Captain America #9 (December 1941) “The Black Talon”
In Captain America #9 Simon and Kirby returned to a three compartment design for the double page splash. It opens up on the left with the enactment portion. No victim or foe this time, S&K have simplified the enactment to just Cap and Bucky. The pair are in a room, clearly not the tent that they share in their alter egos of private and camp mascot. Behind them on the wall is a portrait of President Lincoln, just the sort of thing you would expect from our patriotic superheroes. The only thing missing is a similar image of George Washington, it was probably on another wall. Cap is shown shuffling through their case files, the cabinet is marked as such on its side. From the first issue these stories have been presented as from Captain America’s cases, here we are provided with a visual representation of that fact.
As the eye moves toward the center of the splash it is led into the second section of the design. A case folder is opened up with the file identification serving also as the story title. Back lighted with the red folder we are presented with an image whose evil demeanor and positioning over a victim indicates that this is obviously the villain. Cap’s foe is posed so that it is clear that his right hand is unnatural. Arranged below and to the right, as if they are the folder’s contents spilling out, are a set of very irregularly shaped panels. These panels are not to be mistaken for the start of the story. Instead the panels are the comic book equivalent of a movie trailer. Joe and Jack mean to present enough to get our interest, but not too much as to spoil the story. To aid this effect none of the trailer panels have any text to clarify what is going on. We are presented with a scene from an operation, the origin of the villains unusually right hand. The doctor stares at what he has done with an intensity that recalls the Frankenstein story. The doctor’s only concern is the miraculous procedure he has just performed. He is unaware of the ramifications of the operation, nor would it have stopped him even if he knew. Another panel presents the outcome as we see the fiendish hand being used to strangle a victim. In the last panel, beside a painting depicting the dark hand strangling Captain America, we find the same thing occurring during a struggle between the villain and Cap. Tied up with ropes, Bucky looks on helplessly. Could this be the end of Captain America? Buy the comic and read the story to find out, or at least that was the intent of trailer compartment of the design.
Finally we leave the trailer section and enter the start of the story in the bottom corner of the splash. The story panels standard panel grid visually separates it from the irregular panels of the trailer. But by placing the two sections adjacent to each other there is also connection.
For me the story panels are still not as well integrated with the rest of the splash as the musical note panels found in the double splash from Captain America #7. But the Cap #9 splash is still an excellently integrated piece of comic book art. The story title and trailer section is just a marvelous idea, even better then the floating head title design of Cap #7. Although I still prefer Cap #7 this Cap double splash is incredible.