Category Archives: Logo Studies

GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1986-2015

All images © DC Comics except as noted. From LEGIONNAIRES 3 #1, Feb 1986

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 In a sense he had been replaced by younger designers, just as he had replaced Ira Schnapp beginning in 1967.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.

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GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1983-1985

All images © DC Comics. From THE BEST OF DC #37, June 1983.
From DC COMICS PRESENTS ANNUAL #2, July 1983.

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.

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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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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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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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