Monday, August 22, 2011

Sal Trapani's Ghosts: Bill Molno

Sal Trapani used a lot of ghost pencillers in the Sixties. A number of Charlton artists were published at DC, Gold Key, and Warren, in many cases I imagine without the publishers ever knowing. Dick Giordano's and Steve Ditko's first stories at DC were ghost pencils for Trapani. Giordano's was the Flash-Doom Patrol team-up in The Brave and the Bold 65. Ditko considers his first work for DC to be the The Creeper (although he had two Strange Adventures stories, in numbers 188 and 189, published earlier) because he was working for Trapani on the latter. At ACG, on the other hand, Ditko was credited for the work he did with Trapani.

Giordano and Ditko's work appeared at Dell, I believe, only when inked by Trapani, so I suspect it was ghost work as far as the publisher was concerned. Super Heroes was pencilled by Bill Fraccio. Although Fraccio worked anonymously for Dell with Tony Tallarico's inking on Frankenstein, Dracula, and Werewolf, Super Heroes is signed by Trapani, making Fraccio a ghost.

At Warren, in Creepy 16 (August 1967), the credit line to the story "There Was an Old Lady" says "Art by Sal Trapani"; he signs the splash as well. The Grand Comics Database indexers suspect a ghost penciller here, and they're correct. The penciller is Charlton mainstay Bill Molno.
Creepy 16 page by Bill Molno and Sal Trapani
For comparison, here's a page from "Nightmare" in Charlton's Haunted 16 (June 1974). Here Molno is inked by Wayne Howard, with both credited. The face at the lower left of each page is the obvious point of similarity, but even the jagged panel corners used by no one else in that issue of Creepy suggest the same artist.

Haunted 16 page by Bill Molno and Wayne Howard

Trapani had work in later issues of Creepy, getting the sole credit in the GCD; I haven't seen those stories.

Certainly Sal Trapani inked a lot of art directly for the publishers, and if credit was given at all, the pencillers were credited. At some points he even did his own pencilling, as far as I can tell. But there were at least three Charlton artists with some work at Gold Key that I don't imagine the editors knew they were getting; I'll get to them in later posts.


  1. Dick Giordano told me that he did do some work directly for Dell...and there were stories he did that he inked. I don't think Trapani ever sub-contracted out inking work, only pencilling.

    There are also Dell jobs that Giordano pencilled which were inked by Joe Sinnott and others inked by Vince Colletta. The Sinnott ones were cases where he was hired by Joe. I don't know about the Colletta ones. It's possible that Dell hired Giordano and Colletta separately, possible Colletta hired Giordano and possible even (though unlikely) that Giordano hired Colletta.

    The big mystery for me is who pencilled the issues of METAMORPHO where Trapani is credited as penciller with Charles Paris inking. I asked Giordano, who in addition to knowing Trapani well and at one point sharing a studio with him, was also Trapani's brother-in-law. He said, "I don't know but I'll bet it wasn't Sal. I'm not sure Sal ever pencilled anything on his own. Almost anyone could have helped him with METAMORPHO. I may even have done some of it."

    (Given that a lot of art in METAMORPHO was swipes or tracings from Ramona Fradon, I imagine it's possible Trapani did do some of the pencils.)

    And Len Wein tells the story of how when he was writing MOD WHEELS for Gold Key, he recognized that the pencilling was by Jack Abel, who was working for Sal. Len took Abel up to the Gold Key offices and introduced him to the editors, after which Jack began doing some work for the company on his own.

  2. I'd seen the Jack Abel pencils on the early MOD WHEELS, but didn't realize he hadn't worked for Gold Key before that. Sal Trapani's inking Jack Sparling on the first issue, and Abel's doing full art on later issues, led me to a conclusion that gave Trapani the benefit of the doubt. I didn't know until now that Abel was another of his ghosts.

    MOD WHEELS, though, would be the title where I find two more stories pencilled by other Charlton artists mixed in with Abel's work under Trapani's inks.