Recently Anthony Tollin, who I worked with in the DC Production Department in the late 1970s-early 1980s, wrote to me on Facebook:
Hey, Todd, it occurs to me that your COMICS REVUE logo has probably appeared on more issues than any other logo you designed. It’s appeared on around 352 covers (290 regular issues, 80 double-issue covers plus two CR Annuals). Offhand, are there any other logos you designed that have appeared on more covers?
This is something I’ve noticed myself every five or ten years when I realize the magazine is still being published! It’s been rolling out regularly from Rick Norwood’s Manuscript Press since 1983 and has always been a hefty collection of comic strips, some reprinted from the glory days, some more recent.
In 2016 I was hired by publisher HarperCollins, by request of their author Neil Gaiman, to design covers for four mass market paperbacks for his books that would have new paintings by legendary cover artist Robert McGinnis. McGinnis had been a top cover artist and movie poster artist since the 1950s, and was now in his 90s. I was surprised to learn he was still with us, and willing to take on this project, but he was, and I was delighted to be involved. Neil and I had many email discussions on what he wanted, and he summed it up like this:
“What I’d love is if you can design the whole cover in each case, so all the lettering is of a piece, including the tag lines. The brief is, it’s 1966 and these are cult underground bestsellers, and you are selling them to the curious, I guess.”
We didn’t always stick to that concept completely, but it was a good starting point, and I think the four covers, above, came out well. I should add that I had no contact with McGinnis, just marveled at what he turned in.
In 2018 I heard from HarperCollins that McGinnis was starting on paintings for a second round of four books, and they wanted me to again do cover designs. The process went on from then to 2020, and gradually four more paintings and cover designs emerged that Neil and the publisher were happy with. For the first four, I had written a blog article about each one (links at the end of this post), but I neglected to do that for the second round. For one thing, I didn’t know when they were published, always tricky in these times, and I wasn’t hearing much from the publisher. The other day, Neil posted an image of the final printed book of the second four, making clear they were done and out, so here are details about all four.
Gaspar Saladino continued to create logos for DC Comics regularly, but not nearly as often as in the past, from 1986 to 1988. Then his logo output nearly stopped, as far as I can tell, with just one for DC in 1991 and none after that. In a sense he had been replaced by younger designers, just as he had replaced Ira Schnapp beginning in 1967. I don’t know what he thought about this, but Gaspar continued to do story lettering and cover lettering for the company for some time. Digital desktop publishing was gradually making its way into comics, and newer companies like Image and Malibu were pioneers in establishing an all-digital workflow around 1994, including digital lettering by Comicraft and others. DC was much slower to adopt digital, but by the late 1990s, covers were being assembled that way, and I was doing a lot of DC’s cover lettering digitally on my first Apple computer. Gaspar had no interest in learning computer lettering, so he was gradually shut out of his first and best market, DC. He continued to hand-letter comics stories for the company until DC made the switch to an all-digital workflow in 2002. At that point, Gaspar was essentially retired as a DC letterer. He turned 75 that year, and I think he was content to enjoy his family and they spent a lot of time in Florida as well as Long Island. Gaspar was occasionally called on by DC for his unique hand lettering on covers, including for the BATMAN ’66 series beginning with issue #3 in 2013, something I think he enjoyed. That work extended Gaspar’s DC career to seven decades, an amazing feat in itself.
As I mentioned in the first article in this series, Saladino’s Wikipedia page credits him with logo designs for Neal Adams’ Continuity Associates and also Eclipse Comics in the 1980s, but I’ve looked at every cover by both publishers and I don’t see any work by Gaspar. The Wikipedia page also says he did product logos for Eclipse editor cat yronwode’s separate business Lucky Mojo Curio Company in the 1990s, and I do see some of those in online images, but as they’re not comics logos, I won’t attempt to cover them here. One final comics logo came from Gaspar late in his career, and I will include it at the end of this article.
DC editor Karen Berger was one of the few younger editors at the company who seemed to appreciate Gaspar’s logo work, and he did a fine one, above, for a Legion of Super-Heroes mini-series. The lightning bolt slash of the giant L lines up with the top of the large 3 to make it memorable.
Gaspar Saladino continued to be a valued part of the DC freelance work force, lettering many stories (with an emphasis on war stories), many covers (something few other letterers for DC were asked to do) and some logos and house ads, but as the structure of the company changed around this time to include an art director and/or cover editor, house ads were more often done in-house, and logo designs were assigned more widely to a larger group of staffers and freelancers. In Ira Schnapp’s time, he had essentially functioned as an art director, setting the visual style for the company through his logos, house ads and cover lettering from the late 1940s through the mid 1960s. When Flash artist Carmine Infantino was appointed the art director around 1967, he began shifting that high-profile work to Gaspar Saladino, and from 1968 to 1978, Gaspar’s work set the style for the company. Now art directors and cover editors, beginning with Neal Pozner and continuing with Richard Bruning, Keith Wilson, and Curtis King, were hired to place THEIR stamp on the company’s visual style, and each did so. Many of Pozner’s designs were strictly type-based, and that was a growing trend at DC and other companies. Also, art directors who were trained outside comics, even if they were comics fans, knew more about type design than hand-made lettering, so that was part of the trend. All this resulted in less house ad and logo design work for Gaspar, though I feel he still had plenty to offer. The two logos above show the variety of styles and ideas he was capable of, with FUNNY STUFF embodying all the joy of cartoony comics and SUPERWOMAN representing superheroes in a modern way.
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.