GASPAR SALADINO in WORLD’S FINEST COMICS

All images © DC Comics. From WORLD’S FINEST #135, Aug 1963

This title had a very long run from 1941 to 1986, and was handled by several editors including Whitney Ellsworth, Jack Schiff, Mort Weisinger, Julius Schwartz and others. It was originally an oversized anthology featuring Superman as well as Batman and Robin, but they only appeared together on the covers until the book shrank to regular comics size with issue #71 in 1954. Other features filled out the rest of the book, many different ones over the years. Gaspar Saladino was never a regular story letterer, but some of his work from a cancelled series was in 1950s issues, and he did occasional stories after that. Gaspar filled in for regular cover letterer Ira Schnapp a number of times, and became the regular cover letterer in 1968 when Ira left the company. I will look at covers first, then stories. On the cover above, Gaspar’s first, his wide, angular lettering is clearly different from Schnapp’s narrower and rounder look, and his display lettering in the captions adds excitement, though the layout is not so good, too much empty space.

From WORLD’S FINEST #162, Nov 1966

The large caption at the bottom here is well done, but I’ve never liked feet over the caption border. Perhaps the text could have been trimmed down or made smaller to avoid that.

From WORLD’S FINEST #167, June 1967

This bottom blurb is type, Saladino did the one under the logo. Not sure who did the question marks.

From WORLD’S FINEST #173, Feb 1968

Gaspar was the main cover artist from this point on, though Schnapp’s lettering appeared on issue #175 (his last).

From WORLD’S FINEST #174, March 1968

Balloons with larger display lettering add drama, but why doesn’t Superman’s tail point to his mouth? Probably Saladino expected the balloon to go further up and left, but in most cases cover lettering was done on separate art paper and either the original lettering or photostats of it were pasted in place by whoever assembled the cover in the DC production department. That person should have fixed the tail.

From WORLD’S FINEST #176, June 1968

A well-designed cover with an intriguing premise well-explained by Gaspar’s balloons.

From WORLD’S FINEST #182, Feb 1969

After years of working together, in this period DC thought pitting their top heroes against each other was more interesting, apparently.

From WORLD’S FINEST #188, Oct-Nov 1969

In the 1960s and 1970s, DC often turned to reprints to fill issues and save the cost of new material. Annual-sized comics like this one needed lots of lettering to detail the contents, and Saladino made it interesting and exciting.

From WORLD’S FINEST #196, Sept 1970

Here at least Superman is helping Batman again. I love the energy and movement in the bottom blurb.

From WORLD’S FINEST #204, Aug 1971

By this time, THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD had become a Batman team-up book, and for a while this title became a Superman team-up book with Batman appearing only occasionally. Here he appears with the revamped and mostly powerless Wonder Woman. I still don’t like feet in the caption.

From WORLD’S FINEST #211, May 1972

Lots of Saladino lettering here, but I think the word EXTRA is headline type from the DC headline machine.

From WORLD’S FINEST #226, Nov-Dec 1974

Another split cover and more reprints filling out this large issue. Gaspar makes them all sound intriguing.

From WORLD’S FINEST #242, Dec 1976

Tired of the usual team? Try one featuring their super-sons. These stories by Bob Haney never fit into DC continuity, but readers seemed to like them anyway. Gaspar’s burst balloon adds energy.

From WORLD’S FINEST #246, Sept 1977

The book grew in length again in this format, but for a change all the stories were new. Gaspar’s open lettering blurb works well, an no one stepped on it.

From WORLD’S FINEST #261, March 1980

Arrow captions are always fun, and Gaspar did fine ones.

From WORLD’S FINEST #271, Sept 1981

The origin of the Superman-Batman team had had many explanations over the years, in this issue, writer Roy Thomas tried to fit them all together into one story.

From WORLD’S FINEST #293, July 1983

The creative character names in this Saladino bottom blurb show he was still at the top of his game. The black dry-brush swirls in VOID are his, the colorist added more.

From WORLD’S FINEST #309, Nov 1984

This round blurb is dynamic and vibrant, bursting with energy, as the character seems to be.

From WORLD’S FINEST #323, Jan 1986

After 45 years, the title came to an end with this issue, which includes Gaspar’s sober and appropriate lettering.

From WORLD’S FINEST #53, Aug-Sept 1951

Because of it’s longer length, WORLD’S FINEST was sometimes used to print leftover material from canceled titles, and that happed with DANGER TRAIL, a book that Gaspar lettered for editor Julius Schwartz. Material intended for it, like this story, appeared for several years, some lettered by Saladino.

From WORLD’S FINEST #64, May-June 1953

Another example with some Saladino style points: the open letter against a black shape in the first caption for instance.

From WORLD’S FINEST #66, Sept-Oct 1953

This example has one of the better early Saladino story titles I’ve seen. All this work for DANGER TRAIL would have been done in 1951 just before the book ended.

From WORLD’S FINEST #67, Nov-Dec 1953

On the other hand, this Tomahawk story would have been lettered in 1953, a rare one for Gaspar.

From WORLD’S FINEST #181, Dec 1968

He didn’t letter another story in the book until this one for editor Julius Schwartz.

From WORLD’S FINEST #223, May-June 1974

For the 100-page issues, Gaspar lettered several contents pages, making all those features and story titles interesting by using different sizes and line weights, not to mention putting them in perspective.

From WORLD’S FINEST #226, Nov-Dec 1974

He also did a few explanatory fillers like this one with its commanding title. METAMORPHO’S is dry brush.

From WORLD’S FINEST #227, Jan-Feb 1975

Another contents page with a variety of creative styles, so much more interesting than type would have been.

From WORLD’S FINEST #240, Sept 1976

When the book returned to normal size, Gaspar occasionally lettered stories for it in its last decade. I like his take on the word SUPERMAN.

From WORLD’S FINEST #256, April-May 1979

On this 15-page Shazam story he lettered only nine, perhaps helping the other letterer, Milt Snapinn, make a deadline.

From WORLD’S FINEST #263, June-July 1980

This might be the only Aquaman story Gaspar lettered. And finally, by this time, he’s able to add his own credit in his favorite way, just his first name in script.

From WORLD’S FINEST #277, March 1982

Saladino’s final story lettering for the book was this Shazam story with another excellent title.

To sum up, I found Saladino lettering on these covers: 135, 162, 167, 173-174, 176-205, 209-215, 217-218, 220-231, 233-234, 237-238, 240-243, 246-248, 250-252, 255, 257-261, 265-268, 270-278, 280-284, 290-298, 300, 303, 306-314, 317-323. That’s a total of 121. Below are the details of his story lettering.

#53 Aug-Sept 1951: Passage to Peru 8pp

#54 Oct-Nov 1951: Secret of Istanbul 8pp

#64 May-June 1953: King Faraday 12pp

#66 Sept-Oct 1953: A Special Spy Thriller 10pp

#67 Nov-Dec 1953: Tomahawk 10pp

#181 Dec 1968: Superman-Batman-Robin 19pp

#223 May-June 1974: Contents 1pp

#224 July-Aug 1974: Contents 1pp

#225 Sept-Oct 1974: Contents 1pp

#226 Nov-Dec 1974: Contents 1pp, The Tricks of Metamorpho’s Trade 2pp

#227 Jan-Feb 1975: Contents 1pp, DC Comics Stars on the Screen 3pp

#228 March-April 1975: The Amazing Reversals of Superman & Batman 2pp

#240 Sept 1976: Superman-Batman 17pp

#241 Oct 1976: Superman-Batman 17pp

#256 April-May 1979: Shazam pages 6-13, 15 (9pp)

#263 June-July 1980: Aquaman 8pp, Shazam 10pp

#277 March 1982: Shazam 10pp

That’s 50 pages in all. More articles in this series and others you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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