GASPAR SALADINO in TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED

All images © DC Comics. From TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #33, Jan 1959

DC had many kinds of anthologies in the 1950s. Really almost all their titles were anthologies with several stories in each issue, but some were always about the featured character or had continuing backup features. Books like this one often had no continuing characters at first, and for some years. The title in this case is a great choice because it could encompass almost any kind of story, though the usual fare involved the supernatural, science fiction, and mild horror. Gaspar Saladino was not a regular letterer, but he did fill in for Ira Schnapp on covers occasionally, as above, and he took over as cover letterer in 1968. He also lettered a few stories, mainly toward the end of the book’s long existence. The title began in 1956, edited by Jack Schiff and/or his associates George Kashdan and Murray Boltinoff. With issue #105, the title changed to just THE UNEXPECTED, a shorter but still inclusive name, and it continued to issue #222 in 1982. On the cover above, Gaspar’s balloon lettering is typical for him, wider and more angular than Schnapp’s. The story title is kind of weak, but again not much like what Ira did.

From THE UNEXPECTED #107, June-July 1968

With this issue, Saladino became the regular cover letterer, as Schnapp was retired. The unusual logo is by Ira, but Gaspar did the line above it and the rest of the lettering. With Schiff retired and Kashdan no longer on staff, Murray Boltinoff was the editor until later joined by Jack C. Harris. The series had been the home of Space Ranger for a while, and here was trying a series featuring Johnny Peril.

From THE UNEXPECTED #108, Aug-Sept 1968

Peril was an odd choice, and he never did very well in any of the books they tried him in, and did not last long here either. This cover is certainly intriguing, and Gaspar’s blurb helps sell it.

From THE UNEXPECTED #110, Dec 1968-Jan 1969

With this issue the book gained a wonderful new Saladino logo that suited the contents much better in my opinion. His burst balloon adds to the drama.

From THE UNEXPECTED #113, June-July 1969

The contents returned mostly to a variety of scary stories with no continuing characters, but pushing the scary aspect to mirror what Joe Orlando was also doing in his titles like HOUSE OF MYSTERY and HOUSE OF SECRETS. Cover art by Neal Adams helped unify the line, as did lettering by Saladino.

From THE UNEXPECTED #116, Dec 1969-Jan 1970

Here the top line has been replaced with type and the logo put into a giant word balloon coming from a shadowy host, again similar to what Orlando was doing, and echoing the approach of EC Comics in the early 1950s. A new version of the logo makes it more vertical.

From THE UNEXPECTED #120, Aug-Sept 1970

I like Gaspar’s spooky sign lettering on this cover, and his burst balloon is also effective.

From THE UNEXPECTED #126, Aug 1971

Gaspar did not do calligraphic script often, but when the story or editorial direction called for it, as here, he did it well.

From THE UNEXPECTED #129, Nov 1971

Many DC titles went through a variety for size and format changes in the 1970s, as this one did. Here a longer page count was achieved mainly through reprints, with a fine story title caption at the bottom to detail them.

From THE UNEXPECTED #139, Sept 1972

The sign lettering on this cover is terrific, scary but easy to read.

From THE UNEXPECTED #157, May-June 1974

Another format change almost doubling the page count through even more reprints, and the cover is now divided into panels, an idea I don’t like, but at least Saladino’s lettering makes it all exciting.

From THE UNEXPECTED #169, Oct 1975

Back to a smaller page count again, but all new stories, many of them written by former editor George Kashdan and current editor Murray Boltinoff. A fine triple banner caption by Gaspar.

From THE UNEXPECTEC #189, Feb 1979

The “DC Implosion” happened in 1978, but this title escaped it, and then grew in size again because it included inventory from cancelled titles THE WITCHING HOUR, THE HOUSE OF SECRETS and others. Again, the all-encompassing nature of this book’s title allowed it to survive and thrive for a few more years. This and a few other issues had wraparound covers with Saladino lettering on both, but on this issue it’s all on the front cover.

From THE UNEXPECTED #202, Sept 1980

This is surely the best-known cover of the series, frequently seen on social media, a favorite of the story’s author Michael Uslan, and its editor, Jack C. Harris. Gaspar’s caption is a clever mix of horror and humor styles.

From THE UNEXPECTED #220, March 1982

In my opinion, Saladino’s best cover lettering of all is for this issue near the end, with a great holiday blurb at the top, and an impressive display of style and variety on the sign. I think POST NO BILLS is by cover artist Joe Kubert.

From TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #88, April-May 1965

For the earlier version of the series, Saladino lettered just this one story, probably by the request of his friend Gil Kane. I love the title.

From THE UNEXPECTED #158, July-Aug 1974

When the series went to 100-page size in 1974, Gaspar did the contents pages. Lots of work, and the perspective is handled well.

From THE UNEXPECTED #161, Jan-Feb 1975

This one was easier to do without the perspective, and of course reversed white on black by the DC production department. Again, look at the variety of styles.

From THE UNEXPECTED #180, July-Aug 1977

When Saladino did letter stories for this series, and he did more of them in the late seventies-early eighties, he was usually teamed with veteran artists he’d worked with many times before, as here with Jerry Grandenetti. I think Jerry at least penciled the story title, as it’s not typical of Gaspar’s work.

From THE UNEXPECTED #184, March-April 1978

Another Grandenetti story with an all-Saladino title, and for the first time full story credits including Gaspar’s name in his preferred style.

From THE UNEXPECTED #206, Jan 1981

Here’s a short story from inventory left by the cancellation of TIME WARP, a short-lived science fiction anthology.

From THE UNEXPECTED #221, April 1982

And in the penultimate issue, Gaspar has fun with this Steve Ditko story. So much easier to letter than the stories he started out with in the early 1950s.

To sum up, these covers have Saladino lettering: 33, 107-127, 129-146, 150, 152-163, 166-171, 173, 175-176, 183, 189-192, 195-196, 199, 202-205, 207-208, 210-212, 214-216, 218-222. That’s a total of 87. Below are the details of his story lettering.

#88 April-May 1965: Beware the Weirdos 9pp

#158 July-Aug 1974: Contents 1pp

#159 Sept-Oct 1974: Contents 1pp

#160 Nov-Dec 1974: Contents 1pp

#161 Jan-Feb 1975: Contents 1pp

#162 March-April 1975: Contents 1pp

#180 July-Aug 1977: The Loathsome Lodgers of Nightmare Inn 7pp

#184 March-April 1978: Wheel of Misfortune 7pp

#191 May-June 1979: The Fine Art of Murder 5pp

#192 July-Aug 1979: Freak of Nature 8pp

#195 Jan-Feb 1980: Whose Face is At My Window? 6pp

#206 Jan 1981: The Iron Beast 3pp

#208 March 1981: Where Have You Gone, Solid Citizen? 8pp

#221 April 1982: EM, The Energy Monster 9pp

That’s 67 pages in all. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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