Stuntman #2 (June 1946) “House of Madness”
When I finished up the posts of the Captain America double page splashes I said that Simon and Kirby would not repeat those sort of designs. Well I lied. Stuntman #2 has the same sort of emphasis of design over composition seen in the Cap spreads. It is interesting to compare this splash with one from the Boy Commandos with a similar medieval theme.
I have hoped that my discussions on the design elements would make it clear what the distinction was between design and composition, at least as I use the terms. Composition is how a scene is arranged, that is in comics how the figures and non-figurative elements are arranged and how they direct the eye. Design is how disjoint parts, the text and different images, are arranged on the page. For instance in the image on the right side of Stuntman #2 is composed with the attacking knights starting on the lower left and rising as the eye goes toward the right until it meets the pivotal Stuntman and finally the defended Don Darling and Sandra Sylvan. The composition does not end there as the large candlestick brings the eye down, and (although not really part of the scene) the cast of characters bring the eye back to the start of the image. Actually that is just a condensed description. Notice the use of arcs (the curtains, shadows, the stonework for the pillar and the doorway) along the top and how they are used to highlight certain figures. Particularly effective is Stuntman’s placement in front of the pillar, despite the fact that he is closely surrounded by other figures this placement makes him standout. This is a marvelous composition and Kirby’s penciling is just fantastic.
But the right hand scene is just part of the page and that is why I said earlier that the design was more important then the composition in Stuntman #2. Like most of the Cap double splashes, here we find a three part layout. Starting on the left is the title section, followed on the right by the enactment and below with the cast of characters. The title compartment depicts an archery contest. On the left a series of colorful pendants almost hide a figure blowing a horn. The competition between four archers is arranged along the bottom. The archers are alternated with their targets, the backs of which provide the cast of characters. The rest of the title section scene is left bare so that the Simon and Kirby credits, the Stuntman title and the story title are prominently shown. The story title is nicely placed on the drape hanging from the horn, a similar device was used in the Boy Commandos spread. An interesting touch is how the introduction text is placed on a wall in the enactment section and how the text is lined up to fit the perspective of this wall.
Except for the left edge of the enactment compartment, the whole splash is nicely integrated. I find this a much more successful effort then that for Stuntman #1. It is really a shame that this title fell victim to the post-war comic glut. There are three unpublished double page splashes for Stuntman. Unfortunately I do not have any scans for them right now but perhaps I will get a chance to pick up something from Joe Simon.