GASPAR SALADINO in THE PHANTOM STRANGER

All images © DC Comics. From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #8, July-Aug 1970

This mysterious DC character had two series separated by 16 years. For the first one from editor Julius Schwartz, a run of six issues in 1952-1953, Gaspar Saladino lettered many of the stories but none of the covers. For the second from editor Joe Orlando, running 41 issues from 1969 to 1976, Saladino lettered only covers. I’ll begin with those, the first is above. He did the logo as well as the dramatic caption at the top. The treatment of ICE is effective.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #11, Jan-Feb 1971

Like the earlier series, this was a “mystery” book, DC’s name for horror, with the title character acting as host and sometimes participant. Saladino has begun to use his scary styles on words like EVIL in this caption and also on PHANTOM in the logo.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #13, May-June 1971

Artist Neal Adams did some fine covers, many that needed no lettering, but when they did, Saladino provided it.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #, July-Aug 1971

The Neal Adams monster shown here appeared at the same time as the first story about DC’s Swamp Thing in HOUSE OF SECRETS #92, but it looks closer to Marvel’s Man-Thing, which appeared a few months earlier. Gaspar’s scary blurb sells it well.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #15, Sept-Oct 1971

By now Gaspar had developed a variety of styles to fit many situations, and the one used here on IRON is a good example.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #16, Nov-Dec 1971

The treatment of WAX on this cover is another, though the white edges around the letters make it less effective in this case, it seems too busy.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #25, June-July 1973

A new feature began in this issue, and Gaspar’s feature title at the top ran on several issues. It blurs the line between logo and cover lettering, but I will list it here.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #31, June-July 1974

The same thing applies to the Black Orchid treatment on this cover, which was also used more than once.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #35, Feb-March 1975

Saladino’s display lettering in this balloon demands attention.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #39, Oct-Nov 1975

This creepy balloon works well, though the tail does not point to the character’s mouth. Saladino probably planned for it to go further right, but the DC production person who assembled the cover did it differently.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #1, Aug-Sept 1952

In 1951, DC Comics dipped a toe into the horror genre with THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY, though their efforts were not nearly as graphic or scary as those from EC Comics and others. The book did well, and in 1952, editor Julius Schwartz tried this similar anthology with the added draw of a mysterious host who introduced some stories and participated in others. The stories were perhaps less scary than the other DC “Mystery” title, and leaned toward detective, science fiction and western themes. Whatever the reason, it did not do well and lasted only six issues. Gaspar Saladino, Schwartz’s regular letterer, worked on about two thirds of the stories, with some by Ira Schnapp and others. Schnapp did the logo and all the covers. On the first page of the first issue, above, you can see Saladino’s typically wide and angular lettering, and his style point of an open block letter in front of a black brush shape at the beginning of the caption. Gaspar had not yet worked out his effective scary lettering styles for the titles, and they are generally not as good as what he would do a few years later.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #2, Oct-Nov 1952

Ira’s cover/character logo takes up a lot of space on this splash page, and I think it’s one of his least successful logos. Gaspar’s lettering works fine, though he has to cover part of the speaker’s head in the last panel.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #3, Dec 1952-Jan 1953

The logo only appeared on some stories in each issue, others gave Gaspar more room for his title and in this case a decorative opening caption, though the shield and spears might have been drawn by the artist. The treatment of DEATH is a little more effective.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #4, Feb-March 1953

Back to block letters for this story title. Gaspar seems to be giving Phantom Stranger wavy balloon shapes to denote an unusual voice, but it’s not clearly different.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #5, April-May 1953

This story is squarely in the science fiction genre, editor Schwartz’s favorite. I like the radio balloon in the third panel and the banner caption in the fourth.

From THE PHANTOM STRANGER #6, June-July 1953

This story uses an idea Schwartz would return to in an early issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, a door in the sky with a monster behind it. Here the Stranger’s word balloons are standard style.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers of the later series: 8, 11, 13-17, 25, 31, 35 and 39, a total of eleven in all. Below are the details of Saladino’s story lettering for the earlier series. I’ve used story titles even though some are clearly Phantom Stranger stories, but on others it’s less clear.

#1 Aug-Sept 1952: Haunters From Beyond 8pp, When Dead Men Walk 6pp, The House of Strange Secrets 6pp

#2 Oct-Nov 1952: The Killer Shadow 6pp, Death’s Strange Deputy 6pp, Death Writes an Obituary 2pp, The Haunting Wind 4pp

#3 Dec 1952-Jan 1953: Dead Man’s Hand 6pp, The Man Who Carved Death 6pp, The Day of Destiny 6pp

#4 Feb-March 1953: The Hairy Shadows 8pp, The Dream Killer 6pp

#5 April-May 1953: The Living Nightmare 8pp, The Unseen Familiar 6pp, Time to Kill 4pp, The Stars Screamed Danger 6pp

#6 June-July 1953: The Ghosts in the Locked Room 8pp, Doorway In The Sky 6pp, Dead Man’s Bluff 4pp, Horror in Miniature 6pp

That’s a total of 94 pages. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

5 thoughts on “GASPAR SALADINO in THE PHANTOM STRANGER

  1. Mark Waid

    As regards the 1950s run–interestingly, the one word Gaspar never lettered in the stories he did for issue one is “Phantom.” Julie confirmed for me that the book was produced and readied under the name “Mysterious Stranger” before a last-second adjustment, and you can see in that first issue where the word “Phantom” was clunkily laid in by production! (Maybe the original logo was better?)

  2. Michael Gallaher

    This look at Gaspar’s Phantom Stranger work inspires a suggestion (unless you’ve already done it and I missed it): how about a post or two on Jim Aparo’s lettering? Or Pat Boyette’s? Or Bernard Baily’s? Or Alex Toth’s? Or any of the Golden/Silver Age artists who lettered their own work?

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