« Charlton was just a place where you felt you could let off a little steam, even if you were never going to get rich. » – Roy Thomas
For over a decade, Pat Masulli (1930-1998) was executive editor of Charlton Publications’ comics line… and of its more lucrative song lyrics (Hit Parader, Song Hits) and crossword puzzle magazine line. Though much has been made of artist Carmine Infantino rising through the editorial ranks at DC Comics (positions traditionally held by writers or just plain bossy types; Sheldon Mayer was a most notable exception at DC), Charlton always did employ artists to manage the comics wing: Al Fago (1951-55), Masulli (1955-66), Dick Giordano (1965-68), Sal Gentile (1968-71) and finally George Wildman (1971-85). There are overlaps in time as well as the porous distinctions betwixt the titles of Managing Editor and Executive Editor.
Now, all of the aforementioned are serviceable artists, but I’m most interested in Masulli. Over the years, it’s gradually dawned on me that, for a few months in 1965-66, Masulli, as if he weren’t busy enough already, decided to lay out and pencil most of the comics line’s covers. And, astoundingly, they represented some of the finest (though often obscure) comics artwork of the decade. Cover artist is a plum job in comics, but few are born that can smoothly fill these tight, squeaky shoes.
What was Masulli like? It depends on whom you ask. His one-time assistant, artist (and later DC inker) Frank McLaughlin, responded with a diplomatic, amused « You don’t want to know. » Charlton’s main writer, Joe Gill, queried about Masulli as editor, sums it up: « Terrible. Pat’s dead now, but he was a martinet, not a friendly guy that enjoyed amiable relations with the artists. He ruled it, and he and I co-existed. » On the other hand, writer-editor Roy Thomas (who was granted his entrée into the industry from Masulli), understandably speaks well of him although, to his regret, they never met. Before they could, Masulli was promoted at Charlton, leaving him to devote his time and effort to the music division, handing the reins of the comic book line to his now-and-again assistant, Mr. Giordano.
Masulli’s go-to guy within his stable of artists appears to have been the versatile, underrated Rocco ‘Rocke’ Mastroserio, who died far too young (at the age of 40!), still steadily improving and shortly after landing some promising jobs at Warren and DC. Mastroserio’s early work can be a tad gawky and lopsided, but shows much promise. By the mid-60s, his covers (his forte) could at times attain a level of craft and inspiration rivalling (and akin to) the work of John Severin and Joe Maneely, fine models to emulate.
This time, however, let’s focus on highlights from the Masulli-Mastroserio flash flood of ’65.
I’ll return at some point to spotlight solo Mastroserio. Next on the agenda for me, however, is this year’s Hallowe’en Countdown!
A very nice spotlight on the work of Masulli and Mastroserio. Both are underrated talents and I’m always pleased to see attention given to those under the radar. The covers you spotlighted point to the talent of Masulli and his ability to compose a compelling cover.
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Delighted to hear from you, Nick!
I first noticed the Masulli-Mastroserio byline on the cover of Wyatt Earp no. 61, and from then on, I was on the lookout for more. After a while, I detected a pattern: these covers had all been created in a short span… and many of them were quite outstanding!
Incidentally, I’m saving that WE61 cover for a post commemorating Earp’s birthday… and ‘career’ in comics.
And yeah, as I stated, it’s not just anyone that can compose a compelling cover. It’s an elevated art form, no kidding or empty exaggeration.