GASPAR SALADINO in AMBUSH BUG

All images © DC Comics. From AMBUSH BUG #1, June 1985

For those who aren’t familiar, Ambush Bug was one of the funniest and most irreverent characters ever seen at DC. Created by artist/writer Keith Giffen, he first appeared in two issues of DC COMICS PRESENTS, where he was so popular, editor Julius Schwartz commissioned a miniseries. That led to another and several specials in quick succession. As you can see above in his first miniseries cover, the character was funny in a manic, enthusiastic way that goes beyond what former DC humor characters had achieved, and the books were full of on-point satires of every DC character and genre, skewering everyone involved, including the creative team of Giffen, writer Robert Loren Fleming, artist Bob Oksner, regular letterer John Costanza, colorist Anthony Tollin, and editor Julius Schwartz. Gaspar Saladino lettered all the covers, and also the first issue of the second miniseries. The covers are so much fun, I’m going to show them all. You probably recognize the parody of SUPERMAN #1’s cover above, there are plenty more in the books. I designed the logo, the rest of the lettering is by Saladino.

From AMBUSH BUG #2, July 1985

Part of the character’s appeal is that he can’t even take himself or his role as a superhero seriously, as seen on this cover, and Gaspar’s lettering does the right thing and makes it funnier by playing it straight.

From AMBUSH BUG #3, Aug 1985

At the time this came out, DC’s crossover event, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS had changed a lot of decades-long DC continuity, and this cover has fun with that idea. An actual DC comic series of two large issues called HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE by Marv Wolfman and George Perez was also in the works and would come out a few months later.

From AMBUSH BUG #4, Sept 1985

Saladino continued to play it straight in his cover lettering, which I think makes the results funnier. I love the story title on this one.

From AMBUSH BUG STOCKING STUFFER #1, Feb 1986

Next up was this Annual-sized special making fun of other more traditional holiday fare from DC. Lots of great Saladino lettering here, though the top line is type. Again, Gaspar plays it all straight, and even goes for the kind of rough-edged styles he might use for superheroes, which makes it more amusing. I love the X-ed out K in Chanukkah.

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #1, July 1986

The first cover of the second miniseries is funny in itself, and even moreso to me, as a DC staffer at the time. Some of Gaspar’s lettering is new, like the blurbs listing the creators, but many of these effusive captions came from other past DC cover lettering that he did. I had made a collection of many of those for reference, and Keith Giffen reused them in this amusing way, purposely too many, and such a great contrast to the very nonplussed character, who has even been conked on the head by one of the logo letters. There’s more about my collection of Gaspar’s cover lettering on my blog beginning HERE.

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #1, July 1986

The first issue of this second miniseries is the only one lettered by Gaspar. I’m not sure if he had agreed to be the regular letterer this time, or was just filling in for John Costanza, but Giffen and Fleming have accurately added below his credit line, “Wishes that John Costanza lettered this!” I’m sure it was true, this book required lots of extra time and effort. If Gaspar did agree to do the whole miniseries, he bailed out after this first issue, and Costanza did the rest.

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #1, July 1986

Here’s an example of what I mean, a page satirizing DC’s war comics with lots of extra lettering needed. The joke is that the “medic” is actually Ambush Bug’s favorite stuffed toy, Cheeks, who is inanimate and can help no one.

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #2, Aug 1986

The thought balloon on this cover ties into Keith Giffen’s original concept for the character, which was “Bugs Bunny as a supervillain.”

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #3, Sept 1986

This parody of the famous FLASH #123 cover that introduced the idea of multiple Earths at DC is also a dig at editor Julius Schwartz, of that book and this one. The original cover had lettering by Ira Schnapp.

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #4, Oct 1986

While this is funny, Gaspar continues to play it straight in his lettering, which is the right idea, in my opinion. By the way, a small balloon with multiple tails is not easy to do convincingly, but no problem for Saladino.

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #5, Nov 1986

This miniseries ran to six issues rather than four. The clue to the mystery lawyer is on the coin, an easy guess for Batman fans.

From SON OF AMBUSH BUG #6, Dec 1986

The final issue is a parody of many comics covers showing similar scenes, and the balloon is perfect, the only convincing use of that silly word ever. There was another long one-shot in 1992, AMBUSH BUG NOTHING SPECIAL, which I did cover lettering for, and a new miniseries in 2008 that Saladino was not involved in. His work on these issues was perfect, and if you thought he didn’t get the humor in them, I’d say you’d be wrong. I can just hear him laughing about that blurb he had to letter under his name in the credits.

To sum up, Saladino lettered 11 covers and 22 interior pages for this character. Other articles in this series are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog with more you might enjoy.

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