We start our Christmas posting with two Santa Claus ads from the 1891 Thanksgiving issue of The Youth's Companion. I had to do a lot of restoring on the cover, which was in two pieces and filled with marks, including a big stain of some kind on the right margin. Using Paint, I came up with an orange that closely matched the original cover color, and then I liberally filled in around the art and the lettering.
Here are the Santa ads, which were much easier to spruce up:
And we have this somewhat feral-looking Santa advertising Ivory Soap in the Dec. 17, 1885 Youth's Companion:
And... a cool and spooky Christmas Eve lithograph (complete with a charming poem) from the Dec., 1869 issue of The Little Corporal. I love the way Santa appears to be coming out of the fire (as opposed to landing in it):
Last post, I suggested Tony Tallarico or Vince Colletta for the following artwork from Battlefield Action, No. 17 (Dec., 1957). Checking around (through my comics and on-line), I'm certain it's actually Bill Fraccio:
Could "The Unseen!" (Fightin' Marines, No. 32--Oct., 1959) be Bill Molno on pencils and Fraccio on iks?
If so, why the long head shapes? Maybe "Remembered Moment!' from Unusual Tales, No. 17 (July, 1959) provides a clue or two. Here are the long head shapes from the Fightin' Marines story:
And a face (below) that cries out to be credited to Bill Fraccio, no?
And, from Battlefield Action, No. 29 (March, 1960), we have another entry which ties Bill Fraccio (or, at least, the artist I've i.d.'d as Fraccio) with the long head shapes of "The Unseen!" (Are you keeping notes?) The entry is "Lucky Dogs," and here are some sample faces:
Same guy. And, just in time for the final panel, up pop those familiar elongated heads:
This close art-comparison work has given me a headache, so I think I'll sign off for now....
Fightin' Marines, No.32 (Oct., 1959)--a cool and memorable issue with a great cover. The Grand Comics Database suggests Maurice Whitman, and I agree--i'ts probably him. Splendid job--a job that says, "Buy this comic!":
The first story, "Run Rabbit, Run!" is classic Sam Glanzman. The second screams Bill Molno, and, sure enough, GCD credits it to Molno, with Sal Trapani on inks. I'll have to disagree. These faces are Molno-Mastroserio:
So are the stiff, but highly efficient, action panels. Note the Molno-style panels within the panel on the second scan:
The next story, "Assault Team!" gets no GCD credit, but I feel confident giving it to Molno, with Vince Alascia on inks. Notice, in particular, the Bill-Vince faces in the splash panel:
These next two panels, from the story's second and last page, clinch it for me: The first shows a classic Bill-Vince depiction of jagged steel (Bill and Vince's torpedo-damaged hulls look about the same), and the second features standard Molno-Alascia background figures.
The looser Bill-Vince inks of the early 1960s had yet to arrive.
The last tale, "The Unseen!" (note the ! in all of this issue's titles) is the most interesting, art-wise, because of the combination--namely, Bill on pencils, and Tony Tallarico on inks. Yes, Tony Tallarico. (UPDATE: After studying more examples, I'm leaning toward Vince Colletta.) Check the faces:
And notice the Molno-style explosion (simple and efficient, with a minimum of background detail), followed by the Molno-style insert panel:
"Rat-Ta-Tat!"? Imagine being mown down by a lousy "Rat-Ta-Tat!" Or maybe that's all the writer and/or artists thought the enemy deserved? This is Fightin' Marines, after all. I suppose it's better than perishing with a "Voooosh!" (I'll have to verify that spelling.)
Again, I'd rate myself 80 percent sure on the Molno-Tallarico credit. At the very least, we're seeing Molno layouts, which is very possible, given the period. By the way, I'm basing my Tallarico i.d. in part on the following 1959 issue of Space Adventures: Comic Books Plus. Note the artwork of the two stories ("The Long Wait" & "Captive from Space") tentatively credited to Tallarico. That's our man. (The same artist also drew "Prison Ship in Space" in the No. 24, Oct., 1960 issue of Unusual Tales.)
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE BELOW: Vince Colletta seems like a better candidate for the inks in "The Unseen!" Here's a page (borrowed from The Charlton Comics Reading Library) from Space Adventures, No. 33 (March, 1960) featuring Molno-Colletta art. It doesn't precisely match the Fightin' Marines art, but then we're talking nearly a year's difference, plus a different genre. So, maybe:
Compare it to these faces from "The Unseen!":
UPDATE: Here's our mystery artist, be he Tony Tallarico or someone else (Vince Colletta?), in Battlefield Action, No. 17 (Dec., 1957). No credit(s) at GCD. Scanned from my copy:
The final story of the issue, Teddy Roosevelt and His Rough Riders, is also without a GCD credit, but it's majorly Molno (on pencils and inks).
Bill Molno's stamp is all over the highly enjoyable Jan., 1958, No. 9 issue of Charlton's Speed Demons. What isn't present is a single Molno signature--no intials, no "Bill," no nothin'. Par for the race course. (And "par for the race course" only gets 13 Google search results. Strange.)
Here's the cover. Dick Giordano? Looks like him. Molno-Giordano, maybe? Someone else?
But I can declare with nearly absolutely certain confidence that "Grand Prix de Cuba," despite the lone "Mastroserio" signature, is in fact Molno-Mastroserio (pencils-inks). Dig the faces and the stiff Bill-"Rocke" bodies:
The next entry, "Grand Prix de Cuba," is typical Charlton race-car fare: essentially plotless, and with lots of speeding wheels and dirt clouds--just what the readers came to see. What it lacks is the obligatory "I've been waiting for this! (POW!!) panel," as I call it. The other three stories make up for this. Here are their POW!! panels:
In fact, the final story has two face-punch panels, bringing the issue to a total of four. Four stores/four face-punch panels. All is well in the universe.
Where were we? Oh, yes--the second story, "Right Car... Wrong Driver," features easily identifiable pencils and inks--namely, Molno and Vince Alasica. Molno and Alascia were a magical combination on these types of stories, with a highly convincing sense of speed, motion, and space in the racing scenes. And the sound effects are worth the price of the comic: "BRRPPP!" RROOAARRR!" "SCREEECHH!" They more than make up for the lack of "POW!"'s in the issue's punch-out panels:
"Dirty Driver" is Molno inking Molno, and the racing panels have the same highly artistic quality as those of "Right Car...Wrong Driver"--minus Alascia's streamlined inking. "Dirty Driver" boasts a slightly more complicated plot than usual, with the hero, Jocko McCoy, having to prove he's the victim of "dirty driving" rather than the instigator. He accomplishes this by drawing out the bad guys, countering their dirty driving moves and forcing bad guy Nick Prado, in full view of all, to go after him ever more aggressively. Racing official in final panel: "Your troubles are over, Jocko! Instead of barring you, we've barred Nick Prado and his pals. The crowd knows the truth now!" (Just in case the preceding narrative left us confused.) By the standards of the genre, pretty multi-leveled stuff.
"Tramp Driver" is another cheating saga, but I have no idea what the title means. I Googled it (entering "What is a 'tramp driver'?") but, despite a decent number of hits, no clear definition. Someone who drives a heavy load, maybe? As in, not someone to put your hopes in, race-wise. Maybe that's it.
Art is by Fran Matera, who kindly provided his signature in the first panel. Yet the faces are highly Molno, no? So is the final race. Was Matera working from a Molno layout?
I have a few later (1960s) Charlton car mags, but I don't like them nearly as much as these early issues. There's a genre-in-progress feel here that's quite cool, and there's less emphasis on youth than we'd expect from 1958. Strange, really, with the death of James Dean a recent memory, with teen-oriented B movies raking in the bucks, and with Elvis tearing up the charts even as he served in the Army. Charlton is often chided as a copy-cat company, but here they seemed to be forging their own course against the teen-culture onslaught of the day. Skimming over the list of Charlton titles at Comic Book Plus, I only spot four teen titles of the late 1950s, three of them romance.
Charlton wasn't riding the crest of the teen trend--at least, not yet.