Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alex Toth Animation Designs...

Steve Rude's Space Ghost drawing made me want to look on YouTube for some Alex Toth-designed cartoon shows, but Jack Kirby's birthday weekend had me doing searches for his stuff instead. John Kricfalusi hates Alex Toth's TV cartoon work, but I really dig it. I don't love the cartoons themselves. The animation is herky-jerky and rather unpleasant and the dialogue is heavy on the simple declaratives. It really does seem to be written by people who assumed children to be sugary-cereal-infused animals barely above cognitive level of chimps or orangutans.

But every so often, some pure Tothian line will show through. Quite possibly what H-B was trying here was actually impossible-- animating Toth's elegant drawings. But even the slapdash assembly-line production of cheap-ass 60s TV cartoons can't completely obscure the genius of Toth. Some shines through despite the overall futility.

Toth could flat-out draw and in his comics work is perfectly paced, the ideal the ebb-and-flow of a page, at least American-style. Kojima Goseki is the ultimate "cinematic" storyteller overall, but Toth-- while not as inventive as Will Eisner nor as powerful as Jack Kirby-- is also quite fine and rarely equaled. Toth understood not every panel could be some boffo explosion, that you were going to have to also draw quiet conversations or even things he deemed "pedestrian."

A lot of today's top comic book artists are the visual equivalent of Celine Dion, always hitting high notes and shrieking away despite the paltry, flimsy quality of the material. Toth would be more like a Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald, backing off, giving the song-- or story-- room to breath, letting the audience settle back before hitting a grace note. Soft LOUD soft works a whole helluva lot better when you want loud to have impact than LOUD LOUD LOUD.

Anyway, I like the look of this "Birdman" cartoon. Actually, I think my ideal comic book artist would be someone combining the humanistic creativity of Jack Kirby, the rendering of Alex Toth (and many of his panel designs), the storytelling of Kojima Goseki and the appeal of Takahashi Rumiko.

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