GASPAR SALADINO in AQUAMAN

All images © DC Comics. From AQUAMAN #25, Jan-Feb 1966

Aquaman had been around as a DC character since 1941, but his own series did not happen until 1962. When it did, it was popular and lasted years, and later series featuring the character have been published ever since. I haven’t found any stories in the books lettered by Gaspar Saladino, but he did letter quite a few of the covers, and I’m going to show many of them here. When the series began, Ira Schnapp was the regular DC cover letterer, but when he wasn’t available, Saladino would sometimes fill in for him. That happened on this cover, where Gaspar certainly lettered the top double burst and the word balloon. I’m less sure about the two arrows, they don’t look like his work, and may have been added later by someone else. Perhaps it was a last-minute addition from the editor, George Kashdan in this case.

From AQUAMAN #30, Nov-Dec 1966

The same thing happened on this cover, Saladino did the top blurb. The addition of a mourning wreath to the Ira Schnapp logo is a nice idea from cover artist Nick Cardy, who was one of the best at the time.

From AQUAMAN #34, July-Aug 1967

Around the end of 1966, popular DC artist Carmine Infantino was made art director and given the job of designing all DC’s covers, in other words doing layouts for the cover artists other than himself. He soon was made the editorial director. One of the changes he implemented was to gradually replace the aging Ira Schnapp as DC’s main logo designer and cover letterer with Gaspar Saladino, who he felt would bring a fresh look to the company’s overall presence. Gaspar had been lettering stories at DC since late 1949, and he rose to this new challenge with lots of excellent, dynamic work. I think this cover is the first one he did on AQUAMAN after his new mandate, and it shows him beginning to get more creative with the caption and lettering style.

From AQUAMAN #38, March-April 1968

Soon Gaspar and cover artist Nick Cardy were working together to create even more interesting combinations of art and lettering that stood out from the crowd. I love the three-dimensional depth on this one.

From AQUAMAN #39, May-June 1968

It was the era when psychedelic art was popular with both kids and young adults, and many of these designs play to that style. Note that Aquaman was in a cartoon show on TV at the time.

From AQUAMAN #40, July-Aug 1968

These covers are pretty trippy, and Gaspar’s lettering helps sell them. The unusual shape of the E’s here was also used by him in other places around this time, and I like the way the A’s echo the logo.

From AQUAMAN #41, Sept-Oct 1968

I couldn’t tell you exactly what’s happening here, but Gaspar’s large cover blurb makes it more exciting! The first line is in his horror style, with the rest in block letters that follow the perspective of the art.

From AQUAMAN #42, Nov-Dec 1968

Nick Cardy was experimenting too, and here adds a unique version of the logo to his art. DC felt the book’s name had to be added in type at the top in case the bottom was covered on newsstands.

From AQUAMAN #44, March-April 1969

One of the things Gaspar was trying at this time was rectangular word balloons, though the last one defies all description. They certainly add to the drama and interest on this cover. Note that Ira Schnapp’s logo has had a bolder outline added to it to punch it up.

From AQUAMAN #45, May-June 1969

So many of these covers are unusual, it’s hard to skip by them. Here the note lettered by Saladino tells the part of the story the art can’t convey, and it all works together perfectly.

From AQUAMAN #47, Sept-Oct 1969

Gaspar really gets loose on this blurb, as if the letters are swaying and drifting in the water.

From AQUAMAN #50, March-April 1970

Great perspective on the top blurb, and effective contrast provided by the last word. The bottom blurb uses Schnapp’s Deadman logo.

From AQUAMAN #51, May-June 1970

The tilted balloons add to the dizzy feeling of vertigo as the character seems to fall toward us. The curved title pulls us back into the picture.

From AQUAMAN #71, Jan-Feb 1971

A similar idea from the other side as the character is pulled away from us, and his word balloons follow.

From AQUAMAN #56, March-April 1971

Great perspective lettering that makes the creature seem even further away and larger. The period on the exclamation point is cropped on this particular cover, but it still reads.

From AQUAMAN #58, Oct-Nov 1977

There was a hiatus of about six years in this series, and when it came back, Jim Aparo was doing the covers over his own interior art. Gaspar lettered a few of these issues, but though well drawn, they don’t have the impact of the Cardy covers in my opinion, and the lettering is less inspired. The logo has also gained an ugly double outline.

From AQUAMAN #62, June-July 1978

The revival did not last long, and this is the penultimate cover, and the last one lettered by Saladino. He probably also did the lettering on the tombstone, which works well.

From AQUAMAN #2, March 1986

There were other Aquaman books in the 1980s and 1990s, this is the only one with Saladino lettering. Writer and DC art director Neal Pozner was often a proponent of type on covers, but he also liked Gaspar’s work, and used it on three of the four issues of this miniseries.

From AQUAMAN #3, April 1986

Neal’s logo design is very modern and type-based, so the hand lettering by Gaspar is not exactly a perfect fit, but I like it anyway, it kind of suggests the old shaking hands with the new.

From AQUAMAN #4, May 1986

The final cover of the series is very symmetrical, and the lettering works that way too. I think it’s the best of the lot.

To sum up, Saladino lettered these covers of the original 1962 series: 25, 30, 34, 38-47, 49-51, 53-56, 58-59, 62. He also lettered issues 2-4 of the 1986 miniseries. That’s 26 in all. Not many, but there are some fine ones. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

2 thoughts on “GASPAR SALADINO in AQUAMAN

  1. Dan Jurgens

    I’ve always been amazed by the creative use of design, lettering and color work on AQUAMAN from issues 30-56. Really stood out from the rest of the line at the time.

    Fun to see again–great to read your thoughts on it!

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