Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More Bill Molno war comic splashes from Charlton (Fightin' Navy, Fightin' Air Force, more!)

1.  Fightin' Air Force, No. 18--Nov., 1959
2.  Fightin' Navy, No. 94--Sep., 1960
3.  Fightin' Air Force, No. 11--March, 1958
4.  Fightin' Air Force, No. 11--March, 1958
5.  Fightin' Air Force, No. 8--Sep., 1957
6.  Fightin' Navy, No. 90--Jan., 1960
7.  Fightin' Navy, No.81--Jan., 1958
8.  Fightin' Navy, No. 81--Jan., 1958
9.  Army War Heroes, No. 9--Aug., 1965
10.  Fightin' Air Force, No. 4--June, 1956
11.  Battlefield Action, No. 57--Mar.-Apr., 1965
12.  U.S. Air Force, No. 10--June, 1960

Bill Molno war comic splash pages

For years, I've been admiring splashes--a.k.a splash pages--without knowing what they were called. "The big panel at the start of a comic book and/or comic story," I would have said. "Those things." Why they're called splashes, I know not. Because they overwhelm the senses, bathing them, sort of?  Soaking them? Yeah, that must be it.  (Just kidding.)  Clearly, I have no idea why the term is what it is, but it works.  Maybe "splash" simply refers to size, to the splash of colors and imagery.  That's probably a little closer.  I'm probably over-thinking this, like I over-think everything else.  (Ya think?)

As mentioned before, I love the Charlton art of Bill Molno.  I adore it.  It's become my main reason for collecting Charlton.  And I'm aware that Molno is, let's say, not every Charlton fan's favorite.  In fact, Molno's on line rep is pretty dismal, largely because many Charlton fans, intent on making a case for the comic company, focus on artists like Steve Ditko, Rocke Mastroserio, Sam Glanzman, John Byrne, and Joe Staton.  Logic dictates that, for the case to best succeed, some anti-Ditkos and anti-Byrnes are required, and that's where Bill Molno and, say, Charles Nicholas come in.  Too bad.  Neither artist's work has ever impressed me as inept or uninspired--different, maybe, but different is a Charlton virtue.

The following Bill Molno war comic splashes strike me as quite the reverse of inept or uninspired.  (At first opportunity, I'll add sources and dates.)

Click for larger images:

1.  Fightin' Air Force, No. 11--March, 1958
2.  Fightin' Navy, No. 94--Sep., 1960
3. Fightin' Air Force, No. 8--Sep., 1957
4. Fightin; Air Force, No. 8--Sep., 1957
5. Fightin' Air Force, No. 11--March, 1958
6. Fightin' Air Force, No. 11--March, 1958
7.  Submarine Attack, No. 18--Sep., 1959
8.  Fightin' Navy, No. 98--May, 1961
9.  U.S. Air Force, No. 27--May, 1963
10.  Battlefield Action, No. 29--March, 1960
11.  Army War Heroes, No. 9--Aug., 1965

Monday, April 28, 2014

Welcome to Lee's Comic Rack!

As a kid, my comic collecting life mostly revolved around Classics Illustrated, but I fondly remember the "other" comics I grew up buying and trading--mainly science fiction, horror, adventure, and war titles on Gold Key, Dell, and Charlton.  This blog pays tribute to titles in/from those lines, with an emphasis on Charlton, which I've collected 100s of over the past few years and which, by now, is my favorite non-CI comic line.

Some people can remember the first comic book they ever owned, but I'm not one of them.  I do, however, remember my first Classics Illustrated (of course!)--The Conquest of Mexico, bought (and read to me) by my Dad, circa 1963.  The cover and interior art blew me away.  Little did I know that, by then, CI was a reprint-only company, though I do recall causally wondering why new titles weren't appearing.  However, I was more than content with the 100-and-whatever titles available, and I used to obsess over the missing numbers in the reorder list.  True story: Around 1969, I order three out of print titles and received first edition ten-cent copies, all mint!  (The Cloister and the Hearth, A Christmas Carol, and The Black Tulip.)  Plus a note from the company explaining that the unlisted numbers are no longer in print and to please not order them.  And I thought they were just hiding the titles on their readers!

Meanwhile, the first Charlton comic I remember noticing--and noticing in a big way--was Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #40 (Feb., 1964).  I don't recall buying a copy or having one bought for me, but I must have owned it, because I remember every panel and plot.  (That, or I memorized it over the course of a few visits to the comic rack at Food Town.)  The issue's opener, the Bill Molno-illustrated Sleeping Giant, seemed at the time like the coolest comic book story ever conceived, and I even drew my own version of the giant-hand-reaching-for-the-spaceship panel.  Where that vanished to, I know not, but here's Molno:

The Sleeping Giant splash page also made a huge impression on my six-year-old noggin.  It's one of the reasons I'm a Bill Molno fan for life (though I had no idea, until very recently, who had drawn this):

I remember finding the Charlton space titles extremely cool, despite the company's cheap lettering and the tacky "Charlton comics give you more!" promise on every odd-numbered page.  Something about them seemed just right.  I don't know that I regarded them as low-rent or cheap as much as simply different.  (I now realize they were both.)  Oh, and I liked their Hercules series--I remember trading a comic and some change for a friend's issue.

My verdict changed dramatically three years later with the Oct., 1967 Space Adventures Presents U.F.O., a knock-off of the Dell Flying Saucer series that left me feeling sorry for Charlton.  Wretched printing quality (every issue I've seen looks as bad as the one I owned), terrible opening story, and a long adventure featuring weird Pat Boyette art that didn't make it for me.  (I was ten; what did I know?)  I didn't come back to Charlton until 1976 or 1977, not knowing that, by that time, the company's pre-reprint days were short.  (Yes, I typed "pre-reprint days.")

Gold Key-wise, I bought some TV show titles (U.N.C.L.E.; Wild, Wild, West, etc.) and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, at least until the latter became primarily a monster-on-the-loose mag.  Dell-wise, Ghost Stories was my favorite title, by far, with the art seeming a lot more sophisticated at the time.

And those are my non-Classics Illustrated comic book memories, save for a brief period in which I tried to warm up to Marvel Comics (I never did).  I'm sure my brain is storing a great many more, and maybe some of them will pop to the surface during the course of this blog.  Maybe they'll be less dull!  Anyway, that's my story.  You had to be there.