Sunday, March 25, 2012

Number 1128: Alex Toth in the Land Unknown!

Number 1128

Alex Toth in the Land Unknown!

This is one of my favorite Alex Toth art jobs, done for Dell in 1957 as a tie-in to the Universal movie.

Toth penciled and inked. He used a pen, filling in blacks with a brush. See the original art for page 27 (downloaded from Heritage Auctions) I've inserted after the printed page for a good look at his technique. Years later Toth went to felt tip pens for inking, although he probably could have used a toothpick dipped in road tar and come up with something great. He was just talented, regardless of the tools he used.

The lettering looks like his, and—dare I say it?—I believe he could have colored the book, too. Comic book colorists are usually addicted to color filling in any area where white should be, but there's lots of white space in this book, used very effectively, too. The coloring job is excellent, which makes me believe he had something to do with it. That's a guess on my part, so take it for what it's worth. If there's anything I don't like it's the shape of his speech balloons, but that's an awfully small quibble for an otherwise masterful job.


Mykal Banta said...

Pappy: I remember reading somewhere Alex Toth complaining about modern comics in an essay he'd written somewhere around 2000 (I think). One of his major complaints was that modern comic book work did nothing to move the eye along with the story. Artists no longer did anything but individual panels, large and splashy. He claimed that moving the reader's eye was essential in graphic storytelling.

Looking at this magnificent work, I'm reminded of what an absolute master Toth was. His drawing skills were so refined and strong in all aspects. And that thing about moving the reader's eye - well just look at his layouts. You can feel your gaze just moving along as if Toth has taken you by the hand, walking you panel to panel through this tale.

And, not for nothing, even among Toth work, this story stands out as something special.

Mykal Banta said...

Pappy: You know, I really should read your wonderful intros before popping off. For some reason, I always read them after I look at the stories.

"Toothpick dipped in road tar" Hah! that's a good one, and so true, too. My secret wish about Toth is that he would have inked with a brush. A "lush" Toth might have been interesting. But then, it wouldn't have been Toth, would it?

Man, wouldn't that be something if he did color this? I see what you mean about the white spaces. Traditional colorists would have normally turned all that ice "tinged" shades of blue. Colorists color, after all. To ask them to leave white space is like asking a terrier not to chase a rat. (Hah!)

Kirk said...

In this era of climate change (it hit 80 here in Cleveland last week, when it was still technically WINTER) this story may soon come true.

No, it won't, but it sure would be a lot cooler outcome than the probable loss of crops, loss of coastel areas, loss of wildlife, etc.

Mr. Cavin said...

Wow. Every page and panel of this is incredible. Thanks, Pappy.

Pappy said...

Mykal, Toth was notoriously cranky about some of his fellow comic artists, and most of his critiques are true. Some of it came from artists having their artwork returned to them. They found their poster-like action pages sold for higher prices at comic conventions. So they eschewed pages with more mundane content, not exciting to look at, but necessary to the storytelling. I remember C. C. Beck had much the same complaint back in the '70s of that crop of artists.

Looking at The Land Unknown as drawn by Toth, even the talking heads panels are exciting to look at, and I believe the dramatic coloring has as much to do with it as Toth's drawings. It's part of the reason I believe he also colored this comic.

I'm pretty sure Toth could ink with a brush, but he was used in his early days as a penciler, and maybe he felt less confident with that tool. I think also of Gil Kane, another penciler. Both he and Toth used felt-tip pens to great effect when they came out.

Pappy said...

Kirk, your note reminds me of the old song, "Where can you go, when there's no San Diego? Better get ready to tie up de boat in Idaho."

I'm glad I live far enough inland. There may come a time when I, living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, may own beachfront property.

HamzLaw said...

This was my favorite single comic book as a kid in the 50s. I loved the movie, too, but have since seen it a few times and it is pretty mediocre--even awful in parts. I actually own an original 1957 movie poster for the film which is framed, archive backed, and on display. The image happens to be the exact same as the comic book cover, except it says "CinemaScope" instead of Dell and 15-cents; plus, for some reason, the poster image is the mirror inverse of the comic book cover (with the T-Rax facing left), but is otherwise identical.