GASPAR SALADINO in SWAMP THING

All images © DC Comics. From SWAMP THING #1, Oct-Nov 1972

In the 1970s, Gaspar Saladino’s reputation as one of the best letterers in comics was enhanced by his work on the first eight issues of SWAMP THING, work considered ground-breaking, and which garnered him his second SHAZAM award from the Academy of Comic Book Arts in 1973. Those issues had no cover lettering, so for a change I’m going to start with inside pages, and then discuss some later cover lettering, though most of the covers continued to have none. Gaspar was encouraged by writer Len Wein to add creative style choices to his lettering for this series. On the first page, above, the captions have rough edges and drippy lower borders, perfect for the subject. The logo is not as good as the one on the cover, so this might have been an earlier effort, perhaps pencilled by artist Bernie Wrightson.

From SWAMP THING #1, Oct-Nov 1972

The story title on the next page is all Saladino, and uses the dry brush technique he was so good at. For the first time we see the special style he gave to Swamp Thing’s thought balloons, wavy rather than bubbled shapes with a double border.

From SWAMP THING #1, Oct-Nov 1972

On this page we see a different style for the creature’s word balloons, heavy rogh borders with a double shape on the second one. Color in all the balloons adds to the strangeness, and the orange of the word balloons makes them seem stronger.

From SWAMP THING #1, Oct-Nov 1972

The impact of the lettering reaches a climax here with this amazing balloon, which could not be more dramatic and tortured. It’s just as important as the rest of the art, and if anyone wasn’t paying attention to the lettering before now, they couldn’t help noticing it here. I think Wein and Wrightson were both thrilled with what Gaspar did. When I was able to reunite Len and Gaspar at the New York Comic Con in 2014, Gaspar joked about what a pain the special styles were, but I think he was just as pleased to be part of this landmark book as they were.

From SWAMP THING #2, Dec 1972-Jan 1973

The title page of the second issue. Credits for coloring and lettering were not yet approved by DC management, even though Marvel had been doing it for years. That would finally come in 1977, colorists first, letterers a few months later. The treatment of FOREVER is wonderful.

From SWAMP THING #3, Feb-March 1973

The title on this story is even more creative, I like the lower case A in PATCHWORK.

From SWAMP THING #4, April-May 1973

Perhaps by issue #4, Wrightson had seen the advantage of leaving lots of room for Gaspar’s title lettering, and Saladino didn’t disappoint here, filling it well.

From SWAMP THING #6, Sept-Oct 1973

On this page, it’s hard to know who did what on the story title. I think the top line is by Gaspar and the bottom one by Wrightson. There’s lots of other extra lettering work here for Saladino, and as usual he handles it all with style and variety. Issues 9 and 10 had art by Wrightson, but were lettered by Ben Oda, I don’t know why, but perhaps Gaspar was too busy elsewhere. With issue 11, Philippines artist Nestor Redondo took over as artist, working there, and his issues were lettered mostly by Philippines letterers, Gaspar did no more inside lettering on the rest of the run.

From SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING ANNUAL #1, Nov 1982

Saladino’s last Swamp Thing story lettering was for this Annual, which was the official comic book adaptation of the 1982 Wes Craven film about the character. Gaspar and colorist Tatjana Wood were the only early creators involved.

From SWAMP THING #24, Aug-Sept 1976

Right at the end of the original series, Gaspar lettered this one cover in a style that’s more super-hero than horror.

From SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #1, May 1982

DC brought back the character for a new series in 1982, probably because of the upcoming film. Len Wein was the editor for a while, and famously brought in Alan Moore as writer with issue #20 for another ground-breaking run mostly under editor Karen Berger. Again, most of the covers had no lettering, but Gaspar did the addition to his original logo and the other blurbs on this first cover.

From SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #24, May 1984

Saladino’s super-heroic blurb on this cover is quite appropriate.

From SWAMP THING #53, Oct 1986

Later the title was shortened to just the character’s name again. The blurb above the logo here is by Gaspar, though it’s possible it was picked up from some other cover lettering job. I’m not sure, so I will count it.

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

SWAMP THING (first series): 24

SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING: 1, 24

SWAMP THING: 53

That’s four in all. Below are the details of his story lettering on the original run.

#1 Oct-Nov 1972: 24pp

#2 Dec 1972-Jan 1973: 24pp

#3 Feb-March 1973: 23pp

#4 April-May 1973: 23pp

#5 July-Aug 1973: 23pp

#6 Sept-Oct 1973: 20pp

#7 Nov-Dec 1973: 21pp

#8 Jan-Feb 1974: 20pp

SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING ANNUAL #1 Nov 1982: 41pp

That’s 219 pages in all. More articles in this series and others you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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