GASPAR SALADINO in BATMAN

All images © DC Comics. From BATMAN #120, Dec 1958

BATMAN is one of the longest running titles at DC Comics, and one of their best known characters. It’s no surprise that Gaspar Saladino did a good amount of work on this series, but his cover work and interior work followed different timelines. On covers, Gaspar filled in occasionally for DC’s main cover letterer Ira Schnapp until Ira retired in 1968 and Saladino took his place as the main cover letterer. He then lettered most of the covers for the next ten years, and quite a few after that. On stories, Gaspar was never a regular early Batman letterer, though he did do one story in 1953. When the book was given to editor Julius Schwartz in 1964, Schwartz brought in many of his freelancers, including Gaspar, who lettered stories until 1968, and a few later ones. The added workload he took on doing covers, logos and house ads starting in 1967 meant some of his lettering assignments had to be turned over to others, and that’s what happened here. I’ll discuss the covers first, starting with the fill-in above. The caption looks like an attempt to imitate Schnapp’s style, and isn’t very successful. The balloon lettering is closer to what Gaspar was doing in stories, but not really much like his later cover lettering. Still, I’m calling it for him.

From BATMAN #157, Aug 1963

By 1963, Gaspar had more experience, with about 13 years of story lettering under his belt, but he was still not doing many covers. This again seems like an attempt to imitate Ira Schnapp, and is equally unsuccessful at that, but the lettering holds up pretty well on its own. The balloon lettering is getting closer to what Gaspar would be doing on covers soon, but the caption lettering is spaced poorly.

From BATMAN #169, Feb 1965

More than a year later, Saladino is beginning to find his cover lettering style, and the caption has a better layout and better use of different sizes, with open letters for emphasis. The balloon is very much like his interior balloon work, which was in most issues of BATMAN by this time.

From BATMAN #182, July-Aug 1966

This is the kind of busy copy-filled cover that Ira Schnapp did lots of, and Gaspar’s version is pretty good too. You can see more of his style coming through in some places like 6 BIG. This is still Gaspar trying to blend in with Schnapp’s house style, though.

From BATMAN #183, Aug 1966

With this cover we finally see Saladino’s cover style emerging from the shadow of Ira Schnapp and staking out its own territory. The caption is particularly good with a variety of energetic styles that work well together. It probably helped that by this time, the Batman TV show had become a hit, and Julie Schwartz was trying to capture some of its camp humor and over-the-top melodrama in the comics. This was not a trend long-time fans liked, but sales soared as many TV show fans came looking for the comics, so it was kind of inevitable.

From BATMAN #189, Feb 1967

Saladino’s lettering on this cover is fine, but suffers from some poor color choices, especially the black parts of the story title at right, which should have been reversed white or a light color to be readable. The drama of the scene is undercut by the campy caption text., and putting the caption in front of the birds but behind the moon is a horrible choice, but perhaps not one made by Gaspar, but by whoever in DC’s production department assembled the cover elements.

From BATMAN #198, Jan-Feb 1968

By now, Gaspar was doing most of the cover lettering, under a mandate from Carmine Infantino to update the DC design presence in covers, house ads and logos. This one is no longer trying to match what Ira Schnapp had been doing, it’s full of Saladino’s energetic and creative display lettering. I always thought the negative art on this cover was a silly idea, but it does make it stand out.

From BATMAN #201, May 1968

Saladino’s balloon definitely adds to the drama here, and the the wanted poster in perspective is well done.

From BATMAN #206, Nov 1968

With the sillliness of the TV show left behind, Batman could now become more serious and dramatic with the realistic art that editor Julius Schwartz preferred over the more cartoony approach of previous decades. Gaspar’s large lettering helps sell this scene. I wonder why Batman’s boots are open?

From BATMAN #211, May 1969

Saladino’s caption takes up a large part of this cover, and uses an unusual style for the word BATMAN with a mix of upper and lower case letters. I find it appealing.

From BATMAN #222, June 1970

Sporting a new logo by Saladino, this cover has some fun with the then-current conspiracy theory that one of the Beatles had died and the news was being hidden. Gaspar’s balloon lettering has opened up a bit with thinner pen strokes and wider letters.

From BATMAN #250, July 1973

Here another new Saladino logo with block letters for the name returns to a more classic look, while the captions tout the contents. I like the small bat shape by Gaspar in the left caption.

From BATMAN #264, June 1975

By 1975, Saladino was doing cover lettering for both DC and Marvel Comics, and I’m sure he was careful to not make this word DAREDEVIL anything like the Marvel character logo.

From BATMAN #292, Oct 1977

Take a moment to appreciate the skill and creativity of Saladino’s THE RIDDLER in this caption. It’s full of energy and bounce with a playful lower case E. Many letterers would simply have done an even line of block letters.

From BATMAN #309, March 1979

A beautiful scroll caption by Gaspar with Old English style open letters and his rough alternates in red.

From BATMAN #327, Sept 1980

Lots of Saladino lettering on this cover, but it doesn’t seem overcrowded. The top banner was probably used on other titles. The lettering in the balloon shows Gaspar going back to some of his earliest cover balloon styles.

From BATMAN #340, Oct 1981

The treatment here of the word MOLE perfectly expresses such a character, with texture and letters that are thickest on the bottom, as if rising up from below.

From BATMAN #357, March 1983

An even more creative expression is on this cover for the word SQUID, made of organic tentacles and adorned with suckers. Too bad it’s not larger.

From BATMAN #382, July 1985

The caption here is again creative and unusual, with rough outlines and texture adding interest to CATWOMAN, and look at the unusual style of the F in OF.

From BATMAN #401, Nov 1986

As DC entered the mid 1980s, traditional cover lettering was often giving way to type-based treatments, but Gaspar’s unique abilities were still in use on some covers, like this one. I’ll list all his BATMAN covers at the end of this article.

From BATMAN #80, Dec-Jan 1953-1954

In the 1950s, when Gaspar was starting out at DC, he mainly worked for editors Julius Schwartz and Robert Kanigher, even sitting at a desk in their office for a while. Other editors would occasionally ask him to do stories, perhaps to meet a tight deadlne, but it was never a regular thing. Above is a page from the only BATMAN story he lettered in this decade.

From BATMAN #164, June 1964

When Julius Schwartz took over the title as editor from Jack Schiff in 1964, he assigned many stories to Saladino, this being the first. I couldn’t find a scan of the actual comic, this is from the Archives Edition, which is recolored, but the black line art and lettering are accurate. Gaspar’s balloon lettering had gotten somewhat wider at this time compared to the previous example.

From BATMAN #165, Aug 1964

Another Archives image, this one has a more typical amount of lettering for the time. Gaspar adds interest with some organic caption borders and the last panel has a balloon with open sides.

From BATMAN #170, March 1965

An Archives image with a large, effective title by Gaspar. Bob Kane had not drawn the feature for many years, but his name was contractually required to be on the stories.

From BATMAN #178, Feb 1966

Back to images from the comics, I like the title and sound effects on this splash page. Where he has room, Saladino puts more air in the balloons, the space between the lettering and the balloon border.

From BATMAN #180, May 1966

Now we’re in the era where the comics were trying to imitate the TV show, and large sound effects were part of that. I think Saladino’s were better than the ones on the show, which were designed by DC staffer Joe Letterese I believe.

From BATMAN #184, Sept 1966

More of that, and here the art is also taking on a humorous tone, with a smiling Batman.

From BATMAN #219, Feb 1970

As I said earlier, Gaspar had to give up regular story lettering on BATMAN in 1968 due to the press of other work, but he did letter this Neal Adams story, which gained a lot from his creative song lyrics.

From BATMAN #258, Sept-Oct 1974

By 1974 the series often included much larger issues with one new story up front and the rest reprints. Julie Schwartz was able to get Gaspar on the introduction/contents pages of some issues, and other one or two-page fillers. I think he did a fine job of selling the stories.

From BATMAN #259, Nov-Dec 1974

This was part of a two-page feature on costume suggestions for Robin. Gaspar’s title adds excitement, and the rest of the page was easy.

To sum up, here are the BATMAN covers lettered by Saladino: 120, 157, 169, 182-183, 189, 193, 198, 201-204, 206-212, 214-223, 225-229, 231-237, 239-253, 255-265, 267-268, 271-272, 278-281, 283, 287-288, 291-292, 294-295, 302, 307, 309, 313, 318-323, 327-354, 356-357, 359-362, 364-365, 368, 372-383, 385-388, 390-392, 397, 401-403, 412, Annual 10 (1986)

That’s a total of 154 covers. Inside stories are below, almost all feature Batman and Robin, where Gaspar lettered one of two stories, I’ve given the story number in parentheses:

#80 Dec 1953-Jan 1954: 10pp (2)

#164 June 1964: 14pp, 12pp

#165 Aug 1964: 13pp (2)

#166 Sept 1964: 12pp (1)

#167 Nov 1964: 24pp

#169 Feb 1965: 14pp, 10pp

#170 March 1965: 13pp, 12pp

#171 May 1965: 25pp

#172 June 1965: 13pp, 12pp

#173 Aug 1965: 13pp, 12pp

#174 Sept 1965: 12pp (2)

#175 Nov 1965: 24pp

#177 Dec 1965: 12pp, 12pp

#178 Feb 1966: 12pp, 12pp

#179 March 1966: 12pp, 12pp

#180 May 1966: 24pp

#181 June 1966: 12pp, 12pp

#183 Aug 1966: 14pp, 10pp

#184 Sept 1966: 14pp, 10pp

#186 Nov 1966: 14pp, 10pp

#188 Dec 1966: 14pp (1)

#189 Feb 1967: 23pp

#190 March 1967: 23pp

#191 May 1967: 13pp, 10pp

#192 June 1967: 13pp, 10pp

#194 Aug 1967: 10pp (2)

#195 Sept 1967: 23pp

#196 Nov 1967: 13pp, 10pp

#200 March 1968: 21pp

#206 Nov 1968 24pp

#208 Jan-Feb 1969: 13pp (Dilemma of the Detective’s Daughter)

#219 Feb 1970: 8pp (2)

#258 Sept-Oct 1974: Contents 1pp

#259 Nov-Dec 1974 Contents 1pp, Robin Costumes 2pp, Comedy Covers 1pp

#260 Jan-Feb 1975: Contents 1pp, Trivia 1pp

#261 March-April 1975: Contents 1pp, Women in Batman’s Life 2pp

#262 May-June 1975: Trivia 2pp, Comedy Covers 1pp

That’s a total of 664 pages on this title. More articles in this series are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog, with others you might enjoy.

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