Many Disney comics begin with a half-page start panel. Thus the reader is pulled directly into the plot. These comics consciously omit the traditional introduction; instead, they show an exciting situation in the first panel to arouse the reader’s curiosity.
Bill starts many of his stories with a half-page panel, too. For Disney Publishing and Danish licensee Egmont he used beautiful splash panels to open every story with two or more pages. A special case, however, is the story “Secrets.” Here Van Horn started the unusual plot with a short prolog where Rumpus McFowl floats down a lake in a canoe until he gradually disappears.
As surprising, as a story starts, is often the end. A good story won’t let the reader guess its conclusion. Often a comic terminates with a final gag or a happy ending, sometimes also with the solution of a mystery. Donald comics in particular very often even end in a real disaster.
Therefore the beginning and the end of a comic are always highlights. But which ways are there for an artist to show other sensational scenes in the middle of the story? It is often a quite obvious solution to illustrate particularly thrilling moments in the story with half-page splash panels. Great events sometimes even call for an impressive depiction in larger panels.
William Van Horn uses splash panels rather sparsely. Apart from the start panels, there appear only about 70 half-page panels on his more than 1450 Disney pages, either as the final panel or in the middle of the story. Incredible events, sudden disasters or awe-inspiring landscapes are virtually made for a large image. In small panels they would never work as effectively. Nice examples for the depiction of natural phenomenons are the panels showing tremendous explosions and giant avalanches. Even a full-grown tsunami occurs. Van Horn’s splendid landscape drawings often fill a half page, too. Among them are an abandoned banana plantation and daredevil stunts with balloons and biplanes as well as romantic sunsets and snowy woodlands.
Bill’s great splash panels unfold their impact even outside the comic, so they have deserved a presentation in a section of their own on our fansite. We would like to point out, however, that these illustrations are naturally crucial points of the related story. So some of the suspense of the story might get lost if you look at them before you know the comic.