GASPAR SALADINO in SENSATION COMICS

All images © DC Comics. From SENSATION COMICS #96, March-April 1950

SENSATION began in 1942 at All-American Comics with Wonder Woman as the lead feature, and had a long run there, and at National (DC) Comics when the two companies merged. But by 1950, interest in superheroes was waning, and sales were falling. DC editor Robert Kanigher was using other genres like romance and detectives to fill out the issues behind Wonder Woman hoping to attract new readers. Gaspar Saladino had been hired in late 1949 by DC editor Julius Schwartz to letter his comics, and Gaspar began lettering stories for Kanigher, Julie’s office-mate, around the same time. We can’t know what order the stories were done in, but this one was published at the same time as the story Gaspar said was his very first for ROMANCE TRAIL #5. The feature logo is probably by Ira Schnapp, who did all the covers for the issues I’m listing here. Gaspar’s balloon and caption lettering was good from the start, but his title lettering at the beginning was not so good. This example is okay, better than some, but rather bland. The elaborate scroll around the caption is interesting, but not well done, and seems to have extra unattached pieces at the sides. Gaspar’s lettering was off to a good start all the same, and both Schwartz and Kanigher used him as much as they could. He even worked at a drawing board in their office for a while.

From SENSATION COMICS #96, March-April 1950

Most story pages at the time had lots of lettering and were overwritten by today’s standards, which is why Saladino told me he felt he’d done a good day’s work if he finished nine of them during his eight hours in the office. He did what he could to make all that lettering more interesting. Note the subtle additions of jagged bottom edges to the captions in panels 4 and 5.

From SENSATION COMICS #97, May-June 1950

Another feature Gaspar lettered was Romance Inc. starring Ann Martin. At the beginning of the first caption, he’s done an open letter over a black brush shape, another of his style points, and there’s a jagged caption border too. These decorative additions weren’t required, but added interest to his work.

From SENSATION COMICS #99, Sept-Oct 1950

The title on this story is better and more interesting, and I also like the extra horizontal lines in the caption above it.

From SENSATION COMICS #99, Sept-Oct 1950

A science fiction feature began in this issue. Again, the feature logo is by Schnapp, the rest of the lettering is by Saladino. Though Kanigher was the book’s editor, Julius Schwartz was the science fiction fan, and he edited this feature. Sales were falling, and DC was willing to try anything to interest new readers.

From SENSATION COMICS #100, Nov-Dec 1950

Gaspar’s story title here is pretty good, using a script LOVE that he would turn to often in Kanigher’s romance comics, but the open W at the beginning of the caption does not read well. I don’t know who did the feature logo, it doesn’t really look like Schnapp, so perhaps it’s by Saladino.

From SENSATION COMICS #101, Jan-Feb 1951

Meanwhile, the Astra feature had lots of lettering, but also lots of Saladino extras like the sound effect, the organic border on the first caption, and the scroll border on the second. Gaspar had not yet begun doing jagged borders on broadcast balloons, in the last panel only the tails are jagged.

From SENSATION COMICS #102, March-April 1951

This story title shows Gaspar experimenting with different styles like circus lettering. I like the drop shadow on the second line, but why is it different on the Q and the exclamation mark?

From SENSATION COMICS #104, July-Aug 1951

By the time of this Astra story, Saladino was doing all jagged broadcast balloons, a style he might have seen in the comic strips “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon” drawn by Milton Caniff and lettered by Frank Engli, who I think created that look. Indeed, Saladino’s style in general is similar to Engli’s even if he didn’t know it, as Engli was never credited.

From SENSATION COMICS #106, Nov-Dec 1951

The W at the beginning of this first caption is better, and the black brush shape behind it (really just an abstract shape made with sharp corners) is clearer than some earlier ones. The story title is again bland.

From SENSATION COMICS #107, Jan-Feb 1952

With this issue, Wonder Woman was gone and the book became what DC called a mystery anthology, relatively mild horror with science fiction or fantasy elements at times. Saladino’s story title is larger and more interesting than many of his previous efforts.

From SENSATION COMICS #107, Jan-Feb 1952

The new lead feature was Johnny Peril, a globe-trotting adventurer and explorer of weird mysteries. The feature logo is by Ira Schnapp, the rest is by Saladino. I like the title and the joined open sound effect.

From SENSATION COMICS #109, May-June 1952

This story of a man with other small men on his fingers uses an idea editor Julie Schwartz recycled for an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA a decade later. The story title by Saladino is creative, and I like the drop shadow on FEAR, though the exclamation point looks like an afterthought.

From SENSATION MYSTERY #110, July-Aug 1952

With this issue the title changed to better reflect the contents, and this story has fine art by Murphy Anderson, recently hired by DC to work on science fiction stories for Schwartz’s STRANGE ADVENTURES. Saladino’s story title is large and impressive.

From SENSATION MYSTERY #112, Nov-Dec 1952

Johnny Peril continued as the lead feature, but the book never got much traction from this new direction and would soon end. I like this story title too.

From SENSATION MYSTERY #115, May-June 1953

Johnny Peril was perhaps too ordinary looking to attract buyers, even when he was on the cover, and couldn’t compete with superheroes.

From SENSATION MYSTERY #116, July-Aug 1953

His story in the final issue has fine Saladino lettering, including on the newspaper in the second panel. The character would appear in other comics, but never had much success.

To sum up, the details of Saladino’s story lettering are below.

#96 March-April 1950: Dr. Pat 10pp, Headline Heroines 4pp

#97 May-June 1950: Headline Heroines 4pp, Dr. Pat 10pp, Romance Inc. 10pp

#98 July-Aug 1950: Romance Inc. 10pp

#99 Sept-Oct 1950: Dr. Pat 10pp, Astra 6pp

#100 Nov-Dec 1950: Dr. Pat 10pp, Astra 8pp, Romance Inc. 8pp

#101 Jan-Feb 1951: Dr. Pat 10pp, Astra 8pp, Romance Inc. 8pp

#102 March-April 1951: Dr. Pat 8pp, Astra 8pp, Romance Inc. 8pp

#103 May-June 1951: Dr. Pat 8pp, Astra 8pp, Romance Inc. 8pp

#104 July-Aug 1951: Romance Inc. 8pp, Astra 8pp

#105 Sept-Oct 1951: Dr. Pat 8pp, Astra 8pp

#106 Nov-Dec 1951: Dr. Pat 6pp, Astra 8pp

#107 Jan-Feb 1952: Sinister Jack-In-The-Box 8pp, The Last Dream 8pp, Johnny Peril 8pp (hereafter JP)

#108 March-April 1952: The Wheel of Fate 8pp, JP 8pp, Sands of Doom 8pp

#109 May-June 1952: Fingers of Fear 8pp, The Beast that Walked Like a Man 8pp, The Ferry Was Waiting 2pp, JP 8pp

#110 July-Aug 1952: Nightmare Island 8pp, Vengeance of the Invisible Men 8pp, JP 8pp

#111 Sept-Oct 1952: The Spectre in the Flame 8pp, War of the Toy Soldiers 2pp, The Doorway to Evil 8pp, JP 8pp

#112 Nov-Dec 1952: JP 10pp, The Man Who Cried Werewolf 6pp, The Tattooed Terror 8pp

#113 Jan-Feb 1953: The Sea Girl 6pp, Lantern in the Rain 2pp, Legacy of Horror 8pp

#114 March-April 1953: JP 8pp, Beware After Dark 6pp

#115 May-June 1953: JP 8pp, Vengeance of the Sea King 6pp, The Half-Lucky Charm 4pp, The Giant in the Swamp 6pp

#116 July-Aug 1953: JP 8pp, The Phantom Enemy 6pp, The Census Taker 2pp, Dead Man’s Diary 6pp

That’s a total of 434 pages. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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