Alex Toth, Death Flies the Haunted Sky

1974 Detective Comics number 442, DC Comics

Notice how Toth bothers with highlighting certain words into bold in the introductory narrative paragraph (written by Archie Goodwin) at the top of the page. As one of those comic artists always concerned with a black/white balance on a page (others who do this are Frazetta, Corben, and modern artists like Scott McDaniel), Toth 'livened' up the text to make it function both as a written piece of language, and as a graphic element of the page.

The splash page used to have a greater importance in the days of comics distribution through newsstands (also, the covers) as sales could be made to prospective readers if they flipped through the comic and liked the splash page, which was the instance when the story and artwork were shown off to it's largest (and hopefully strongest) advantage, without the imposition of logos, publisher data, retail price tags, etc., which hobbled covers a bit.

Toth's composition does several key things on this splash page. First the word "death" gets a huge piece of page real estate, with a small skull garnish placed right in the center to emphasize the idea even further. Toth stacks the huge story title/logo like a "V" shape that points at Batman's back as the figure hurtles off the top of the water tower toward the "ghostly" white biplane. Behind the biplane, which is an iconic image representing the past, are the modern skyscrapers of a city, their parallel lines running at a cocked angle at odds with the right angles of the story title/logo above.

Toth does a couple of things with the Batman figure that few other artists would have tried during the titles 1970s run. First, Toth puts Batman into solid black shorts and boots - the typical Batman comic of the era has Batman wearing blue shorts and boots, a 4-color substitute for the black and gray outfit the character has worn since the beginning. Another thing is the absence of Batman's head - - it is hidden by the cape, and all the reader has to work with in putting together this scene is the brutal dominance of the gigantic story title/logo, and the large decapitated figure about to hurl itself into the path of the biplane. Finally, swirling like a snake is the bat-rope, whipping toward the reader and emphasizing the action and motion of the story being displayed. See the Jim Aparo cover for the Archie Goodwin/Alex Toth tale.

Alex Toth Death Flies the Haunted Sky 1974 Batman

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