Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hot Rods & Racing Cars, No. 32 (Oct., 1957)--a Bill Molno festival!

The No. 32, October, 1957 issue of Charlton's Hot Rods & Racing Cars feels like an all-Molno issue, even though two of the five stories don't feature him.  But even those two non-Molnos have me swearing I'm looking at him, and so I'm forced to wonder if he might have functioned as an impromptu art director on some early Charlton issues, including this one.  Is that possible?  Recall Molno's legendarily fast working pace--putting him in charge of an entire issue would have guaranteed no last-minute rush to deadline.

At any rate, only some highly un-Molno faces in "Junk Yard Driver" and "Rich Man's Hobby" prevent me from crediting Bill with the whole shebang.  The inks on these appear to be Sal Trapani's, and, in my experience, whenever a Trapani-inked Charlton story looks like Molno but isn't, the penciller is Charles Nicholas.  (How's that for a scientific approach to art spotting?)  So I'm calling this a Molno/Nicholas issue.

We start, of course, with the cover.  Dick Giordano, I presume?

From the splash panel to the "End" panel (never a "The End" when it's Charlton), the "Junk Yard Driver" panels cry out to be credited to Bill, save for the faces in them, which say, "Charles Nicholas."  If they could talk, that is.  Maybe it's the Trapani inking that makes the blue-green profile in the last panel look so much like Molno drew it (third scan down).  Or maybe it's my fervent desire to see Bill in this.  Whatever--it's not him on pencils.  But could he have nevertheless had some say-so in the art?

But the "200 M.P.H. Club" pencils are Molno's, for sure, with Vince Alascia on inks.  Two of the faces in this story reappeared, more or less, in a Molno war entry years later.  I'll do a side by side comparison in a future post.

Mono does his own inking for "The Second Curve," my favorite entry.

Next, "Rich Man's Hobby"--Nicholas-Trapani, again, doing their best to look like Molno-Trapani, but, again, with the faces giving them away.  Molno faces never look this ordinary, sedate, or rational:

Still, the race scenes themselves are uncannily Bill:

...while the visages are uncannily Charles:

"Cowboy Crush" gives us a Trapani-Molno effort for comparison.  Note the more cartoony lass, the Method faces, the more stylish (and more eccentric) cars, and, most of all, the early appearance by Molno's Dale Gribble look-alike.  Dale would be back.

                                                                            "Put down that comic book!  It'll rot your brain."



  1. Lee,

    Another excellent post! Cover is likely all Giordano, although the driver in the back looks a little Molno-esque. Could this be Molno pencils; Giordano inks? "Junk Yard Driver" and "Rich Man's Hobby", which you attribute to Nicholas pencils, I'm not so certain of. Nothing screams "Nicholas" to my eye, particularly the woman in "Rich Man's Hobby". It may be another artist we're not thinking of, although no one comes to mind...or...perhaps you're correct and Molno provided layouts for these stories and Trapani finished the art (they may well have worked as a team together). Nothing definite but just some thoughts that come to mind. Keep the Molno magic coming!

  2. Nick,

    That I will do. Thanks! Layout-wise, what's the distinction between providing layout and doing the pencils? Would it be a matter of sketching a layout for both pencils and inks?

  3. a layout would usually be loose pencils by the artist which the inker would complete.