GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS ADS 1973-1974

All images © DC Comics except as noted. From ACTION COMICS #420, Jan 1973

In addition to doing plenty of work for DC Comics, including logos, cover lettering, story pages, and house ads, in late 1971 Gaspar also began working for Marvel Comics. At first he did mainly logos for them, then some story lettering, and in 1973 he began also doing a few of their house ads. Marvel had not used many house ads to that point, relying instead on their “Bullpen Bulletins” page of news and information in every comic to promote their products, but I’m guessing that once they had Saladino to turn to, the kind of house ads he was doing for DC became more appealing. There were never a lot of them from Marvel, and others like John Costanza also did some, but it was another income source for Gaspar that I’m sure he was happy to have. At DC, Gaspar was now only doing some of the house ad lettering, with some being done by production staffers like Joe Letterese, and others made using only type and assembled in the production department. So, even while picking up some additional ad work at Marvel, Gaspar’s total ad output was in decline. The ad above has Saladino lettering at the top, including a fine dry-brush version of the book’s title, but also some type below that, and the layout seems odd, as if it was restructured from a different sized ad, which may be so.

From BATMAN #248, April 1973

Here’s an example of the way DC often reused Saladino’s ad lettering when they could. This ad ran in 1971 titles, and here the 71 is changed to 73. This doesn’t count as a new ad.

From SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWING COMMANDOS #111, June 1973, image © Marvel

The first Marvel house ad lettered by Saladino that I’ve found is this one, and he also did the logo. I wonder if any readers of both Marvel and DC noticed the similarity in ad styles? Marvel’s ad copy was better written in my opinion, even if it was largely hype. At least it has appealing and slightly funny descriptions of everything, with a generous sprinkling of adjectives.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #216, Aug 1973

At DC, a new format was being tried, tabloid-size comics. At about twice the dimensions of a typical comic, they brought an immersive experience to readers that had not been available before, even in the golden 1940s when comics were somewhat larger than in the 1970s. Gaspar’s lettering does a fine job of selling this one. Marvel would soon follow suit.

From GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #179, Sept 1973

In the romance line, DC continued to try to lure readers to their female superheroes (or in Lois Lane’s case, superhero girlfriend). This is kind of an odd mix of Saladino lettering and type, something that was becoming more common at DC. The block of type under the open character names would have looked better hand-lettered, and perhaps Gaspar did something there that was replaced with type. At least the art is full of action.

From ACTION COMICS #428, Oct 1973

One of the young creators being given work at DC was Howard Chaykin, and his creation Iron-Wolf had a tryout in the short-lived series WEIRD WORLDS. Again we see type (the black text in the red box) mixed with Saladino lettering. I don’t know who created the Iron Wolf logo, it could have been Chaykin, but I think the large version here is by Saladino.

From ACTION COMICS #428, Oct 1973

Another ad mixing type and Saladino lettering. KING-SIZE is his, and PLUS, and WATCH FOR IT! The rest is headline type from the headline machine in DC’s production department.

From THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #109, Oct 1973

I think this page has three third-page ads, each could be used separately. The SHAZAM ad is all Saladino lettering, the other two have only a small amount of his display work and are otherwise type. I’m not sure if this was a cost-cutting measure or DC trying to appear more mainstream, but to my eye the SHAZAM ad is much more interesting than the other two. While I will count this as three ads for Gaspar, they may have all been done on one sheet of art paper and billed as a single ad in this case.

From OUR ARMY AT WAR #261, Oct 1973

A specific ad for these two issues with fine display lettering by Saladino.

From ACTION COMICS #429, Nov 1973

This ad also looks like it was rearranged from a different format, leaving too much open space around the lettering. Perhaps it was originally a half-pager with a larger cover, and is now a third-pager.

From ACTION COMICS #429, Nov 1973

This tabloid ad has an interesting comparison to a regular-sized comic. I’m not sure how accurate the images are, but as you can see, the tabloids were a lot bigger. Almost all this lettering is reused from the previous tabloid ad seen above, and I will not count it as a new ad for Saladino.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #430, Nov 1973

A rare case of DC promoting a romance comic in their regular line, but they were promoting most of the new 100-pagers, all full of reprints. Both the cover itself and the ad have a mix of Saladino display lettering and type.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #430, Nov 1973

DC’s line of comics licensed from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. under the editorship of Joe Kubert brought them to my attention as comics characters for the first time, though I had read many of the Burroughs books. I thought they were excellent. Gaspar’s lettering here is great, too.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #430, Nov 1973

Another ad that seems to be revised from a larger one in the same way as the Supergirl ad above. Perhaps they were once each a half page, and are now each a third-page to fill spaces that needed an ad. The layout and smaller size lettering makes them less effective.

From BATMAN #253, Nov 1973

Here’s what Gaspar would do when he was commissioned to letter a third-page ad, and the space is used much better. This rounded lettering is perfectly appropriate for the subject, and shows how Gaspar tailored his work to match each assignment, something less creative letterers did not do as well.

From FALLING IN LOVE #143, Nov 1973

Another well-structured third-page ad for the romance line. Lots of ad text, but it’s all clear and divided by that black zig-zag.

From FALLING IN LOVE #143, Nov 1973

This line ad for the romance titles shows that there were now only five titles, and two: YOUNG LOVE and GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES have gone back to the Ira Schnapp logos, at least in this ad. Another mix of Saladino lettering and headline type. Again, this ad seems a bit desperate, promoting the advice columns.

From GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #180, Nov 1973

Aha! As I suspected, those third-page ads for Supergirl and Wonder Woman shown earlier were reworked from this ad, and I’m sure this is how Gaspar prepared it. Not a new ad, but I thought it was worth showing. It’s so much better than the reworked versions.

From ACTION COMICS #430, Dec 1973

Another tabloid ad, and this one gives the actual size: 10 & 1/8 by 13 & 3/4 inches. Comics at the time were usually just slightly larger than 7 by 10 inches, so these tabloids were about 135% larger. Note that DC was finally trying to appeal to collectors by sending these in a “special crush-proof mailer.” Even with that more expensive mailing method, DC was still making more on these than newsstand copies by bypassing the percentages taken by the distributor and retailer.

From ACTION COMICS #431, Jan 1974

The lettering at the bottom of this ad is the same as the previous one, but there’s enough new lettering to count it as another ad for Gaspar. I’m not sure if the use of XMAS was a deliberate way to sidestep any religious connotation, or simply a space saver by Saladino.

From ACTION COMICS #433, March 1974

Again, about half the lettering on this tabloid ad is repeated, but there’s enough new work to call it a new ad for Saladino in my opinion. I wonder if he did that bat silhouette at upper right? At upper left is the new DC Bullet amended by Michael Uslan to include the motto “The Line of DC Super-Stars,” with two stars at the sides. I think this was the inspiration for the Milton Glaser studio revamp of a few years later.

From SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #118, March 1974, image © Marvel

I might well have missed some Marvel house ads by Gaspar, as many of the scans I have access to online from these years don’t include ad pages. This is the second one I’ve discovered. The first line at upper left is headline type, the rest is Gaspar’s work.

From ACTION COMICS #434, April 1974

Less than half the copy on this tabloid ad is new lettering by Saladino, the top banner is headline type, and some of the rest is repeated. I’m not actually sure the new lettering is by Gaspar, it might be by Joe Letterese or someone else in the DC production department, so I won’t count this as a new Saladino ad.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #224, April 1974

This is kind of an elaborate next issue blurb, but also a house ad promoting a 100-page issue of the series. Lots of great Saladino lettering and just a small amount of type in the circles.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #181, April 1974, image © Marvel

Fine ad lettering by Gaspar here, and Marvel must have felt they got their money’s worth. Note the reversed areas in the black bad shape of the second half, something done with a negative photostat by Marvel’s production department.

From CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #29, May 1974, image © Marvel

Plenty of ad copy here, and if DC wasn’t making full use of Saladino’s ad talents, Marvel was. The language was much more interesting, too.

From OUR ARMY AT WAR #269, June 1974

By comparison, DC’s ad copy was usually stodgy and dull, though Gaspar did his best with it.

From CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #30, July 1974, image © Marvel

Again, this ad copy is so much more fun to read, even if you have no interest in the subject matter. Marvel’s ad copy writer had captured the Stan Lee style of humor and hype mixed with clever language.

From THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #114, Aug 1974

By comparison, dull throughout. Gaspar’s lettering is better than the words in it, though I’m not sure the heavy outline around BATMAN works.

From ACTION COMICS #439, Sept 1974

This ad for two more tabloid titles mentions they are swamped with mail orders. If true, that suggests comics retailers were often not ordering and displaying these large magazines, and mail order was the only sure way to get them. Also of interest is the blurb about the “spectacular oil painting of Superman never before published” on the cover of the Superman tabloid. This was a photographic reproduction of the huge Superman painting by pulp artist H.J. Ward commissioned by DC co-owner Harry Donenfeld to decorate his office in the early 1940s. When Donenfeld left the company in the 1960s, he took the painting with him, and its whereabouts were unknown at this time, but a good photograph had been taken of it, good enough to work on the cover of the tabloid, and later a larger printed reproduction hung in the office of DC’s president. The version seen in this ad is a line drawing, not the painting, which wouldn’t have reproduced well at this size and on newsprint.

To sum up, I found 28 ads lettered by Saladino in these two years, more in 1973 than in 1974. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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