GASPAR SALADINO in SECRET HEARTS

All images © DC Comics. From SECRET HEARTS #25, Dec 1954-Jan 1955

With the success of GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES, DC Comics editor Robert Kanigher soon launched this second romance title. It remained bimonthly for several years, suggesting it didn’t sell as well, but it lasted from 1949 to 1971, running 153 issues, successful enough. When Gaspar Saladino was hired by editor Julius Schwartz to letter his comics in late 1949, Saladino was soon also the regular letterer for the titles edited by Kanigher, Julie’s office mate. Gaspar did not dominate this title as much as some others edited by Kanigher, he lettered about half the stories from issues 4 to 20, but Ira Schnapp also lettered some, and Schnapp gradually took over as the main letterer on this title. Later Saladino did both lettering and art for a series of one and two-page fashion fillers, more on that below. Schnapp was the main cover letterer for many years, but Gaspar filled in for him at times, more in the later years of Schnapp’s employment at DC, and when Ira was retired in 1968, Saladino took over all the cover lettering on this book. Above is his first fill-in, with balloon lettering that seems a bit stiff, and a caption where Gaspar is trying to imitate Schnapp. It took him a while to get comfortable with cover lettering. I’ll look at his covers first, then stories.

From SECRET HEARTS #38, Feb-March 1957

On this second fill-in, Gaspar is still trying to imitate Ira in the caption, but the balloon is looser and more in his own style, wider and more angular than Schnapp.

From SECRET HEARTS #97, July 1964

Jumping ahead a few years, Saladino is no longer trying to imitate Schnapp, just going with his own styles. Still a bit stiff, but improving. The narrative caption at lower right is interesting, something that comics would turn to on a regular basis in the 1980s.

From SECRET HEARTS #109, Jan 1966

Lots of Saladino lettering on this cover, and he’s definitely going his own way now, with lettering that feels more confident. The treatment of LOVE in the bottom caption is one he would often use.

From SECRET HEARTS #113, July 1966

Again, this lettering is looser and more confident, with Saladino using several different styles that work well together in the captions.

From SECRET HEARTS #121, July 1967

By this time, Gaspar was working under a new mandate from Editorial Director Carmine Infantino to revamp and revitalize DC’s design presence on logos, covers and house ads, though Ira Schnapp was still doing some of them. The somewhat rectangular word balloon was something he was trying at the time.

From SECRET HEARTS #128, June 1968

With this issue, Saladino became the regular cover letterer for the rest of the series. His square display lettering dominates, though he also did some appealing script styles.

From SECRET HEARTS #131, Oct 1968

The script made with a wedge-tipped pen at the top of this cover is excellent, showing that Gaspar had mastered that style. The reversed balloons are odd, but do grab attention. The word balloon is nearly a rectangle, and why are the tail bubbles from the thought balloon not black with white outlines? A strange choice made by the DC production person who assembled the cover and reversed the balloons.

From SECRET HEARTS #134, March 1969

A rare round caption from Gaspar filled with appealing display lettering, as are the balloons. He’s hit his stride.

From SECRET HEARTS #137, July 1969

A new Saladino logo adds interest to this cover, as does more large display lettering in the balloons.

From SECRET HEARTS #143, April 1970

The heart shape of the logo made top blurbs more difficult, but Saladino sometimes curved them to fit perfectly.

From SECRET HEARTS #153, July 1971

By the final issue type was being used in cover captions, but Saladino still lettered the balloons, part of the top blurb, and the sign. Times had changed, and readers for this kind of material were dwindling.

From SECRET HEARTS #4, March-April 1950

The publication date of this first Saladino story matches the one Gaspar remembered as his very first for DC, in ROMANCE TRAIL #5, making this a very early effort. His balloon and caption lettering were great from the start. If this story title is meant to be carved into the tree, it doesn’t work, but the letter shapes are fine. I also like the small scroll behind the open letter N in the caption.

From SECRET HEARTS #4, March-April 1950

Many of the pages were overwritten with too much lettering, like this one, which is why Gaspar told me he felt he’d done a good day’s work to finish nine of them. He worked at the DC offices his first few years, first sitting in the production room next to Ira Schnapp, then at a drawing board in the office shared by editors Kanigher and Schwartz.

From SECRET HEARTS #5, May-June 1950

The decorative first letter in the top caption here is clip art, also used on other early Saladino stories. The variety of display lettering in the title and first panel shows Gaspar beginning to explore different styles.

From SECRET HEARTS #6, July-Aug 1950

The first caption on this page is unusual, with a scroll at one end and a decorative shape at the other. Gaspar’s sound effects were already large and effective.

From SECRET HEARTS #6, July-Aug 1950

Early DC romance titles had few paid ads, and inside covers were sometimes filled by illustrated poems like this one with Saladino lettering.

From SECRET HEARTS #8, Feb-March 1952

Gaspar’s lettering is larger and more confident on this page, with a nice banner caption at the top.

From SECRET HEARTS #9, April-May 1952

Here the title is larger and OTHER uses dry brush, a technique Gaspar excelled at. The caption begins with a characteristic open letter over a black brush shape.

From SECRET HEARTS #17, Aug-Sept 1953

More fine title work on this page, and the thought balloon lettering is now slanted.

From SECRET HEARTS #28, June-July 1955

It took him a while, but Gaspar finally found an open script style for titles that worked well for him.

From SECRET HEARTS #34, June-July 1956

By 1956, Saladino’s story lettering on this title had nearly stopped except for short fashion features. This is the first of those, an outlier.

From SECRET HEARTS #61, Feb 1960

Starting with this issue, Romance In Fashion became a regular feature with lettering and art by Saladino. I’ve written more about that HERE. To summarize, Gaspar had tried to become a fashion design artist before joining DC, and his skill at that led to these pages, where he used a dry brush style on the art that gave it a unique look.

From SECRET HEARTS #65, Aug 1960

Occasionally they ran to double page spreads like this one. The figure work was very stylized, but the Saladino lettering is familiar.

From SECRET HEARTS #81, Aug 1962

Gaspar returned to lettering stories occasionally in the 1960s as well. For some reason this one’s opening caption is by Ira Schnapp, the title and remaining story lettering is by Saladino. Perhaps Ira was given the story but couldn’t get to it, so Gaspar took it on.

From SECRET HEARTS #106, Sept 1965

Later examples of Romance In Fashion used ideas from readers, as the bottom caption asks for here. This made things easier for everyone, and involved readers, always a good thing.

From SECRET HEARTS #125, Jan 1968

In later years, this title featured a long-running soap opera series with most chapters lettered by Ira Schnapp and others, but Gaspar did this one, though the title is by Schnapp. Parts of this busy recap page were reused in many later chapters.

From SECRET HEARTS #133, Jan 1969

Another fashion feature replaced Romance in Fashion. Most were drawn and lettered by others, Gaspar lettered this one except for the Schnapp title.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 25, 38, 97, 109, 113, 121, 125-126, 128-153. That’s a total of 34. Below are the details of Gaspar’s story lettering.

#4 March-April 1950: You Only Love Once 10pp

#5 May-June 1950: Wake Up And Love 8pp, Just 24 Hours Ago 8pp, Masquerading Heart 8pp

#6 July-Aug 1950: Dreamer’s Return 8pp, Ring of Silence 10pp, Sweethearts’ Serenade 1pp

#8 Feb-March 1952: Heartbreak Hour 7pp, Romantic Quotes, The Kiss 1pp

#9 April-May 1952: The Other Woman 8pp, I Lied for Love 8pp

#10 June-July 1952: Love Against Time 8pp, Stolen Romance 8pp, Romantic Quotes, Courtship 1pp

#11 Aug-Sept 1952: Be My Own 7pp, Five Faces of Love 9pp, Romantic Quotes, Lovely Lips 1pp

#14 Feb-March 1953: Heart of Glass 8pp, Threatened Love 7pp

#16 June-July 1953: Wedding Wish 8pp, Love By Mistake 6pp, Unhappy Choice 8pp

#17 Aug-Sept 1953: Too Much In Love 8pp, Here Is My Heart 6pp, Love Was the Prize 8pp

#18 Oct-Nov 1953: I Chose Heartbreak 7pp, Love Must Find a Way 8pp

#19 Dec 1953-Jan 1954: Ornamental Sweetheart 8pp, Love is Dangerous 7pp, Wait for Tomorrow 6pp

#20 Feb-March 1954: Tragic Visit 6pp, Winter Romance 8pp

#21 April-May 1954: Love Is Not Forever 8pp

#22 June-July 1954: Love Turned Away 8pp

#24 Oct-Nov 1954: The Last Dance 8pp

#25 Dec 1954-Jan 1955: Stormy Love 8pp

#26 Feb-March 1955: Hopeless Journey 8pp

#28 June-July 1955: Distant Love 8pp

#34 June-July 1956: Fashion’s Designs on You 2pp, Runaway Heart 8pp

#61 Feb 1960: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#63 May 1960: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#65 Aug 1960: Romance in Fashion 2pp

#70 April 1961: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#76 Jan 1962: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#78 April 1962: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#80 July 1962: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#81 Aug 1962: Prescription for Love 8pp

#85 Jan 1963: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#96 June 1964: Romance in Fashion 1pp, 1pp

#106 Sept 1965: Romance in Fashion 2pp

#107 Oct 1965: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#108 Dec 1965: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#109 Jan 1966: Romance in Fashion 1pp

#125 Jan 1968: Reach for Happiness Episode 16 16pp

#133 Jan 1969: Mad Mad Modes for Moderns 2pp

#139 Oct 1969: Not That Kind of Girl 7pp, Hide from Love 13pp

That’s 340 pages in all. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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