GASPAR SALADINO in IRON MAN Part 1

All images © Marvel. From IRON MAN #55, Feb 1973

One of Marvel’s most popular characters, Iron Man starred in his own book that ran 332 issues from 1968 to 1996. Gaspar Saladino lettered quite a few covers from 1973 to 1981 and made a return to lettering covers in 1993-95. He also did a good number of first story pages otherwise lettered by others. I will look at early covers in this part, inside pages in Part 2, and later covers in Part 3. The cover above is credited to Gaspar in the Grand Comics Database. I agree that the bottom blurb is by him, I’m less sure about the balloons. They might be, but if so, someone has rearranged the second one in an awkward way that I don’t think Gaspar would have done. Possibly they’re by someone else. I will still count this as Saladino’s first IRON MAN cover.

From IRON MAN #57, April 1973

The balloons on this cover are not convincingly Gaspar in my view, and again might be by him, or possibly not. The bottom blurb is definitely his, and I love the shape of the M in MANDARIN. Usually cover lettering was all done by one person, but at Marvel it seems more common to have two letterers on one cover, perhaps one adding new things that weren’t asked for from the first letterer, perhaps changing dialogue at the last minute.

From IRON MAN #60, July 1973

These balloons are definitely lettered by Saladino, they have his wide, angular style that’s different from everyone else doing cover lettering at Marvel at the time. The large open letters in the bottom balloon also look like his work.

From IRON MAN #61, Aug 1973

This all looks like Gaspar’s work, the clincher is the style of THE in the bottom blurb.

From IRON MAN #62, Sept 1973

When I see large letters like these in a thought balloon, I always wonder just how loud that thought was! (My thoughts are always quiet.) The display lettering is strong and exciting, though, which is the intent.

From IRON MAN #63, Oct 1973

One reason Gaspar was suddenly doing a lot of Marvel covers in 1973 is that Sam Rosen stopped lettering in late 1972, reportedly for health reasons, making room for someone new to step in. Gaspar had already worked for Marvel a little since 1967, and was well known and admired for his DC Comics work, so he seems a natural choice, and he was good enough and fast enough to work for both companies.

From IRON MAN #65, Dec 1973

Lots of fine Saladino lettering here. The other person who stepped into the gap left by Sam Rosen’s departure was Marvel staffer Danny Crespi. I’ve written a lot about his cover lettering beginning HERE. His style was sometimes similar to Gaspar’s but generally more rounded and with thicker outlines on open lettering and borders. There are other more subtle differences. Other staffers like Morrie Kuramoto did some cover lettering, as did freelancers like John Costanza, and until his death in 1975, Artie Simek continued to do some covers.

From IRON MAN #66, Feb 1974

Notice how Gaspar adds emphasis to THUNDER GOD at the bottom with a heavier rough outline.

From IRON MAN #68, June 1974

More emphatic thoughts from Saladino, and a curved arrow caption, something he liked to do.

From IRON MAN #69, Aug 1974

The best clue to Gaspar’s work on this cover is the shape and style of the small banner caption above the circle, with serif I used twice at the beginning of words.

From IRON MAN #71, Nov 1974

Strong, angular open lettering, and again note the style of THE in script in the top caption.

From IRON MAN #74, May 1975

Gaspar had a particular way of doing tall display letters, and it’s here in SUPER-VILLAINS and THINKER. MODOK was first outlined with a thin pen, that still shows on the inner shapes, then outlined a second time around the outside for more emphasis.

From IRON MAN #81, Dec 1975

The style of WAR probably done with a brush or thick pen point puts this firmly in Saladino’s camp, though the rest is all his style too.

From IRON MAN #83, Feb 1976

Saladino would flatten balloon tops to fit better, as with the first one here, and the graceful banner is clearly by him.

From IRON MAN #95, Feb 1977

Gaspar’s balloon lettering is easy to identify here, and his burst shape too. Notice how his letter S tends to have a straight almost horizontal section in the middle.

From IRON MAN #115, Oct 1978

The blocky, uneven letters of BETRAYAL signal Saladino here, as does the serif I in IRON MAN in the burst.

From IRON MAN #119, Feb 1979

The top caption would be a tough call by itself, but in the open letters below, notice that the indent on the right side of the R is below the center of the middle bar, as if the right leg was attached to a letter P.

From IRON MAN #120, March 1979

The same R shape is in SUB-MARINER here, and I think Gaspar left out the hyphen, which was added on top by someone else.

From IRON MAN #129, Dec 1979

The unusual and uneven shapes of the letters in the bottom blurb are something Saladino liked to do for the right subject.

From IRON MAN #130, Jan 1980

On most Marvel books, Saladino’s work stops with the end of the 1970s, but in a few cases it continues for a year or two more, as here. Jim Novak was now doing a lot of lettering for Marvel, and he became the best Saladino mimic of any of us, so it’s possible a few of these are by him, but I think I’ve made the right calls on them. Here again is typical Gaspar scary lettering on DEMONS with added texture.

From IRON MAN #135, June 1980

Saladino’s R shape, as in HERO here, is something that Novak imitated at times, but I feel this is by Gaspar.

From IRON MAN #137, Aug 1980

The small letters in the top circle are in a style Gaspar used and no one else did.

From IRON MAN #139, Oct 1980

These open letters look convincingly like Gaspar’s work to me.

From IRON MAN #141, Dec 1980

Gaspar did open block letters in perspective when the layout called for it, but one hidden clue to his work is that it was fake perspective. If you put a piece of tracing paper over this blurb and extended the perspective lines with a pencil and ruler, you’d find they didn’t all go to the same single vanishing point. Gaspar learned to fake it to save time at DC, and it’s usually hard to spot.

From IRON MAN #142, Jan 1981

Saladino or Novak? I say Saladino. Jim copied some of Gaspar’s styles, but not all of these I think.

From IRON MAN #143, Feb 1981

Perhaps cover artist Bob Layton was the one who asked for Gaspar’s lettering on these covers. The creativity of SUNTURION is a good result, if so.

From IRON MAN #144, March 1981

Knowing what to emphasize and where to go large was an important skill that Gaspar learned over time at DC.

From IRON MAN #147, June 1981

I’m a little less sure about this cover, the circle blurb looks a bit off for Saladino, but the rest seems right.

From IRON MAN #148, July 1981

Again putting the strength into the last, most important word.

From IRON MAN #150, Sept 1981

The brush style of DOOM here is classic Saladino work. He also did the blurb over the logo.

From IRON MAN #151, Oct 1981

I believe this is the last Gaspar cover lettering in this period, and he creates a nice logo for Ant-Man.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 55, 57, 60-63, 65-66, 68-69, 71, 74, 81, 83, 95, 115, 119-120, 129-130, 135, 137, 139, 141-144, 147-148, 150-151. That’s 31 in all. I’ll look at his story lettering in Part 2. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

2 thoughts on “GASPAR SALADINO in IRON MAN Part 1

  1. Nick Caputo

    Hi Todd,
    Beautiful work by the masterful Saladino, and while my lettering eye is pretty good I’m getting a better education on Gaspar’s techniques through your detailed analysis.

    On Iron Man # 55 I agree that the balloon on the right side was either re-worded or added by staffer Morrie Kuramoto.

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