The Wide Angle Scream, American Royalty

I have decided to resurrect this old serial post. I originally started it when I had then begun to restore S&K’s double page splashes. I wanted the restoration to be on the same level that I do for covers. However that required an awful lot of effort since these splashes have twice the area of the covers and the printing quality is much inferior. Eventually the amount of work proved too excessive and other restoration projects became more important. I feel that the subject matter of the serial post is too important and should not be completely abandoned. So I return to the subject although in the future the quality of the restorations will not be quite so high. Since it has now been over a year since my last chapter, I thought I should provide a very broad summary of the previous posts.

Simon and Kirby’s use of a double page splash began with Captain America #6 (September 1941). The five Cap double page splashes had a strong emphasis on design (#6#7#8#9, and #10). The splashes would consist of three sections. One section common to all was what I called the enactment; it is a scene or tableau but is not part of the actual story. The second section is also common to all Captain America wide splashes; it consists of panels for the true start of the story. Although the third section is present in all of these splashes what it comprises of is not consistent, it can be a cast of characters, floating heads or a sort of comic book equivalent of movie trailers.

During the period that Simon and Kirby worked for DC they only produced one double page splash, that was for Boy Commandos #2 (Spring 1943). Here once again the splash was made in three sections. The enactment is present but it consists of a larger number of individuals then ever attempted in Captain America. Some organization is achieved by deploying them around the glass case containing a sleeping beauty, but even so there is so much chaos that it takes some time to sort out all that is taking place. There is also a cast of character sections. Unlike the Cap wide splashes there is no start of the story; instead the third section is given over to a large introductory text.

After returning from the war, Simon and Kirby launched Stuntman and Boy Explorers that were published by Harvey Comics. A wide splash was used with Stuntman. Only two were published but Jack had made worked on three others. The first one (Stuntman #1, April 1946, “The House of Madness”) used an unusual design, effectively two enactments laid out as large panels separated by a sweeping gutter. The second (Stuntman #2, June 1946, “The Rescue of Robin Hood”) reverted to a more standard tri-part design with sections for the title, enactment and cast of characters. Although the exposition is pretty much isolated from the rest of the splash, the title and cast of characters are nicely integrated. I also posted on one of the unpublished wide splash ( “Terror Island”). For the first time Kirby provides just one section, an enactment. There is a title, an introduction and even a floating head of the Panda, but these are subservient to the large enactment and do not achieve the status of their own section.

Because of copyright issues I do not consider it appropriate to reproduce the other two double wide Stuntman splashes. They can be found in Joe Simon’s book “The Comic Book Makers”. Both are further variations of a single large enactment section found in “Terror Island”. In one (“Jungle Lord”) Jack presents a smaller cast as compared to that for “Terror Island”. The enactment takes place in the tree tops where we find Stuntman battling a gorilla in the foreground while in the back Don Daring clings to a tree and a jungle boy makes off with Sandra Sylvan. Since the cast is smaller in the “Jungle Lord” splash as compared to “Terror Island” the action can be brought closer to the reader with dramatic results. The inking of the final wide splash (“The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc”) was never completed, so it clearly was the last one worked on. This is another single section with Stuntman confronting three opponents. I find that the plain room in “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” as compared to all the foliage of “Jungle Lord” brings greater focus and excitement to the depiction.

The Stuntman period is interesting because it marked the only time during his collaboration with Kirby that Simon did a significant stint at drawing. Early in his association with Jack, the two would draw different pages from the same story. Initially this seemed to be the working method for Captain America but quickly Jack took over all the drawing choirs for the S&K partnership. With the exception of some work done while in the Coast Guard, Joe did not seem to contribute much penciling to what was produced by S&K during the war. But while Kirby was penciling Stuntman and Boy Explorers Joe would pencil three backup features; the Duke of Broadway, the Vagabond Prince and Kid Adonis. Despite what some experts have said, these were drawn entirely by Joe except for a few small parts that Jack altered in his role as an art editor. Joe has said that Harvey kept track of the mail and that the Duke of Broadway got a better reader response then Stuntman. This was likely to be during the period after the original titles had been cancelled and Harvey was printing the unused work in comics such as Green Hornet. After the Harvey Stuntman/Boy Explorers period and until the breakup of the Simon and Kirby team, Joe’s penciling contributions would be uncommon (48 Famous Americans for J. C. Penny and “Deadly Doolittle” for Fighting American).

Boy Explorers #1
Boys Explorers #1 (May 1946) “His Highness the Duke of Broadway”, art by Joe Simon
Larger image

Joe only did one double wide splash for his Harvey features (“His Highness the Duke of Broadway” from Boy Explorers #1, May 1946). It is actually surprising that he did any considering the short lives of these titles (due to a comic book glut) and the fact that his stories are all back-up features. Like the one from Stuntman #1 a month before, this double page splash is comprised of two sections. Not that use of the same number of sections makes these two splashes truly similar. While that from Stuntman #1 is unusual in being composed of two enactments, the splash for the Duke feature is made of two familiar sections, an enactment on our left and a cast of characters on the right. The cast of characters consists of both full figures and floating heads accompanied by short captions that provide their names and a short description. At ten in number it was quite an ambitious cast, Joe obviously wanted a lot of supporting characters so as to provide the potential for much variation in his stories (unfortunately there would only be five). In this splash much of the cast are floating in front of the cityscape. Even those that are attached to the ground seem unnaturally placed because of the way they block the small avenue (surprisingly small since it is meant to be either Broadway or 42nd Street). The cityscape itself is carefully drawn so to provide an interesting background but subtlety rendered so that the cast would still stand out.

Such a large number of cast members required the use of half the splash. But this was the cast for the feature, only some of them would show up in this particular story. With such a large assemblage on the right side Joe needed something on the left to balance. His solution was to present most of the cast together solidly placed on the sidewalk. While this was a satisfactory solution as far as the composition was concerned, frankly it is not very exciting. Joe would do much better and more innovating designs for some of the regular splashes for his features. Still this double wide splash shows an emphasis on design that would disappear from the later ones by Kirby for Stuntman.

Stylistically the drawing for the splash differs from what Joe did in the story itself. Click Collins and Legal Louie are exceptions as they seem to better match what was done for the story. It still looks to me that it was penciled by Simon, only it is closer to what Joe had done previously and to what he would again do later in his career. Nothing on the splash refers to what will be found in the story. Everything is very generic, describing the feature as a whole and not this particular story. All this makes me suspect that Joe did the splash some time before as a presentation piece for the pitch he made to Harvey. Joe was not one to let all that effort to create this splash go to waste, so he appended it to the first story.

3 thoughts on “The Wide Angle Scream, American Royalty

  1. Stan Taylor

    Hi Harry,

    Unfortunately, I have not seen all the Duke of Broadway’s, but I do love the Damon Runyon touches. It appears (in the b&w reprinting in Joe’s book) that Red- the shoe shine boy morphed from a red headed Caucasion into an African American. Is this born out in the coloring in the actual comic book? If so, I applaud Joe for doing so.
    It’s fun to see how Jack and Joe’s visions of New York City differ. Jack’s always seemed Lower East Side, while Joe’s was more Uptown- Manhattan (?)

    Joe has said that the Danny Dixon strip was created by S&K as a vehicle for Ken Riley. Yet the Danny Dixon strip continued for quite a while. At least 7-8 installments. Can you check with Joe and see if Riley stayed with Harvey after the boys went over to Hillman and Prize? Or the possibility that another Harvey artist took over the strip and continued it.


  2. Harry Post author


    The shoe shine boy remained a red headed Caucasion throughout the Duke stories. My belief is that the morphing was not so much to make him look African American as much as part of the stylistical changes in Joe’s drawing that I mentioned. Similar cheeks and noses show up on some (but not all) other boys as well.

    If you can believe GCD and include the unlisted Black Cat #5, there were a total of 9 Danny Dixon stories. They come in two groups; an earlier one from Boy Explorers and Black Cat #4 to #6 and a later set BC #10 to #14. I have seen all the earlier ones and believe they are all done by Ken Riley. I also believe that they are all left over material from the sudden demise of Boy Explorers. There is about an eight month gap before the second Danny Dixon set but I have seen none of those. I find it hard to believe that they also were part of the original effort. For one that would mean that Ken did a lot more advance work then anyone else involved in those S&K titles. A second point is that while the last Dixon in the first set was for BC #6, other left over material continued to be published up to BC #8; I would think that if there was more left over Dixon Harvey would not have waited until BC #10 to use it. Ken was primarily an illustrator, his comic book work was a sideline and somewhat of a favor to Joe. I suspect the later Dixon stuff was by another artist.

    I’ll ask Joe next time I see him, but I would not expect much from that. Previous experience has shown me that Joe does not remember the sort of details that some of us fans are interested it. He remembered that Riley did some work for him on Danny Dixon, but not what issues it appeared in. I have also stopped asking confirmation questions, you know did so and so do the work in this issue? I have come to believe that this “poisons the well”. Joe remembers many of the artists that worked for him as well as what projects he worked on but is not necessarily very good at combining the two. But when you come to him with your own information you take the risk that information will become part of Joe’s memory. I do not think this is a problem of Joe’s alone, I believe that everyone’s memory is more open to suggestions then many people realize.


  3. Ger Apeldoorn

    Harry – finally on The Strippers Guide ( Alan Holtz’s column on Gross and Simon’s True Comics, plus a sample sunday page. Knowing Alan, he may have more. Maybe you two should get in touch.

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