GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS ADS 1975-1976

Images © Marvel Comics and DC Comics respectively. From CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #33, Jan 1975

Comics cover-dated in these two years again saw fewer house ads lettered by Saladino than the previous two, and about half were for Marvel Comics. The one above is full of great Gaspar lettering that’s not only informative, but fun to read. Marvel was way ahead of DC in that area. At DC, John Workman was hired in 1975, and house ads lettered by him began appearing in 1976. There were also some that used only type and some by others. Gaspar was no longer the sole style-setter for DC, as he had been from 1968 to about 1972, but his contributions and talents were still valued and turned to regularly. Using others to create house ads might have been a cost-cutting measure for DC, it’s hard to say, but Marvel was happy to pick up some of the slack. Note that this ad has a coupon going to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, not Marvel, so this was kind of a paid ad, but probably part of Marvel’s self-promotion.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #191, Feb 1975

Another great ad by Saladino for Marvel full of appealing display lettering divided into eye-catching shapes. This was a tabloid-size comic, Marvel had followed DC’s lead with those. They’re advertising the page size as 10 by 14 inches, a little larger than DC, but it seems to me all the tabloids were the same size. I no longer have any Marvel ones to measure, though.

From CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #34, March 1975

Marvel had also started a merchandising company run by Ivan Snyder that sold all kinds of non-comics Marvel items like these posters and belt buckles. Lots of ad text here, and it’s not as entertaining as other Marvel house ads we’ve looked at, but Gaspar does a fine job of selling the products.

From ACTION COMICS #448, June 1975

At DC, they were also promoting their tabloid comics heavily, usually a sign they were making money from them. In fact, they had widened the tabloid scope to include stories from the Bible, as seen here. I could be wrong, but I suspect the Famous First Edition of ALL-STAR COMICS #3 with the first appearance of the Justice Society of America was probably a better seller. Lots of fine ad lettering by Saladino, you get the feeling that even if he’s doing less ads, he’s working harder on them.

From THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #120, June 1975

More tabloids from DC, not quite as much lettering on this one. DC was still including mail order coupons for all their tabloids, suggesting retailers were not selling many, but that’s a guess. As a reader, I found much of the 1940s reprints disappointing as far as the reproduction of the art goes. I didn’t learn until much later that DC did not have any film negatives from most of that decade, and had to cut pages out of the old comics, bleach out as much of the color as possible, make photostats, and then have artists retouch the art and lettering as best they could to make it readable and viewable. Printing methods of the time could not reproduce photographs of the unretouched pages well enough to satisfy DC, so they went to those draconian methods to get something they liked. Much of the retouch work was inferior to the original printed pages, and far inferior to the original artwork, but most of that was long gone. Todays reprints on better paper and with more accurate reproduction can do much better with high-quality scans of old comics pages, or one can simply view them on a computer as scans and enjoy the original work more. To really see old comics art at its best, look for the few golden age survivors on sites like Heritage Auctions.

From CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #36, July 1975

I never ordered anything from Marvel Merchandising, but these ads are appealing to me because of the lettering by Saladino. At least they are now, I probably skipped right past them at the time.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #196, July 1975

A few months after than that earlier Marvel tabloid ad, they are now also promoting it as a mail-order item, suggesting that retailers were not selling many. You can hardly blame them, shelf space was always at a premium in any store, and these took up a lot of it. Many stores probably did not have a rack large enough, and even if they did, they made more profit on other magazines that were priced higher, most likely. I love Gaspar’s BARBARIAN at the top of this ad, but all the lettering is large and appealing.

From CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #37, Sept 1975

Stan Lee’s pseudo-mystical language style is all over this tabloid ad, in the usual over-the-top hype manner, and Gaspar’s lettering and layout makes it all work.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #442, Nov 1975

This was the first joint publication of Marvel and DC Comics. I can’t find an account of the details of how it came to be, but I think Marvel had prepared the book only to discover that DC had the comic book rights, so the companies came to an agreement, and DC did the sales and marketing. The partnership of rivals must have been a success, as it was tried a few more times in the coming years. Gaspar Saladino not only lettered the ad, he lettered the book under a pseudonym and also designed the logo.

From SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #130, Nov 1975

Leave it to Marvel to promote posters with the lovely word Pandemonium! Leave it to Saladino to make it exciting. I also admire Marvel for listing the artist on each poster, something DC would not have done then, I think. Around this time, Marvel sold their merchandising operation to the man who had been running it, Ivan Snyder. Snyder would soon be running his own ads in both Marvel and DC comics for comics-related merchandise, and would eventually open a line of shops named Heroes World.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #202, Jan 1976

These books authored by Stan Lee and published by Simon & Schuster not only helped promote Marvel’s comics, but gave them legitimacy in the wider world. The calendars were popular, too. It’s possible Simon & Schuster contracted Gaspar to do these ads for them, but I think it’s more likely it was all handled by Marvel. Certainly the ad copy is in the Marvel style.

From ACTION COMICS #456, Feb 1976

DC Comics had a long history with Rudolph, and putting him into a tabloid made sense. Brand new art by Sheldon Mayer might have been sitting around for a while since the previous comic-size RUDOLPH had been cancelled after 1962, or maybe it was truly new for this book, and a fine use of veteran Mayer’s talent. The other tabloid was equally festive, and DC did not shy away from the word Christmas. Saladino shows in HOLIDAY TREAT that he could do Old English almost as well as Ira Schnapp when needed.

From ACTION COMICS #461, July 1976

Two more tabloids in a fine Saladino ad. Bicentennial products were all the rage at the time, Marvel also had one in tabloid size by Jack Kirby, now returned to Marvel. Calling the JLA the WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHEROES presages the newspaper strip of that name that would be starting in a few years.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #447, Sept 1976

You might think from these ads that DC was only promoting their tabloid comics, but there were ads for others, just not ones lettered by Saladino. John Workman did some nice ones. On this page, the blue plate is off-register, making the LEGION logo hard to read in both places. It was not a great design by Gaspar in any case.

From ACTION COMICS #464, Oct 1976

As you can see, DC was once again moving into comic book versions of TV shows. It had worked well for them in the 1950s and 1960s, and they were hoping it would work now. SHAZAM had already been running for a while, but all of these were successful except ISIS, which ran only eight issues, and well promoted by this Saladino ad. The DC TV logo at upper right only lasted about a month before being replaced by a better one.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #448, Nov 1976

After receiving only a few ad lettering commissions from DC in early 1976, more came out from Gaspar in comics from the last three months. This is another copy-heavy ad trying to cover a lot of bases at once, and reviving an old DC ad motto from the distant past. It was also in the current DC Bullet symbol, but Gaspar makes it interesting and avoids confusion and clutter.

From ACTION COMICS #466, Dec 1976

Did DC see Marvel’s calendars from Simon & Schuster and decide to do their own? I wouldn’t be surprised, the two companies in the same city kept a close eye on each other. DC produced and distributed their calendar themselves by mail order, but it was probably also in stores. The ad copy here is attempting to mimic the Marvel hype style, and does it pretty well, and for a change, DC is actually listing the artists. Marvel had been crediting artists since the early 1960s, while DC usually did not, but the dam on that was breaking, and writer and artist credits were becoming more common in the comics by this time.

From ACTION COMICS #466, Dec 1976

This is an ad from Ivan Snyder’s new comics-related merchandise company, originally named The Superhero Shop, later Heroes World. Early on he continued to have Gaspar letter some of them. Later he subcontracted his ads to the Joe Kubert School and I believe they were lettered by Kubert students.

To sum up, I found just 18 ads lettered by Gaspar in books with 1975-76 cover dates. I might have missed some, as the online scans I’m using for reference are now including ad pages less often, but Gaspar’s ad lettering was definitely lower in these years. Note that, while Gaspar did lots of logos for the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard line of comics, I found no house ads by him there. Saladino’s ad lettering would pick up some in 1977 titles. More articles in this series and others you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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