GASPAR SALADINO in SHOWCASE

All images © DC Comics. From SHOWCASE #45, July-Aug 1963

SHOWCASE was DC’s first tryout comic, where new series were given one or more short runs to test reader interest. It ran 93 issues from 1956 to 1970, then was revived for 11 more issues in 1977. The title was revived again as an anthology from 1993 to 1996. Unusually, the book’s contents passed from editor to editor in the initial series, each vying for the chance to add new titles to the DC Comics lineup. Julius Schwartz was the most successful, beginning with his Silver Age revival of The Flash. Gaspar Saladino lettered most of the entries from editors Schwartz and Robert Kanigher, and later he became the regular cover artist in 1968, but even before that he lettered a quite a few covers beginning with the one above. Unusually, everything on it is lettered by Saladino except the SHOWCASE logo, SGT. ROCK is his first cover logo. Some of his early cover lettering is not so good, as it took Gaspar a while to get comfortable doing that, but the caption here works well. I’ll look at covers first, then return to stories.

From SHOWCASE #48, Jan-Feb 1964

By contrast, and as usual, everything on this cover is by Ira Schnapp except the balloon. This would have been an easy job for him, but he must not have been available when the cover was needed to go out to the separator, so Gaspar filled in for him. Gaspar is trying to imitate Schnapp’s balloon shape style, but it doesn’t work very well. Nothing wrong with the letters, though they’re wider and more angular than Ira’s.

From SHOWCASE #51, July-Aug 1964

The large Saladino caption on this cover works well and fills the space in the box. The first two lines are closer to Schnapp’s style than usual.

From SHOWCASE #63, July-Aug 1966

Writer/editor E. Nelson Bridwell may have asked for Saladino to letter this cover, and he adds lots of energy and variety doing it. The display lettering in the balloon is not in his usual style and seems stiff.

From SHOWCASE #65, Nov-Dec 1966

If anyone needed to see how Saladino could letter covers in his own styles if given the chance, these Inferior Five examples were the perfect tryout. Carmine Infantino, at least, was paying attention. WOW is much improved display lettering.

From SHOWCASE #66, Jan-Feb 1967

With this character and concept, DC hit a low point that Saladino’s lettering can’t help.

From SHOWCASE #69, July-Aug 1967

Another Bridwell creation with great Saladino cover lettering using his own styles. Even the Schnapp logo is full of energy. Around this time, new art director and soon to be editorial director Infantino gave Gaspar the mission of updating the company’s design presence on covers, logos and house ads, though Schnapp continued to do some of them.

From SHOWCASE #73, March-April 1968

With this issue, Saladino became the regular cover letterer and logo designer, as Schnapp was soon to be retired, though he did letter the blurb right of the logo on this cover. The rest is by Gaspar, and he rose to the occasion with fine logo and cover lettering work on this and most DC titles.

From SHOWCASE #74, May 1968

This cover was a bit of a step backwards. I think the logo is by cover artist and creator Howard Post. Gaspar did the bottom blurb, which is unfortunately partially cropped off, and also SHOWCASE PRESENTS, which I feel looks uneven and poorly done. Despite that, it was reused on a number of later covers.

From SHOWCASE #75, June 1968

Gaspar was back on form for this Steve Ditko project with fine lettering and logo. I usually don’t like multiple panels on a cover, but this one works well because of the large figures at each side.

From SHOWCASE #76, Aug 1968

I like everything about this cover except SHOWCASE PRESENTS, Gaspar’s old west style logo and poster lettering are excellent.

From SHOWCASE #77, Sept 1968

This cover is getting back on track other than the top line, with a good Saladino logo and balloon.

From SHOWCASE #81, March 1969

A few issues later, Gaspar’s lettering is looking more confident and accomplished as he settled into his new role as the main style setter for the company and drew on new influences like rock posters to attract young readers. His logo is also fine, but sadly the property is lame, an attempt to reprint Dobie Gillis stories from many years earlier with updated clothing and hairstyles.

From SHOWCASE #82, May 1969

With this issue, Gaspar tried a completely new approach for the series logo, and included a large DC in a burst that perhaps he thought could be the new company symbol, though the old one is also present. It takes up a lot of space, but looks great to me, as do his character logo and caption, but this approach didn’t last long, and aside from a few other trials, this DC symbol did not spread. Despite the apparent new name, the actual title remained simply SHOWCASE.

From SHOWCASE #85, Sept 1969

The design was already being pulled back on this cover with PREVIEW gone, the side banner much narrower, and SHOWCASE in serif type. Perhaps the big DC in a burst would have gained more traction if it too was smaller, it tends to dominate the cover. Gaspar’s logo and blurb are great.

From SHOWCASE #88, Feb 1970

Here the DC burst is smaller and looks better to me. Gaspar’s lettering in the top banner and balloons is effective, but I don’t like the logo. It seems stiff and uneven. Perhaps Jason’s Quest creator Mike Sekowsky had a hand in it, but that’s a guess.

From SHOWCASE #93, May 1970

Here the DC is a little larger again, and Gaspar’s logo swoops under it, which seems forced. I do like his bottom blurb, though. This was the last issue of the book for several years.

From SHOWCASE #95, Oct-Nov 1977

When it returned in 1977, Ira Schnapp’s original SHOWCASE logo was back for the duration of this run. The dynamic Doom Patrol logo is by John Workman, Gaspar lettered the blurb left of it, and the one at the bottom. This all works, but I feel the logo is too tall.

From SHOWCASE #97, Feb 1978

I think this layout and logo by Saladino work better, and his burst at upper right is also fine.

From SHOWCASE #100, May 1978

Issue #100 was a tour-de-force using every character that had appeared in the previous 99 issues. Gaspar’s top blurb and banner sell it well. The book never topped this high point, and was a victim of the DC Implosion a few months later. When a new version of the book returned in the 1990s, it had no traditional cover lettering, only type on the covers.

From SHOWCASE #2, May-June 1956

Now for Gaspar’s story lettering. As I said, this title rotated among the DC editors of the time. That included Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff (with assistants Murray Boltinoff and George Kashdan) as well as Schwartz and Kanigher, but Saladino was doing most of his lettering for the latter two, and that was true on this book. There was a statement in the first issue that DC would consider suggestions from readers for content, but there’s no evidence that was ever the case. Issue two was “Kings of the Wild,” animal stories edited by Kanigher. Gaspar lettered all of them. By this time his story titles were generally large and effective.

From SHOWCASE #3, July-Aug 1956

The third issue was also from Kanigher, who may have had this Frogmen material already in the works for his war titles, and they just needed to be joined into a three-part story. Kanigher seemed to like the theme, and returned to it for Sea Devils. Again, Saladino’s story title is large and impressive. He was still doing the open capital letters against a black shape to begin first captions, and his sound effects add to the drama.

From SHOWCASE #4, Sept-Oct 1956

On the other hand, Julie Schwartz’s revamp of the Golden Age Flash was new in every way: new origin, new costume, new character, all beautifully realized by writers Kanigher and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert. They would not know for some time what a hit the idea was, as sales reports took a few months to come in, but it was a turning point for DC, and I think really made the careers of Schwartz and Infantino. Gaspar’s lettering was an important part of the mix, and he and Infantino were good friends. Gaspar would sometimes work in Carmine’s home with him to help him meet deadlines. I particularly like the treatment of THUNDERBOLT on this first page.

From SHOWCASE #8, May-June 1957

The next Flash issue was not until #8, six months later. By then, the editor and creators may have begun to realize their success, but this series still did not feature the character again until issues 13 and 14, while other editors took their turns. After that, plans went ahead for a regular Flash title that began a few months later. The page above has some of the Flash ideas that I loved as a kid: the costume in his ring, the speed lines, the rapid trips around the city. There were plenty more.

From SHOWCASE #17, Nov-Dec 1958

The next Julius Schwartz tryout was Adam Strange, an Earthman who traveled to the distant planet Rann in each story. It was also a moderate hit and soon found a home in Schwartz’s science fiction anthology MYSTERY IN SPACE after a three issue tryout in SHOWCASE. DC was now allowing editors to prepare longer initial tryouts.

From SHOWCASE #22, Sept-Oct 1959

But it was superheroes that fans wanted most, and Schwartz’s next revamp was also a big success. The Golden Age Green Lantern had had a good run, but this new version hit readers in the right spot, and has never flagged since. Above, the feature logo is by Ira Schnapp, but Saladino lettered his own version in the story title, as he often did.

From SHOWCASE #27, July-Aug 1960

For Kanigher, Gaspar lettered Sea Devils in their three-issue tryout. They went on to their own title. Around this time Gaspar was lettering everything at the same italic slant, perhaps it saved a little time. I like the display SEA DEVILS in panel 5.

From SHOWCASE #34, Sept-Oct 1961

For Schwartz, Saladino lettered The Atom’s three issue tryout. Most of these tryouts were now going on to new series, including this one, but some did not have the staying power of The Flash and Green Lantern. The feature logo, and I think also the credit book, are by Schnapp.

From SHOWCASE #37, March-April 1962

For Kanigher, Gaspar lettered a four-issue tryout for METAL MEN, again moving into their own title right after. As you can see, there was often lots of work for him on these team pages.

From SHOWCASE #45, July-Aug 1963

Some of Kanigher’s tryouts used reprints, but this one for Sgt. Rock was all new. Saladino’s sound effects add much to the action.

From SHOWCASE #55, March-April 1965

In the pages of another hit Schwartz book, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, he had begun an annual team-up with the Golden Age version, the Justice Society of America, following on from the multiple worlds concept he introduced in THE FLASH. Here he tried to launch a new title featuring two of them, but this time management didn’t go for it, probably due to poor sales. I think just Dr. Fate alone would have done better. The character logos are by Schnapp, the Saladino title is great.

From SHOWCASE 57, July-Aug 1965

Kanigher next tried one of his newest and best war features for two issues, Enemy Ace. It did not get a series, but remained a popular feature in the war titles. Again, Saladino’s sound effects magnify the drama.

From SHOWCASE #60, Jan-Feb 1966

Schwartz then tried this Golden Age character with good results, it landed a series after three tryout issues, though not one that lasted very long. The Spectre’s immense power and creepy demeanor may have hurt him.

From SHOWCASE #76, Aug 1968

Saladino’s last story lettering in this run was for a single tryout issue of Bat-Lash, where his creative and innovative ideas like wanted poster sound effects added much to the book, which went on to a short series.

From SHOWCASE ’93 #6, June 1993

When the concept was revived in the 1990s, Saladino was tapped to letter a number of stories, some running through several issues. Unlike the original, this was not aimed at creating new series so much as it was to feature characters that hadn’t been seen in a while, and most issues had three or four stories, an anthology. Great title on this one.

From SHOWCASE ’95 #7, Aug 1995

Arion is a good example of a character that needed some exposure to fans who might not have seen him before, and that also pleased long-time fans.

From SHOWCASE ’96 #1, Jan 1996

This story reaches way back to Simon and Kirby’s Boy Commandos from the early 1940s. I like the creative caption under the title and the credits on the rocks.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 45, 48, 51, 63, 65-66, 69, 73-78, 82-90, 93, 95-97, 100. That’s 27 in all. Below are the details of his story lettering. Where he did one of two stories with the same feature, the story number is in parentheses.

#2 May-June 1956: Rider of the Winds 8pp, Racer From Stone Age to Jet Age 2pp, Outcast Heroes 8pp, Runaway Bear 8pp

#3 July-Aug 1956: The Frogmen 8pp, First Frogmen 2pp, Flying Frogmen 6pp, Silent War (Frogmen Part 3) 10pp

#4 Sept-Oct 1956: The Flash 12pp, 10pp

#8 May-June 1957: The Flash 12pp, 12pp

#13 March-April 1958: The Flash 14pp, 12pp

#14 May-June 1958: The Flash 13pp, 12pp

#17 Nov-Dec 1958: Adam Strange 15pp (1)

#18 Jan-Feb 1959: Adam Strange 15pp, 10pp

#19 March-April 1959: Adam Strange 13pp, 12pp

#22 Sept-Oct 1959: Green Lantern 6pp, 9pp, 10pp

#24 Jan-Feb 1960: Green Lantern 12pp (2)

#27 July-Aug 1960: Sea Devils 26pp, The A-B-Seas of Skin Diving 2pp

#28 Sept-Oct 1960: Sea Devils 9pp, The First Frogman 2pp, Sea Devils 16pp

#29 Nov-Dec 1960: Sea Devils 13pp, The Divers of Olde 1pp, Sea Devils 12pp

#34 Sept-Oct 1961: The Atom 10pp, 15pp

#35 Nov-Dec 1961: The Atom 25pp

#36 Jan-Feb 1962: The Atom 12pp, 13pp

#37 March-April 1962: Metal Men 25pp, Metal Facts and Fancies 2pp

#38 May-June 1962: Metal Men 26pp, Metal Facts and Fancies 2pp

#39 July-Aug 1962: Metal Men 26pp, Metal Facts and Fancies 2pp

#40 Sept-Oct 1962: Metal Men 25pp

#45 July-Aug 1963: Sgt. Rock 25pp

#53 Nov-Dec 1964: G.I. Joe 4pp (framing reprints)

#55 March-April 1965: Dr. Fate & Hourman 26pp

#56 May-June 1965: Dr. Fate & Hourman 25pp

#57 July-Aug 1965: Enemy Ace 24pp

#58 Sept-Oct 1965: Enemy Ace 24pp

#60 Jan-Feb 1966: The Spectre 24pp

#61 March-April 1966: The Spectre 24pp

#64 Sept-Oct 1966: The Spectre 24pp

#76 Aug 1968: Bat-Lash 24pp

SHOWCASE ’93 #6: Kobra Chronicles 10pp

SHOWCASE ’93 #7: Kobra Chronicles 10pp

SHOWCASE ’93 #8: Kobra Chronicles 10pp

SHOWCASE ’93 #9: Kobra Chronicles 10pp

SHOWCASE ’93 #10: Kobra Chronicles 10pp

SHOWCASE ’93 #11: Kobra Chronicles 10pp

SHOWCASE ’95 #7: Arion 10pp

SHOWCASE ’96 #1: Metropolis S.C.U. 10pp

SHOWCASE ’96 #2: Metallo 10pp

SHOWCASE ’96 #6: Firestorm 10pp, Atom 10pp

SHOWCASE ’96 #7: Firestorm 10pp

That’s a total of 736 pages. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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