GASPAR SALADINO in SUPERBOY

All images © DC Comics. From SUPERBOY #69, Dec 1958

Superboy, the adventures of Superman as a boy in rural Smallville, first appeared in MORE FUN COMICS #101 in 1945, and had a popular run as the lead feature there. In 1949 his own title began, and it ran to 1977. Later relaunches continued regularly. Gaspar Saladino was never a story letterer for the feature or solo book, and only lettered a few individual pages that appeared inside, but he did letter many of the covers after regular cover letterer Ira Schnapp left the company in 1968, and he also did two fill-ins for Ira before that, the first is above. Gaspar’s balloon lettering is generally wider and more angular than Schnapps, his letter S is a good example, having a wide, straight center stroke with curves above and below. His display lettering in the caption is also more angular than Ira’s, and not yet as good, as it took him a while to find his footing on cover lettering.

From SUPERBOY #135, Jan 1967

This second fill-in cover is better, but the caption is still a bit stiff and not laid out well. He would improve soon.

From SUPERBOY #146, April 1968

With this issue, Gaspar became the regular cover letterer, as was the case with the entire DC line, replacing Ira Schnapp, who had been retired. No longer trying to fit into the Schnapp style, Gaspar’s work is fresh, diverse, and exciting as he rose to the mandate given to him by Editorial Director Carmine Infantino to give the company’s design presence a more modern look.

From SUPERBOY #147, May 1968

This all-reprint issue shows the direction the title was going, with the Legion of Super-Heroes gradually taking over, but not for a while yet. Saladino does a good job fitting his lettering into the wavy banners.

From SUPERBOY #148, June 1968

Superboy’s Smallville adventures seemed small time compared to those of the adult Superman, and writers struggled to interest readers with ideas like this. Cover lettering was usually done on separate art paper, then photostats were made, cut out, and pasted on the finished cover art along with the trade dress, the logo and everything else at the top. On this cover, the production person doing that did a poor job. The balloons on the left from the card dealer should be read first, and therefore those balloons should be at least as high as Superboy’s. Also, there’s no tail to the dealer.

From SUPERBOY #150, Sept 1968

There was also a tendency to have heroes on DC covers seem helpless or defeated, a theme I think may have hurt sales, and a poor comparison to many Marvel Comics covers. Even great art by Neal Adams was not always able to help.

From SUPERBOY #153, Jan 1969

Gaspar did his best to add to the drama with exciting lettering, as here, with perspective adding depth.

From SUPERBOY #156, May-June 1969

On this reprint cover, some of Ira Schnapp’s original lettering is retained, while the balloons and top and bottom blurbs are by Gaspar. Note that the best way the editor could think of to celebrate the title’s 20th Anniversary was with reprints.

From SUPERBOY #162, Jan 1970

Often the book kept returning to the same tired themes and ideas, as editor Mort Weisinger neared retirement and seemed to have no new thoughts.

From SUPERBOY #165, May-June 1970

More reprints and recycled ideas here, but lots of lettering for Saladino, and he makes it all seem exciting.

From SUPERBOY #171, Jan 1971

With Weisinger gone, SUPERBOY was able to explore new ideas and interact with other DC characters more often, as here. Gaspar’s character logo starts with Ira Schnapp’s Aquaman logo, but adds his own flair.

From SUPERBOY #180, Dec 1981

A new Saladino logo was introduced by the time of this cover. I don’t like it as much as Schnapp’s original version, but it does have a more modern look, and Gaspar’s lettering is dynamic and effective.

From SUPERBOY #190, Sept 1972

Writers and artists continued to try off-beat ideas to attract readers, but the real draw is mentioned in the last caption on this cover.

From SUPERBOY #197, Sept 1973

Here’s the beginning of the Legion moving into cover status on the book, and fans found more to enjoy in their future adventures with Superboy than they had in his Smallville stories.

From SUPERBOY #202, May-June 1974

This issue is again mostly reprints, but now the Legion gets equal billing with Superboy. The resulting Saladino logo is too long and awkwardly designed, one of my least favorite ones by him, but fans got the message.

From SUPERBOY #216, April 1976

In general the trade dress in the early to mid 1970s was my least favorite in DC history, often awkward and too large, as here. The best thing on this cover is the charming blurb at bottom right by Saladino.

From SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #237, March 1978

By this time the book’s title in the indicia had changed to include the Legion, and the trade dress was simpler and better, but that logo was still a problem. Fans cared not, they loved the book, and Gaspar’s captions add to the drama.

From SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #257, Nov 1979

This run of SUPERBOY was about to end. Superboy left the Legion for a while to star in his own title, and this one continued under the name LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, which I’ve already covered HERE. I’ve also covered the next Superboy title, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY.

From SUPERBOY SPECTACULAR #1, 1980

This one-shot was commissioned by a school system and then became DC’s first experiment with doing books just for the direct market comics shops. Lots of fine Saladino lettering down the left side and at the top. Interesting that they went with the Schnapp logo, perhaps to appeal to older fans.

From SUPERBOY #6, July 1990

In 1990 a new Superboy series began and lasted 22 issues. Gaspar lettered several covers beginning with this one. His stylish script FEATURING is a good clue. I suspect the rest of the blurb was open letters filled in black by the colorist.

From SUPERBOY #9, Oct 1990

Here Gaspar creates a special rough style for this character that I think works well.

From SUPERBOY #10, Nov 1990

The top and bottom blurbs here are by Saladino, I like the treatment of PHANTOM ZONE, slightly reminiscent of The Twilight Zone.

From SUPERBOY #12, Jan 1991

Gaspar’s CHRISTMAS WISHES blurb is stylish and fits the season.

From SUPERBOY #13, Feb 1991

All the titles on this newspaper are by Saladino, and he also did the word balloon, but it was flipped to read backwards by the DC production department.

From SUPERBOY #3, April 1994

Another popular Superboy series ran 102 issues from 1994 to 2002. The cover blurb on this issue is the only one I feel sure is by Saladino. There are a couple of others that might be, but I’m not sure, so I won’t count them. Sadly, cover lettering is almost never credited in comics.

From SUPERBOY #149, July 1968

I found only three pages of Gaspar’s lettering inside these books. This one is sort of an introduction page to the rest of the story, lettered by someone else, with fine display lettering, some of it in Art Deco style.

From SUPERBOY #202, May-June 1974

On just this issue, Gaspar did an elaborate title page for a large reprint issue. It was something he did more often for other titles. The variety of styles and sizes makes it so much more interesting than type.

From SUPERBOY SPECTACULAR #1, 1980

For the one-shot, Saladino lettered this single page explaining the colors of Kryptonite, or at least four of them.

To sum up, these covers have Saladino lettering:

SUPERBOY (1949): 69, 135, 146-176, 180-212, 215-217, 219-221, 223-224, 231, 233-235, 237, 239, 250, 257

SUPERBOY SPECTACULAR 1

SUPERBOY (1990): 6, 9-10, 12-13

SUPERBOY (1994): 3

That’s 89 in all. The story pages shown above total three. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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