GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS ADS 1977

All images © DC Comics and Marvel Comics respectively. From ACTION COMICS #467, Jan 1977

In books cover-dated 1977, DC continued to promote their tabloid-size comics and to sell them by mail. This is the third one featuring Rudolph, a character which DC had had the comic book rights to for a long time, but hadn’t used for many years before that. I never saw this comic, but I admire the promotion of the poster inside as the BIGGEST ever seen in a comic. That could be so, as it was folded twice to fit into a tabloid size book. In this year, Gaspar regained some of his house ad business from DC, continued to do some for Marvel, and also landed a few paid ads, so his ad numbers are up.

From ACTION COMICS #467, Jan 1977

An ad lettered by Saladino, I’d say, for Ivan Snyder’s new comics merchandise company. It was working at Marvel, and Ivan expanded to include DC. I don’t know how much of his inventory was commissioned by him and how much was from other vendors, but there must have been a market, and I’m sure he paid royalties to the companies on everything he did himself. Some of the ad copy is amusing, like “One size fits all, even you!”

From KID COLT OUTLAW #214, Jan 1977

As I explained in my series of articles about Gaspar’s logos, it becomes harder at this point to identify some of his uncredited work for Marvel because of the similarities to letterer Jim Novak. Novak began working at Marvel in 1975, and like many of us letterers, he admired and copied the work of Saladino, but Jim’s work was the closest of any. Novak even imitated some of Saladino’s quirks and style points like his unusual block letter R shape. This ad looks like Gaspar’s work, and I think it makes sense that they would keep him on these Simon & Schuster ads, and there are a few others I feel sure about, but I can’t really be as certain about some other ads, they could be lettered by Novak.

From BATMAN #284, Feb 1977

DC ad copy writers definitely had explosions on the mind at this time. I like the exploding letters in the word here. This is an early use of the DC Bullet symbol designed for new DC publisher Jenette Kahn by the Milton Glaser studio. You can see how it relates to the one by Michael Uslan, but the solid ring with four stars and the thin outlines around everything set it apart. Those thin outlines often did not print well, as here, but I do think the design is an improvement, and the best version since Ira Schnapp’s bullet from the late 1940s. It would soon be appearing on every DC cover in the upper left, usually set at a jaunty angle as seen on the JLA cover here.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #468, March 1977

There isn’t a lot of Saladino lettering here, just the blurb at upper left and the last three lines on the right, though he might also have lettered HOT-LINE. The Direct Currents logo is by Ira Schnapp. I never tried calling this number, but I suppose some fans enjoyed it. At least DC was trying to connect fans with creators, something Marvel did much better to this point mainly through their “Bullpen Bulletins” page.

From ACTION COMICS #470, April 1977

This was a new format that Jenette Kahn instigated. Previously, DC had been publishing 100-page comics and Giants filled with reprints, but Jenette thought there was room (and budget) for larger comics like these with all new material. I think it was a smart move, and the branding as Dollar Comics was, too. Fans were willing to pay a little more for new material by this time, in my opinion, after so many years of reprints. Gaspar’s lettering sells it all well.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #217, April 1977

Another Ivan Snyder ad for Marvel that I think is lettered by Saladino. I don’t know that anyone else would have thought of that upper case D in ODD, and the rest is all familiar work by him. These ads are copy heavy and not as appealing as house ads, but they served their purpose.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #451, May 1977

Someone was a bit obsessed with the idea of 2nd here, or perhaps just desperate for something to make this ad interesting. The ad layout seems too open, as if it was rearranged from the one Gaspar did originally.

From ACTION COMICS #472, June 1977

This was a strange book from Steve Ditko, ahead of its time I would say, and it did not last long, eight issues, but later had a long run at Vertigo by other creators, and more versions since then. I wrote about the book’s logo HERE and in my article on Saladino’s 1977 logos. I think that the dot shading at least was done by DC production staffer Bill Morse, but I’m not sure if he designed the letters, and he wasn’t either when I spoke to him about it ten years ago. The rest of the lettering is certainly by Gaspar.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #218, June 1977

Hostess cup cakes ads were running in all the comics at this time, and each company prepared the ones used in their books, as far as I can tell. So is this one lettered by Gaspar or by Jim Novak? I’m not sure, but I’m going to say Gaspar. I could be wrong.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #218, June 1977

An Ivan Snyder ad that I’m more sure is lettered by Saladino due to small clues like the lower case THE in the coupon.

From ACTION COMICS #473, July 1977

All the display lettering in this ad is by Saladino except for ON SALE MAY 5TH, which was probably added by someone else when the date changed. DC was pushing things calling this a novel. Yes, it was tabloid size, so giant on that level, but nowhere near novel length, and comprised of four separate stories anyway. There have been comics called graphic novels at this length of 76 pages, but that term was not yet common.

From ACTION COMICS #473, July 1977

Lots of fine display lettering in this busy ad that’s more like ones Ira Schnapp had to letter. Jack Kirby had only been gone from DC for a few years, and DC was already returning to his Fourth World creations because fans loved them. They’ve been revisiting Kirby’s creations ever since.

From ACTION COMICS #474, Aug 1977

A major motion picture version of Superman was in the works, and both fans and DC were excited about it. This contest was meant to increase that excitement, though to enter you were supposed to clip coupons out of a bunch of comics, not something I would have done. Two fans did, and were given non-speaking appearances in the film in the scene where a young Clark is on the Smallville football team. As contests go, the prizes for this one were pretty impressive.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #219, Aug 1977

Another Hostess ad that could have been lettered by Jim Novak, but I’m calling it for Gaspar. Since Jim is no longer with us to weigh in I can’t be sure, but that’s my opinion.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #219, Aug 1977

And an Ivan Snyder ad that looks like Saladino lettering to me. The inclusion of the 1977 price guide shows how comics collecting was becoming more standardized and more of a business.

From ACTION COMICS #476, Oct 1977

A few people at DC had been ardent proponents of public service ads, with the main one being former editor Jack Schiff, but not many had been done since he retired. Jenette Kahn brought back some of that good publicity with ads like this one beautifully lettered by Saladino. Note that DC is now a Warner Communications Company.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #220, Oct 1977

One more Marvel ad from Ivan Snyder that I think was lettered by Gaspar. After this I believe his ads were handled by the Joe Kubert School, and I think someone there did the lettering, using Gaspar’s work as a model. Not bad, but not as good as Saladino.

From ACTION COMICS #477, Nov 1977

While John Workman and others were doing house ads at DC at this time, Gaspar did most of the ones for tabloids, perhaps reinforcing his image as DC’s best letterer being tapped for their best products. And finally they were beginning to do all new superhero stories in tabloid form. This is likely the first time DC’s fine new artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez saw his name being promoted in an ad.

From ACTION COMICS #478, Dec 1977

I don’t know who did the creepy border art for this ad, it’s not by Saladino, and the book logo is by John Workman, but Gaspar did the other lettering. Strangely, he did not go for his usual horror look.

From ACTION COMICS #478, Dec 1977

Two more tabloids with fine promotion from Saladino. That Rudolph one was the last for the character. I joined the DC staff in the summer of 1977, and one of my early freelance jobs was doing inking and lettering on the activity pages for it under the guidance of the great Sheldon Mayer. I had no idea of his importance to comics history at the time.

From KID COLT OUTLAW #221, Dec 1977

This Marvel subscription ad looks like it’s lettered by Saladino to me rather than Jim Novak, but it’s a tough call. Marvel had also reached the conclusion that subscriptions made money for them, and they were happy to promote the idea.

To sum up, I found 22 ads I think were lettered by Gaspar in books with 1977 cover dates, a step up from the previous two years. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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