GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1979-1982

All images © DC Comics. From DC SPECIAL SERIES #18, Fall 1979.

As I outlined last time, the “DC Implosion” wreaked havoc on staff and freelancers alike as about 40% of the line was cancelled, and everyone was scrambling to keep at least some of their freelance income if they had any. I’ve just gone through all the DC covers from 1979 and I see only eight new cover logos. The one above, for a digest-size comic DC was trying out, has the sole new Saladino logo. Though the top line is quite similar to the new Sgt. Rock logo Gaspar designed for 1977, this is all new. The R shape in ROCK is different, for example. The other seven new cover logos (two for the Famous First Edition of Superman #1 for the front and back covers, World of Krypton, Red Tornado for DC Comics Presents, All-Out War, another digest: Jonah Hex and other Western Tales, and Time Warp) were designed by me. I have to admit that back then I didn’t notice I was getting work that had often been going to Gaspar, I was just happy for the assignments and thrilled to be doing them. Was this a cost-saving move by DC? It’s possible.

I have no idea what kind of pay rate Gaspar was getting for any of his work, but as a long-time freelancer since 1949, his rates were probably considerably higher than mine. When I started at DC in 1977, my page rate for lettering was $5, but my logo rate was $30. Not comparable to what a logo designer might get in the general publishing world, but it seemed like a lot to me, and six times my page rate was a great windfall, even considering the extra work involved in logos: preparing several concept sketches to show the editor, getting approval for one (or perhaps having to do more if they weren’t what was wanted), then developing the approved sketch in finished pencils and carefully and precisely inking it. All that took time. My rates were reviewed about once every year, and by late 1979 I was making a whopping $8 per page for story lettering. My logo rate remained at $30, so not as much of a windfall, but still worthwhile, and by then I had figured out more of what I was doing and what would appeal to the editors. My logo rate jumped to $50 in 1982, and then doubled to $100 in 1983 when DC hired a real art director, Neal Pozner, who demanded better rates for things like logos, and standardized those rates for everyone. So, it’s possible that DC shifted some of Gaspar’s higher-paid work to me as a cost savings. I’ll never know for sure. Gaspar was still getting lots of other lettering work from DC even in those difficult times, and well he should.

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Incoming: BATWOMAN OMNIBUS

Image © DC Comics

Just arrived, a massive hardcover collecting the Batwoman stories from DETECTIVE COMICS #854-863 and BATWOMAN #0-24 as well as BATWOMAN ANNUAL #1 with wonderful art by J.H. Williams III and scripts by Greg Rucka, Williams III and W. Haden Blackman as well as art by Trevor McCarthy and Amy Reeder. It was a privilege to letter most of this. There are 888 pages, and the retail price is $99.99. It should be available now from comics retailers, and there’s also a link below.

GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1977-1978

All images © DC Comics except as noted. From WEIRD WESTERN #39, March-April 1977.

The first new Saladino DC logo design for comics with 1977 cover dates is this one, using fine western-style letters with a small open drop shadow on a broken-ended banner. The character replaced Jonah Hex in WEIRD WESTERN when Hex got his own title.

Gaspar Saladino’s logo design work began to decline in these years, as far as I can identify it. At DC Comics, some logo assignments were being given to staffers. As Ira Schnapp knew, being in the DC offices every day was the best way to have the pick of assignments. Gaspar had started out that way, but by the time he was designing logos, he had moved further from the offices to Plainview, Long Island, and usually visited DC once a week to drop off and pick up work. This made it more likely a production staffer might get a logo design assignment, as the editor could simply stop by their desk to discuss it with them, after getting the okay from the Production Manager Jack Adler. Jack knew how busy Gaspar was, and was usually fine with that. (Later production manager Bob Rozakis was of the same mind.)

John Workman was hired as a DC production artist in the summer of 1975, and worked on staff until late 1977, developing his lettering and logo design skills. I’ve written about his DC logos beginning HERE. He designed 16 cover logos in that time. I joined the production staff in the summer of 1977 and stayed for ten years. I, too, worked on my lettering and design skills and was given an increasing number of logo assignments. In 1978 I did one cover logo. In 1979 I did seven, and by 1986, the year before I left staff, I was doing about twenty DC cover logos a year. As DC moved from having the editors make most of the logo decisions to having an art director or cover editor involved in the 1980s, more new designers from staff, as well as outside freelancers, were given logo work at the company, including Alex Jay starting in 1986, Ken Bruzenak, Keith Wilson, Steven Bové and others.

At Marvel, the story is more opaque to me, and more complex. Opaque because I never worked there, so I have to go by hearsay and the evidence of the actual logos. Complex because in 1975, Marvel hired the talented letterer Jim Novak. Many letterers of my generation revered the work of Gaspar Saladino and tried to emulate it, including myself, but Jim was the best at that. When he started designing logos around 1977, he absorbed Saladino’s logo work to the point of even imitating Gaspar’s quirky style points, like his unusual R shape. From then on, it becomes much harder to know if a Marvel logo was designed by Saladino or Novak, and as I can’t tell in most cases, I’m not going to guess. For instance, here’s a logo that Jim Novak mentioned designing in an article in COMICS INTERVIEW #1 (1983):

From POWER MAN #50, April 1978, image © Marvel.

Everything about this logo, except perhaps the very thick outline around the entire thing, seems a perfect match for Saladino. Except for a few cases like this where Novak is known to have lettered a logo, I have only the evidence of my eyes to go by, and I feel it’s not enough. By the way, Novak’s most famous logos were for Marvel’s comics adaptation of STAR WARS and the movie CREEPSHOW, but beyond that I’m sure of only a few. I tried asking him about logos once, but he didn’t seem that sure himself which one’s he’d done, and sadly, Jim passed in 2018, so it remains an open question in many cases. I may be missing some Saladino Marvel logos due to this, but I feel that’s better than taking credit away from Jim Novak. I should add that once Sam Rosen and Artie Simek were gone from Marvel by 1976, other designers were also getting logo work there, including Danny Crespi, Morrie Kuramoto, Tom Orzechowski, Alex Jay, Ken Bruzenak, and myself (after 1987), so perhaps it was less likely that they would be calling Gaspar from that point on.

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Rereading: EARTHMAN, COME HOME by James Blish

The third in the “Cities in Flight” series by Blish is what’s called a fix-up novel, one made by combining several short stories with changes to make it read as a more continuous narrative. The original stories appeared in the early 1950s, the first things written in the series, and it’s the longest book but episodic, and it doesn’t hold together as single plot very well. It’s the first one I read, and I loved the ideas in it.

The focus is the adventures of the wandering Okie city of New York headed by Mayor Amalfi, who we met in the second book, “A Life For The Stars.” New York is one of the largest cities in flight, and one of the most revered due to its history on Earth, but among the spaceways, it’s just another hobo trying to find work, make money, and feed its citizens. The cities are supposedly overseen by Earth Police, who act as sort of cops on the intergalactic beat in smaller spindizzy ships of their own, well armed. New York and other cities get by under police rules, but sometimes walk the line between legal and illegal activities. Other cities have gone criminal, and are called bindlestiffs, taking what they want where they can get away with it. Cities like New York take on contracts to do work for planets they encounter who need their help, but in this book a galaxy-wide depression has devalued what the cities use for money, work is scarce, and they are gradually being starved. Some gather in a space colony called a Jungle (after hobo jungles on Earth in the 1930s), trying to negotiate as a group, but in danger of being destroyed by Earth Police. Amalfi’s New York is forced to join this rebel group, and when they decide to travel together back to Earth to demand rights and justice, Amalfi finds a way to make that work for him and save Earth at the same time by taking over an entire planet and making it travel like the cities do with spindizzy engines. Then New York must flee, and they travel to the distant Lesser Magellanic Cloud beyond our galaxy in search of a new home.

There’s plenty of adventure in this book, and I enjoyed rereading it, even if the science is not always very believable. The characters are appealing, and the plot’s many twists and turns keep things interesting. One thing I would have liked to see more of is making the buildings, streets, and environment of New York more part of the story, most of the interior scenes take place mainly in City Hall, and few New York landmarks are mentioned. On the whole, recommended.

GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1976

All images © DC Comics except as noted. From 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL #10, Jan 1976.

After the truckload of extra logo work in 1975, Gaspar settled back into his usual busy design role for DC Comics and Marvel Comics for books cover-dated 1976. This was a Joe Simon concept that did not go further. The S shapes are ones Gaspar began to use more often at this time, with the top and bottom loops extending toward the center. The bottom loop on the first S has been made wider to fill in the extra space next to the T, which only bothered me when I finally noticed it just now.

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