GASPAR SALADINO in DC SPECIAL

All images © DC Comics. From DC SPECIAL #1, Oct-Dec 1968

There are three DC titles with similar names that often cause confusion to me and others writing about them. DC SPECIAL ran 29 issues from 1968 to 1977 and was always standard comics size. DC SPECIAL BLUE RIBBON DIGEST ran 24 issues from 1980 to 1982 and was digest-sized. DC SPECIAL SERIES ran 27 issues from 1977 to 1981 and, just to be difficult, had issues that were comic size, some digest size, and some tabloid size. To make matters worse, that last series never had the actual series title on the covers, only on the indicias. I’ll discuss each in a separate post beginning with DC SPECIAL. At the time of this first issue, artist Carmine Infantino had joined the DC staff first as Art Director, then as Editorial Director. Perhaps he thought it was about time DC began promoting one of their artists, and who better? With this issue DC did that for the first time. The stories were all favorite reprints selected by Carmine with notes from him on each, and the cover featured not only a fine new Gaspar Saladino logo, but lots of his cover lettering as well.

From DC SPECIAL #2, Jan-March 1969

The second issue established that the series would feature reprints from many different genres and titles, this one featuring teen humor. Gaspar’s lettering looks great, but the text itself is the usual lame attempt to be hip that never worked for me. The nearly rectangular balloon shape is something Saladino was trying at the time, but it didn’t last long.

From DC SPECIAL #3, April-June 1969

The idea of this reprint collection is a good one, but again the cover text is lame and somewhat offensive. The tone is condescending, even if the lettering looks fine. At the time, DC was often using the words Daring and Different, but rarely managing to be either.

From DC SPECIAL #4, July-Sept 1969

Gaspar could always be counted on to add to the impact of a “mystery” anthology with his effective lettering. The Neal Adams cover art is amazing, too.

From DC SPECIAL #5, Oct-Dec 1969

Joe Kubert, an artist at DC as long as Carmine, and recently hired as an editor for the war titles, also got his showcase issue of this series. Gaspar only lettered the title under the logo, but uses upper and lower case well. Apparently there were no other artists at DC that were deemed worthy of such a retrospective, though they could easily have done one for Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Shelly Mayer, Alex Toth, and many others, though of course much of their DC work had not been credited in the stories. From here on, it was simply genre or themed reprints.

From DC SPECIAL #8, July-Sept 1970

One theme that proved popular was collections of villain stories, and there were several under the Wanted title. Lots of lettering by Gaspar here, and it all works well and doesn’t crowd the art.

From DC SPECIAL #11, March-April 1971

As effective as this Neal Adams cover art is, without Saladino’s fine lettering it would not work as well. Lots of variety in the title list, too.

From DC SPECIAL #12, May-June 1971

One thing DC was strong in was a wide variety of old stories that newer readers knew little or nothing about, such as these from the early days of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. I think DC did too much reprinting in the 1960s, but at least this series was mining less-known material.

From DC SPECIAL #17, Summer 1971

Of course superheroes were DC’s main draw, and not left out. I like Gaspar’s lettering of the Green Lantern oath, though I don’t like the square white areas behind it, but that was not his choice. Notice that the three scroll captions are all slightly different shapes.

From DC SPECIAL #23, Aug-Sept 1976

More old adventure stories that were probably new to readers at this time. Saladino’s captions are creative and exciting. These features ran for several issues.

From DC SPECIAL #27, April-May 1977

The last few issues of the series had new material rather than reprints. The top of the cover, the trade dress, is overcrowded, and I think the top line is by someone else, but Gaspar’s logo is great, and I also like his burst on the left. It was the last issue he worked on.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these DC SPECIAL covers: 1-14, 17-18, 20, 22-25, and 27, that’s 22 in all. He did no new work inside the books, though some issues were full of his reprinted lettering. More articles in this series and others you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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