GASPAR SALADINO at WARREN, NAL & STAR*REACH

All images © the respective copyright holders. From CREEPY #41, Sept 1971

This article features a small amount of Gaspar Saladino story lettering for three publishers in the 1970s. Jim Warren began publishing FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND in 1958. It was black and white, larger than standard comics size, and used photos and text for the most part. In 1964 he branched out into horror comics in the same size and format with CREEPY, soon adding EERIE and other titles, and eventually his best-selling title VAMPIRELLA in 1969. Early on nearly all the lettering was by Ben Oda, but some artists either did their own lettering, or subcontracted it, paying the letterer directly, and eventually other letterers were hired to keep up with the company’s large volume of comics work. Saladino only lettered three Warren stories that I know of, all for CREEPY. The first one, above, is a beauty co-scripted and illustrated by Wally Wood. This was probably a case of Wood hiring Gaspar, Saladino was lettering CANNON and SALLY FORTH for Wally at the time. Look for Saladino’s characteristic serif I on IRITH in the first caption.

From CREEPY #41, Sept 1971

Another page from the story has large display lettering to add drama. I’m guessing that was loosely penciled by Wood and inked by Saladino. The way the lettering is so close to the page edge at the top right suggests Gaspar didn’t know this was going to be full bleed art, and thought it would have white margins, or perhaps the art was the wrong proportions and the top is cut off.

From CREEPY #75, Nov 1975

The other two CREEPY stories lettered by Gaspar have art by John Severin, a comics veteran since at least EC Comics in the early 1950s, who worked for Marvel and DC at times, perhaps where Saladino met him. In this case I don’t know if Severin hired Gaspar or if Warren did at John’s request, but since Severin pencilled and inked the art, he might have worked directly with Saladino, though the reversed captions would have been done at Warren. The story title is a terrific example of Gaspar’s dry-brush work.

From CREEPY #75, Nov 1975

Some unusual balloon shapes and great sound effects enhance this later page from the same story.

From CREEPY #77, Feb 1976

The other Severin story has an equally fine title, though in very different styles. Warren did a good job reversing Gaspar’s black on white lettering to get the white on black result they wanted. All the lettering is clear and easy to read.

From CREEPY #77, Feb 1976

Another page from the story with more unusual balloon shapes that help sell the horror.

From SUPERFAN and SUPERFAN…AGAIN! paperbacks, 1972 & 1974, New American Library (NAL)

Here are two unusual items. Mad writer Nick Meglin and MAD artist Jack Davis apparently did a comics feature for PRO QUARTERBACK magazine in the early 1970s called Superfan. I have no access to the magazine, so I don’t know anything about the appearances there except for examples of original art found online, some of which are below.

From SUPERFAN, 1972, NAL

Both books are made up of short comics stories, but their contents are different. The first book is all reprints from the original strip broken into several pages, usually two panels per paperback page from one tier of the three-tier page, so three pages of the paperback equal one of the original strip. In the second book, new strip pages were no longer being created, and there weren’t many left unpublished, so Meglin and Davis filled out much of the book with new stories and art. Those new pages are formatted like a paperback page, one panel per page. On both books, Gaspar got a credit up front, as seen above.

From SUPERFAN…AGAIN! 1974, NAL

This repeat of the very first strip’s first tier in the second book includes the Saladino logo that probably appeared on all the original strips, and from that you can see he also did the curved version on the cover of the second paperback.

SUPERFAN original art courtesy of Heritage Auctions, about 1971

Gaspar would probably have met Meglin and Davis when he began working for MAD in 1966, and they brought him in as letterer for this strip. From the original art found on the Heritage Auctions site, I’m guessing that each installment was probably two pages like this one, with three tiers, though some were probably three pages. The three tiers on this page were used as pages 108-110 of SUPERFAN.

From SUPERFAN, courtesy of Heritage Auctions

This is another full page of the original strip lettered by Gaspar, but at the right side you can see indications that each tier will be used on a separate page of the SUPERFAN paperback, pages 64-66. In Nick Meglin’s introduction to the second book, he says the first one used “20 or so episodes.” Many of the strips had curved corners, like this one, which makes it easier to tell where strip pages begin and end, though others had the logo and a single panel as the top tier, and on those just the single panel is used. By paging through the paperback, I’ve determined it used about 56 strip pages. (In a few places there might be more than three tiers on a page or possibly a few panels were dropped, so this is a close guess.)

From SUPERFAN…AGAIN! courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Here’s a strip page that was used in the second paperback, one panel per page on pages 35-39. On page 40 the last panel is used with the next panel from this story that must have been on the next strip page, so it gets a bit confusing. I think there were three pages to this story in the strip, and the panels are spread out over pages 35-49 of the paperback.

From SUPERFAN…AGAIN! page 145, courtesy of Heritage Auctions

The other pages from this book look like this, usually a single large panel drawn and lettered to fit the paperback format, with gray marker tones added by Davis. This really shows off both the art and lettering well. Because of the small size, I will consider four of these to equal a page of comics lettering.

From SUPERFAN…AGAIN! page 155, courtesy of Heritage Auctions

One more example showing the full original art size. There are 134 of these, so let’s call it about 34 pages of standard lettering. I’d call the original strips about the same as a comics page, see below for estimated totals.

From IMAGINE #3, Aug 1978

IMAGINE was part of publisher Mike Friedrich’s experiment with a line of comics that straddled two aspects of the industry, with one foot in underground comix and the other in mainstream comics under the Star*Reach name. He invited contributors from both worlds into his books. This story is written by Paul Levitz with art by Mike Vosburg, both working in mainstream comics at the time. I’m guessing Levitz recruited Saladino to letter the story, which has a beautiful and creative title. There seems to be some lettering missing from the first caption, I don’t know the story behind that.

From IMAGINE #4, Nov 1978

The other story Gaspar lettered is also written by Levitz with great art by Steve Ditko. They had worked together on STALKER at DC in 1975, but this story is more in line with Ditko’s work on Dr. Strange for Marvel. The title is in one of Gaspar’s scary styles with an unusual leftward slant.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering in these issues:

CREEPY #41: 12pp, #75: 10pp, #77: 8pp

SUPERFAN: about 56pp

SUPERFAN…AGAIN! about 37pp

IMAGINE #3: 10pp, #4: 8pp

That’s about 141 pages of comics lettering. Other articles about Gaspar Saladino lettering are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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