All images © DC Comics. From JIMMY OLSEN #94, July 1966

Jimmy Olsen, one of comics’ best-known sidekicks, first appeared as an unnamed office boy in 1938, but became a named character in the Superman radio show in 1940. After regular appearances in the Superman TV show in the early 1950s, he was given his own title which ran 163 issues from 1954 to 1974. Then a new omnibus title, THE SUPERMAN FAMILY, took over the numbering of this series, and I’ve written about that separately. The regular cover letterer was Ira Schnapp until 1968, but Gaspar Saladino filled in for him a few times before becoming the regular cover letterer himself when Ira left DC Comics. Gaspar did most of the covers from that point on, and also lettered two stories. By the time of his first cover, above, Saladino had developed his own styles, and he used them well in this large caption and balloon. His block letters were often angular and full of energy. By the way, I’ve decided not to type out the full too-long comic title each time, just using the character name.

From JIMMY OLSEN #95, Aug-Sept 1966

At this time, DC would run these annual-sized reprint issues once or twice a year in many of their titles. Only the cover was new, and they generally had lots of lettering. Gaspar did a fine job with this one, again using his own styles rather than trying to imitate Schnapp.

From JIMMY OLSEN #99, Jan 1967

This fill-in sticks a little closer to the Ira Schnapp model, with more subdued captions.

From JIMMY OLSEN #109, March 1968

From this point on, Gaspar was the regular cover letterer, with a long unbroken run to issue 152. He had been given a mandate by Editorial Director Carmine Infantino to update and modernize DC’s design look, and I think he did a fine job on cover lettering, and gradually on logos as well, though some books, like this one, held on to their Ira Schnapp logos for a few years. Above all, Gaspar added energy and excitement with his dynamic lettering.

From JIMMY OLSEN #110, April 1968

This is an amusing but static cover with all the energy in Gaspar’s caption.

From JIMMY OLSEN #111, June 1968

There’s more energy in this Neal Adams cover, and the lettering matches it. Every word in that thought balloon is emphasized and larger than usual, and the caption uses several appealing styles that work well together.

From JIMMY OLSEN #115, Oct 1968

Another great Adams cover, and the caption paper is drawn into it. Gaspar was experimenting with almost rectangular balloons at the time.

From JIMMY OLSEN #118, March 1969

DC was desperate to appear hip and appeal to kids, but they usually missed the mark, as on this cover, where the slang is embarrassing, as is Hippy Olsen. Saladino did his best with it anyway.

From JIMMY OLSEN #121, July 1969

Jimmy was usually a good guy, but sometimes not, or so it appears.

From JIMMY OLSEN #127, March 1970

And here, he’s paying the price for being a wise guy, which is actually an idea I might have bought if I’d seen it when it came out.

From JIMMY OLSEN #131, Aug-Sept 1970

Another reprint issue with lots of lettering. The perspective blurb at the bottom is well done. Editor Mort Weisinger was always looking back to past glory rather than coming up with new ideas. But a wealth of those was about to drop.

From JIMMY OLSEN #133, Oct 1970

With this issue, the series was handed to incoming superstar writer/artist Jack Kirby, who made it part of his Fourth World saga of connected titles along with THE NEW GODS, THE FOREVER PEOPLE and MISTER MIRACLE. Suddenly Jimmy’s comic was exciting to read again, and miles better. Saladino’s lettering matched the energy in the art perfectly.

From JIMMY OLSEN #137, April 1971

Kirby left lots of room for blurbs on this cover, and Saladino filled them well.

From JIMMY OLSEN #138, June 1971

I’ve been told that Kirby liked large lettering, so he must have been pleased with Gaspar’s work on this one. It truly was “a blast!”

From JIMMY OLSEN #139, July 1971

Comics has seen some odd guest stars, but Don Rickles is surely one of the oddest! Kirby must have thought it worked, and Gaspar helped him sell it. I can’t think of a weirder JO cover except perhaps issue #53 with Jimmy as the giant turtle man.

From JIMMY OLSEN #146, Feb 1972

For a year and a half, this comic was full of wild Kirby ideas and energy, even Jimmy himself got caught up in it.

From JIMMY OLSEN #149, May 1972

Then Kirby departed, and it was back to mundane adventures in Metropolis, with Plastic Man as a second feature, as seen in the odd lower blurb.

From JIMMY OLSEN #163, Feb-March 1974

Saladino did a more modern logo for the book near its end, but even his lettering couldn’t make it as appealing to me as the Kirby run. This is the final issue, but the numbering and Jimmy continued in THE SUPERMAN FAMILY.

From JIMMY OLSEN #162, Dec 1973-Jan 1974

After lettering no stories in all the previous issues, Gaspar lettered both Jimmy Olsen tales in this penultimate issue with his usual flair.

To sum up, these covers have Saladino lettering: 94-95, 99, 109-152, 154-163, a total of 57. Below are the details of his story lettering.

#162 Dec 1973-Jan 1974: 13pp, 7pp

That’s twenty in all. More articles in this series and others you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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