As I looked through all the issues of this title that might have cover or story lettering by Gaspar Saladino, I was heartened to see that the Grand Comics Database has a much more complete listing of his credits for this title than they did for ACTION COMICS, the first one I indexed. I decided to go ahead and index this title anyway, for completeness, in my new ongoing series of cover and story lettering work by my favorite letterer. The main cover letterer for DC from the late 1940s to about 1967 was Ira Schnapp, but when he wasn’t available others were assigned the work, and above is the first one by Saladino. Compare it to any contemporary Schnapp cover and you’ll see that the style is quite different, with wider and more angular balloon lettering, thinner balloon and caption borders, and a different approach to open lettering. Cover lettering was generally done on separate art paper after the cover art was finished, and then photostatted to the desired size and pasted in place by someone in the DC production department. Here it looks like Gaspar made the tops of his balloons flat to fit under the logo, but the slight tilt to that logo made it unclear where it would fall, so some of the balloons look a bit squashed. Other letterers in this position tried to copy Ira Schnapp’s style as closely as they could, but Gaspar stuck to his own distinctive style, which I think makes the work better.
As is my usual practice, I’m looking at Gaspar’s cover work first, then his story lettering. In this fill-in cover by him, there’s too much lettering and a very silly concept, both typical of editor Mort Weisinger on all the Superman-related titles he edited in the 1960s. Saladino does the best he can to fit things in and make the text interesting.
Another fill-in cover lettering job from Gaspar, and I think this one shows him getting a little more comfortable with the kind of display lettering needed in the caption, though the line spacing is still not the best, with too much blank space in the center. The balloons are again wide and squashed to fit under the logo, but in this case the left one was run over it.
Another fill-in job with a more confident approach to the display lettering in the balloon that I think works well. Gaspar was about to be tapped by Carmine Infantino to essentially replace Ira Schnapp as the main cover letterer for DC, and his talent for it is clear here.
This issue marks Gaspar’s debut as the new style-setter for DC, now tasked with giving the company’s design presence a more exciting and modern look. He still had to deal with the silly ideas of Mort Weisinger on this title, though, but he does his best with the caption, and at least there is some action.
A year later, the balloons on this cover show Gaspar feeling freer to be creative with distinctive shapes, and the lettering itself is appealing and beautifully done, as is the caption in deep perspective.
ADVENTURE went through many format and feature changes in its long history, this cover shows the switch to Supergirl as the lead feature around this time with a reprint issue of her stories. Saladino’s Supergirl logo was done just for this cover, and the rest of his lettering is appealing. This is the kind of cover Ira Schnapp was good at, but Gaspar shows he could make it his own with unique caption borders and a beautiful banner, not to mention the fine display lettering.
Perhaps the most popular feature in this title was the Legion of Super-Heroes, and here Gaspar goes all-out with another one-use logo and lots of fine display lettering for them.
By 1977, the title starred Aquaman, with other features as backups. Gaspar’s caption here is the best part of the cover’s trade dress and lettering.
A later era split the book evenly between these two features, and the cover too, which made for some unusual cover designs and challenging cover lettering tasks for Saladino.
The final issue in this run of ADVENTURE was after a change to digest format, mostly reprints at a smaller page size. Gaspar’s lettering touts the finality, but in fact the title was brought back for another short run from 2009 to 2011.
As with ACTION COMICS, Gaspar was never a regular letterer for ADVENTURE, but he did letter a few stories in the 1950s, this being the first. While his balloon lettering is instantly recognizable to me, his story titles were not yet very good, something that would gradually improve with time.
Again on this Superboy story, the title is not as good as ones he would be doing a few years later, though it’s certainly readable and similar to ones being done by other letterers at the time.
Letterers were considered more interchangeable in the past, and when one could not finish a story, another would take it on. That happened with this Legion of Super-Heroes story. The first and sixth pages were the only ones completed by the first letterer, credited as Morris Waldinger by the Grand Comics Database, and the rest were lettered by Saladino. His first balloon on this page has some fine display lettering.
Something else was going on in this story, Gaspar lettered just the first page, the rest is credited to Charlotte Jetter. The same thing happened in the following issue. It suggests the editor didn’t like what Charlotte was doing with titles, and had Gaspar do these first pages to improve the overall impression on readers. This is interesting because Saladino was hired by Marvel Comics to do just that on many of their stories a few years later, but this is the first instance of it at DC that I’ve come across.
Gaspar lettered the whole Legion story in this issue. It’s interesting to see that DC was occasionally allowing credits for writer and artist at this time, but they were years away from doing that regularly, as Marvel Comics did starting in the early 1960s (and occasionally earlier), and colorists and letterers had to wait even longer for printed credit.
I couldn’t resist showing this unlikely combination of Saladino lettering next to (and outshining) my own early efforts. This issue was the first of the Dollar Comics issues, 68 pages with no ads. I designed this inside front cover and lettered the large caption. Gaspar did the FEATURING banner on the right, which is far more interesting. On later issues, that was set in type.
Gaspar also lettered the lead Flash story in the issue. Look how far his story title work as come from the previous ones above! Also note that he often credited himself simply with his first name. That was probably because his name was so long, but also I think acknowledged his confidence in the work.
After the Dollar Comics run, ADVENTURE became a smaller anthology with two features. Saladino did his only regular monthly work on the title lettering this feature for eleven of its twelve episodes. As a reader, I loved his work here, and found it the suited the art and writing perfectly.
To sum up, here are the ADVENTURE COMICS covers with Saladino lettering:
255, 310, 316, 352, 364, 367-410, 412-415, 417-421, 423-424, 426, 431, 442-443, 445, 449-453, 457, 462, 464-465, 467-473, 476-477, 479-490, 491-503
That’s 107 covers in all. And for the digest issues, he was lettering both the front and back covers, though I will count them as one each.
Here’s a list of his story lettering on ADVENTURE:
#185 Feb 1953 Green Arrow 8pp
#195 Dec 1953 Superboy 12pp, Johnny Quick 6pp
#196 Jan 1954 Johnny Quick 6pp
#366 March 1968 Legion of Super-Heroes pages 2-5, 7-24, 22pp
#368 May 1968 Legion of Super-Heroes page 1 only
#369 June 1968 Legion of Super-Heroes page 1 only
#376 Jan 1969 Legion of Super-Heroes 24pp
#396 Aug 1970 Supergirl pages 2-13, 12pp (first story)
#459 Sept 1978 Inside Front Cover (partial), The Flash 12pp
#468 Feb 1980 Starman 8pp
#469 March 1980 Starman 9pp
#470 April 1980 Starman 9pp
#471 May 1980 Starman 8pp
#472 June 1980 Starman 9pp
#473 July 1980 Starman 8pp
#474 Aug 1980 Starman 9pp
#475 Sept 1980 Starman 8pp
#477 Nov 1980 Starman 8pp
#478 Dec 1980 Starman 8pp
Thats a total of 188 pages on this series, not much for Gaspar, but he was very busy elsewhere.
More articles in this series and others you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.