GASPAR SALADINO in WONDER WOMAN (1942)

All images © DC Comics. From WONDER WOMAN #140, Aug 1963

Gaspar Saladino’s involvement with this iconic DC Comics superheroine had three distinct phases. Very early in his career, he lettered short features and filler pages. Then from 1958 to 1965 he was the regular story letterer with two later examples beyond that. And from 1968 to the end of this series in 1986, he lettered many of the covers, with a few earlier examples like the one above, where he was filling in for Ira Schnapp, the main cover letterer until he left the company in 1968. There’s a lot to discuss, so I won’t dawdle, taking covers first, then stories. His first Wonder Woman cover lettering has an unusual balloon shape and an effective caption, both filled with his wide, angular lettering. Why are there three versions of Diana here? More on that later. The original Wonder Woman series ran to 1986, then was revamped and relaunched with new numbering in 1987. I will cover that in a separate article.

From WONDER WOMAN #147, July 1964

Another fill-in from the same year. Some of Saladino’s early cover lettering seems tentative and stiff, but here he was working with editor Robert Kanigher, who was a long-time fan of his lettering, and these seem more relaxed and confident.

From WONDER WOMAN #155, July 1965

As you can see, many of the story ideas were silly, but Gaspar always played it straight in his lettering.

From WONDER WOMAN #171, July-Aug 1967

Here the art is dynamic, and the lettering equally so, with several styles that work together well, including dry-brush on BATTLE.

From WONDER WOMAN #174, Jan-Feb 1968

Around this time, Saladino became the regular DC cover letterer, though the next one was by Ira Schnapp, his last. There was no good spot for this large blurb on such a busy cover, but Gaspar did his best.

From WONDER WOMAN #176, May-June 1968

I like this bottom blurb. Around this time DC seemed to think showing their heroes defeated was a good selling point. I think just the opposite.

From WONDER WOMAN #177, July-Aug 1968

And this sexist cover idea did neither heroine any favors.

From WONDER WOMAN #178, Sept-Oct 1968

With this issue, a revamp by writer Denny O’Neil and penciller Mike Sekowsky began, and Saladino’s psychedelic cover lettering and logo help sell it.

From WONDER WOMAN #183, July-Aug 1969

This version of the character put aside most past continuity and even Diana’s costume, though Paradise Island remained, well lettered by Gaspar, who also did the logo. Sekowsky was now the writer as well as the penciller.

From WONDER WOMAN #186, Jan-Feb 1970

Gaspar’s powerful bottom blurb adds drama to this cover.

From WONDER WOMAN #199, March-April 1972

Saladino’s bottom left blurb adds excitement to this fine Jeffrey Jones cover.

From WONDER WOMAN #204, Jan-Feb 1973

The revamp did not last long, and by this issue Diana was back in her familiar costume.

From WONDER WOMAN #211, April-May 1974

In the 1960s and 1970s, DC thrived on reprints, and many of their titles had occasional thick mostly reprint issues like this one. Gaspar had plenty to do describing the contents, and of course he did it well.

From WONDER WOMAN #233, July 1977

The peril is obvious in the art, but Saladino’s bottom blurb enhances it.

From WONDER WOMAN #247, Sept 1978

I’m not a fan of covers split into two or more images, but this design is clever and works well, with Gaspar’s fine lettering helping to sell it.

From WONDER WOMAN #266, April 1980

The side banner on this cover with story details works for me, as it allows the main art to be large. I particularly like Saladino’s script version of WONDER GIRL.

From WONDER WOMAN #288, Feb 1982

With this issue, a revised costume and a new logo were introduced, as well as a new writer-artist team. I did the logo incorporating the new symbol from the Milton Glaser studio, but Saladino’s large, exciting display lettering around it sells the idea.

From WONDER WOMAN #313, March 1984

On this cover, Saladino’s balloon and caption are as well-crafted and exciting as ever, well into the fourth decade of his career.

From WONDER WOMAN #329, Feb 1986

The final issue, as Gaspar’s burst caption states, but Diana would soon return in a new series.

From WONDER WOMAN #40, March-April 1950

From its inception in 1942 until 1958, the art for Wonder Woman’s stories was handled by co-creator Harry G. Peter and his studio of assistants. The lettering was always done with Leroy lettering tools, at first by Peter and his assistants, but starting in 1945, Jim and Margaret Wroten took over, and they lettered all the stories from Peter’s studio. To fill out the book there were short fillers, and the short continuing feature “Wonder Women of History,” which were handled by DC artists. When Gaspar Saladino was hired by editor Julius Schwartz to letter his comics in late 1949, Gaspar was soon also lettering for Julie’s office-mate Robert Kanigher, and some of these fillers were among his earliest lettering work. The first one, above, came out at the same time as the story in ROMANCE TRAIL that Gaspar remembered as his very first DC work, so it must have been done soon after. Certainly it looks like early work, not yet settled into his regular style, but this page does have some style points of his: the open letter in the first caption over a black brush shape, and the wavy and organic panel borders on some captions. His letter shapes were already better than those of some other letterers DC was using.

From WONDER WOMAN #43, Sept-Oct 1950

Another example. The feature logo is probably by Ira Schnapp, but notice the tiny zig-zags in the caption in panel two, another Saladino style point.

From WONDER WOMAN #43, Sept-Oct 1950

Fillers like this one were often done as freelance work by DC production staffers, but Saladino did a few of them early on in his lettering career when he was working in the DC offices. The scroll captions are typical of him.

From WONDER WOMAN #48, July-Aug 1951

By this time, Gaspar’s lettering had settled into the wide, angular style he would use for most of his career.

From WONDER WOMAN #50, Nov-Dec 1951

This was a backup feature in SENSATION COMICS, and this is the only one that appeared in WONDER WOMAN, perhaps an extra story that needed to see print. Gaspar’s title on the book is wonderful.

From WONDER WOMAN #98, May 1958

When artist H. G. Peter left WONDER WOMAN, editor Robert Kanigher brought in a new art team, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito to draw the stories he was by then writing himself, and Gaspar Saladino, his favorite letterer, did most of them for the next eight years. At that point, he was lettering everything with an italic slant, perhaps to save a little time, already very busy on other books for Kanigher and Schwartz, but able to fit this one into his schedule.

From WONDER WOMAN #100, Aug 1958

In comics, a hundredth anniversary was declared for issue #100, as seen in this fine title by Saladino. No matter that the book had looked completely different for most of that time, it was the number that counted.

From WONDER WOMAN #106, May 1959

In the Superman titles, the lineup was expanded by adding the adventures of Superboy, and Kanigher did much the same thing here with young Diana as Wonder Girl, having adventures on Paradise Island.

From WONDER WOMAN #113, April 1960

Those stories were popular, and soon Wonder Girl also had a uniform and was doing superheroic feats. Gaspar’s lettering and sound effects were a fine accompaniment.

From WONDER WOMAN #120, Feb 1961

Soon Kanigher was using both the teenage and adult versions of the character in the same stories in a way rarely done by the Superman editor Mort Weisinger.

From WONDER WOMAN #126, Nov 1961

Then, as with Superbaby, the idea went too far in my opinion, with stories about Wonder Tot, Diana as a baby.

From WONDER WOMAN #135, Jan 1963

Finally, throwing all logic out the window and glibly labeling them “Impossible” stories, Kanigher had all three ages of Diana appearing together with their mother as a sort of Wonder Woman Family. Look at the fine display lettering by Saladino on this page.

From WONDER WOMAN #151, Jan 1965

The stories were fun and popular even if they made little sense. For a while Wonder Girl sometimes became the lead feature, even as she joined other DC teen heroes in tryouts for a new book, THE TEEN TITANS.

From WONDER WOMAN #158, Nov 1965

In 1965, Kanigher decided to return Wonder Woman to her Golden Age roots, at least visually, this story is about fan reactions to that. Lots of great sign work here by Saladino, but around this time he cut back on his story lettering on this book as he got busier elsewhere.

From WONDER WOMAN #176, May-June 1968

This was Gaspar’s final story lettering on the book, and he didn’t do the title, it may have been by the artists, Ric Estrada and Mike Esposito, or filled in by someone in the DC production department.

To sum up, here are the covers with Saladino lettering: 140, 147, 155, 171, 174, 176-180, 182-199, 201-217, 211, 223, 226, 233, 235-236, 238, 242, 247, 251, 254, 260, 266, 268, 271-277, 279-281, 283-290, 294-296, 300-301, 308-329. That’s a total of 104. Below are the details of Gaspar’s inside page lettering. Most features are abbreviated after the first appearance.

#40 March-April 1950: Wonder Women of History (WWH): 2pp

#41 May-June 1950: WWH 3pp

#42 July-Aug 1950: Cindy 1pp

#43 Sept-Oct 1950: WWH, Cindy 1pp, Binny 1pp

#44 Nov-Dec 1950: Johnnie and Janie 1pp

#45 Jan-Feb 1951: WWH 2pp

#46 March-April 1951: WWH 3pp

#47 May-June 1951: WWH 2pp

#48 July-Aug 1951: WWH 2pp

#50 Nov-Dec 1951: Romance Inc. 8pp, WWH 2pp

#53 May-June 1952: WWH 2pp

#54 July-Aug 1952: WWH 3pp

#56 Nov-Dec 1952: WWH 3pp

#98 May 1958: Wonder Woman (WW) 8pp, 8pp, 9pp

#99 July 1958: WW 16pp, 10pp

#100 Aug 1958: WW 8pp, 8pp, 9pp

#101 Oct 1958: WW 10pp, 8pp, 7pp

#102 Nov 1958: WW 8pp, 8pp, 9pp

#103 Jan 1959: WW 10pp, 15pp

#104 Feb 1959: WW 8pp, 8pp, 10pp

#105 April 1959: WW 13pp, 12pp

#106 May 1959: WW 8pp, 8pp, Wonder Girl (WG) 9pp

#107 July 1959: WG 6pp, 7pp, WW 12pp

#108 Aug 1959: WW 12pp, 12pp

#109 Oct 1959: WG 12pp, WW 13pp

#110 Nov 1959: WW 8pp, 8pp, 9pp

#111 Jan 1960: WW 14pp, WG 11pp

#112 Feb 1960: WG 25pp

#113 April 1960: WW 16pp, WG 9pp

#114 May 1960: WW 16pp, WG 9pp

#115 July 1960: WW 12pp, WG 13pp

#116 Aug 1960: WG 13pp, WW 12pp

#117 Oct 1960: WW 13pp, WG 12pp

#118 Nov 1960: WW 25pp

#119 Jan 1961: WG 13pp, WW 12pp

#120 Feb 1961: WW & WG 26pp

#121 April 1961: WW Family 25pp

#122 May 1961: WW 26pp

#123 July 1961: WW, WG, Wonder Tot (WT) 25pp

#124 Aug 1961: WW Family 25pp

#125 Oct 1961: WW 25pp

#126 Nov 1961: WT 14pp, WW 11pp

#127 Jan 1962: WW 11pp, 14pp

#128 Feb 1962: WW 12pp, 13pp

#129 April 1962: WW Family 25pp

#130 May 1962: WT 13pp, WW 12pp

#131 July 1962: WW 12pp, 13pp

#132 Aug 1962: WW Family 13pp, 12pp

#133 Oct 1962: WW 10pp (2)

#134 Nov 1962: WW 13pp, WG 12pp

#135 Jan 1963: WW Family 25pp

#136 Feb 1963: WW 25pp

#137 April 1963: WW 25pp

#138 May 1963: WW Family 25pp

#139 July 1963: WW 25pp

#140 Aug 1963: WW Family 25pp

#141 Oct 1963: WW 25pp

#142 Nov 1963: WW Family 25pp

#143 Jan 1964: WW 10pp, 15pp

#144 Feb 1964: WW 15pp, WG 10pp

#145 April 1964: WW Family 25pp

#146 May 1964: WW 25pp

#147 July 1964: WG 25pp

#150 Nov 1964: WW Family 24pp

#151 Jan 1965: WG 25pp

#152 Feb 1965: WG 12pp, 13pp

#153 April 1965: WG 25pp

#154 May 1965: WW 25pp

#155 July 1965: WW Family 25pp

#156 Aug 1965: WW pp1-12 of 24 (12pp)

#157 Oct 1965: WW 24pp

#158 Nov 1965: WW 16pp, 8pp

#160 Feb 1966: WW 14pp, 10pp

#176 May 1968: WW 23pp

That’s 1,528 pages in all, a significant amount of work. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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