GASPAR SALADINO in CONAN THE BARBARIAN

All images © Marvel. From CONAN #24, March 1973

This title was a mainstay at Marvel from 1970 to 1994 despite being a licensed product. It paved the way for licensed comics at Marvel, I can’t think of any before it, and it happened because of writer/editor Roy Thomas’s love for the Robert E. Howard characters, first seen in pulp magazines decades earlier, and then reprinted in paperback in the 1960s. Gaspar Saladino designed the Conan logo seen here, which first appeared on issue #12 dated Dec 1971, but he didn’t start working on cover lettering until 1973. The cover above is probably lettered by him, though I think THE SONG OF is type. I’m not sure about RED SONJA, but the timing is right for Gaspar and it doesn’t look like the work of other known cover letterers at Marvel at the time. The top line might have been done by Saladino with press-down Letraset letters, I remember that alphabet, but I’m not sure where or when I first saw it. RED SONJA is hand-lettered in a somewhat similar style. Gaspar went on to letter many more CONAN covers (and I’m skipping the subtitle to save keystrokes) until 1980, and also lettered a few page ones. I’ll show those last.

From CONAN #30, Sept 1973

The banner here has the first two lines lettered by Saladino in typical styles, the bottom line is type. Gaspar was also doing this at DC Comics occasionally, perhaps it saved him time, or it was just a way to expand his options.

From CONAN #33, Dec 1973

I’m less sure about this one, but the letter shapes look more like those of Gaspar than the other new cover letterer from this period, Danny Crespi. I’ve written extensively about his cover lettering beginning HERE.

From CONAN #34, Jan 1974

Another hard one to be sure about, but the style of TEMPTRESS is similar to the font used on issue #24, though it’s hand-lettered. I think Saladino is more likely than Crespi.

From CONAN #35, Feb 1974

The open letters in the upper blurb here have some Art Deco shapes that Gaspar used and I think Crespi did not, like the rounded E and narrow S in SHERA.

From CONAN #40, July 1974

Marvel’s production artists often liked to fill black around his open letters, as here in the lower blurb (the small words are reversed), making it a bit harder to know how they looked when he did them, but note the tiny notch in the R of FORGOTTEN that’s below the middle stroke, something Gaspar often did.

From CONAN #41, Aug 1974

the treatment of GARDEN in this blurb is again similar to previous ones, and this all looks like Saladino’s work except the heavy caption border, which was probably added by someone else to make it read against the art.

From CONAN #43, Oct 1974

Comparing Crespi to Saladino, Danny’s work was generally more rounded, and Gaspar’s was more angular and had more sharp corners. Their treatment of small open letters was also different, here Gaspar outlined them with a small pen point, still visible on inner shapes, then went around the outside again for a heavier look.

From CONAN #46, Jan 1975

Again, more sharp corners, and thinner outlines on the open letters than Crespi usually used.

From CONAN #48, March 1975

This one is full of creative styles that only Gaspar would think of, in my opinion. The EXTRA banner and lower case THE are also typical of him.

From CONAN #50, May 1975

The open letters in this banner caption again show they were first outlined with a thin pen point, then the larger words were outlined again with a rougher style, typical of Saladino.

From CONAN #52, July 1975

When words were reversed, as in the yellow letters on the red background here, it was a somewhat variable process of making a negative photostat. This time it was overexposed so the letters are too thick and running together in places.

From CONAN #58, Jan 1976

The variety of creative styles in the round caption are pure Saladino. My guess is the heavy black border was two or three thinner ones that have been filled black.

From CONAN #59, Feb 1976

More Saladino styles in this round caption which has two narrow inner borders making a white line, then a thicker one outside them.

From CONAN #60, March 1976

Reversing the lettering can make it a bit harder to identify, but OF THE is definitely Gaspar’s style.

From CONAN #61, April 1976

Other letterers did arrow balloons, but rarely curved them as well, as Saladino did here.

From CONAN #64, July 1976

A tough call, but I’m leaning toward Saladino because of the thin outlines around the two lower lines of open letters.

From CONAN #71, Feb 1977

Lots of Saladino style in these captions, including the upper and lower case GODDESS.

From CONAN #73, April 1977

The word SKELOS is uneven here, perhaps done in a hurry, but definitely by Gaspar.

From CONAN #74, May 1977

This story title is great, and SERPENT still looks back to Gaspar’s treatment of RED SONJA.

From CONAN #75, June 1977

The open letters in the bottom blurb use a mix of round and sharp corners, but THE in the first line is pure Saladino.

From CONAN #76, July 1977

More sharp corners in these open letters, and the burst outline is very Gaspar, double inked with a rough edge.

From CONAN #88, July 1978

These black blurbs, a combination of reversed letters and open letters filled around with ink, can be hard to identify, as the outlined shapes get distorted by this treatment, but I feel sure these are by Saladino.

From CONAN #91, Oct 1978

Classic rough, angular letters in this burst, with texture in SWAMP that might have been suggested by Gaspar’s SWAMP THING logo for DC.

From CONAN #94, Jan 1979

Another fine banner caption with an artful curve that adds depth.

From CONAN #98, May 1979

The quote marks in the banner indicate a story title, but it’s also part of the blurb. MONSTER is typical Gaspar scary lettering.

From CONAN #99, June 1979

You have to watch out for those Man-Crabs! Gaspar always remembers the circumflex diacritical mark over the E in BELIT. (Without it, you might pronounce it as BEE-LIT, if you pronounced it at all.)

From CONAN #100, July 1979

Filling in black around DEATH in this burst might have made it hard to read because of the shading, but it works fine in this case.

From CONAN #104, Nov 1979

Even at small sizes, Gaspar’s letters are usually easy to read. The original lettering was generally done larger, then a reduced photostat was pasted on the cover art.

From CONAN #107, Feb 1980

This is the last cover I believe is lettered by Saladino. There are a few others from this time that might be, but I’m not sure enough to add them here. I don’t know why Gaspar’s work at Marvel declined quickly in the 1980s, perhaps he was just too busy with other things.

From CONAN #66, Sept 1976

Gaspar did many page 1 lettering assignments at Marvel in the 1970s, but only two for this title, the first is above. He’s added the name of the letterer who did the rest of the pages in the credit box, and that person’s style is quite different.

From CONAN #82, Feb 1978

I love the title on this one. Letterer Tom Orzechowski did fine titles of his own, but at this point the editor went with Gaspar.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 24, 30, 33-35, 40-41, 43, 46, 48, 50, 52, 58-61, 64, 71, 73-76, 88, 91, 94, 98-100, 104, 107. That’s a total of 30. There are just two pages of interior lettering, shown above. Other articles in this series, and more you might enjoy, are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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