GASPAR SALADINO in HOUSE OF MYSTERY

All images © DC Comics. From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #144, July 1964

HOUSE OF MYSTERY was a long-running anthology title that began in 1951 and ran 321 issues, ending in 1983. Gaspar was never a regular story letterer for the book, but he did a few stories or features in each decade of its existence. The regular cover letterer for many years was Ira Schnapp, but Saladino filled in for him quite a few times before becoming the most frequent cover letterer in the 1970s and 1980s, though many issues in those years had no cover lettering. This was a “mystery” anthology most of the time, DC’s euphemism for horror, though their ideas weren’t all that horrific. For a while in the 1960s, it featured superheroes, beginning with The Manhunter From Mars, above. Gaspar’s lettering is very much in the styles he used for stories and story titles.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #156, Jan 1966

DC also tried this unique feature where young Robby Reed could be transformed into a variety of heroes using a magic dialer. I don’t know who designed the Dial H for Hero logo, it wasn’t Gaspar, but he did the rest of the lettering on this page. A variety of heroes called for a variety of styles, and Saladino was the right person for that.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #160, July 1966

Ira Schnapp lettered the top line here, and designed the HOUSE OF MYSTERY logo, the rest of the lettering is by Saladino, again showcasing his versatility. I never bought any of these, but the use of Plastic Man is intriguing.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #163, Dec 1966

Another cover with two letterers. Saladino did the banner under the logo, while Ira Schnapp did the lettering on the image. Either one or the other must have been a second thought by editor George Kashdan. DC’s inept attempts at teen slang is evident in the word SOCKAMAGEE.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #173, March-April 1968

The final one of these has appealing Saladino lettering at the bottom. With the following issue, Joe Orlando became the editor, and he returned the book to a “mystery” anthology with a fine new logo by Saladino, but for a while many of the covers had no lettering.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #190, Jan-Feb 1971

When they did have lettering, it was usually by Saladino using his scary styles, and here you can also see his logo, which included the top blurb.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #193, July-Aug 1971

Many of the covers were powerful images by top DC artists like Neal Adams, Berni Wrightson and Michael Kaluta that often told the story without need for lettering, but when it was needed, Gaspar’s work added to the drama.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #195, OCT 1971

Another fine example. The image is already frightening, Gaspar’s blurb makes it moreso.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #224, April-May 1974

When the book expanded to include more new stories and reprints as well as short features, Saladino’s lettering became important to let readers know what was inside. I don’t generally like covers with many images like this, but the lettering works fine.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #228, Dec 1974-Jan 1975

This one works better because the top image runs under the logo. Look at the variety of styles in Saladino’s captions.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #245, Sept 1976

The blurb in the top banner is definitely by Saladino, but I think the balloons are by someone else, I don’t know who. My policy is to credit Gaspar in cases like this, even though it’s shared.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #249, Jan 1977

No sharing here, all this fine lettering is by Saladino. I like the ghost’s balloon, enhanced by the color treatment.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #258, May-June 1978

By this time, the book had become a Dollar Comic with lots of new material. Gaspar’s caption at the bottom is quite effective.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #270, July 1979

Back to regular comic size at this time, with an excellent caption by Saladino. The letters of BLACK MASS could not be any bolder, there are only tiny gaps between them, but they read fine.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #290, March 1981

Now being edited by Karen Berger, a continuing vampire feature begins with a fine Saladino caption.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #300, Jan 1982

Few DC anthology series reached an issue 300, so this was reason to celebrate with a fine Kaluta cover and Saladino lettering. He also did the balloon shape around the logo.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #321, Oct 1983

All things must come to an end, but the host character Cain returned in Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN and other places, and there was also a revival of this title in 2008 that ran 42 issues. Here Gaspar also did the FOR SALE sign.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #2, Feb-March 1952

Saladino’s lettering inside the book goes back almost to the beginning, he did three short stories in the second issue. One clue to his early work is the open letters over black brush shapes in the first caption, but also his wide and angular style is apparent.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #9, Dec 1952

Some interesting sound effects on this story. The editor was probably Jack Schiff, but the book may have been handled by one of his assistants, Murray Boltinoff or George Kashdan. Gaspar was busy with regular assignments from editors Julius Schwartz and Robert Kanigher, but when he had time he would take work from other editors.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #13, April 1953

I like the scroll caption on this page with a black square behind the open letter for a change.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #33, Dec 1954

Saladino’s titles went through an evolution and gradually improved over time. There’s nothing wrong with the story titles on any of these early examples, but they are all typical of the period and have no particular Saladino style points.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #178, Jan-Feb 1969

During the tenure of editor Joe Orlando, Gaspar was still not a regular story letterer, but he did a few filler pages like this one.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #179, March-April 1969

Another more elaborate page with more lettering. Funny, but not a game I would try!

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #182, Sept-Oct 1969

He did letter a few stories as well, like this one by Wayne Howard.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #223, March-April 1974

Gaspar’s title on this story is rounder than usual for him, but he had lots of styles to choose from. I like the devil balloon.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #228, Dec 1974-Jan 1975

When the book became a longer anthology, Gaspar was asked to letter credit banners like this one, though he didn’t do the balloon lettering. The art by Alcala may have been done in The Phillippines, and lettered there. The caption with Joe Orlando’s name should have been reversed, I think, making it white letters on black, but that was missed.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #280, May 1980

During the final years of the book under editors Jack C. Harris and then Karen Berger, Gaspar also lettered a few stories. This is an interesting one by former editor George Kashdan and veteran artist Dick Ayers. The title is excellent, and I like the electric balloon too.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #300, Jan 1982

Another story with a veteran artist, Johnny Craig was one of the artists at EC Comics along with Joe Orlando. I think Craig penciled the story title and Gaspar inked it.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #313, Feb 1983

This story teams Saladino with his long-time friend and former boss Carmine Infantino and features another great story title. It was the last one lettered by Gaspar for the series.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 144, 156, 160, 163 (partial), 168, 173, 190, 193, 195, 197-201, 208, 224-229, 233, 236-237, 244-246 (245 is partial), 249-250, 254, 258-259, 261, 266, 270-271, 273-275, 279-282, 286-304, 306-307, 309, 319, 321. That’s a total of 68. The inside pages lettered by Gaspar are below.

#2 Feb-March 1952: Mark of X 8pp, Secret of Salzo the Great 4pp, Strange Experiment of Dr. Grimm 6pp

#9 Dec 1952: The Unwanted Guest 8pp

#13 April 1953: The Theater of a Thousand Thrills 6pp

#33 Dec 1954: The Girl From the Looking Glass 6pp

#34 Jan 1955: Sorcery From the Skies 6pp

#178 Jan-Feb 1969: Page 13 1pp

#179 March-April 1969: Page 13 1pp

#182 Sept-Oct 1969: Grave Results 3pp

#223 March-April 1974: Upon Reflection 8pp

#225 June-July 1974: Room 13 1pp

#226 Aug-Sept 1974: Contents 1pp

#227 Oct-Nov 1974: Contents 1pp (not balloon)

#228 Dec 1974-Jan 1975: Contents 1pp (not balloon), Halloween Monster Cards 2pp

#229 Feb-March 1975: Contents 1pp (not balloons)

#280 May 1980: Flash of Fire 5pp

#299 Dec 1981: I…Vampire 12pp

#300 Jan 1982: Crash Dive 4pp

#303 April 1982: I…Vampire 12pp

#313 Feb 1982: Germ of Greed 5pp

That’s 237 pages in all on this book. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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