Stuntman #1 (April 1946) “House of Madness”
When Joe Simon rejoined Jack Kirby after the war rather then just return to working for DC the two decided to produce their own comic books. They turned to Joe’s old friend Al Harvey to do the publication for Stuntman and Boy Explorers Comics. Now they had complete control over the contents and did not have to deal with DC’s editors. Wishing to recreate the success they enjoyed with Captain America S&K returned to the use of the double page splash in Stuntman.
The first Stuntman wide splash, “House of Madness” was published three years after the Boy Commandos splash. But the Stuntman Splash does not continue with the type of layout used in the Boy Commandos. Nor does Stuntman look back at the approach for double wide splashes found in Captain America. Instead we find Simon and Kirby using an entirely new design approach. In Stuntman we find two sections separated by a sweeping gutter, as if the splash was composed of two large irregularly shaped story panels.
The left panel starts at the top with the declaration that this is a Simon and Kirby production of Stuntman. The story title, “House of Madness” is embedded in the iris of a large bloodshot floating eye. Proceeding down we see that the eye appears to be some sort of projection by a beam emanating from a building complex on the lower right of the panel. As if in response to this signal, a car races in from the left. It is hard to be sure who the driver is but the red head and blue “collar” suggest it might be Stuntman at the wheel.
The right panel shows a scene of typical Kirby composition. Perhaps composition is not the best term, because Jack laid out his figures more with the intent of covering the area and not as much concern about unifying the movement. We find Stuntman in the midst of a leap. He has just physically burst into the room, the pieces of wood debris are falling with him. It might seem that if you project his flight Stuntman would miss the crowd shown below. But Simon and Kirby splashes (and covers also) should not be taken so literally. Had S&K tried to present a more “correct” representation we would have been presented with the soles of Stuntman’s feet and would not have been able to see his face. No, we can be sure that Stuntman is truly about to attack the crowd below. His opponents include a bearded giant holding Don Darling and Sandra Sylvan easily under each arm. Also appearing is a modern day Icarus about to take flight, a gun firing dwarf and a witch. A sign makes it clear that these characters are both crazy and dangerous.
Including in the panel is text written on what appears to be a scroll like piece of paper. From this text we are provided with the information that it really is Stuntman in the car racing toward a mental hospital to save his friends from the danger of an insane but evil group.
I have mixed feelings about this particular splash. On the one hand it is an interesting idea to use two enactments to introduce the story. However you really need to read the text in the second panel to realize what the first panel is meant to depict. Further there is really little to visually connect the two panels. All there is is the text banner along the top and the partial overlapping by the Stuntman title. Otherwise the panels provide very different views and compositions. This two scene design for a wide splash would not be repeated.