So far, almost everyone who writes or talks about David Aja’s work on the new Hawkeye series is comparing it to David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One art but let’s take a step even further back and look at who Mazzucchelli was influenced by, Alex Toth.
All the Toth pages come from Hot Wheels #4. That full story can be found here.
Maybe it was the cars from the last issue of Hawkeye but all I saw in this issue everywhere was Toth. From the simplicity of the line to the speed conveyed by the cars to even the pacing, there is a sense of Toth throughout Aja’s book.
You want a list of what Aja does that’s Toth-like? Here’s Toth’s Points to Keep In Mind (As I Try to Do! (And Often Fail, I Might Add!), which I’m always surprised isn’t as universally recited as Wally Wood’s 22 Panels. Looking at this list, it’s amazing to see how much of Toth’s points are what Aja is doing on the page.
Points to keep in mind.
As I try to do! (and often fail, I might add!)
By Alex Toth
- Eliminate the Superfluous, the unnecessary. Be lazy!
- Edit your art continuously, at every stage. Save work!
- Focus on the remaining (important) picture elements.
- Emphasize what is important in a scene. Save drawing!
- Isolate such key elements (as one does in a view finder).
- Closeups only when needed: face(s)-for mood and expression, and objects-small, difficult to distinguish in other ways.
- To set a scene, a place, to establish a locale, etc., go to a wide shot, angles okay (down/up, etc.)-but again, simplify.
- Then, cut to tighter shots-pace them, for interest, etc…. (wide/one shot/two shot/group/close-up/tight close-up).
- Establish light source, if need be, for dramatic mood and for blacks, drop shadows, etc., on figures & objects and walls, as correctly placed as you can make ‘em!
- Eliminate such light/shadow work in other shots.
- Simplify, simplify, simplify, throughout!
- Remember, some scenes will and must be pedestrian, unimportant, and dull-because they are “bridges” between key storytelling scenes. As in any storytelling form, movies, TV, books, plays, music, opera painting, etc., you can’t knock ‘em dead with every shot. Remember, this is what gives pace to a story, visual commas and periods in a pictorial “paragraph” or “sentence”! These are the resting places in an otherwise moving storm! Use them! Without fear!
- Some such “rests” or “pauses” can be heightened in pictorial interest by way of a pretty scene of quiet mood-if your locale allows! Don’t stretch logic to do it!
- By learning to eliminate unnecessary objects, figures, and backgrounds, etc., you can focus on what is left to draw in the shot-and draw it well enough to “carry” the shot.
- In other words: strip it all down to essentials and draw the hell out of what is left!
- All of this advice is based on Roy Crane’s critiques of my work-and he is absolutely correct, on all points!
- In the Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy strips and in Buz Sawyer, with Sundays focused on pal Roscoe Sweeny, his work of fifty-odd years demonstrates its validity! In his work, as in no other of his contemporaries’ offerings, you will find an extraordinary sense of balance, in his design of space within a panel frame, a strip, or a page! His simplicity allows us to see the use of shapes within his pictures, how they create tension, action or repose… clearly!
- He avoided confusing details!
- To quote something just read: “To add to the truth only subtracts from it!!! (Isn’t that beautifully put?)
- Authenticate devices, objects, machines, locales, furniture, buildings, etc. … to lend credibility!
- As Sickles put it: “Understand how a thing is built and you’ll have no trouble drawing it through!”
- Spend more time thinking-about what and what not to draw, and how-and you’ll do less drawing!
- Pre-plan, pre-think…Thus, save work and time!
- But-whatever you do, do it well!
- Tell the story as best you can! Bend to the storm!
- Be honest to it. Give it all you’ve got! Enhance it!
- Study films, photographs, paintings, etc. for composition! For cutting, cropping out of non-essentials, pacing, punch, economy, forceful and direct impact. But also for beauty and subtlety-tension, suspense, action, humor, light and dark, balance, line vs. mass, ad infinitum! Use it all!
- Analyze everything you see-be critical! Positively so!
- See-observe-remember! Build up your memory file!
- Good Luck-
You can see all of Toth’s points at work in Aja’s work, though I wonder if a Toth critique of Aja would look anything like this brutally honest assessment of Steve Rude’s artwork?