GASPAR SALADINO in THE ATOM

All images © DC Comics. From THE ATOM #14, Aug-Sept 1964

The Silver Age of DC superheroes was born when editor Julius Schwartz decided to revamp and revive some of the 1940s characters that had fallen out of favor and were no longer appearing. Each of them first had tryouts in SHOWCASE, then most went on to their own titles. He began with THE FLASH, then GREEN LANTERN, and THE ATOM was not far behind. The character gained his own title in 1962. At that time, veteran Ira Schnapp was lettering nearly all the DC covers, but when he wasn’t available, Gaspar Saladino sometimes filled in for him. That happened on this issue of THE ATOM. If you compare the balloon and caption lettering on this cover to any of the first 13 issues, you’ll see a marked difference in approach and style. Saladino’s balloon letters were wider and more angular, and his block letters were usually different from Ira’s, as is true here. Gaspar was the main story letterer on this and other Schwartz superhero titles, and I’ll cover that below, but I’m going to discuss his covers first.

From THE ATOM #20, Aug-Sept 1965

The same thing happened a year later on this cover. The fact that Saladino was lettering nearly all the stories inside the book probably gave him an inside track on these cover assignments, and Ira was plenty busy everywhere else. I think putting all that cover copy into one large burst may have been a novice mistake, Gaspar wasn’t yet used to doing covers, and later he probably would have made two separate bursts, perhaps putting one at lower right. The story title might have looked better as open letters, too.

From THE ATOM #28, Dec-Jan 1966-1967

This third fill-in cover lettering assignment is the best of the three, and the large caption is in an unusual shape that fits well in the space available. The display lettering inside it is in several styles that work well together. Note the lower case letters in THE in the story title, something that Schnapp pioneered, as seen on his logo, but Saladino made his own.

From THE ATOM #37, June-July 1968

By 1968, Ira Schnapp had been replaced as the main cover letterer by Saladino, under a mandate from Carmine Infantino to update and revitalize the company’s style, and this is the first of his covers on this title after Ira stopped doing them, and was soon retired. The top tagline is by Schnapp, held over from previous issues, but the burst is by Saladino, now showing more confidence in his cover lettering, and developing the styles he would be using over the next decade and beyond. He’s given the emphasis to the characters by putting their names in open letters, and the rest is equally energetic and varied.

From THE ATOM AND HAWKMAN #39, Oct-Nov 1968

With issue #39, the Atom’s title was joined with Hawkman’s, perhaps in hopes of increasing sales by pulling in fans of each. It worked for only a short time. The top line and new logo were by Saladino, and he lettered the remaining covers. This one fits the story title neatly into the small amount of space available at the bottom. The logo is an awkward shape that was usually running into the cover art, but it was at least clear and readable.

From THE ATOM AND HAWKMAN #41, Feb-March 1969

On this cover Saladino cleverly imitates the angle and curve of his logo for the title banner at the bottom, and manages to fit in both long titles well. I’m not sure if he did the tombstone sign, but he probably did.

From THE ATOM AND HAWKMAN #45, Oct-Nov 1969

The final issue of the series again has the logo running into the art, and just one burst word balloon. I like the cover art by Joe Kubert, but the series went no further. Both characters would remain in the Justice League of America and would appear in other places for decades.

From THE ATOM #1, June-July 1962

As I said above, Gaspar was the go-to letterer for editor Julie Schwartz’s new superhero books, and this one was no exception, he lettered nearly all the stories to issue #36. The logo here is by Ira Schnapp, an elongated version of his original cover logo for first story pages. It’s interesting to see that the writer and artists are credited, something DC did not do regularly until the early 1970s, but Schwartz was more of a fan than the other editors, and I think he understood that readers would want to know who was making their stories. Of course, Gaspar received no credit, nor did the colorist, those assignments would not make regular appearances in stories until the mid 1970s or later, generally 1977 for letterers.

From THE ATOM #2, Aug-Sept 1962

This action-filled page from the second issue has many fine Saladino touches. The POW! sound effect is dynamic, the burst balloons add energy, and even the captions have wavy, organic borders.

From THE ATOM #7, June-July 1963

In issue #7, The Atom was already teaming up with Hawkman. There’s more to letter on this page, but it’s still relatively light for the time. Editor Schwartz loved getting some real science into the stories, as noted in the lower right caption.

From THE ATOM #9, Oct-Nov 1963

My favorite thing on this page is the treatment of the word PHANTOM in the story title. Gaspar has inked it solid black, then scratched away some of the ink to create that faded effect, probably with an X-Acto knife, a common tool of the time. I also like the open drop shadow emphasizing DOUBLE.

From THE ATOM #12, April-May 1964

Writer Gardner Fox had some fun sending The Atom into the past, here meeting Edgar Allan Poe. Gaspar’s large story title is great!

From THE ATOM #14, Aug-Sept 1964

This page is more typical in the amount of lettering to be done, and it’s a page full of science that I’m sure Julie Schwartz loved.

From THE ATOM #17, Feb-March 1965

The art on this page presented challenges for Gaspar, as the figures fill so much of the last three panels. We have collisions of thought balloons with a dialogue burst and a sound effect with the bubble tails over things they shouldn’t have to go over, but it all reads okay.

From THE ATOM #21, Oct-Nov 1965

One of The Atom’s gimmicks was that, even at his small size he could pack a powerful punch. It was up to Saladino to sell this through his sound effects, and I think he succeeds.

From THE ATOM #26, Aug-Sept 1966

An even more impressive THUNK! is the focus of this page, at least right after The Atom. I like the title, too. Gaspar lettered most of the story pages until issue #36 dated April-May 1968. At that point he had become increasingly busy lettering covers and house ads for DC, and this was one of the story lettering assignments he had to give up. He only lettered the covers on the Atom and Hawkman issues.

To sum up, these are the covers lettered by Saladino: 14, 20, 28, 37-45, twelve in all. Below are the stories he lettered inside the book. All feature The Atom, where Gaspar only lettered one of two stories, I’ve added a story number in parentheses.

#1 June-July 1962: 25pp

#2 Aug-Sept 1962: 13pp, 12pp

#3 Oct-Nov 1962: 15pp (1)

#4 Dec 1962-Jan 1963: 15pp (1)

#5 Feb-March 1963: 15pp (1)

#6 April-May 1963: 13pp, 12pp

#7 June-July 1963: 25pp

#9 Oct-Nov 1963: 13pp, 12pp

#10 Dec 1963-Jan 1964: 13pp, 12pp

#11 Feb-March 1964: 13pp, 12pp

#12 April-May 1964: 13pp, 12pp

#13 June-July 1964: 15pp, 10pp

#14 Aug-Sept 1964: 24pp

#15 Oct-Nov 1964: 12pp (2)

#16 Dec 1964-Jan 1965: 24pp

#17 Feb-March 1965: 14pp, 10pp

#18 April-May 1965: 11pp (2)

#19 June-July 1965: 25pp

#20 Aug-Sept 1965: 13pp, 11pp

#21 Oct-Nov 1965: 13pp, 11pp

#22 Dec 1965-Jan 1966: 24pp

#23 Feb-March 1966: 13pp, 11pp

#24 April-May 1966: 24pp

#25 June-July 1966: 13pp, 11pp

#26 Aug-Sept 1966: 24pp

#27 Oct-Nov 1966: 13pp, 11pp

#28 Dec 1966-Jan 1967: 15pp, 9pp

#29 Feb-March 1967: 23pp

#30 April-May 1967: 23pp

#31 June-July 1967: 23pp

#32 Aug-Sept 1967: 23pp

#33 Oct-Nov 1967: 23pp

#34 Dec 1967-Jan 1968: 23pp

#36 April-May 1968: 23pp

That’s a total of 767 pages on this series. Other articles in this series are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog along with others you might enjoy.

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