When superhero sales began to wane, DC followed the lead of other comics companies by trying different genres that were popular with kids, and westerns was one of them. Editor Julius Schwartz handled the western titles at National (DC) Comics, including this one when it made the transition from ALL-AMERICAN COMICS with issue #103 dated Nov 1948. When Julie hired Gaspar Saladino to letter his comics in the fall of 1949, this was one of the first titles he worked on, right after his earliest work in ROMANCE TRAIL #5. Issue #113 was the first with lettering by Saladino, and on this page you can see some of the characteristic style points of his early work like the small zig-zags in the final caption border, the open first letter in the first caption with a black brush shape behind it, and the wavy panel border below that. Gaspar started out strong, a talented letterer from the beginning who was not simply content to do the least amount of work possible, he also made creative choices that set his work apart. This bimonthly title lasted a little more than two years after Saladino started working on it, and he lettered the majority of the stories until it changed format again, becoming ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR. See my article about that for Gaspar’s many pages lettered there. All of the covers for this series were lettered by Ira Schnapp, DC’s veteran and regular letterer for that high-profile task, and I’ve written about that HERE. But Schnapp lettered only a few stories inside the book, and a few were lettered by others I can’t name.
The book had a lineup of regular features that didn’t change much during this time, along with one or two page fillers that Gaspar didn’t letter many of. Johnny Thunder always had the lead spot, one of several characters at DC with that name over the years, and usually second up was Overland Coach, as seen here, with Miss Tony Barrett behind the reins. Comics from DC at the time were often text-heavy and over-written, with the top panels here a good example. Note the extra effort of Gaspar’s scroll caption over the last panel.
This short feature appeared in many issues, some lettered by Saladino, some not.
Another regular feature was this one about a singing cowboy, under a logo by Ira Schnapp, who I think did all the feature logos for the book. Gaspar adds interest to the caption by putting it on ragged paper.
Usually rounding out the regular features was Foley of the Fighting 5th, working in an army fort in Indian territory. Saladino adds to the charm of his lettering with three handsome scroll captions here. In the last panel he struggled to fit the balloon text in around the figures, and just managed it by overlapping the previous panel, something Ira Schnapp had been doing for years.
An even more copy-heavy page from the Johnny Thunder story in this issue. Though he was a freelancer being paid by the page, Saladino worked at a drawing board in the office shared by DC editors Schwartz and Robert Kanigher at the time, so he was handy to work on their stories and do any corrections needed. He told me on average he was able to letter nine pages a day, and this is why it was only that many. He worked 9 to 5 every weekday, so that meant on average he was lettering 45 pages a week, and for it he was paid two dollars per page, or $90. Very little by today’s standards, but he considered it good money at the time, and he was happy to get it and have regular work. Assuming some time off, he was probably lettering about 2,000 pages a year. Over time, I hope to find out if that’s the case as I index his work in these posts.
Here’s a list of the stories lettered by Saladino in ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN. I’ve abbreviated the feature names after the first appearance.
#113 April-May 1950: Johnny Thunder 12pp, Overland Coach 8pp, Minstrel Maverick 8pp
#114 June-July 1950: JT 8pp, OC 8pp, MM 8pp, Epics of the Texas Rangers 3pp, Foley of the Fighting 5th 8pp
#115 Aug-Sept 1950: JT 10pp, OC 8pp, ETR 3pp, MM 8pp, Charge of the Wagon Brigade 2pp
#116 Oct-Nov 1950: JT 12pp, OC 8pp, ETR 3pp, MM 8pp
#117 Dec 1950-Jan 1951: JT 12pp, OC 8pp, MM 8pp, FF5th 8pp
#118 Feb-March 1951: JT 12pp, Rocky Hill 1pp, Dusty Trail 1pp, ETR 3pp, FF5 8pp
#119 April-May 1951: OC 8pp, MM 8pp, ETR 2pp, FF5 8pp
#120 June-July 1951: JT 12pp, OC 8pp, MM 8pp, Big Teepee & Little Teepee 1pp, FF5 8pp
#121 Aug-Sept 1951: JT 12pp, OC 8pp, MM 8pp, FF5 8pp
#122 Oct-Nov 1951: JT 10pp, OC 8pp, FF5 8pp
#123 Dec 1951-Jan 1952: JT 8pp
#124 Feb-March 1952: JT 6pp, OC 6pp, MM 6pp, FF5 6pp
#125 April-May 1952: JT 8pp, OC 6pp, MM 4pp, FF5 6pp
#126 June-July 1952: JT 8pp, OC 6pp, MM 4pp, FF5 6pp
That’s a total of 391 pages on this book. Other articles in this series are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog along with more you might enjoy.