GASPAR SALADINO in KAMANDI

All images © DC Comics. From KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH #1, Oct-Nov 1972

This was by far the longest-running title from writer/artist Jack Kirby at DC Comics, running from 1972 to 1978. A post-apocalyptic future tale of a human boy in a world of sentient animals took cues from “Planet of the Apes,” but certainly went in its own direction, and readers liked it. Kirby’s involvement ended with issue #40, and the book continued by others until issue #59, when the “DC Implosion” did it in. What would have been the next two issues ran in CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE. Gaspar Saladino lettered many of the covers, but only one backup story in the final issue. The first cover, above, includes his logo as well as a top blurb and a round burst at the bottom. In 1972, Kirby at DC was still worth promoting, though his Fourth World titles were not selling well and getting cancelled. Fans seem to have preferred this title.

From KAMANDI #3, Feb 1973

Kirby didn’t seem to pay much attention to lettering, but he did like it large, and his favorite letterer at Marvel was Artie Simek because Artie would fill the top third of the first page with the title so there was less for Jack to draw, or so I’ve heard. At DC, I think Saladino was a good match for Kirby, they both added lots of energy to their work.

From KAMANDI #4, March 1973

Gaspar thought a talking human-like tiger should have a special balloon style, and I like what he did. I doubt it was followed on the inside.

From KAMANDI #7, July 1973

Some of these covers have barely any Saladino lettering, and used type instead. Here only the words BUT IT DOES are by Gaspar. The rest of the top blurb is done on the DC headline machine, and I suspect Gaspar did it himself that way. The machine allowed you to set a line of large type one letter at a time on a roll of photographic paper, which ran through developing chemicals and came out ready to cut and paste. There are other books at this time using similar mixes of headline type and Saladino lettering, and perhaps he enjoyed the chance to change things up.

From KAMANDI #11, Nov 1973

More headline type at the top, but a nice Saladino word balloon as well. The talking tiger now has a regular speech balloon.

From KAMANDI #17, May 1974

The Saladino scroll caption at the top includes a few serif letters, something he didn’t do often.

From KAMANDI #24, Dec 1974

In my opinion, no one did scary lettering better than Gaspar, and there’s some in the top blurb and the word balloon here.

From KAMANDI #27, March 1975

A good example of Saladino’s energy in the lettering working well with Kirby’s energy in the art.

From KAMANDI #32, Aug 1975

For a short time, the book had more pages for reprints and special features. This has to be the first time a creator’s photo appeared on the cover of a DC Comic, at least one that’s labeled as such. Gaspar’s lettering is full of intriguing blurbs and handsome styles.

From KAMANDI #36, Dec 1975

By this time, DC’s loss of faith in Kirby as a selling point was obvious. They replaced him with Joe Kubert on covers, and two issues later, Gerry Conway took over as writer. Kirby would soon move on and return to Marvel. Gaspar’s top blurb and the large display lettering in the balloon work well here.

From KAMANDI #41, May 1976

With Kirby gone, the burst on this cover promises more action than ever before…as if that were possible, but maybe some readers bought into it.

From KAMANDI #49, Feb-March 1977

I find both the art and the lettering less interesting on this cover than most of the previous ones, but I’m sure everyone was doing their best.

From KAMANDI #57, June-July 1978

Saladino’s final cover lettering for the series appeared on this interesting Jim Starlin cover, and the blurb is also more interesting, showing where the book might have headed.

From KAMANDI #59, Sept-Oct 1978

Starlin also began a backup series featuring another Kirby creation, OMAC. The first chapter has the only Saladino story lettering in the series, and features a fine title. Note that the credit box is lettered by someone else. The next chapter was finished, but the series ended before it could see print and it appeared in CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE, and later in WARLORD #37. It was also lettered by Gaspar.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 1-7, 9, 11-13, 15-30, 32-36, 38-39, 41, 43, 45, 49, 51, 57. That’s 39 in all. The story in issue #59 is 8 pages.

Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

One thought on “GASPAR SALADINO in KAMANDI

  1. Eric G

    I could be very wrong, but I always thought the reason for the Kubert covers on the late Kirby issues were because Jack had finished the stories before he left DC, but hadn’t done the covers yet. Same with the scripting, the issues were drawn but not dialogued.

    It could be a mix of both, of course.

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