GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS ADS 1952-1967

All images © DC Comics. From ACTION COMICS #167, April 1952.

For much of their history, comic book publishers did not have many options for advertising their products. In the 1940s and 1950s, the only real choice was house ads, promotional ads in the comics themselves for other titles and new releases. Advertising in other kinds of magazines was considered too expensive, and might not have been accepted anyway. Radio and TV advertising was way outside the budget. DC Comics did get some promotion from their properties in other media such as the Superman radio and TV shows, movie serials featuring Batman and other DC characters, and newspaper strips for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but those avenues did not give existing comics readers any new information, only acted to recruit new readers if they could make the connection. In the 1960s, fan publications like THE COMICS READER, begun in 1961, did publish comics news and information about upcoming issues, but they reached only a small part of the readership, the most active and avid fans. It wasn’t until the rise of the direct market in the mid to late 1970s that publishers could send out promotional flyers to comics retailers listing new issues and projects, and again, those only reached the most active and interested fans at first. The advent of the internet made the publication of comics news more widespread and available to all interested readers by the mid 1990s, but until then, comics publishers put their money into house ads and similar in-comic promotional pages like Marvel’s “Bullpen Bulletins” and DC’s “Direct Currents.”

At DC Comics, Ira Schnapp dominated the creation of house ads and other occasional paid ad lettering from the mid 1940s until 1967. There were always some ads created and lettered by others, but Ira did over 900, and from about 1951 to the first half of 1967, almost all of them were by him. Ira essentially set the style for the company, as he was also the main logo designer and cover letterer. I would say Ira was the art director, though never so named or compensated as far as I know. You can read about his ad work in a long series of chronological articles beginning HERE. This new series of articles picks up from that one with Schnapp’s successor, Gaspar Saladino.

Gaspar was hired as a letterer at DC in 1949 by editor Julius Schwartz, as described in THIS article. He worked in the DC offices for at least a few years, first in the production department alongside Ira Schnapp, then in the room shared by Schwartz and fellow editor Robert Kanigher, who also used Gaspar a lot. Saladino did mostly story lettering, tons of it, but occasionally filled in for Ira on covers and ads when Schnapp wasn’t available. This first article focuses on that time period.

One of the most popular artists at the company then was Carmine Infantino, known for his excellent work on THE FLASH, among other titles. In 1966, Irwin Donenfeld made him art director, in charge of designing all the company’s covers, and Infantino was later promoted to Editorial Director and then Publisher in 1971. One of the changes Carmine enacted was to start putting long-time DC letterer Gaspar Saladino on logos, cover lettering and house ads, shifting that work away from Schnapp. Apparently Carmine felt the company’s design presence needed a fresh approach, and Gaspar’s work was excellent, as he rose to the challenge with dynamic, energetic and artful lettering and logos. Carmine kept Ira on for a while doing less important tasks, but in 1968 he was let go. As artist Neal Adams, who had befriended Ira when he started working at DC around 1967 put it, it meant Ira was being sent home to die. Gaspar Saladino has described Ira as “Mister DC,” and said it was sad that when he left, it was as though he’d never been there at all.

This shift from Schnapp to Saladino begins to happen in a few mid sixties titles with a significant amount in books with 1967 cover dates, and is represented in the final ads in this article. Schnapp was still doing ads too, and the real shift in the majority of ad lettering came in titles with 1968 cover dates, which I will write about next time. The first few ads here, like the public service page above, were already shown in the Schnapp articles, but are included again for completeness. DC editor Jack Schiff began the regular series of one-page public service ads in 1949, and most were lettered by Schnapp, but Gaspar did a few of them. The first, from 1952, has Gaspar’s wider and more angular lettering, a distinct contrast from Schnapp’s balloon lettering, and easy to spot once you’re aware of it. While these count as house ads, they’re essentially story pages as far as the lettering goes.

From ACTION COMICS #247, Dec 1958

Gaspar’s next public service ad was not until this one in 1958. In the intervening years, Gaspar’s balloon lettering had become more even and regular, and his title is better and typical of his style on story titles. Gaspar also uses a unique rough border on the three flashback panels.

From OUR ARMY AT WAR #160, Nov 1965

Here’s a hand-lettered paid ad of the type that were usually done by Ira Schnapp in 1965, but perhaps he wasn’t available to do this one, so it was given to Saladino. Some of Gaspar’s choices here seem uncertain, as if he was still working out how to do this kind of thing. The western poster style for WANTED and REWARD seems like a good idea, but the large lettering at center left is not as good as what he would be doing in a few years in house ads. The rest is okay, the bottom banner is typical for him, as are the lower case words inside the coupon. Apologies for not rotating this and other “sideways” ads, as they would then be too blurred to see the lettering well at the maximum size I can use on my blog.

From OUR ARMY AT WAR #161, Dec 1965

Even before the change from Schnapp to Saladino engineered by Carmine Infantino, Gaspar was given two half-page ads in 1965, perhaps again because Ira wasn’t available. This one shows him getting a little more confident in his style choices. I like the three phrases at the top and SWINGIN’EST, also the word FIRST at the bottom in either dry brush or rough pen strokes. WHO DO WE MEAN is still not his best work, too thin for the space allowed in my opinion.

From OUR ARMY AT WAR #161, Dec 1965

The other half-pager also has some well-chosen styles and some I don’t like as much, but in general these ads work fine, and are better than most other DC house ads done by anyone other than Schnapp. These two half-pagers might have been lettered together on one page of art paper even though they appeared separately.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #346, July 1966

Another public service ad from 1966 with an appealing title. Gaspar has given the first letter of each caption bold emphasis, something he also did in story lettering at times.

From ACTION COMICS #343, Nov 1966

This half- or third-page ad done probably in the summer of 1966 might be the beginning of the new mission Gaspar received from Infantino to update and invigorate the styles used for ads at DC. It seems more confident, as if Saladino was no longer trying to fit his work in with Schnapp’s, but was striking out into new territory. The burst at upper left is full of energy and dry-brush skill, and the rest of the lettering is equally appealing. I like the tiny stars around the word STAR in the banner.

From OUR ARMY AT WAR #173, Nov 1966

Another one from the same time, but showing Gaspar’s versatility with a very different approach for a humor title. The ad copy, probably written by the editor, plays off the camp humor of the Batman TV show, but Gaspar’s fine lettering makes it work better than that. On both these late 1966 ads, the cover lettering is also by Saladino. Again, they might have been lettered on the same art paper.

From ACTION COMICS #345, Jan 1967

Another paid ad from the same vendor as the one above. Schnapp managed to make all that copy look good when he did them, Gaspar seems to be struggling a bit here, and the 8 in 238 is poorly done, too. But, if you were interested in such things, it’s all easy to read and understand.

From ACTION COMICS #345, Jan 1967

Gaspar’s final public service ad, and the series would end in this year with Jack Schiff’s retirement.

From ACTION COMICS #351, June 1967

The rest of the house ads in this article represent Gaspar gradually taking on his new role as the style setter for the company, though Schnapp did quite a few for 1967 books too. I see an obvious shift in style in Gaspar’s ads, which have more energy and excitement than what Ira was doing at the end of his career. Every one of the large words here is full of interesting lettering, and the small ones aren’t far behind.

From ACTION COMICS #351, June 1967

In this ad Gaspar is figuring out how to divide his part of the ad into sections that are easy to understand, with the caption box as a good divider. By the way, some of the images I have aren’t the best, but they’re what I could find.

From THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #72, June 1967

Here Gaspar has divided the page into three columns, an effective alternate to the previous ad. Someone in the DC production department probably assembled these and added the cover art. Putting the enlarged figure behind the lettering wasn’t a great choice.

From BATMAN #192, June 1967

Gaspar gets a bit looser on this humor title, but doesn’t hesitate to go scary on the word TERRORS. Look at all the variety in the lettering, and it has bounce and energy galore.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #167, June 1967

Saladino was on firm ground with war comics ads, as he’d been lettering stories for them since they began, often with large, effective titles. That burst is amazing, outlined with dry brush.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #358, July 1967

Gaspar is really into it on this ad, having fun with lettering and images from ad copy probably written by series writer E. Nelson Bridwell. Schnapp’s ads for this feature were much more sedate.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #168, July 1967

All these ads are half-pagers, sometimes running two on a page, sometimes paired with paid half-page ads. Still, the lettering needed to fill a quarter of a page well with a variety of styles and sizes to add interest. Gaspar has mastered it by this time, the lettering is almost more interesting than the cover. Almost.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #168, July 1967

Here I think the lettering IS more interesting than the cover, which is a typically sedate situation from editor Mort Weisinger. Note that, while Schnapp might have used his logos for Superman and Jimmy in an ad like this, Gaspar often preferred to letter everything in complementary styles, though he does give JIMMY OLSEN a similar feel to the Schnapp logo.

From ACTION COMICS #357, Dec 1967
From THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #75, Dec 1967
From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #171, Dec 1967
From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #171, Dec 1967

For these ads, Gaspar teamed with long-time DC humor artist Henry Boltinoff (brother of editor Murray). Henry had been creating humor fillers for the company since the 1940s, and perhaps someone thought his take on house ads would work. Gaspar occasionally lettered his humor fillers, and does these as well. For whatever reason, there were no more after this, though I might have missed a few. Compared to Gaspar’s attention-grabbing display lettering on his other ads, these are not as effective to me, and might have been overlooked by readers as just another Henry Boltinoff filler.

From ACTION COMICS #357, Dec 1967

I never liked the Bizarros, but this ad almost makes me want to pick up that Superman Giant. As in many of these ads, Gaspar shows he’s learned the effective use of black areas with reversed lettering as pioneered by Schnapp.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #363, Dec 1967

Finally, we see Saladino making good use of a full page ad for a change, with large, dynamic lettering and an exciting burst. The textured drop shadow on DEAD is interesting, I’m not sure how it was done. The BRAVE AND BOLD at the bottom is the Schnapp logo, but I think the other two there are Gaspar’s versions of the logos done for this ad. It ran on an inside cover, hence no color. A color version was probably also prepared and used elsewhere.

To sum up, I found 24 ads lettered by Gaspar Saladino in these years. There might be more that I’ve missed. I haven’t searched as thoroughly as I did for Schnapp by looking through EVERY published issue I could find images of online, and as we go on to the 1970s, the search is further complicated by the fact that many such resources don’t include the ad pages. If you find ads from these years you think might be lettered by Gaspar, let me know, and if they are, I’ll add them. Other articles you might enjoy are on the LOGO LINKS and COMICS CREATION pages of my blog.

2 thoughts on “GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS ADS 1952-1967

  1. Walt Grogan

    Hi, Todd– I’m loving this series. You mentioned in the article that you can tell the difference between Ira and Gaspar’s lettering styles. Could you perhaps show show some side-by-sides as a tutorial? And if not, no worries!

    Thanks again for a great series!

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