Gaspar Saladino’s First Lettering for DC Comics Part 2

All images © DC Comics, Inc.

The more I looked at the lettering in JIMMY WAKELY #7, the more I felt convinced that Gaspar had lettered three of the stories in it, even though the man himself didn’t think so. What could I use for evidence to bolster my case? I’d already written about the story above from STRANGE ADVENTURES #13, cover dated Oct. 1951 in THIS article. The art is by Alex Toth (who also did many stories for JIMMY WAKELY), and I knew it had to be lettered by Gaspar. Why? Artist Steve Leialoha owns an unused version of this first page with a note to Gaspar on it! Here’s the page:

And here’s the note to Gaspar larger:

As it turned out, the revised first page didn’t include this sign Alex was writing to Gaspar about, but he clearly knew who would be lettering the story. So I decided I should look for style clues in the pages of “Artist of Other Worlds.” Writer/artist and comics historian Michael T. Gilbert was kind enough to send me scans of the entire story (he’d provided the one I already had of the first page), and lots of style clues emerged. But first, let me point out the story title above as lettered. Once again it doesn’t look at all like Gaspar’s work. Still quite puzzling, but at least consistent with the JIMMY WAKELY stories!

Here’s a detail from the second story page. While the scan is a little wonky, the similarities to the JIMMY WAKELY work are clear. Same initial cap style, same wide lettering with all the characteristic Saladino style points. Same wide balloon tails.

On this detail from a later page, we see the same kind of radio balloon used in the JW stories.

This full story page has more radio balloons, the same initial cap style in the first caption, which also ends in the same kind of scrollwork. I felt I had my case. I made large printouts of both the “Desert Justice” story from JW and this one from SA on my 11 by 17-inch printer and marked them up with notes pointing out all the similarities, and mailed them to Gaspar.

It took him a while to get to them, but when he’d gone over the pages he called to tell me he thought I was absolutely correct. It WAS his work in both, except for the story titles, which is just as puzzling to him as to me. That left only the matter of the date. “You know,” I said, “The STRANGE ADVENTURES issue is dated October, 1951, but that meant it was on the newsstands in August, and likely lettered at least a month or two before that.” Gaspar admitted I must be right. When I pointed out the stories in JIMMY WAKELY #7, cover dated Sept.-Oct. 1950 would have been lettered no later than June of that year, he reluctantly agreed he must have started at DC earlier than he remembered.

Over the weeks this process was going on I continued to look for more reference on JIMMY WAKELY, and on eBay I hit the jackpot. Someone was selling a CD filled with scans of the entire 19 issues for a few dollars! While of questionable legal standing, this was something I had to have, and I bought it. The CD arrived after I had the above conversation with Gaspar, and as I was starting to assemble material for these articles. I began going through the issues page by page. Again, the scans vary in quality, though all are readable at least, and most are clear enough to see the lettering style.

Here’s a sample of the lettering from the first issue. There are a few minor similarities to Gaspar’s work like the long central stroke in the S, but overall it’s very different with narrower, rounder letters, a G with a serif, and so on. Much the same was true for all of issues 1-4. Then I opened issue 5, and my jaw dropped. There were four main stories, and every one of them seemed to be lettered by Gaspar! I had to have a better look, and soon found another reading copy on eBay that wasn’t too expensive. When it came, the actual comic did nothing but confirm my opinion. Here are some scans.

JW5s1_01

Story one splash page, art by Alex Toth and Joe Giella. Look at that thought balloon’s wide ovals, and the style of the initial capital Y in the caption. The title, while a bit odd, is closer to something I could see Gaspar doing, especially if he hadn’t quite figured out title lettering yet.

JW5s1_01detail

Here’s a closer look. The letterforms are very much in Gaspar’s style: wide with mostly straight strokes. The G has a straight right side but no serif, the C is half an oval, the S has that very long center stroke, and so on.

JW5s1_02detail

Here’s a detail from page 2 of the story with a very Gaspar radio balloon and another of those open initial caps with black brush shapes behind it.

JW5s1_04detail

A detail from page 4 with an interesting very bold and square I, and notice the unusual zig-zags in the caption border. It’s the sort of thing I’ve used to denote a radio or TV caption, but that’s not the case here. I think Gaspar just put it in as a design element to break up that dull straight line. Remember this detail, we’ll get back to it.

JW5s1_05detail

A detail from page 5 showing Gaspar’s two most common small balloon styles. Rounded for speech, large ovals for thoughts.

JW5s1_06detail

A sound effect from page 6, very Gaspar, especially that angular S!

JW5s2_01

Are you getting the picture? Here’s the splash page from the second story I believe Gaspar lettered with art by Alex Toth and Bernard Sachs (all art credits are from the Grand Comics Database). The title and logo on this one are by Gaspar too, I’m sure, and look at those elegant scroll captions.

JW5s3_01
The third story Gaspar lettered, again with a title that looks more in his style, quite creative in the use of broken dry-brush strokes for SHERIFF and YEAR. (The logo is probably an existing one by Ira Schnapp.) The art is by Joe Kubert and Bernard Sachs.

JW5s4_01

The fourth story has a different style to the initial cap and the title is not as well done or very typical of Gaspar’s work, but again, perhaps he hadn’t quite figured out the best ways to do titles yet. Art by Alex Toth and Frank Giacoia.

JW5s4_02detail

Here’s another of those captions with a few zig-zags, and some nice open lettering from the fourth story.

JW5s4_05detail

And another sound effect that’s classic Gaspar work.

So, I was convinced that Gaspar had lettered these stories, but before I had a chance to talk to him about it, my research was interrupted by Hurricane Sandy. Ellen and I evacuated to my mother’s place for a few days, then brought her here. Gaspar and his wife live on Long Island in an area hit by the storm, and he wasn’t reachable by phone or email for a few weeks, which had me worried. I finally heard from Clem Robins that the Saladinos had been sent down to Florida by their children, and would stay there until after Thanksgiving.

When Gaspar was home and I finally was able to talk to him on the phone, I told him about my new discovery, but he was skeptical. He’d been looking at the samples I’d sent from Jimmy Wakely 7 again, and wasn’t sure he’d done them. “The STRANGE ADVENTURE story is definitely me,” he said, “but I don’t remember working on JIMMY WAKELY.” I had to say I felt he was wrong, but I probed for anything he could remember about his first lettering work for Julie Schwartz at DC. “It was a romantic western,” he said. “I think the first story I did was drawn by Carmine Infantino. All I remember is there was tons of captions and dialogue.”

After we talked I thought about this and decided to do more research. Could there be another comic I was missing that contained Gaspar’s first DC lettering? The answer will follow in Part 3 of this article. Similar articles can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

 

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