GASPAR SALADINO in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA

DC editor Julius Schwartz had had success with his revamps of the golden age characters Flash and Green Lantern, and with this series he and his writers and artists revived the idea of a superhero team made up of the company’s most popular characters, as had been done in the 1940s with The Justice Society of America. It too was a hit, and not only cemented the return of superhero team books at DC, it inspired other companies like Marvel to follow. Gaspar Saladino, Julie’s favorite letterer, was on board lettering stories from the beginning and didn’t miss one of the initial 29 issues. Most of the cover lettering was by Ira Schnapp at first, but Gaspar occasionally filled in for him, as he did on the cover above. Gaspar’s more angular style sets it apart from Ira’s, and the caption is effective, though there’s unneeded white space. Saladino took over as the regular cover letterer in 1968 and did many of them until the series ended in 1987. We’ll look at covers first, then go back to stories.

All images © DC Comics. From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #49, Nov 1966

Both the balloon and caption work well on this second fill-in cover, adding energy and interest.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #54, June 1967

On this third fill-in by Gaspar there isn’t much room for lettering, and the caption runs over Batman’s arm. Cover lettering was usually done on separate art paper and then pasted on the cover art, or a photostat of it was, and the caption could have been reduced a little to clear that arm, but perhaps that would have made it seem too small. In any case, that wasn’t up to Gaspar. Another option would have been to put WHAT A REMATCH at the bottom right.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #60, Feb 1968

Some time in 1967, editorial director Carmine Infantino gave Gaspar the mission of updating the company’s design look, and I think he had begun that by this time, though Ira still lettered a few more covers. The display lettering in the balloon has lots of energy, and the open titles do too.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #63, June 1968

From this point on, Saladino lettered most of the JLA covers. You can already see more confidence in his approach as he found the styles he would use going forward.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #64, Aug 1968

The same is true on this cover, and I love the way the caption seems to be broken by the impact of the punch.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #69, Feb 1969

Large display lettering in these balloons ups the drama. The left art border was usually the one place where lettering could get close, as it was not trimmed off like the other three, but sometimes the uneven printing processes of the time would cause the left edge to be rolled around to the back cover, and that might have happened here.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #76, Nov-Dec 1969

These Giant issues were mostly reprints except for the cover. I think Saladino did a fine job with the lettering here to describe the contents in interesting ways.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #89, May 1971

This is a gimmick cover, but Saladino sells it well in the balloons and burst caption. Red color holds chosen by the colorist help.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #105, April-May 1973

Without the balloons, this cover would be static and dull, the lettering makes it intriguing.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #114, Nov-Dec 1974

Another even longer size change with more reprints following the main story. There’s a lot of content for the lettering to describe, and Saladino does it with style and energy. I love the Greek-style letters in ANAKRONUS.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #145, Aug 1977

This Giant has one long new story instead of reprints, a more appealing idea to me, and Gaspar’s lettering fills in the details.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #159, Oct 1978

DC was running out of superheroes to fill out these team-up stories, leading to some strange combinations. Having the JLA so often apparently defeated on covers was not a great selling point in my opinion.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #172, Nov 1979

The balloon by Gaspar fits perfectly in the space available, and his caption works well to sell the story idea.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #184, Nov 1980

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters, including his greatest villain Darkseid of Apokolips, had not been able to sustain sales for more than a year or two in the early 1970s, but by 1980 they had accumulated enough fans to make them work in JLA. Saladino’s caption fits the character perfectly.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #190, May 1981

I think this is my favorite cover of the series, a brilliant one by Brian Bolland, and Gaspar’s captions make it even better. I love the little Starro in the A of his name.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #193, Aug 1981

Lots of Saladino work on this cover touting a free preview as well as the main story. Look at all the different styles he used, and they work well together.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #207, Oct 1982

By this time, JLA had been going strong for over twenty years, and these team-ups were getting overcrowded. At least the character names were set in type so Gaspar didn’t have to letter them all, but his captions are more interesting.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #224, March 1984

Team books had become so common that dismantling teams became a thing. I love the dry-brush graffiti caption by Gaspar on this cover.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #239, June 1985

A new more diverse team was assembled, but they didn’t have the staying power of the originals. Here Vixen gets a chance to shine with a fine Saladino caption to help.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #259, Feb 1987

The series ended with this four-part story, and Gaspar’s fine caption to help sell it. The JLA would soon be reborn, and then become a franchise with multiple titles. I’ll look at those in another post.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1, Oct-Nov 1960

Continuing from a three issue tryout in SHOWCASE, Gaspar lettered many issues of the series until 1967, and made other small contributions after that. Unlike many DC titles of the time, this was always one long story, but divided into chapters. There was plenty of work to do on this and many of the pages, both because overwriting was the style then, and because there were so many characters.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #3, Feb-March 1961

This page has some well-made display lettering in the last panel.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #4, April-May 1961

I used to look at the elaborate top half of this splash page and think how well Gaspar had imitated Ira Schnapp, but I’ve changed my mind, I now think the top half IS by Schnapp. Schwartz probably asked him to do it, as it was the kind of thing he was good at. The bottom half is lettered by Gaspar.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #10, March 1962

The cover logo by Schnapp has been widened here to fill the space, the rest is by Saladino.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #16, Dec 1962

The story title not only had to be lettered on the first page, it had to be lettered again on the first page of each chapter for the early issues.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #23, Nov 1963

This page has Saladino sound effects in the third panel and large letters in the first, but those may have been done by the artists.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #34, March 1965

There’s a fine large title on this page with well-made lower case letters as well as upper case ones.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #42, Feb 1966

Gaspar rarely had room to letter as large as the NO here, but of course he does it well, I think using a brush, or perhaps a large brush pen. It looks kind of like markers, but they weren’t allowed at the time.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #50, Dec 1966

Like many other titles from DC in 1966, this one was influenced by the Batman TV show and its large sound effects. I like Gaspar’s better than the ones on the show.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #66, Nov 1968

By this time Gaspar was too busy doing house ads, logos and covers for the entire DC line to letter many stories, he managed just this one in 1968.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #111, May-June 1974

From that point on he mainly worked on short features and pinups like this one. I love the calligraphy character labels. I’m leaving the page in sideways format because if I rotate it the lettering won’t look good at the smaller resolution.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #113, Sept-Oct 1974

Gaspar lettered this short feature, and it has more nice calligraphy in the second panel.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #115, Jan-Feb 1975

For some of the larger issues, Saladino was asked to letter the contents page, which he did well.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #191, June 1981

Gaspar came back to letter one more story in 1981 for editor Len Wein, and if anything his story title is even better than many of his earlier ones.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 25, 49, 54, 60, 63-73, 75-92, 94-106, 108-120, 122-125, 127-128, 132, 135, 145-148, 150, 156-159, 161, 172-174, 177-179, 183-185, 187-210, 212-216, 220-222, 224-226, 229-232, 237, 239-249. That’s a total of 137, an impressive body of cover work. Below are the details of Gaspar’s story lettering, all entries feature the JLA except as noted.

1 Oct-Nov 1960: 26pp

2 Dec-Jan 1960-61: 26pp

3 Feb-March 1961: 26pp

4 April-May 1961: 26pp

5 June-July 1961: 26pp

6 Aug-Sept 1961: 26pp

7 Oct-Nov 1961: 25pp

8 Dec-Jan 1961-62: 26pp

9 Feb-March 1962: 26pp

10 March 1962: 26pp

11 May 1962: 26pp

12 June 1962: 26pp

13 Aug 1962: 26pp

14 Sept 1962: 25pp

15 Nov 1962: 25pp

16 Dec 1962: 25pp

17 Feb 1963: 25pp

18 March 1963: 25pp

19 May 1963: 25pp

20 June 1963: 25pp

21 Aug 1963: 25pp

22 Sept 1963: 25pp

23 Nov 1963: 26pp

24 Dec 1963: 25pp

25 Feb 1964: 25pp

26 March 1964 25pp

27 May 1964: 25pp

28 June 1964: 25pp

29 Aug 1964: 24pp

31 Nov 1964: pp2-24 (23pp) page 1 is by Ira Schnapp

32 Dec 1964: 24pp

33 Feb 1965: 24pp

34 March 1965: 25pp

35 May 1965: 25pp

36 June 1965: 25pp

37 Aug 1965: 24pp

40 Nov 1965: 24pp

41 Dec 1965: 24pp

42 Feb 1966: 24pp

43 March 1966: 24pp

44 May 1966: 24pp

45 June 1966: 24pp

46 Aug 1966: 24pp

47 Sept 1966: 24pp

49 Nov 1966: 24pp

50 Dec 1966: 24pp

51 Feb 1967: 23pp

52 March 1967: 23pp

53 May 1967: 23pp

54 June 1967: 23pp

55 Aug 1967: 23pp

56 Sept 1967: 23pp

57 Nov 1967: 23pp

66 Nov 1968: 23pp

110 May-April 1974: Justice Society of America pinup 2pp

111 May-June 1974: Seven Soldiers of Victory pinup 1pp

112 July-Aug 1974: Contents 1pp

113 Sept-Oct 1974: Contents 1pp, Freedom Train 2pp

114 Nov-De 1974: Contents 1pp, Superhero Boots 1pp, JLA Trivia Quiz 1pp, JLA Heroes of the Past 1pp

115 Jan-Feb 1975: Contents 1pp, DC Cover Gallery 1pp, JLA Membership Quiz 1pp

116 March-April 1975: Contents 1pp

191 June 1981: 25pp

That’s 1,371 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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