GASPAR SALADINO in G.I. COMBAT

All images © DC Comics. From G.I. COMBAT #130, June-July 1968

This series had a long run beginning at Quality Comics in 1952. DC editor Robert Kanigher took it over when Quality got out of comics in 1956 and DC purchased their properties, continuing the numbering with issue #44, and it ran until issue #288 in 1987. Gaspar Saladino was the regular story letterer in two periods: at the beginning from 1957 to 1965, and again from 1977 to 1987, making this one of his most prolific titles. He was also the regular cover letterer from 1968 to 1987, and we’ll begin there. Ira Schnapp had been the regular cover letterer until Saladino took over with the issue above. Some of his early covers were uneven as he learned how to do it, but Gaspar seemed to have an affinity for war books, perhaps because of his own service time after World War Two, and he soon developed effective styles for their covers. The first one is tentative, but still effective. The Haunted Tank had become the main feature in the book, and would remain so for most of its run.

From G.I. COMBAT #132, Oct-Nov 1968

On this cover, Gaspar makes excellent use of the open background with tall perspective lettering that seems even larger above the small figures.

From G.I. COMBAT #134, Feb-March 1969

Many of the covers followed this plan, with large word balloons using large display lettering. The top line is a holdover from Ira Schnapp.

From G.I. COMBAT #138, Oct-Nov 1969

This issue shows the formation of The Losers, a group comprised of recurring solo characters that would become a mainstay of another DC war title, OUR FIGHTING FORCES.

From G.I. COMBAT #140, Feb-March 1970

The bursts on this page have the impact of exploding grenades, and the large word balloon adds to the drama. Even the top line by Saladino is full of energy.

From G.I. COMBAT #145, Dec 1970-Jan 1971

From this time forward, some issues of this title were larger than standard comic size, full of original stories and often featuring covers by Joe Kubert and exciting lettering by Gaspar.

From G.I. COMBAT #150, Oct-Nov 1971

The thickly outlined open letters of DEATH on this cover with the art showing through inside are a technique used more often decades later, showing that Saladino was ahead of his time on this idea, though of coure the reversed letters were done by the DC production staff.

From G.I. COMBAT #158, Feb 1975

When Gaspar had room, his lettering was a major part of these covers, and made them more interesting and dramatic.

From G.I. COMBAT #168, Jan 1974

Artist Neal Adams also did a few covers, adding impressive realism to the war scenes. Gaspar’s large I QUIT would have made readers want to know more.

From G.I. COMBAT #180, July 1975

Most of the Haunted Tank stories were written by Robert Kanigher, at this point no longer the editor of the book, which had been passed to Joe Kubert, and Kanigher was a master of moral dilemmas like this one. I think it’s the main reason the DC war titles survived so long, much longer than those from many other companies.

From G.I. COMBAT #201, April-May 1977

By 1977, the series had expanded to 80 pages under the Dollar Comics format. The increased page count was filled with all new material, much of it written by Kanigher, and with Saladino returning to letter many of the stories. He continued to do fine work on the covers too, though here some of the impact is lost due to the color choice of orange letters on an orange background.

From G.I. COMBAT #209, Aug-Sept 1978

The Haunted Tank continued to be the popular lead feature, but these issues had room for lots of other stories too, and this cover format with inserts was sometimes used. Saladino’s banner at the bottom is impressive.

From G.I. COMBAT #219, April-May 1981

These are busy covers, but Saladino carefully fits the lettering in the inserts into the open backgrounds, and does his best to avoid covering too much of the art in the large panel.

From G.I. COMBAT #238, Feb 1982

This cover is even more crowded, but Kubert’s open art style helps. Gaspar would have done his cover lettering on separate art paper, which was photostatted to the size wanted and pasted on the cover by DC’s production artists. Here I think the bottom banner should have been placed lower to avoid covering the tank in the lowest insert.

From G.I. COMBAT #247, Nov 1982

This cover is even more crowded, but open areas for lettering make it work better. Gaspar’s display lettering in the word balloon really sells the dilemma.

From G.I. COMBAT #282, March 1986

Toward the end of its long run, this new feature was started to try to bring in readers, but it doesn’t seem to have helped much. The time for war comics had largely passed. I think the feature logo is type with an extended M at the beginning, the rest is by Saladino.

From G.I. COMBAT #288, March 1987

The last issue has what seems like a fitting finale to the Haunted Tank saga that had lasted for so many years.

From G.I. COMBAT #44, Jan 1957

Saladino’s story lettering began with the first DC issue, and for a while he was lettering nearly all the stories. He was editor/writer Kanigher’s favorite letterer, and Gaspar seemed to like war stories, so he was the perfect choice. His wide, angular balloon lettering was a good match for the subject, and his strong titles were also a plus.

From G.I. COMBAT #45, Feb 1957

Here FIREWORKS has each letter being exploded, a clever and effective visual connection.

From G.I. COMBAT #46, March 1957

When he first started lettering stories in late 1949, Saladino’s titles were often not very good, but by this time he’d mastered that skill. His open letters are full of energy and impact, with thick rough edges to increase the effect.

From G.I. COMBAT #50, July 1957

This story might be an early incarnation of Sgt. Rock’s famous group of soldiers, or not, as Easy Company was an army name for E Company, as Charlie was for C Company.

From G.I. COMBAT #56, Jan 1958

As you might expect, sound effects were an important part of many war tales, and Gaspar’s were always effective.

From G.I. COMBAT #62, July 1958

Sound effects were perhaps best of all on air war stories, where open backgrounds left room for large ones. And what a dynamic title by Gaspar on this story!

From G.I. COMBAT #68, Jan 1959

This story featured a prototype of DC’s most famous war character, Sgt. Rock, not yet the leader of Easy Company. That would happen later in 1959 in DC’s OUR ARMY AT WAR. The lettering in the word balloons here is surprisingly thin, it might have been put in by artist Joe Kubert.

From G.I. COMBAT #75, Aug 1959

More large and energetic title and sound effect lettering on this page from Saladino.

From G.I. COMBAT #87, April-May 1961

This story introduced The Haunted Tank, which soon became the lead feature in the book. Saladino’s treatment of the word HAUNTED uses rough outlines with small openings or gaps and a drop shadow for a memorable result.

From G.I. COMBAT #98, Feb 1963

Great dry brush title work on this page.

From G.I. COMBAT #196, Nov 1976

From 1966 to 1976, Saladino did almost no story lettering on this title, probably because he was too busy elsewhere, but he returned to Haunted Tank stories in this year with even more dynamic sound effects.

From G.I. COMBAT #201, April-May 1977

In 1977, the book became a larger anthology, and Saladino returned to letter many of the stories, with Haunted Tank being the most frequent, but others too, like this one. The treatment of SKIRTS in the title is elegant.

From G.I. COMBAT #205, Dec 1977-Jan 1978

Credits on stories had gradually become the norm at DC in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until the second half of 1977 that letterers were allowed to add their own credit to the title page. This is the first Saladino lettering credit in this title. Afterward he was usually credited.

From G.I. COMBAT #212, Feb-March 1979

Here’s the way Gaspar usually credited himself, just his first name in script similar to his handwriting. At this time the DC line had been drastically cut back by the “DC Implosion,” but this title continued as a large bimonthly anthology, providing work for many DC regulars, including Saladino.

From G.I. COMBAT #213, April-May 1979

These Dollar Comics had no ads for a while, so inside covers often had features like this one lettered by Saladino.

From G.I. COMBAT #231, July 1981

The same sort of thing also appeared on some back covers, as here. I’m counting this as a story page rather than a cover.

From G.I. COMBAT #265, May 1984

Another feature Saladino sometimes lettered in later years was O.S.S., some stories were drawn by Phillippine artists and lettered by Phillippine letterer Esphid Mahilum, but Saladino continued to do Haunted Tank stories until the final issue.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 130-158, 160-162, 165-171, 173, 175-180, 182-185, 187, 189-190, 193-194, 196-198, 200-201, 204-206, 208-210, 212-216, 219, 221-245, 247-257, 259-265, 267-282, 285-288, a total of 135.

Gaspar’s extensive story lettering is below. Haunted Tank is abbreviated as HT once it begins as the regular lead feature. There were often two or three Haunted Tank stories in an issue, where Saladino didn’t do them all, I’ve added the story number in parentheses unless he only did the first story.

#44 Jan 1957: The Eagle and the Wolves 8pp, An Inch of Sand 4pp, I’ve Been Here Before 6pp, The Brave Tank 6pp

#45 Feb 1957: Fireworks Hill 8pp, Frogman Vs. Sub 6pp, The TNT Tank 6pp, The Flying Mustang 6pp

#46 March 1957: The Long Walk To Wonsan 8pp, Combat Jitters 4pp, The 48 Inch Fort 6pp, Frontline Rodeo 6pp

#47 April 1957: The Sniper 6pp, The Walking Weapon 6pp, No-Man’s Land 6pp, Tank Busters 6pp

#48 May 1957: No Fence For A Jet 8pp, Three Seconds of War 6pp, Battle Wheels 6pp, Bring ‘Em Back 6pp

#49 June 1957: Frying Pan Seat 8pp, No Cover 6pp, Go All The Way 6pp, Night Fighter of the Skies 6pp

#50 July 1957: Foxhole Pilot 8pp, Anybody See Easy Company? 6pp, The Clean Sleeve 6pp, The First Time 6pp

#51 Aug 1957: Desert Stand 6pp, Bunker Hill Beachhead 6pp, Jump-Off Town 6pp, The Walking Grenade 6pp

#52 Sept 1957: Call For A Tank 8pp, The Big Sweep 6pp, How Does He Do It? 4pp, Battle Arithmetic 6pp

#53 Oct 1957: The Paper Trap 6pp, Infantry Town 6pp

#54 Nov 1957: Sky Tank 6pp, The Silent Snowbirds 6pp

#55 Dec 1957: Call for a Gunner 6pp, Combat Tag 6pp, The Floating Street 6pp

#56 Jan 1958: The D.I. and the Sand Fleas 12pp, Combat Mile 6pp, 20,000 Foot Curtain 6pp

#57 Feb 1958: Live Wire for Easy 7pp, There’s No One Left 6pp, Sheriff of No-Man’s Land 6pp, Channel Fighter 6pp

#58 March 1958: Flying Saddle 8pp, No Hill for Easy 6pp, The Last Man Out 6pp, A Carrier Has Nine Lives 6pp

#59 April 1958: Hot Corner 8pp, Battle Buzzards 6pp, Have Bazooka–Will Travel 6pp, Silent Snow War 6pp

#60 May 1958: Bazooka Crossroads 13pp, Long Tom and Little Tom 6pp,

#61 June 1958: The Big Run 8pp, A Hatful of War 6pp, You’ve Got To Go Out 6pp, The Flying Mine 6pp

#62 July 1958: Drop An Inch 9pp, A Jet’s No Pet 6pp, Visit To A Small War 6pp, Iron Hat 6pp

#63 Aug 1958: Last Stand 12pp, Hero Without A Name 6pp, Cracker Barrel Combat 6pp

#64 Sept 1958: Periscope Quarterback 6pp, Line of Departure 6pp

#65 Oct 1958: Battle Parade 7pp, Beach Club 6pp, War on the Hour 6pp

#66 Nov 1958: The Eagle of Easy Company 6pp, The Last Flight 6pp, The Invisible Escort 6pp, Look Out Below 6pp

#67 Dec 1958: Tank Killer 13pp, Where’s Beach Red? 6pp

#68 Jan 1959: The Rock 13pp Write Your Own Book 6pp

#69 Feb 1959: The Steel Ribbon 13pp, The Big Haystack 6pp, The Second Line 6pp

#70 March 1959: The Hot Spot 6pp, The Battle Look 6pp, Bull’s-Eye Bridge 13pp

#71 April 1959: Last Stand 13pp, Eyes For A Fort 6pp, Don’t Come Back Alone 6pp

#72 May 1959: The G.I. and The Tank 6pp, The Three Frogmen 8pp, Ground Fire 11pp

#73 June 1959: Window War 13pp, Floating Pilot 6pp, The Big Fist 6pp

#74 July 1959: A Flag for Joey 14pp, Six-Gun Beach-Head 6pp, No Word For A G.I. 6pp

#75 Aug 1959: Dogtag Hill 12pp, Buck Private Jet 6pp, Tin Pot for a Tank 6pp

#76 Sept 1959: Rendezvous For A Fort 6pp, The Second Champ 6pp, Don’t Look Back 6pp

#77 Oct 1959: H-Hour For A Gunner 13pp, Last On A Match 6pp

#78 Nov 1959: Who Cares About The Infantry? 13pp, Get The Whirly-Birds 6pp, High Water Mark 6pp

#79 Dec 1959: Big Gun–Little Gun 13pp, No Test For A Mustang 6pp, Flying Jeep 6pp

#80 Feb-March 1960: The Flying Horsemen 13pp, The Nine Second Sub 6pp, Downhill Soldiers 6pp

#81 April-May 1960: Jump For Glory 13pp, Tiger In Town 6pp, Fire Lane 6pp

#82 June-July 1960: Get Off My Back 13pp, The Rope Fighters 6pp, Bird Dog For A Tank 6pp

#83 Aug-Sept 1960: Too Tired To Fight 13pp, 3 Bullets For An Ace 6pp, Handful of Beach 6pp

#84 Oct-Nov 1960: Dog Company is Holding 13pp, Skipper of the Doomed Duck 6pp, The Third One Is Fatal 6pp

#85 Dec 1960-Jan 1961: The T.N.T. Trio 18pp, A Fort Called Lucky 6pp

#86 Feb-March 1961: Secret of the Fort Which Did Not Return 13pp, Soldier In The Dark 6pp, Battle Parrot 6pp

#87 April-May 1961: Introducing–The Haunted Tank 18pp, Dead End 6pp

#88 June-July 1961: Haunted Tank Vs. Ghost Tank 13pp, Don’t Dig In 4pp, Everything’s A Straight Line 8pp

#89 Aug-Sept 1961: Tank With Wings 13pp, Danger Sniper 6pp, Nothing On The Nose 6pp

#90 Oct-Nov 1961: Tank Raiders 15pp, Patrol In The Parlor 6pp, Flame Fighter 6pp

#91 Dec 1961-Jan 1962: The Tank And The Turtle 13pp, Wings For A Wash-Out 6pp, Secret War of a Snowbird 6pp

#92 Feb-March 1962: The Tank of Doom 7pp, No Place Like The Front 6pp, The Desert Wins ‘Em All 6pp, Battle of the Bugles 6pp

#93 April-May 1962: No-Return Mission 13pp, One Pilot Too Many 6pp, Take Fury Hill Twice 6pp

#94 June-July 1962: The Haunted Tank Vs Killer Tank 15pp, No-Gun Crew 10pp

#95 Aug-Sept 1962: The Ghost of the Haunted Tank 13pp, Deliver–One Hero 6pp, Grounded at 10,000 Feet 6pp

#96 Oct-Nov 1962: The Lonesome Tank 13pp, Flying PT-Boat 6pp, The Biggest Sitting Duck In The Navy 6pp

#97 Dec 1962-Jan 1963: The Decoy Tank 13pp, Sgt. Route-Step Omalley 1pp, Graveyard of Sunken Subs 8pp, A Promise to Joe 4pp

#98 Feb-March 1963: Trap of the Dragon’s Teeth 17pp, Floating Booby Trap 8pp

#99 April-May 1963: Battle of the Thirsty Tanks 19pp

#100 June-July 1963: Return of the Ghost Tank 13pp, The Big Jump 6pp

#101 Aug-Sept 1963: Kayo From A Dead Fort 6pp

#102 Oct-Nov 1963: Battle Window 19pp

#103 Dec 1963-Jan 1964: Rabbit Punch for a Tiger 15pp

#104 Feb-March 1964: Blind Man’s Radar 15pp

#105 April-May 1964: Time-Bomb Tank 15pp, The Plane That Wouldn’t Die 10pp

#106 June-July 1964: Two-Sided War 15pp, Boobytrap Souvenir 10pp

#108 Oct-Nov 1964: The Wounded Won’t Wait 15pp

#109 Dec 1964-Jan 1965: Battle of the Tank Graveyard 15pp

#110 Feb-March 1965: Battle Exterminator 10pp

#111 April-May 1965: Death Trap 15pp

#112 June-July 1965: Ghost Ace 15pp, Bail-Out Blues 10pp

#113 Aug-Sept 1965: Tank Fight in Death Town 14pp

#114 Oct-Nov 1965: Battle Origin of the Haunted Tank 15pp, My Witness–The Enemy 9pp

#115 Dec 1965-Jan 1966: Medal for Mayhem 15pp

#140 Feb-March 1970: Haunted Tank Intro 1pp

#194 Sept 1976: Haunted Tank (hereafter HT) 12pp

#195 Oct 1976: HT 11pp

#196 Nov 1976: HT 12pp

#197 Dec 1976: HT 12pp

#198 Jan 1977: HT 12pp

#199 Feb 1977: HT 12pp

#200 March 1977: HT 17pp

#201 April-May 1977: HT 14pp, O.S.S. 5pp, The Sniper in Skirts 7pp, Tank M4A2 2pp, A Weird War Tale 6pp, HT 10pp

#202 June-July 1977: HT 12pp, A Weird War Tale 4pp, Private Life of a Tanker 5pp, HT 14pp

#203 Aug-Sept 1977: HT 13pp, 10pp, 12pp

#204 Oct-Nov 1977: HT 12pp, All About Tanks 2pp, The Black and the Baron 6pp, HT 12pp, Women In War 6pp, HT 10pp

#205 Dec 1977-Jan 1978: HT 11pp, Women At War 6pp, HT 12pp, Stop–War Ahead 6pp, HT 11pp

#206 Feb-March 1978: HT 13pp, Combat Curiosities 1pp, Women At War 6pp, HT 10pp, The Rangers 6pp, All About Tanks 2pp, HT 11pp

#207 April-May 1978: HT 11pp, Gus Grey 5pp, HT 14pp, If A Bullet’s Got Your Name 3pp, HT 8pp

#208 June-July 1978: HT 12pp, The Flying Front 5pp, HT 12pp, Women At War 5pp, HT 13pp

#209 Aug-Sept 1978: HT 12pp, 13pp, 12pp

#210 Oct-Nov 1978: All About Tanks 1pp (Inside Front Cover), HT 12pp, 12 pp, Women At War 7pp, HT 13pp

#211 Dec 1978-Jan 1979: All About Tanks 1pp (IFC), HT (2) 11pp, Women At War 5pp

#212 Feb-March 1979: All About Tanks 1pp (IFC), HT 12pp, 13pp

#213 April-May 1979: All About Tanks 1pp (IFC), HT 12pp, 12pp, O.S.S. 10pp, HT 11pp

#214 June-July 1979: All About Tanks 1pp (IFC), HT 12pp, 11pp, 14pp

#215 Aug-Sept 1979: All About Small Arms 1pp (IFC), HT 24pp, Women At War 6pp, The Murderous Moles 6pp, HT 12pp, All About Tanks 1pp (Inside Back Cover)

#216 Oct-Nov 1979: Women At War 6pp, O.S.S. 8pp

#217 Dec 1979-Jan 1980: HT 10pp, A Fine Day For Hanging 3pp, The 3000-Mile Nightmare 7pp, HT (3) 13pp

#218 Feb-March 1980: HT 10pp, O.S.S. 11pp, HT (3) 10pp

#219 April-May 1980: HT 12pp, 8pp, Battle Without End 7pp, HT 11pp

#220 June-July 1980: HT 12pp, 13pp, 8pp

#221 Aug 1980: HT 13pp, The Square Battlefield 5pp, Ht (3) 12pp

#222 Oct 1980: HT 12pp, 8pp, 12pp

#223 Nov 1980: HT 12pp, 8pp, 11pp

#224 Dec 1980: Lifeline In The Sky 5pp, HT (2) 12pp, All About Tanks 1pp (Back Cover)

#225 Jan 1981: Live Wire 1pp (Inside Front Cover), HT 12pp, Hero Without Honor 7pp, HT 12pp, All About Tanks 1pp (Back Cover)

#226 Feb 1981: 2-Ton Tombstone 1pp (Inside Front Cover), HT (1) 12pp, All About Tanks 1pp (Back Cover)

#227 March 1981: Moving Target 1pp (IFC), HT 13pp, O.S.S. 7pp, Helping Hand 2pp, HT (3) 12pp, Secret Weapon 1pp (IBC), All About Tanks 1pp (BC)

#228 April 1981: Booby Trap 1pp (IFC), HT 13pp, 10pp, Aid From the Enemy 1pp (IBC), All About Small Arms 1pp (BC)

#229 May 1981: Do Only Cowards Quit? 1pp (IFC), HT 14pp, 8pp, Deadly Questions 1pp (IBC), All About Small Arms 1pp (BC)

#230 June 1981: Blind Target 1pp (IFC), HT 14pp, 8pp, Psychic Warfare 1pp (IBC), All About Small Arms 1pp (BC)

#231 July 1981: HT 13pp, O.S.S. 10pp, HT 10pp, All About Small Arms 1pp (BC)

#232 Aug 1981: HT (2) 10pp, All About Small Arms 1pp (BC)

#233 Sept 1981: HT 13pp, Kickback 1pp (IBC), All About Tanks 1pp (BC)

#234 Oct 1981: HT 15pp, 6pp, All About Tanks 1pp (BC)

#235 Nov 1981: HT (2) 8pp

#236 Dec 1981: HT (2) 12pp, All About Small Arms 1pp (BC)

#237 Jan 1982: All About Tanks 1pp (BC)

#238 Feb 1982: HT (2) 8pp, All About Small Arms 1pp (BC)

#239 March 1982: HT 16pp

#241 May 1982: Call To Battle 1pp

#242 June 1982: HT 11pp

#243 July 1982: All About Tanks 2pp, HT (2) 8pp

#244 Aug 1982: HT 15pp, 8pp

#245 Sept 1982: HT 14pp, 7pp

#246 Oct 1982: HT Part 4 11pp, Part 6 8pp, Part 7 10pp

#247 Nov 1982: HT 14pp

#248 Dec 1982: HT 15pp

#249 Jan 1983: HT 15pp, 9pp

#250 Feb 1983: HT 13pp, 9pp

#251 March 1983: HT 14pp, 9pp

#252 April 1983: 13pp

#253 May 1983: Dogbait 1pp, HT (2) 9pp

#254 June 1983: HT (2) 8pp

#255 July 1983: HT 14pp, 10pp

#256 Aug 1983: HT 14pp, Cover-Up 1pp, The Silent Service 7pp, HT (2) 9pp

#257 Sept 1983: HT 13pp, 9pp

#258 Oct 1983: HT 12pp

#259 Nov 1983: HT 13pp, 10pp

#260 Dec 1983: 15pp, 9pp

#261 Jan 1984: 14pp, 9pp

#262 Feb 1984: HT 14pp, 9pp

#263 March 1984: HT 12pp, 9pp

#264 April 1984: HT 14pp

#265 May 1984: HT 12pp, O.S.S. 7pp

#266 June 1984: HT 10pp, 9pp

#267 July 1984: HT 16pp, Death Waits 1,000 Years 7pp

#268 Aug 1984: HT 11pp, 11pp

#269 Sept 1984: HT 12pp, 9pp

#270 Oct 1984: HT 16pp, Secrets of the Sub Service 6pp

#271 Nov 1984: HT 15pp

#272 Dec 1984: HT 15pp

#273 Jan 1985: HT 16pp

#274 Feb 1985: HT 15pp, Fatal Hit 1pp

#275 March 1985: HT 15pp

#276 April 1985: HT 12pp, 4pp

#277 May 1985: HT 15pp

#278 July 1985: HT 12pp, 3pp

#279 Sept 1985: HT 12pp, 3pp

#280 Nov 1985 HT 12pp, 3pp

#281 Jan 1986: HT 13pp, 2pp

#282 March 1986: The Mercenaries 22pp

#283 May 1986: The Mercenaries 10pp, 12pp

#284 July 1986: The Mercenaries 22pp

#285 Sept 1986: HT 15pp

#286 Nov 1986: The Mercenaries (1) 10pp

#287 Jan 1987: HT 15pp

#288 March 1987: HT 16pp

That’s a total of 3,653 pages if my math is right, a large amount of work! Certainly Gaspar’s war story lettering must amount to more than his work for other genres. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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