GASPAR SALADINO in MYSTERY IN SPACE

All images © DC Comics. From MYSTERY IN SPACE #84, June 1963

When Julius Schwartz came to DC Comics through the merger with All-American Comics around 1946 (he had been hired there first), he continued to edit some of the All-American titles and then moved into editing westerns when that genre became popular. Julie’s roots were in science fiction fandom, and he had also been a science fiction writers’ agent for a few years, so in 1950 he convinced DC to launch its first science fiction anthology, STRANGE ADVENTURES. It did well, and this companion anthology began in 1951. Schwartz had hired Gaspar Saladino to letter his books in late 1949, and Gaspar lettered many of the stories in this book, though at times increased work on other Schwartz titles like THE FLASH and GREEN LANTERN as well as work for editor Robert Kanigher cut back on his involvement with the science fiction anthologies. When the books were reassigned to editor Jack Schiff in 1964, Gaspar did little on them. The original run ended in 1966 with issue #110. It was revived in 1980 for seven more issues. Saladino lettered a few covers for this book, and I’ll look at them first. Ira Schnapp was the main DC cover letterer until 1967, but when he wasn’t available, Gaspar often filled in for him, as on the one above. Saladino’s wide, angular style is quite different from Schnapp’s.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #85, Aug 1963

Gaspar also lettered the next cover. The word balloons on both work fine, but the captions are not designed well, they have too much empty space. Gaspar was still figuring out how to do cover captions at the time, and also trying to fit into Schnapp’s style.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #89, Feb 1964

The third and last Saladino fill-in cover lettering has similar issues with his caption. The Adam Strange one is by Schnapp from an earlier issue.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #112, Oct 1980

When the book was revived, Saladino lettered this fine top banner, matching others on other titles at the time. I did the new logo and the line above it (not a favorite).

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #114, Dec 1980

The caption on this cover is by Saladino, and it works well, it would have been better larger, but there wasn’t room.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #116, Feb 1981

The captions on this cover have room to be larger and are more effective, especially the burning logs in the second one.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #1, April-May 1951

First page of the first issue. As was the usual practice at the time, Ira Schnapp did the feature logo, the rest is by Saladino. The caption lettering is great, and I like the Old English initial F at the beginning, but the story title is rather bad. It took Gaspar a few years to find his footing with those, but of course some were better than others.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #1, April-May 1951

Also in the first issue is a rare Frank Frazetta short story lettered by Gaspar. Notice the slightly wavy and organic shape of the first caption, and the banner caption on panel five, both typical of him at the time.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #2, June-July 1951

The broadcast in the fifth panel of this story uses some larger display lettering reversed white by the DC production department.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #4, Oct-Nov 1951

At the time, most DC stories were quite talky, as seen in the lower third of this page. I like the unusual electric balloon in the third panel and the sound effects.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #6, Feb-March 1952

Here’s a better and more creative story title from Saladino, showing his talent with a dry brush on MELTED. It may seem odd for the writer and only the writer to get credit, but Schwartz was imitating the science fiction anthology magazines there, hoping to draw readers from them. Dion Anthony was a pen name of Robert Kanigher. At the time writers were not credited in other DC titles, and with artists it was hit or miss. If they signed the first page, sometimes it was left in, sometimes not.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #9, Aug-Sept 1952

The initial capital H behind a black brush shape to begin a caption was another style point Gaspar was using at the time. This story title is solid and effective.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #13, April-May 1953

Many DC titles had one or two-page fillers generally following the theme of the book. They were most often lettered by production staffers as freelance work, but Gaspar did a few of them too.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #15, Aug-Sept 1953

There’s a gradual but noticeable improvement in Gaspar’s story titles over these issues, this one is large and exciting. The wavy letters on PHANTOM work fine, but he would develop better styles for things like that.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #16, Oct-Nov 1953

Another great story title and another very wordy page, the beginning of new series. Several came and went, none really hit it big with fans until the introduction of Adam Strange a few years later.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #19, April-May 1954

Artist Virgil Finlay was a well-known and loved illustrator of science fiction and fantasy pulp magazines and books, and this is a rare example of comics work from him. Note his signature in the first panel. I’m struck by how much the figure work looks like that of Murphy Anderson.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #21, Aug-Sept 1954

The first story in another series, one that never had a feature logo. All the early MIS features seem kind of mundane: Knights of the Galaxy was a King Arthur idea, then we have an insurance salesman and a taxi driver. Nothing very science-fictional at heart. I like the scroll caption at lower left.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #25, April-May 1955

In general all the stories started with a familiar premise or genre and just added science fictional trappings. New ideas were few and far between.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #26, June-July 1955

Gaspar’s treatment of CALLING in this story title is unusual for him, and the title does not fill the space well.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #31, April-May 1956

Another Space Taxi story that could hardly be more dated, but I enjoyed them at the time. Saladino’s story titles were much improved and consistent now.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #43, April-May 1958

Another nice story title with effective dry brush lettering on INVADERS.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #57, Feb 1960

Saladino did not letter the first few Adam Strange stories, but did many after that. The feature logo is by Schnapp, the rest is by Saladino. At last this series had a lead with real science fiction appeal.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #60, June 1960

Adam Strange stories were exciting and full of cool ideas and visuals, like this tentacled planet. Saladino’s story title is a good match.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #70, Sept 1961

The treatment of DUST in the story title is a great example of Gaspar’s thoughtful creativity.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #90, March 1964

Hawkman had joined Adam Strange in the series, and they appeared together for the first time here. The logos are by Ira Schnapp, Saladino did the rest. Note the clever double circle representing two planets.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #102, Sept 1965

Once the editorship was passed to Jack Schiff, Saladino lettered only this one story for the original run, probably at the request of artist Gil Kane.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #113, Nov 1980

When the title was revived briefly in 1980, Gaspar lettered a few stories like this one. The rough letters of BEASTS are masterful.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #115, Jan 1981

This Steve Ditko story not only has a fine title, it includes interesting alien speech balloons.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 84-85, 89, 112, 114-117, eight in all. Below are the details of his many story pages.

#1 April-May 1951: Knights of the Galaxy (hereafter KotG) 10pp, Spores From Space 8pp, The Men Who Lived Forever 10pp

#2 June-July 1951: KotG 10pp, Secret of the Ages 8pp, The Comet Peril 10pp, Professor Brainstorm 1pp, The Micro-Men 10pp, Destination Earth 1pp

#3 Aug-Sept 1951: KotG 10pp, Heroes Out Of Time 10pp, Vengeance of the Moth 8pp, Big House of Space 10pp

#4 Oct-Nov 1951: KotG 10pp, The End of the World 10pp, The Man Who Walked Through Walls 8pp

#5 Dec 1951-Jan 1952: KotG 8pp, Kidnaped in Space 4pp, The Pool of Time 8pp, The Secret Story of Ray-Gun 64 8pp

#6 Feb-March 1952: KotG 8pp, The Boy Who Saved the Earth 6pp, The Man Who Hated Science 4pp

#7 April-May 1952: KotG 8pp, The Man Who Weighed 20 Tons 6pp, The Case of the Counterfeit Humans 4pp, The World Where Dreams Come True 8pp

#8 June-July 1952: It’s a Woman’s World 8pp, Earth—The Forbidden Planet 8pp, KotG 8pp

#9 Aug-Sept 1952: The Seven Wonders of Space 8pp, The Perfect Planet 6pp, The Meteor of Revenge 4pp

#10 Oct-Nov 1952: The Last Time I Saw Earth 8pp, The Dream Adventurer 6pp, The Cosmic Gamble 6pp, Interplanetary Enemy Number One 6pp

#11 Dec 1952-Jan 1953: The Unknown Spaceman 6pp, Cosmic Capsule 4pp, Rocketeer For Hire 8pp

#12 Feb-March 1953: The Sword in the Sky 6pp, The Human Magnet 6pp, The Great Stone Faces on the Moon 6pp

#13 April-May 1953: Signboard in Space 6pp, The Hothouse World 6pp, The Toy Earth 6pp, Micro-Meteors 1pp

#14 June-July 1953: Hollywood in Space 8pp, Destination – Star 6pp, The Interplanetary Restaurant 4pp, Earth’s Double Invasion 6pp

#15 Aug-Sept 1953: The Doom from Station X 8pp, The Strange Case of the Disappearing Earthmen 6pp, Treasure Planet 4pp, The Phantom Spaceman 6pp

#16 Oct-Nov 1953: Honeymoon in Space 6pp, Interplanetary Insurance, Inc. (Hereafter III) 6pp, The Earthman and the Robot 6pp, Planet In Reverse 6pp

#17 Dec 1953-Jan 1954: The Last Mile of Space 6pp, The Man In The Moon 6pp, III 6pp, The Magnetic Duel 6pp

#18 Feb-March 1954: The Chain Gang of Space 6pp, III 6pp

#19 April-May 1954: The Great Space-Train Robbery 6pp, The Mad Planet 6pp, The Studio Beyond the Stars 6pp, III 6pp

#20 June-July 1954: The Man in the Martian Mask 6pp, The Planet of No Return 6pp, The Boomerang Meteors 6pp, III 6pp

#21 Aug-Sept 1954: Interplanetary Merry-Go-Round 6pp, Destination–Earth 6pp, Space-Taxi (hereafter ST) 6pp, III 6pp

#22 Oct-Nov 1954: The Men Who Bombed the Sun 6pp, The Venus Sky-Trap 6pp, III 6pp

#23 Dec 1954-Jan 1955: Monkey-Rocket to Mars 6pp, The Trojan Horse of Space 6pp, Stone-Men of Luna 6pp, III 6pp

#24 Feb-March 1955: ST 6pp, The Planet that Imitated Earth 6pp, The Unearthly Earthman 6pp, III 6pp

#25 April-May 1955: Station Mars On The Air 6pp, The First Interplanetary Fair 6pp, Rescue Squad of Tomorrow 6pp, III 6pp

#26 June-July 1955: Earth Is The Target 8pp, Calling Space-Doctor Duncan 6pp,

#27 Aug-Sept 1955: Mystery of the Runaway Meteor 6pp, Rip Van Winkle of Space 6pp, ST 6pp

#28 Oct-Nov 1955: The Radio Planet 6pp, Journey to the Pygmy World 6pp, ST 6pp, The Last Television Broadcast on Earth 6pp

#29 Dec 1955-Jan 1956: Space-Enemy Number One 6pp, ST 6pp, The Science-Fiction Story That Saved the Earth 6pp

#30 Feb-March 1956: The Impossible World Named Earth 6pp, The Patent Planet 6pp

#31 April-May 1956: Secret of the Scientific Doodads 6pp, ST 6pp, The Robot Magician 6pp

#32 June-July 1956: Riddle of the Vanishing Earthmen 6pp, Secret of the Space-Bomb 6pp, ST 6pp

#33 Aug-Sept 1956: The Wooden World War 6pp

#34 Oct-Nov 1956: The Man Who Moved the World 6pp, ST 6pp, Interplanetary Trouble Shooter 6pp

#35 Dec 1956-Jan 1957: The Counterfeit Earth 6pp

#37 April-May 1957: ST 6pp

#38 June-July 1957: The Canals of Earth 6pp

#39 Aug-Sept 1957: Sorcerers of Space 6pp

#40 Oct-Nov 1957: Secret of the Star Warriors 6pp

#42 Feb-March 1958: Secret of the Skyscraper Spaceship 7pp

#43 April-May 1958: Invaders From the Space-Satellites 8pp

#44 June-July 1958: Earthman Go Home 6pp

#46 Sept 1958: The Devil’s Island of Space 8pp

#49 Feb 1959: The Sky-High Man 9pp

#50 March 1959: The Runaway Space-Train 10pp

#51 May 1959: Battle of the Moon Monsters 9pp, The Man Who Discovered the Earth 8pp

#52 June 1959: Mirror Menace of Mars 9pp

#54 Sept 1959: Amazing Ark of Space 8pp, Riddle of the Counterfeit Earthmen 8pp

#55 Nov 1959: The Day the Earth Surrendered 6pp

#57 Feb 1960: Adam Strange (hereafter AS) 9pp, The Living Statues of Venus 8pp, Secret of the Strange Satellite 8pp

#58 March 1960: AS 9pp, The Dancing Trees of Polaris-Seven 8pp, The Amazing Journeys Into Space 9pp

#59 May 1960: Terra of the Spaceways 8pp, Glory Ride to Pluto 8pp

#60 June 1960: AS 9pp, Doom Bombs from Jupiter 8pp, Mystery of the Synthetic Man 8pp

#61 Aug 1960: AS 9pp, The Sleeping War 8pp, Escape From Earth 8pp

#62 Sept 1960: AS 9pp, The Magic Lamp From Space 8pp, Trapped by Telepathy 8pp

#63 Nov 1960: AS 9pp, Quest of the Star-Flowers 8pp

#64 Dec 1960: The Luckiest Man in the Solar System 8pp

#65 Feb 1961: AS 9pp, Weapon of the Great Brains 8pp, Our Home is In The Stars 8pp

#66 March 1961: Beauty and the Robot 8pp, Who Caught the Loborilla? 8pp

#67 May 1961: AS 9pp, Language-Master of Space 8pp

#68 June 1961: The Sleeping Peril of Mars 8pp

#69 Aug 1961: AS 9pp

#70 Sept 1961: AS 9pp, The Billion-Year Evolution 8pp

#71 Nov 1961: AS 17pp

#73 Feb 1962: The Answer Man of Space 10pp

#74 March 1962: AS 14pp

#75 May 1962: AS 25pp

#78 Sept 1962: Gateways to the Stars 10pp

#79 Nov 1962: AS 15pp

#81 Feb 1963: AS 25pp

#82 March 1963: AS 16pp, The Planet Patrol Peril 9pp

#83 May 1963: AS 15pp

#84 June 1963: AS 15pp, The Alien Earthmen 10pp

#85 Aug 1963: AS 15pp

#86 Sept 1963: AS 15pp

#88 Dec 1963: AS13pp

#89 Feb 1964: AS 13pp

#90 March 1964: AS/Hawkman 25pp

#91 May 1964: The No-Name Planet 10pp

#102 Sept 1965: Operation Phobos 8pp

#113 Nov 1980: Beasts of Burden 5pp

#114 Dec 1980: Killing Time 7pp

#115 Jan 1981: The Planet of Loathing 3pp, Diplomatic Immunity 4pp

That’s a total of 1,429 pages, a solid amount of work. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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