GASPAR SALADINO in SHAZAM!

All images © DC Comics. From SHAZAM! #4, July 1973

Captain Marvel was an early Superman competitor in the comics market of the 1940s, and sold well. DC sued the publisher, Fawcett, claiming the character was too close to Superman. They won that suit eventually and Fawcett not only stopped publishing Captain Marvel comics and spinoffs, but soon got out of comics completely. DC later bought the rights to the Fawcett characters, but in the interim, Marvel Comics began their own CAPTAIN MARVEL title, and as the name had not been copyright protected, DC was unable to stop them. When DC decided to publish new and reprinted Captain Marvel comics and stories starting in 1973, they had to find a new name for the book, and chose the word that the character used to change from the boy Billy Batson to the superhuman man Captain Marvel, SHAZAM! DC’s uses of the properties have been published under that title ever since. DC enlisted original Captain Marvel artist C.C. Beck to work on new stories for them at first, and he handled some of the cover lettering, but before long Gaspar Saladino was doing a lot of it, especially once Beck left. Gaspar also did a small amount of story lettering for this title. I think the SHAZAM! logo is by Beck, but I believe the tagline, “The Original Captain Marvel” is by Saladino, and on the cover above, he also did the caption below that, his first cover lettering for the book.

From SHAZAM! #5, Sept 1973

Gaspar did the balloons on this cover and probably the sound effects too. His lettering has so much character and energy!

From SHAZAM! #10, Feb 1974

This cover is by the versatile Bob Oksner, and his Mary Marvel is so cute. I like Saladino’s banner for her at the bottom.

From SHAZAM! #12, May-June 1974

By issue #12 the book had become a longer anthology with some new and some old stories, with lots of Saladino lettering to describe it all. I’m usually not a fan of such fragmented covers, but this one works because of the large figures cleverly showing their magic changes.

From SHAZAM! #14, Sept-Oct 1974

DC obviously put a lot of effort into their Captain Marvel relaunch, and fans seemed to like it for a while, even though the stories were old-fashioned. This busy cover doesn’t work as well for me, but Saladino’s lettering is fine.

From SHAZAM! #19, July-Aug 1975

By this time the book was back to normal length. Gaspar thought the villain’s balloon should have a roughness to it, and it works well.

From SHAZAM #30, July-Aug 1977

A live action TV version of the character ran from 1974 to 1977, and some DC issues played that up more than others. This one includes Superman, often a sign that sales were falling, as he usually provided at least a temporary boost. I don’t think Gaspar lettered the top line, but the rest is his.

From SHAZAM! #35, May-June 1978

By the final issue, DC was trying a more modern superhero look, which I never thought worked for this character. It didn’t help sales, obviously. Saladino’s bottom caption is great, though.

From SHAZAM, THE NEW BEGINNING #2, May 1987

Several new versions have been tried since. This miniseries had two covers lettered by Saladino, this being the one I could find a good image of. His caption has style and energy. He was not involved in later efforts, including a fine series from Jerry Ordway that lasted a while.

From SHAZAM! #13, July-Aug 1974

For the 100-page issues, Gaspar was commissioned to letter the contents pages, which he did with his usual variety and panache.

From SHAZAM! #15, Nov-Dec 1974

This one has a disconnect where the top section follows the perspective of the fence while the rest does not. I’m guessing Gaspar couldn’t get in all the words otherwise. He also lettered the summary under Marvel’s arm.

From SHAZAM! #27, Jan-Feb 1977

This is the only story lettered by Gaspar. The top logo area is also by him except for the SHAZAM logo, and it was used on later stories lettered by others.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers:

SHAZAM! 4-5, 10-20, 30, 34-35

SHAZAM THE NEW BEGINNING 2-3

That’s 18 in all. Below are the details of his inside page lettering.

#13 July-Aug 1974: Contents 1pp

#14 Sept-Oct 1974: Contents 1pp

#15 Nov-Dec 1974: Contents 1pp

#16 Jan-Feb 1975: Contents 1pp

#17 March-April 1975: Contents 1pp

#27 Jan-Feb 1977: Captain Marvel 17pp

That’s a total of 22 pages. 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 SHAZAM!

  1. Jay Willson

    I was and am such a fan of Gaspar’s work – for me, he IS the DC Comics of my youth!

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