GASPAR SALADINO in MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ

All images © 1975 by Marvel, DC Comics and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

I’ve decided to give this one tabloid-size comic its own article because it’s a favorite, and an interesting outlier to the Marvel work of Gaspar Saladino in some ways. Marvel had already begun producing oversized tabloid comics in 1974, all superhero reprints, when this project by writer/editor Roy Thomas was begun. Roy worked out a deal with MGM to use the likenesses of the film characters as well as to adapt their film, but DC Comics somehow already had rights to publish a comic book version. When the companies found that out they decided to co-publish for the first time, with Marvel producing the material and DC doing the marketing and distributing I think. Gaspar Saladino had been chosen to letter the book, and it was a long one, 72 pages. And remember the art pages were considerably larger than standard comics ones. Gaspar was already a veteran of working large for many years at DC before the page sizes were reduced, and also on Sunday newspaper strips, so it was no problem for him, and I think he liked having the extra space to be creative. In the credits for this page he’s listed himself as Lisa Petergreg, another pen name combining the names of his three children, but on the first page of the book all the creator credits are also listed in type, and there his actual name was used. I’m sure any DC staffers who looked at Marvel comics already knew he was working for them as well, but now the cat was definitely out of the bag! The title across these two pages is beautiful.

From MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ, 1975

Some pages are full of lettering, but perhaps because of the larger size, it never seems crowded. Penciller John Buscema did a fine job of capturing the visual style of the film, though his likenesses are not very close to the actors in many places. If anything, he made them prettier or more handsome.

From MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ, 1975

Gaspar had chances to use well-designed special lettering styles and sound effects that also, I think, capture the sounds of the film quite well.

From MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ, 1975

Of course the first encounter with the Wizard needed an imposing and frightening special balloon style, and Gaspar did not disappoint!

From MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ, 1975

More great sound effects and signs which, if anything, are better than the ones in the film in my opinion. I imagine everyone involved had videotape versions to watch while creating the art and lettering, assuming that was available at the time.

From MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ, 1975

I don’t know about you, but I can hear the film soundtrack in these sound effects!

From MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ, 1975

The scenes at the beginning and end of the film were in a sepia tone as I recall, while Marvel chose to do them with a limited palate of subdued colors that works pretty well. I love the film best, but I think this was a good adaptation. Marvel put out a second tabloid in 1975: MARVEL TREASURY OF OZ FEATURING THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ which did not work as well. Character likenesses from the film were mixed with other character likenesses from the book illustrations by John R. Neill. It must not have sold, and there were no more. That book was lettered by Joe Rosen. Gaspar’s work on this one was excellent, as always, and probably led to him also lettering the next DC/Marvel co-publication: SUPERMAN VS. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN released in 1976, possibly his best single issue lettering job ever. I’ve already covered that in my DC Comics articles HERE. His star was on the rise, and he became the go-to letterer for high profile projects at both Marvel and DC for a while.

To sum up, this book has 72 story pages of Saladino lettering. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

One thought on “GASPAR SALADINO in MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ

  1. Eric Gimlin

    I could be wrong on both of these, but…

    I think DC was planning a comic based on the book, which was in the public domain, not the movie, originally. I believe Sheldon Mayer was the attached name, but I don’t know if it was as writer, artist, or both. I would have loved to see Mayer’s version of the story, though. Then somebody got the idea to get the likeness rights from the movie, and the two sides decided it was easier to do one book than two competing versions. It also worked as a trial for the Superman/ Spider-Man book slightly later.

    The second treasury announced a third volume, adapting Ozma of Oz, in the back. This was done based on the belief the first three Oz books were in the public domain at the time. Only the first two actually were, though… whoever said first three was counting “The New Wizard of Oz” as one of the books, when it was just the title the new publisher gave the book when the original publisher went out of business. I think Roy Thomas said the third book was actually completely drawn but not printed when they discovered the problem. I don’t recall why they didn’t just buy the rights to the third story, presumably they didn’t feel it was worth it at that point. It also seems possible Baum’s estate asked for more money because they felt they should have gotten paid for the first two as well, but that’s a guess.

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