

Page 5, panel 2 - Nice cropping, depth, blocking and composition. Even if we can't see every bit of every character, we see all their expressions, even as he focuses our attention on that package. A tilt of a head, slant of a brim, and angles of the collar, book and cigarette lead the reader's eye through the back & forth through the panel.

This last panel of the same page was colored strangely, what with a bright orange on the bus and and inexplicable bright red on the side of the building - so I blew out the color to better see this 3/4 overhead. Great composition, perspective, angles, detail, shadows and reflections. The four principle characters are not centered, but offset within the drawing. Sharp stuff!

Cool action panel; the bottom tier of page 6. Besides a few action and impact lines, the action is naturalistic - Toth lets folds, shadows and flailing ties carry and convey most of the action. Mac's pose is a little static, but it's fun to see his fist in the face of that doofus. I love how Clint's own fist juts into and obscures part of his face.

Page 7, panel 1: Low POV as the brutes make their escape, silhouetted legs in the foreground.

Another character is introduced a couple panels later, distinct from all the others we've already seen. Toth mixes it up! Nice background detail and slanting shadows.

Simple panel, the last of the page. He keeps the lower half of the frame open, so the car really pops, and boy could he drew 'em! It's fairly centered in the panel for a change, yet with the exhaust, curve of the street, sidewalk and wall, it's interesting. Not much going on with  drawing here, it seems, but he conveys plenty with what he does draw - the dots and slashes for foliage, a few bricks, a simple holding line for the smoke trail and those patented dots on the street for texture.

Atop page 8, Toth leads off with these two sweet frames across the top tier. Strong verticals frame and separate the space, but it's the curves and angles he uses that link the two, lead the eye through and again highlight the important objects: the coin and the package. A hand, a hat, a head and the car obscure and crop faces and figures. The head tilt on Mr. Toby is very well drawn - completely natural. In the second panel, if we'd see more of him we wouldn't focus as much on the transfer of that package.

Here's a closer look...

And of the other...

Thank you, Mr. Toby! See you next week, folks.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 1

I blogged last week about a favorite Toth panel, so I've caught the bug and will feature favorite panels/pages from his Clint & Mac adaptation, which you can read in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

Nice opening panel to kick off the Clint & Mac story. It's a straight-on, symmetrical shot, the POV from slightly below. Great, casual body language on the characters, mid-step, each with a cock of the head. Those spotted blacks ground the frame; so solid. The shadows add to that, and fall so naturally. We should all study and observe light source and shadows as Toth obviously did.

The lower tier of page 1 (below) are easy-going and simple, introducing the characters. I like 'em. Though the frame is split down the center compositionally, the figures are Frame Right. Again with the natural posing/acting.

The long horizontal middle frame of page 2 features tons of characters and establishes the boys' surroundings. Welcome to their world!

I love this, the last frame of page 2: interesting characters and expressions; Toth smartly overlaps and crops figures and objects to create depth and planes. And they're all looking off-panel, the tortoise having been shown in the previous frame.

Page 3, top tier: The same guy with Clint 'n' Mac, in a medium shot and from behind in an open panel. Nice.

I like this old guy, too...

Page 4, 1st panel: Classic Toth! This kind of superb shot shows up many times in his work later in his career. Mysterious goings-on. The coloring ain't too great, so I blew it out to see the black-and-white. Marvelous! Solid blacks/shadows, loose brushstrokes, dashes of white within shadow, a bit of feathering and specks for texture.

Page 4, middle tier: low angle, book in foreground; a couple more interesting characters with varied body types and face shapes; spot those blacks; from behind again; smart cropping.

Last panel of page 4: Layers and planes, more cropping for depth and interest. Great stuff!

More next week!


TothPix: Clint & Mac - Close the Hatch

Years ago, sometime within the last decade, while rooting my way through the archives of scans of Alex Toth pages at the site, I was struck by one panel in particular: a shot of two arms coming up through and opening to close a hatch behind them.

It reinforced for me the idea that Toth would often make unorthodox choices in his storytelling, an approach to material unlike anyone I'd seen. Most artists would show the two boys from below, or from above - in any case we'd see an anxious face or scurrying bodies. Instead, Toth frames the hands and closing hatch through a window from inside the boat adding drama and focusing our attention not on the boys but the main action. From such a low angle, we see just enough to establish planes and depth, where the hands emerge from the opening.

This may seem unremarkable or unassuming, but to me it's daring - superb storytelling and picture-making.

Upon first viewing, I neglected to grab and download the page/story, so for a few years couldn't place where I'd seen it! I scoured his stories to find (for me) this elusive panel (story page 21, panel 6), to finally come upon it in his wonderful Clint and Mac - an adaptation of a Disney TV serial from the Mickey Mouse Club show.

I've tried my best to explain why, but it's one of my all-time favorite Toth panels. No one else would do it this way, especially in 1960. You can view/read the entire story in a couple posts at Michael Sporn's blog. In the next few weeks here I'll be analyzing some stand-out pages and panels. (I should note I took some liberties with the frame above, tweaking and cleaning for clarity.)

'Til next week -- !


TothPix: Happy New Year!

Okay, so I re-wrote the text from this Alex Toth comics panel. Sue me.

Best to you and yours this holiday season and for the coming New Year.


TothPix: Bikini Boom

A couple great stand-along panels/illustrations by Toth, not sure for what he did these, but they're cool, drawn solely with markers by the looks of it. Nice composition, figures, shadows, crosshatch tone, folds, cropping & characters. Super cropping on this second, too. The clothing folds boldly rendered with thick marker - no messing around. The spotted blacks/shadows create interesting shapes and patterns. As is usual, Toth varies his textures (grass, sidewalk, purse, fur, crosshatch skirts) to avoid flatness. The tiny marks and jots in the grass and on the sidewalk also lead the eye through the drawing, mirroring patterns and motifs of other elements.


TothPix: Villains & Bats

Here's a fun one!


TothPix: Young Samson

young Samson 'Nuff said.


TothPix: FBI Story - Finale

Wrapping up a study of Toth's comics adaptation of The FBI Story (1959)...

The last third of the comic mainly concerns something of a chase, the agents tailing a criminal. Though the panel below isn't part of that sequence, it sure is a nice frame, an agent spying on the enemy. I removed the color and grey tones, cleaning it up as best I could to view the black and white line art. This is awful crude, then, but indicative of how Toth played with shadows throughout his career and reminiscent of a well-known frame from a Fox story he did about twenty-five years later. If only we had access to the original art or line art reproductions of this story. I don't believe this has been reprinted in black & white.

Another decent panel (below), this time of the FBI agents making an escape. Nice to see a frame with plants and trees - this tale is so filled with cities, building and cars. This shot is from slightly overhead, looking through the picture, past the centered foreground figure to the mid-ground and trouble in the distance.

The chase begins on page 27 (below) of the 32-page story. They're hot on the trail of "Whitey," who for much of the sequence is surrounded by black spaces. At times, as on this strong page he's seen through a window, from a distance, sometimes in open view - broad daylight in which reverses the negative space from black. In the last two frames we see the scene from the same POV: the criminals in the background meet and separate, the agents watching, then on the move.

Semi-close-up: Panel 2 is a nice landscape of a church with bold shadows and expressive brushwork. Toth mixes it up - at times we see the agents in the foreground in shadow, at times in the distance, Whitey taking center stage.

Another solid page (below), most shots fairly straight-on, documentary-style. We cross-cut between those at headquarters and agents in the field, tailing Whitey by car, on foot, in a train. All the panels here are straightforward - no frills. But deft spotting of blacks, angled shadows, a well-placed curve here and there raise an unassuming page into something more. In the last frame, Toth moves the POV below eye-level, placing the man making an announcement center-panel, cropping each of the principals on either side of the picture.

From the page above, a couple stand-out frames shown in grey-tone (below). Boy, I love both of these! Panel 2: Great shadow on the awning, which casts a shadow onto Whitey as he exits the building, a dark tone/color popping him to the foreground off the bright cab. Very nice background details of the tenements, the FBI partially obscured. Panel 5: One of the best panels of the story, our agent inside the car in near-silhouette offset to frame right. The brim of his hat, his face, hand, dashboard, steering wheel and angled stairs all frame and direct our attention to the cab he's keeping his eye on. Better coloring would have helped this panel sing.

(Not facing panels.)

Next page, top tier: nice, simple frames, but both could be improved. Panel 1 is split down the center. Boring. Though the guy-in-the-phonebooth silhouette is sweet, one element or the other could be offset more to add interest/drama. Panel 2 - no backgrounds? Gosh, that red is bright (and I even toned it down a little).

The bottom two tiers of the same page. The large black areas turn a daytime chase into something dangerous. In frame 3, Toth places Whitey's head in the lower-right corner, cropping his face so our eye doesn't settle on him but is rather lead back to our agent by the pole. Toth enhances the feeling that the agent is keeping a sharp eye on Whitey, knocking out the crowd with a huge shadow, singling out Whitey, as if he's the only person the agent can see. Brilliant. (For the great insight on this frame, and more, see Jesse Hamm's wonderful posts on Toth's early development).

Toth really moves the POV around then, first with a 3/4 overhead shot of the cab and a telephone booth, back inside the car, then to a worm's-eye-view, Whitey's legs in the foreground, the following vehicle in the background, cropped. The large areas of black and angles tie this 4-panel sequence together.

Chip finally nabs his prey in a diner, Whitey trying to pass info via microfilm to a higher-up.

Gotcha, Whitey!


TothPix: FBI Story, part 2

Continuing an examination of Toth's comics adaptation of  The FBI Story (1959)...

Both panels (below) are straight-on shots, pretty much from eye level, carrying on the "documentary style" employed for most of the story so far. Again - great folds on the clothing as Chip's on his way out. Then we move on to a domestic Christmas scene. I love how Toth knocks the tree out to black - the decorations colorfully popping...

(Not facing panels.)

...which he carries through the scene. Great compositions here, as he lowers the POV on the first shot, framing the mistletoe kiss and reaction of the characters in the background with the foreground tree and Christmas gifts. Very natural action and body language in the second, Chip nearly cropped out of frame as we center on the exchange between his wife and partner.

(Not facing panels.)

More spotting of blacks to enliven and ground the talking heads. At times (as with the head in the foreground, right) Toth knocks out a figure/object completely in black, others (as with Chip to his left) he allows a tiny bit of light into the shadow for definition and depth.

The good vibe and news turns dark - wife, Lucy realizes the danger of their situation. Black becomes more dominant - with the background, more harsh shadows, pipe, suspender strap and tree. The cropping of the pipe into the partner's face is vérité, seemingly not staged, also focusing our attention on Lucy's reaction. In the second frame, a somber Lucy is shown in dour profile, offset in the panel, enveloped in the dark tree. Even her red dress and the sparkling decorations can not cheer her mood at the thought of wearing black at her husband's funeral.

(Not facing panels.)

A super page (21, below) in a story where overall page composition is not paramount. More action, dynamism, contrast and variation of shots on this page, and it all works together beautifully.

Close-up of frame 2: Dynamic, expressive, chiaroscuro. There's hardly a holding line here - it's nearly all light & shadow, à la Noel Sickles.

Close-up of frame 3: More of the same - all light and shadow. A 3/4 overhead shot, the image has but three colors. Toth not only has the perspective right, but all the details on the car, even while he didn't worry about pristine rendering. Fine with me. More than fine.

The next page is another winner: Varied shots; silhouettes; decent, minimalistic coloring. Frame 4 is great - love the sweep of action, the folds of the suit bleeding into the dark street. I wish Toth had done more with Baby Face in panel 3 - it could've been more dramatic, perhaps more lighting or a lower angle? As is, it's too static.

With the final two panels, Toth pulls way back, enveloping all in black - the characters float in the darkness, no horizon line, setting the stage for the sparse and striking death scene on the following page....

Toth's rough rendering grounds the truth of this death scene, more poignant, honest and touching than most in any genre. Sam's body slumps in panel 2, Toth cuts to a close-up of Chip in the third, the darkness nearly overtaking everything in the last frame as Sam slips away. The lone word balloon in that final panel stands out against the black, spaced far from Chip have the moment last a beat longer. The tails of the balloons trickle down to each speaker like tears on a face or rain on a window pane.

Next Toth Tuesday, I'll wrap up the The FBI Story with the final third. Good stuff ahead....