GASPAR SALADINO in MAD

All images © E.C. Publications, Inc., From MAD #147, Dec 1971

I’m including MAD with DC Comics for the purposes of this Gaspar Saladino index, even though it was never a DC comic. MAD began as a humor comic book in 1952 at E.C. under editor Harvey Kurtzman, and early issues often included comic book and comic strip parodies lettered by Ben Oda. It changed to magazine size with issue #24 in 1955, and perhaps to make it look less like a comic book, nearly all the text was set in type, including rectangular word balloons for drawn stories. Hand lettering was still used occasionally, especially when comic strip parodies were done, as happened a few times a year, and Ben Oda continued to letter those for a while. Other letterers I can’t identify also did some.

Beginning in 1966, Saladino came on board as the go-to person for things needing hand lettering. Oda continued to do some work for the magazine, but Gaspar’s lettering was the most frequently seen, and again, not in every issue, generally for comic strip parodies, sometimes in other places. He did lots of fine work for MAD until they began cutting back on his involvement in 1992, and eliminated it in 1995. This may have been a cost-cutting measure, and also a way to make the magazine easier to produce, as all the lettering could be done digitally by that time. Gaspar did only one front cover for the magazine, above, and it’s a fine example of his best display lettering, the kind of thing he’d do for logos. I hope he was paid well for it!

Saladino also lettered a few back covers, I’ll show those along with all his inside page work. I looked for his lettering through the end of 1998 and found no more than what I’ve listed here. In some cases, it was hard to decide what to list and how to count it. I think Gaspar would sometimes letter a few words here and there for signs or sound effects, perhaps when he came to the MAD offices to drop off and pick up work. I’m not counting those here, and it’s not always clear if they are by him or not. Toward the end of his time at the magazine, while they were cutting back on his work, Gaspar was only doing the sound effects for Duck Edwing pages, so I’m counting that work differently than full page lettering.

From MAD #100, Jan 1966

The first work by Gaspar I found was on some Puzzle Pages by Al Jaffee. By 1966, the magazine had been sold by founder William M. Gaines to the owners of DC Comics, so for the entire time Saladino worked for the magazine, they shared some resources, which might be how he came to work for MAD. There’s lots of lettering on these pages, but I remember hearing that the magazine paid well, better than regular comics, so perhaps that worked in Saladino’s favor.

From MAD #104, July 1966

Comic strip parodies were another area that Saladino often worked in at MAD. This six-panel strip stretched across two pages, I’ve combined them onto this image. The work is less than half of the two pages, but I consider it the equivalent of one page of lettering.

From MAD #107, Dec 1966

Often a feature would include parodies of a bunch of different comic strips. The art was quite well done, and Gaspar tried to imitate the lettering styles of each strip, but his own style tended to show through on many of them. It was fine work all the same.

From MAD #111, June 1967

The MAD artists were highly skilled, so mashing together comic strips and real people was something they could handle well. Gaspar’s lettering helped make it effective.

From MAD #117, March 1968

Peanuts was a strip that MAD parodied often, and Saladino’s lettering for it does have some elements of Charles Schulz’s work, but at times looks too polished, as Schulz’s lettering was often a bit rougher.

From MAD #124, Jan 1969

At times there were simply comic strips that looked like comic strips.

From MAD #125, March 1969

Here’s a close look at two strip parody panels. Gaspar’s lettering is about as close to the original styles as the art, yet the letter shapes are still recognizably his.

From MAD #135, June 1970

MAD’s parody of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” was a continuing feature often lettered by Ben Oda, but Gaspar did a few of them too. Later, after Ben passed, they found someone else with a style similar to his.

From MAD #161, Sept 1973

A close look at two panels from another Ripley parody showing Saladino’s fine work in better detail.

From MAD #163, Dec 1973

While the majority of the book used set type, comics style fake ads added variety.

From MAD #181, March 1976

The magazine often did multi-page magazine parodies, this Saladino-lettered strip took up less than half a page in the issue, but it’s as much work as a comics page, and that’s how I’m counting it. I should note that, while DC Comics began crediting letterers in 1977, MAD never did.

From MAD #200, July 1978

Another example of Saladino lettering being used for variety. The center of each page is type, so the notes work better as hand lettering.

From MAD #221, April 1981

Al Jaffee’s “Mad Fold-In” was a much loved feature on the inside back cover of the magazine for decades. Usually he painted in his own lettering, but Gaspar did a few of them, no doubt saving him time.

From MAD #233, Sept 1982

Another one. Note the odd gaps in the lettering to allow it to form the right message when the cover was folded in.

From MAD #244, Jan 1984

This is an odd use of Saladino’s skills, but the numbers are easy to read, and I recognize his lower case work on “hr.,” “min.” and “secs.”

From MAD #265, Sept 1986

MAD didn’t parody comic books as often as comic strips, but when they did, Gaspar was, of course, the perfect letterer, as on this example by artist Angelo Torres. Saladino also did the title logo.

From MAD #274, Oct 1987

Note the writer on this page, Don Edwing. He was writing for several of the MAD artists, including Don Martin, who he would essentially replace soon.

From MAD #276, Jan 1988

When he did, he used his nickname, Duck Edwing, and he clearly appreciated the support of Gaspar Saladino’s lettering on his pages, and nearly always used him. Gaspar did fine work on many Edwing pages.

From MAD #278, April 1988

In fact, Edwing’s work often relied on large sound effects, as Don Martin’s had done, though Martin and other MAD artists did their own sound effects. Edwing relied on Saladino for his in these years, and Gaspar didn’t disappoint.

From MAD #284, Jan 1989

Here Gaspar lettered on work by MAD veteran Jack Davis, one of several former E.C. artists who returned to this magazine over time.

From MAD #288, July 1989

This page is the only place where Saladino’s name appeared in MAD as far as I can tell, though it’s not exactly a lettering credit. They do have his home town correct. Gaspar’s display lettering adds a lot to this otherwise dull page.

From MAD #303, June 1991

This Saladino lettering appeared on the back cover of the issue. He did the top display lettering, the balloon, and I think the small blurb on the crayon box.

From MAD #307, Dec 1991

More traditional comics lettering appeared on this back cover written by Edwing.

From MAD #309, March 1992

Another example of wonderful, exciting Saladino lettering for Duck Edwing art.

From MAD #311, June 1992

Then in 1992, the Edwing pages changed. The balloons were now done with type, though Gaspar continued to do sound effects. I’ve therefore counted his work on these differently, generally crediting him with one page of lettering for up to three pages of Edwing art. This was probably a cost-saving measure at the time.

From MAD #318, April 1993

Other changes behind the scenes brought MAD directly under the control of DC Comics management by this time. Even though MAD had it’s own office and staff, they were now in the same building as DC, and on the masthead, DC executives were listed as staff. This must have made doing an article about the highly-promoted death of Superman in the comics an easy choice for MAD, and perhaps even one that was requested. Saladino was the perfect lettering choice.

From MAD #319, June 1993

Gaspar did one more MAD back cover assignment, again related to comics.

From MAD #333, Jan-Feb 1995

This strip was the final Duck Edwing one with full Saladino lettering, and features a terrific title by him.

From MAD #340, Oct-Nov 1995

The last Saladino lettering I found in MAD was his faux logos for this feature, but the balloon lettering is done digitally with a poorly-designed font apparently made from Gaspar’s lettering. I know Gaspar didn’t do it, as he had no interest in digital lettering, so probably a MAD staffer created it. Comparing it to the previous strip, you can see how much better Saladino’s hand lettering looks. This font was used a few more times, and then other comic book fonts were tried, but they never worked well in MAD, and the magazine soon stopped doing comic strip parodies for the most part, or did them in ways where balloon lettering wasn’t needed.

To sum up, Gaspar lettered one front cover for the magazine, #147, and three back covers on issues 303, 307 and 319, four covers in all. Below are the details of his inside page lettering.

#100 Jan 1966: Mad’s Puzzle Page 2pp

#101 March 1966: Mad’s Puzzle Page 2pp

#104 July 1966: Betty 1pp

#107 Dec 1966: Mad’s Puzzle Page 3pp, The Mad Comic Strip Characters’ Forum on Current Affairs 4pp

#111 June 1967: Comic Strip Heroes Taken from Real Life 4pp

#117 March 1968: Will Success Spoil Charlie Brown? 4pp

#123 Dec 1968: Adventures of the Red Baron 3pp

#124 Jan 1969: A Mad Look at Bugs 3pp

#125 March 1969: If Comic Characters Were Psychoanalyzed 4pp

#126 April 1969: If Comic Strips Covered the Burning Issues of the Day 3pp

#127 June 1969: Further Adventures of the Red Baron 3pp

#130 Oct 1969: If This “Nudity Trend” in Movies Ever Spreads to The Comics 4pp

#135 June 1970: Mad’s Modern Believe It or Nuts 1pp

#137 Sept 1970: If the World’s Great Painters Drew the Comics 4pp

#142 April 1971: Mad’s Modern Believe It or Nuts 1pp

#148 Jan 1972: If the Characters in “Peanuts” Aged Like Ordinary People 4pp

#161 Sept 1973: Mad’s Modern Believe It or Nuts 1pp

#163 Dec 1973: Union Officials 1pp

#181 March 1976: Sidney The Sophomore 1pp

#200 July 1978: How to Read Between the Lines 4pp, When Those “Old Line” Comic Strips Follow the New Wave 3pp

#222 April 1981: Inside Back Cover 1pp

#229 March 1982: The Adventures of Artie 1pp

#233 Sept 1982: Inside Back Cover 1pp

#242 Oct 1983: Mad’s All-Inclusive Do-It-Yourself Peanuts Comic Strip 2pp

#244 Jan 1984: Mad’s All-Inclusive “Monday Night Football” Betting Pool 1pp

#249 Sept 1984: If The Real World Caught Up With Today’s Comics 3pp

#265 Sept 1986: Cat Thoughts 2pp, If Superheroes Needed Extra Money 1pp

#273 Sept 1987: Legendary Pizza Events Through History 2pp

#274 Oct 1987: Clever Ways To Get Out Of Embarrassing Situations 2pp, Abra-Cadaver 1pp, The Plot Sickens 1pp

#276 Jan 1988: Duck Edwing Looks At Superman 2pp

#278 April 1988: The Stupifying Suicide Situation 1pp, The Disastrous Desert Drama 1pp, The Macabre Morticians’ Melodrama 1pp (All by Duck Edwing, hereafter DE)

#279 June 1988: DE 1pp, 2pp, 1pp

#280 July 1988: DE 2pp, Gary Hart Land 2pp

#281 Sept 1988: DE 1pp, 1pp, Foolproof Ways to Suck Up to Grandparents 2pp, DE 1pp

#282 Oct 1988: DE 2pp, 1pp

#283 Dec 1988: DE 1pp, What Is a Supernerd? 2pp, DE 1pp, 1pp

#284 Jan 1989: DE 1pp, Careers for Athletes Past Their Prime 2pp, DE 1pp, Only When You’re In a Hurry 2pp, DE 1pp

#285 March 1989: Some Classic Examples of World Class Boredom 2pp, DE 3pp

#286 April 1989: DE 3pp

#287 June 1989: DE 1pp, Stupid Pet Owner Tricks 2pp, DE 1pp, 1pp

#288 July 1989: New Comic Book Superheroes Based On Real People 5pp, DE 1pp, Deceptive Ways to Get Junk Mail Sender to Excitedly Open Your Reply 1pp, DE 1pp, 1pp

#289 Sept 1989: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp

#290 Oct 1989: Mad Suggestions for Reducing the National Debt 2pp, DE 1pp

#291 Dec 1989: DE 1pp, 1pp

#292 Jan 1990: DE 3pp

#293 March 1990: DE 1pp, 1pp, Party Games for One 2pp, DE 1pp

#294 April 1990: DE 1pp, 1pp, The Real Reasons You Can’t Bring Your Friends Home 2pp, DE 1pp

#295 June 1990: DE 1pp, 1pp, If Famous Movies Were Made Into Comic Strips 4pp

#296 July 1990: DE 3pp

#297 Sept 1990: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp

#298 Oct 1990: DE 2pp

#299 Dec 1990: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp, The 9 Real Reasons Why Your Parents Won’t Let You Have a Pet 2pp

#300 Jan 1991: DE 1pp, A Mad Squint At Some Born Losers 2pp, DE 1pp, 1pp

#301 March 1991: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp, A Mad Guide on How to Look Upscale 2pp

#302 April 1991: DE 3pp

#303 June 1991: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp

#304 July 1991: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp

#305 Sept 1991: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp

#306 Oct 1991: DE 1pp, 1pp, 1pp

#309 March 1992: DE 3pp

#310 April 1992: A Mad Commentary 3pp, If Blondie Entered the Real Workplace 3pp

#311 June 1992: DE 1pp (sound effects and/or signs only, hereafter SFX)

#312 July 1992: DE (SFX 3pp) equivalent to 1pp

#313 Sept 1992: DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#315: Dec 1992: DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#316 Jan 1993: DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#317 March 1993: DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#318 April 1993: Superman R.I.P. 3pp, DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#319 June 1993: DE (SFX 4pp) = 1pp

#320 July 1993: A Kid’s Guide to Things That Go Bump in the Night 3pp, DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#321 Sept 1993: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#322 Oct 1993: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#323 Dec 1993: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#324 Jan 1994: DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#325 Feb 1994: What if Superman Were Raised by Jewish Parents? 2pp, DE (SFX 3pp) = 1pp

#326 March-April 1994: When Today’s Controversial Issues Totally Invade the Comics 2pp, DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#327 May 1994: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#329 July-Aug 1994: Dick Tracy, Bachelor 3pp

#331 Oct-Nov 1994: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#332 Dec 1994: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#333 Jan-Feb 1995: The Dysfunctional Family Circus 1pp, DE 2pp, DE (SFX 1pp) = 1pp

#334 March-April 1995: DE (SFX 1pp) = 1pp

#335 May 1995: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#336 June 1995: DE (SFX 2pp) = 1pp

#340 Oct-Nov 1995: Superhero High 3pp (faux logos by Gaspar only)

That’s a total of 240 pages or the equivalent in my estimation. More articles in this series and others you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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