All images © J.M. DeMatteis and Kent Williams, From BLOOD: A TALE #1, 1987, Marvel

This prestige painted four-issue series was published by Marvel’s Epic imprint in 1987. The covers have no lettering, but Gaspar Saladino lettered all four issues, and it’s a tour-de-force of creative lettering styles and unsettling, atmospheric visuals. I’m not sure how Gaspar came to letter it, it’s a substantial commitment, but of course he’d worked for Marvel many times in the previous twenty years, and was well known in the comics industry for his fine lettering. Writer J.M. DeMatteis may have worked with Gaspar at DC, and at least would have known what he could add to this project, which headed into new territory for Marvel, I would say. The series was reprinted by DC’s Vertigo imprint in 1996-97, where it fit right in, and many DC readers assumed it was new then.

From BLOOD: A TALE #1, 1987

There are few standard balloons or captions in the book, almost all of them are stylized in some way, like these two types of wavy balloon edges. Saladino would have lettered on vellum, a translucent art paper, over either the paintings, or more likely photocopies of them.

From BLOOD: A TALE #1, 1987

Many of the sound effects were added by the artists, but the ones on this page are all by Gaspar.

From BLOOD: A TALE #2, 1987

Several styles are on display here, and Gaspar does something letterers are told never to do: he puts a tail behind a caption. Works fine.

From BLOOD: A TALE #2, 1987

Reversing fairly thin lettering out of dark painted art is something comics wasn’t good at for decades, but by this time, better printing and paper allowed it to work well. Painted art in general was never handled well by the old letterpress printing process, offset printing is what did work, as here.

From BLOOD: A TALE #3, 1987

These sound effects are part of the art, but Gaspar’s burst balloon adds a ton of drama.

From BLOOD: A TALE #4, 1987

The storytelling is cinematic and imaginative. Saladino’s captions here are almost like silent movie title cards.

From BLOOD: A TALE #4, 1987

This kind of creative work by Gaspar has often been imitated, and probably influenced many later painted projects. Gaspar’s lettering on the ARKHAM ASYLUM graphic novel of 1989 was not as successful as what he did here, in my opinion, but more because of the art than the lettering.

To sum up, Saladino lettered all four issues, 45 pages each, for a total of 180 pages. More articles in this series, and others you might like, are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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