Category Archives: 2006/09

The Wide Angle Scream, Stuntman #1

Stuntman #1
Stuntman #1 (April 1946) “House of Madness”
Enlarged view

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.

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 2, Daring Adventures #12

Daring Adventures #12
Daring Adventures #12, (1963) by Joe Simon

If we exclude work done for the humor magazine Sick, Joe Simon’s comic book work is rather modest compared to that of Jack Kirby. Although very incomplete, the Checklist I provide is only about a couple of pages long while The Jack Kirby Checklist has 90 pages of fine print. Yes I believe some of the work in the Kirby Checklist was really done by Simon but even in my most generous estimate that still would be a miniscule fraction of Jack’s output. But to achieve correct attributions it is not enough to recognize Jack’s style, one must also be able to spot Joe’s mannerisms as well. This is particularly important because Joe frequently adopted Kirby trademarks. Because there is not that much solo Simon work I thought it would be useful to extend my previous serial blog “The Art of Joe Simon” with appendices that provide further examples of solo Simon art.

Daring Adventures #12 appeared sometime in 1963. This comic title contained reprinted stories, this issue features the Phantom Lady. But even though the stories were reprints the covers were new. Although unsigned issue #12 was obviously done by Joe Simon. Joe appears to have worked on the entire cover, including designing the logo. The same logo, using different coloring, appears on issues Daring Adventures #15 and #16 for which Joe also did the cover art.

The cover art is more then just a scene composition, it is a complete design. The “The Great Stamp Robbery” is introduced by placing the story title and an image of the Phantom Lady on a stamp. Included on the stamp is a caption “Action Series” in case the young readers were not familiar with this heroine. The whole stamp is made with the fine lines of zip tones and the coloring is subdued. The physically of the stamp is revealed by the lavender shadow that it casts, surprisingly on a tilted background.

In front of the stamp, in bold inking and strong coloring are two figures. One, the hero, provides a solid slug to the other who falls backward. I am unclear why a male hero was used on a cover for a comic devoted to Phantom Lady. Giving Joe’s working method and Kirby’s excelling at this sort of slugfest, one would expect that these figures were swiped from Jack. However the pose of the left figure is extreme even for Jack. A similar extremely wide stride appears on the logo to the Harvey Fighting American but that pose is given to the flying slugged figure. Since that Harvey comic was published in 1966 it does not help in providing the source for the figure on this Daring Adventures cover. I cannot provide any Kirby prototype for this example but I wonder if there truly is a single source. Perhaps this figure is a composite, the torso from a Kirby slugging figure and the legs from a running one. Therefore the left figure is quite possibly not a close swipe. The figure on the right is handled so well that although I cannot provide a source for it either I strongly suspect it was a more close swipe from Jack. The figure is falling back, away from the viewer. That manner seemed more common early in Kirby’s career so I would suspect an early source.

The portrayal of the Phantom Lady is a bit stiff but otherwise this is marvelous work by Joe from a period after the Simon and Kirby breakup. The design is really well done and shows Joe has not lost his touch with this sort of approach.

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 13, Wrap Up

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 4, Daring Adventure #16

Not Simon, Daring Mystery Comics #4

Daring Mystery #4
Daring Mystery Comics #4 (May 1940)

Some sources, including the GCD, attribute the feature Trojak from Daring Mystery #4 to Joe Simon. Joe had started producing covers for Fox with cover dates of May. However that would not necessarily indicate that Simon was unavailable to produce stories for Timely. Joe would create Blue Bolt which started in June so he did not work exclusively for Fox.

This particular story is not signed, that by itself is rather unusual for Joe. Before starting for Fox Joe seemed to have signed all his comic book work, including covers although he sometime used an alias. At Fox Joe did not sign all the covers, still 9 out of 16 Fox covers that he did are signed. Joe signed all stories that he drew until he teamed up with Jack Kirby. After that not every thing is signed and if there is a signature it is the joint Simon and Kirby signature. Even the Fiery Mask from Human Torch #1 (Fall 1940) which was drawn by Joe alone, is not signed. So an unsigned story by Joe published in May would be unique.

Simon had his own personal drawing style, but he mimicked other artists at times. For the Fox covers Joe copied Lou Fine’s manner since Lou had done a number of Fox covers previously. When Joe teamed up with Jack he would begin to adopt Kirby’s manner. But this Trojak story was before the Simon and Kirby team up. Further Joe was the original creator for this feature. So there would seem to be no reason for Simon to mimic any other artist. Therefore we should expect Joe’s own unique style. But that style is not found here. The depiction of the woman is the closest to Joe’s but even she can be distinguished. Simon had a technique of joining eyebrows and eyes into a single angular formation, but that also does not show up in this story. I am not sure who the artist was, but he was not Joe.

Summoning Demons

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 (December 1951) by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby produced the earlier run of Black Magic (#1 to #33). During that period Jack would not necessarily draw stories for every issue but he did all the covers. This means that it was not too unusual for Kirby to draw a cover based on an interior story by another artist. This can provides some interesting comparisons of how different artist handle the same subject. But as you will see in the example I am providing here that there are other possibilities.

Simon and Kirby gave great care in the covers for the comics that they produced, and Black Magic #8 is no exception. It provides a complete story in just one image. Minus the conclusion of course, they wanted you to buy the comic to get that. In this cover we are presented with a marvelous demon of the type only Kirby could create. He is crouching, almost as if ready to spring with deadly intend at the first opportunity. The comments of the lady and the old man indicate that the demon was summoned and only the magic circle confines it. The young woman looks astonished and horrified while the man seems a little too smug. You get the feeling that despite the assurances the man gives nothing good is going to come out of what he has done.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 “Donovan’s Demon” by unidentified artist

The story is unsigned but the GCD attributes it to Bob McCarty. I am pretty certain that is not correct. I have not posted on McCarty yet so I do not want to get into an analysis of why I do not think he did this story. For now let it suffice to say that I find Bob to be an excellent artist. Joe has remarked to me that they hired the best artists and in general I agree with him. However this story artist definitely fall into the lower echelon of the shop talent. A story like this requires at some point to present the reader with a good depiction of the demon. This artist only gives us a shadow and even that is not very impressive. Many have made the claim the Kirby provided layouts for the stories that artists drew for S&K. I just do not believe that is true in this case. Kirby would use shadows to tone down the affects of distressing subject matter such as a man hitting a woman or a murder taking place. But I do not believe Jack would ever consider only showing a shadow and never the actual demon as was done in this story. Further the layout of the story just does not seem to me to have the Kirby touch.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 “Donovan’s Demon” by unidentified artist

The last panel on page 4 has a marvelous depiction of a women. It is so good that it just stands out from all the rest of the page. Clearly Jack Kirby has once again step in acting as art editor. Considering how poorly the story artist drew this character elsewhere I shudder to think what she looked like before Jack’s rescue.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 “Donovan’s Demon” by Jack Kirby and unidentified artist

The splash page provides an alternate take from the comic cover. Here, like the women, we do not actually see the demon. But even without the man’s claim that he can see the demon, we know that something unnatural is here. Smoke bellows from the chair without any sign of a fire. It may only be a draft, but the candles’ flames and smoke snake eerily about. Even the chair seems to have a presence beyond that of a mere piece of furniture. The woman was clearly done by Jack and is a good match for the one on the cover. On the other hand the man was obviously drawn by the story artist. Unfortunately he seems overly large compared to the woman. Because of the exaggerated perspective of the rest of the splash, I think Kirby got her size just right. The candles are a recurring motif for Simon and Kirby. We recently saw a similar one in the double page splash from Captain America #8. I cannot think of another S&K example of a chair handled quite like the one from this splash. However the exaggerated perspective that is done so well here is a Kirby trademark and seems beyond the capabilities of the story artist. So I would say Jack drew the entire splash except, unfortunately, the figure of the man. So here we have a chance to see alternate takes of the same subject both by Jack Kirby himself.

The Wide Angle Scream, Boy Commandos #2

Boy Commandos #2
Boy Commandos #2 (Spring 1943) “The Knights Wore Khaki”
Enlarged view

When it comes to double page splashes, there are great differences between Simon and Kirby’s DC years compared to their Timely period. Once the wide splash appeared in Captain America #6 it became a standard part of that title. At DC despite the fact that S&K largely worked on three different features (Sandman, the Newsboy Legion, and the Boy Commandos) there is only a single example of a double page splash. Much of this can be explained by the fact that the wide splash required the use of the center page if publication problems were to be avoided. Planning for this was not an issue with Captain America because Joe Simon was the art editor and with Jack Kirby he produced the entire Cap comic. At DC S&K provided work for other editors and most of their work were for comic titles that included other features (Adventure, Star Spangled and Detective Comics). Under these conditions it was probably difficult for Joe and Jack to plan for the use of the center fold. But this does not explain the lack of wide splashes in Boy Commandos Comics. Even if they were not the editors, Joe and Jack should have been able to have more control in the Boy Commandos Comic, at least initially.

There is a also big design difference between the Cap wide splashes and the single DC example. At a glance at “The Knights Wore Khaki” splash we might feel we have found the same sort of three compartment design that was so common in Captain America. Common to both is are enactment and cast of characters sections. Missing from Boy Commandos is the one constant of Cap wide splashes, the start of the story. Instead we find a new section which brings an importance to the introduction text. But the three sections are not integrated like they were in Cap. Yes there are some visual linkages. The Boy Commandos title goes from the introduction text section into the enactment part. Also in the introduction text section there is a horn that extends into the enactment. The left portion of the host of characters has a scroll below which can be seen part of the enactment. Also all three sections contain middle age thematic material that link them together. But despite all that the compartments really look they are laid out in three distinct sections. This is nothing like the carefully integrated designs of wide splashes found in Captain America.

There really is not a lot to say about the cast of characters section. It is basically a row of simple panels with head shots. Do not get me wrong, Kirby as done his usually marvelous depictions. The glare given by Captain Von Shlepp just hits you in your guts, you can just tell he is not going to be a pleasant person. All the other head shots provide distinctly personalities. But as for the design, there really is nothing new here and it shares a problem that the story start sometimes had in Captain America. Laying out of row of panels tends to visually separate those panels from the rest of the splash and defeats any integration with the reset of the page.

I have more positive feelings about the introduction text compartment. Sure, like the host of characters, it does stand out as a separate identity. But that does have the benefit of providing less distractions to the text. I also love how the drape hanging from the horn is used to frame the text. It was also a good for the design that the start of the Boy Commando title starts in this section since that part takes up so much room. This part may not be integrated with the rest of the page, but within this section we are given a rather nice design.

In the enactment part that we see the greatest change from previous double page splashes. Most of the Cap splash enactments were limited to three or four characters; Cap, Bucky, the foe and/or the victim. But the Boy Commandos have five heroes so the enactment has to be more complicated. Joe Simon once remarked to me how difficult it was to draw a story with such a crew and how well Jack managed it. You can really appreciate this when examining Boy Commando stories not done by S&K. Invariably these stories center on Brooklyn and to a lesser extent Rip Carter. But all the rest of the cast pretty much get shoved to the insignificant parts. But the easy path was not Jack’s way, all the heroes play important parts, and that is true in this splash also.

There was one splash (Captain America #8 “Case of the Black Witch”) were Simon and Kirby had a large cast of characters in the enactment. S&K used a candle flame and smoke to divide the ensemble into to half and bring some order to the splash. The Sleeping Beauty serves a similar purpose in this splash. She provides a center focus of calm that visually matches her sleep. But unlike the candle in Cap #8, Sleeping Beauty does not bring order to the rest of the splash. Instead she is eye in the center of a hurricane. She is surrounded by chaos on steroids. An all over composition as if Jackson Pollack had become a comic book artist. No part more significant then others. The fight is not something that can be comprehended at a glance. It takes extended viewing to understand the action. For example in the upper right at first it looks like a Nazi’s shield has been shattered by a blow from a sword. But a closer look reveals that the damage is actually being done by the joisting spear from the soldier on the horse. It may take time to understand in some cases what head belongs to what body. But time spent on viewing this Kirby masterpiece is time well spent. This sort of exciting chaos shows up in other (single) splash pages at this time and we will see further wide splash examples in the future.

Adventure #75
Adventure #75 (June 1942) “The Villain From Valhalla” by Jack Kirby

I will not attempt a detailed description of this scene, that would take way to long and would not be anywhere near the fun of doing your own examination. But I would like to point out relatively low key way that S&K handles the heroes. Brooklyn stands out in the front left because he is not wearing a soldier’s uniform like all the rest. But it is easy to miss Jan on the left because he is turning away from the viewer. Similarly that is Rip Carter on the horse at the top, but we can only tell by his action since his face is hidden. On the upper right we are presented a the back view of Andre. We do get a good view of Alfy in the front right but even he can be missed among all the fighting faces and bodies.

The other thing I want to point out is the Nazi officer on the left. The officer turns towards the viewer and brings up his hand to enforce his yell. One might think that he is yelling at the viewer, but since his is the enemy that does not make any sense. Instead he must be yelling for unseen reinforcements. This is a motif that Jack would use from time to time. We already saw it with a Japanese soldier on the cover the Champ #23 (October 1942). In later years Kirby would modify it and use it with the hero that really is (loudly) addressing the viewer (Captain America #197, May 1976).

I generally concentrate on the visual art of Simon and Kirby. But of course comics are pictures and words. Check out the writing on this splash. It is short but effectively contributes its part to making this a great piece of comic book art. I particularly like how the text in the cast of characters has a staccato rhythm but reads like a long sentence. I have heard stories of DC writers delivering Simon and Kirby with scripts only to find as they left the building the scripts sailing out of the studio windows. That story is actually so great that it makes me doubt its veracity. But writing like that shown on this splash is so excellent, so similar to the writing in Simon and Kirby done after the war, and so dissimilar to DC writing at the time. If Joe and Jack used the scripts provided by DC it was as a template to be modified at will in order to achieve S&K’s unique quality.

This Boy Commandos work makes me really regret that Simon and Kirby did not do other wide splashes during there DC years. But we will see further exciting examples of this demanding pectoral device when Joe and Jack set up their own shop after the war.

Kirby Puppets?

Punch and Judy vol. 1 no. 4
Punch and Judy vol. 1 no. 4 (Fall 1945)

After leaving Captain America and Timely, Simon and Kirby worked for DC. There they worked mainly on Sandman (Adventure Comics), the Newsboy Legion (Star Spangled Comics) and the Boy Commandos (Detective Comics and Boy Commandos Comics). There was a war on and the artists knew that sooner or later they would be drafted. So our intrepid duo went into hyper drive and produced extra material. These backlog stories and covers were used by DC while Joe and Jack did their military service. Eventually the stories were used up, but backlog covers were used right up to the time Kirby returned from the war in Europe. New Sandman and Newsboy Legion stories drawn by Jack reappear in October 1945 (cover date). Joe Simon was still in the Coast Guard at that time and would not rejoin Jack until several months later.

It is just at this time that a puzzling single page art appears in Hillman Publication’s Punch and Judy (Fall 1945). The Jack Kirby Checklist includes this as a work by Jack. Let me layout the pros and cons to this attribution as I see them.

The timing is right, just barely. Jack could very well have been back from the military at this point. The inking, particularly on the boy puppeteer, looks like it could have been done by Jack. The boy’s “Howdy Doody” kind of face is similar to some done by Kirby in “Your Health Comes First” a syndicate feature from the start of his career prior to meeting Simon. Simon and Kirby would produce “kiddie” stories for Punch and Judy later.

Joe Simon says that DC treated them well during the war, providing them with royalties. Jack’s return to DC and his work on the previous S&K titles indicate there was still a job there for him. So why would Jack immediately set out find other work? And if for some reason the DC work was not enough, why did Kirby not continue to do outside work? This is the only work not for DC that is attributed to Kirby at this time. The inking on the drapes does not have quite as convincing a Kirby look. Although there is some likeness to cartoon work from early in Jack’s career, work from this time period did not seem to use this sort of “Howdy Doody” face. This despite the fact that Jack did a lot of kid characters. Yes S&K later did work for Punch and Judy but that was almost two years in the future.

So I end up sitting on the fence. You can make your own decision. I guess I would be happier with the attribution if I was more familiar with other artists doing “kiddie” type of work at that time. Perhaps there are some Kirby scholars out there who can provide their own opinions and the reasons why? Hey, sitting on a fence is uncomfortable!

A Criminal Swipe

Headline #56
Headline #56 (November 1952) by Marvin Stein (signed)

In 1952 Marvin Stein provided a cover for Headline. I have not said much about Stein yet in this blog. For now let me say that a 1949 photograph from the Jack Kirby Collector #25 shows him in the S&K studio. Marvin’s work also shows up in some of the studio productions from around that time and it has been reported that he did inking work for S&K. It has also been said that he was a great admirer of Jack Kirby.

Initially the crime comics Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty were Simon and Kirby productions and they are listed as editors. Kirby drawn stories were frequent in these comics. All drawn covers (as opposed to the photographic covers) were done by Jack. Early in 1951 this changed. Nevin Fiddler was listed as the editor and Kirby no longer supply work for these crime titles. Marvin Stein now becomes a conspicuous artist for the crime titles. In fact Marvin draws just about all the covers and provides stories for most issues. A photo of the S&K studio of about 1951 or 1952 does not show Meskin. I conclude from all of this that S&K no longer produced the crime titles and that Marvin Stein was mostly providing work for the new editor, Nevin Fiddler.

The Headline #56 covers is signed by Marvin Stein and is in his style so there can be little question that he was the artist. The inking on the policeman whose back is turned to the viewer is reminiscent of S&K studio inking. But the rest of the cover’s inking is not particularly like that done by S&K shop. Nor does the composition seem very like covers produced by Simon and Kirby. The subject of the police using a one-way mirror to trap criminals is, as far as I know, pretty unique for crime comics of the time. The cover does not correspond to any of the interior stories.

Police Trap #6
Police Trap #6 (September 1955) by Jack Kirby

In late 1955 Charlton would publish the final issues of titles originally done by Mainline, Simon and Kirby’s own short lived publication company. One of them, Police Tray #6, appears to be a swipe from the Headline #56 cover by Stein. Police Trap #6 was one of Jack’s poorer efforts but he still seems responsible for the pencils. The inking has signs of S&K shop inking, particularly the abstract arc shadows. Hopefully by now most Kirby fans realize that Jack would swipe from time to time. His sources for the swipes were generally from photographs, paintings or illustrations. At this point in his career it was unusual for him to swipe from other comic book artists particularly from someone like Marvin Stein. Police Trap #6 only shares the unusually concept with Headline #56. The composition differs in important ways between the two, mostly due Jack’s policemen being given less of the cover and his criminals brought much more forward. Still it is surprising that Jack would the same unusual subject.

I see no reason to “defend Kirby’s honor”. Unlike some, I have no problems with swiping, as long as the swiper creates something with his own individual touch. It could be said that Jack has certainly done that with Police Trap #6. While not denying the possibility that this is another example of a Kirby swipe, I would like to offer another possible scenario. The covers published by Mainline seem much better then when the titles were done by Charlton. For whatever reasons S&K did not seem to put into the Charlton issues the same effort that they had previously done. If they were trying to do a rush job or cut corners it is very possible that they might turned to previously unused material. Perhaps the PT #6 cover might originally been made for Headline or Guilty but abandoned then because it was not quite good enough. It that is true then Marvin Stein could easily have seen it when he was working in the studio and used the idea a few years later. It would not be the only Stein swipe from Kirby. This is just a thought and I am not convinced one way or the other.

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #10

Captain America #10
Captain America #10 (January 1942) “The Phantom Hound of Cardiff Moor”
Enlarged view

In Captain America #9 Simon and Kirby continues with an interesting variation in the use of the three compartment design. The splash pages opens on the left, the normal reading order, with a one of those case cards from Captain America’s personal files along with five floating heads. The text indicates that they may all die unless they can be saved by Captain America. However this is not like previous presentations of the various characters. Here no particulars are supplied for the possible victims, not even their names. In a way they are more reminiscent of the ring of floating heads from Cap #7. Both use the floating heads to suggest an emotional content, audio pain in Cap #7 and fear here. But the floating heads here are irregularly arranged, unlike the circular pattern in Cap #7.

The next compartment, the most important center, is used for the enactment. As usually the scene has a minimal cast, in this case Cap, Bucky and their canine foe. The large and obviously vicious hound has leapt from above at our heroes. This was an unexpected attack because Cap and Bucky are depicted off balanced. The attack is aimed at Cap who did not even have time to position his shield, he is unprotected and in dire peril. Cap and Bucky tilt in opposite directions providing an interesting X pattern. However Cap leans his head to face his opponent and his raised right arm goes opposite to leaning of the body. Caps head and right arm therefore connect with the arc of the hound. This along with Bucky’s tilt lead the eye to the right section.

A case can be made that this splash is actually a four, not a three, compartment design. I think of it as three parts because the two sections balance across the center. But the right section is not composed of floating heads, but rather consists of a single circular panel. In fact the panel provides the same character group as the enactment section, but it now includes a victim. Here we are informed that there may be more to the secret of the hound, because he also walks like a man! Sure enough, the hound is now almost man like in form and standing on two feet. The small silhouettes of Cap (identifiable by his shield) and Bucky are approaching. This panel could be interpreted as the prequel to the enactment section. But if that were true then why would the hound have caught our heroes so off guard? Because of the poses of the figures in the enactment portion and the use of a circular panel on the right the two sections are strongly connected in a oval pattern. Even the trees and rock formations lead the eye to this oval and tend to keep it there.

Towards the bottom is the third (or fourth) compartment, the start of the story. Here in smaller then usual panels we are provided with yet another presentation of the canine attack. Alone and at night a man crosses a bleak landscape, obviously the same one as presented above. We then see him alerted to and fleeing from danger, the distant approach of the hound, followed by the actual attack and death of the man. At this point any perspective purchaser should be well aware of what sort of thriller awaits him, provided he parts with his dime.

I described the enactment compartment as placed in the center of the splash. Actually only the attack occurs there, the landscape for the enactment occupies the entire double page. The floating heads, circular panel and story panels give the appearance of being pasted onto the enactment art. The story panels have lifted from the bottom and are free on both sides to help with that affect. Hence the reason for the smaller then normal story panels. To add to the impression of pasted art, the text accompanying the floating heads and round panel cast shadows. These shadows are not only over their panels but over the enactment landscape art as well. But it is best not to take this pasting too literal. On the left a limb of a background tree lies on top of the floating head panels. This despite the fact that the panel in turn lies on top off, or before, a foreground rock. I do not think this was an error. The limb could easily have been shown clearly crossing over the panel. Instead it barely overlaps the panel edge and is easy to overlook. A sort of inside joke. Further some of the floating heads are shown in front of both the text and the shadow. This gives the heads an almost 3D effect.

The double page splash was the most ambitious of all the splashes that Simon and Kirby had done for Captain America. It makes one wonder what they would have done next. Alas it was not to be as this was their last Simon and Kirby issue of Captain America. As we shall see S&K would return to the double page splash. But they would not be the complicated designs found in the Captain America comics.



I was prepared to post on another Captain America double page splash. Although my work day was busy enough to keep my mind off the date, now that I am home the old feelings return. As I look out my window I can see the lights extending from the former site of the World Trade Center up into the clouds. It is a very moving memorial.

I live in Chelsea, the lower west side, not too distant from the ground zero. I could write about my experiences of those days but today is not about me, it is about the people who suffered from that terrible attack. Too many went to work that day like any normal person, but before the morning was over they became American heroes.

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #9

Captain America #9
Captain America #9 (December 1941) “The Black Talon”
Enlarged view

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.