Friday, April 1, 2016

More Molno-Trapani at Gold Key--"The Room of Madness"!

"The Room of Madness" (Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, June, 1967) creeped me out pretty thoroughly back in the day, and, revisiting this item nearly fifty years later, I can see why--namely, because it is pretty dang creepy!  As a young reader, I had a much easier time experiencing comic book stories one panel at a time, fully getting inside of the action--something I can't do nearly as well these days, with my eyes, for some inexplicable reason, wanting to scan entire pages at once.  Then again, when it's a story about a haunted room that suffocates its unfortunate tenants, maybe it's best to stay outside of the action....

Boy, did those three panels spook me out back in the day, even if the "Aagghh!" panel had me wondering how, if the guy was being smothered by the room, a fully audible "Aagghh!" would have been possible, even an "Aagghh!" in conservatively sized font.  Apparently, I had less trouble accepting the general premise of a shrinking room (one capable of returning to its original size with no damage done to its non-human contents).  But the non-muffled "Aagghh!"?  That struck my ten year old brain as a little too much.  I should have written the publishers a letter expressing my skepticism.  ("Gentlemen, a fully audible 'Aagghh!,' such as the one featured in the third-to-last panel, strikes me as highly improbable under the circumstances.")

Nowadays, the art strikes me as quite basic but ingenious, which, not coincidentally, describes the layout style of Bill Molno to a tee.  And I'm pretty certain Bill did the pencils on this one.

Here's first page of "The Room of Mandess," just to give us a feel for the layout.  Even without peeking at the Grand Comics Database credits, we can see that the inks are Sal Trapani's....

And, right off, we're seeing classic Bill Molno faces--the old lady, the blonde hero.  Take the latter's profile in panel 3:

Compare it to this Bill Molno-Sal Trapani Charlton panel excerpt from Sep., 1959 (Unusual Tales #18,"The Incredible Walking Stick").  Kind of suggests the same collaborators, no?

On page 3 of  "The Room of Madness," we encounter a similar profile:

Let's compare it to this portion of an Oct., 1964 Molno-Molno Charlton panel (Strange Suspense Stories #72, "Fantasy Between the Pages").  Even with Molno doing his own inking, similar details stand out: collar, hairstyle, rigid pose, the way the background details function....  

And, again, to the 1959 Molno-Trapani Charlton panel:

By page four, our hero has figured out that, yes, the room is shrinking.  All haunted-room tales have their obligatory "I should have listened to the landlord" moment, and this is it.  Compare this Gold Key panel... this July, 1959 Molno-Mastroserio Charlton panel (Out of This World #14, "Device 233").  All that's missing is the tape measure:

The best case-for-Molno panel is this one, which turns out to be a standard Molno construct.  Observe the raised arm, the left-to-right action, the tilted perspective, and the general angularity:

Now, for comparison, six very similar Molno Charlton panels.  (There are likely scores more of these to be found):

Not to mention this panel from the Molno-Trapani Gold Key Boris Karloff story, "The Guardians," which I covered last post:

And, finally, those incredibly tall male characters in the final "Room of Madness" panel?  We've seen them before..., for example, this Molno-Vince Alascia Charlton composition (Strange Suspense Stories #49, "The Old Well"):

I truly believe that "The Room of Madness" features Bill Molno ghost-penciling for Sal Trapani.  And what more appropriate place to ghost-pencil than Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery?  (Chortle)


I.D.'s for the six Charlton panels, with pencils followed by inks:

1. Texas Rangers in Action #26, "Brother vs. Brother," Feb., 1961.  Molno-Rocco Mastroserio?
2.  Outlaws of the West #19, "The Owlhooter," Apr., 1959.  Molno-Vince Alascia
3.  Outlaws of the West #13, "The Man Who Wanted War," Dec., 1957.  Molno-Molno.
4.  Fightin' Army #22, "Old Nick's Last Charge," Nov., 1957.  Molno-Alascia?
5.  Texas Rangers in Action  #23. "Ranger in Exile," Aug., 1960.  Molno-Alasica
6.  Texas Rangers in Action #23, "Saddle Tramp," Aug., 1960.  Molno-Alascia.


  1. Lee,

    Thanks for uncovering another Molno pencil job. I'll correct the credits on the GCD and link it to your blog.