GASPAR SALADINO and X-MEN #137

This and all images © Marvel

Recently letterer Tom Orzechowski sent me this image, writing:

This just came to me via a Facebook friend: an alternative treatment for the cover of UNCANNY X-MEN #137. He asked if it was my lettering. Of course, it’s Gaspar’s work. I imagine they scrapped his blurbs in order to allow for a larger use of the Byrne/Austin artwork. Anyway, 40 or so years later…something new. To me, anyway. And, maybe to you.

I think I might have seen this on Facebook also, but I can’t find the source.

ADDED: The source is Ron Zalme, a Marvel production artist at the time, and the image is from his files. He wrote about it on Facebook:

The cover art for X-MEN #137 had been commissioned and done without any preliminary design work… which was frequently the case… but Marvel had decided to run a contest that month… and that issue was supposed to be a special “double-sized” comic… and the X-Men logo was one of Marvel’s largest title logos to begin with. I did my best to cobble it all together… but Jim Shooter and the editors were appalled by the tiny bit of room left for the art! (Rightly so! … But I kind of intentionally pasted it up that way to… ummm… make the point…). Needless to say, changes were made. LOL They got rid of a bunch of cover copy to fit the art in a more traditional manner.

That version was replaced with the printed one:

As Tom said, it was decided to enlarge the cover art, leaving no room for Gaspar’s fine blurbs except for the one above the title, “Special Double-size Issue!” That remained, while UNCANNY was dropped. There’s also no Comics Code seal. One obvious problem was the addition of the large top banner promoting a contest. On the Grand Comics Database entry for the issue I found this note:

According to Marvel scriptwriter (and occasional editor) Roger Stern, the absence of the seal was an accident. “That month, Marvel started running a contest with a big honkin’ banner across the tops of all the covers… which necessitated some special paste-ups… and the code seal either fell off or was never added.”

But as you can see, the contest banner was on the first version of the cover, so I think it was just a matter of it being missed when the new layout was made, and that probably happened in a rush, since the first version was already out to the separator. On the printed cover, a new cover blurb runs across the bottom, “PHOENIX MUST DIE!” I think that was done with a headline type machine that Marvel had in the office, there was probably no time to get it lettered. The printed version certainly looks better to me than the first one, though it’s still overcrowded.

It’s not all that unusual for cover lettering to be created and then not used, it happened to me occasionally. Gaspar’s work on this cover is excellent, but probably not really needed, he just lettered what he was given with his usual flair and creativity. Saladino started lettering Marvel covers around 1973, and did some off and on through the early 1980s. He was never a regular letterer on any particular title. He would visit the DC and Marvel offices about once a week from his home on Long Island, and while there would pick up whatever work they had for him. Sometimes for late covers he would sit down and do the lettering on the spot.

The lower of these two blurbs is interesting because it credits the writer and artists, something Marvel was not usually doing at the time on covers, though they were always credited inside. Those credits are in Gaspar’s fine upper and lower case, somewhere between script and block letters. Too bad these blurbs never saw print, but these things happen in comics, and as long as he was paid, Saladino would not have cared either way.

Thanks to Tom O and Ron Zalme for sharing this. Lots more about Gaspar Saladino’s lettering can be found on the COMICS CREATION and LOGO LINKS pages of my blog. He’s also featured in THIS chapter of my online book, “The Art and History of Lettering Comics.”

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