GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS ADS 1979

All images © DC Comics. From ACTION COMICS #491, Jan 1979

DC Comics was in dire straits, having been forced to cut their line of comics and staff by corporate bosses, and the upcoming Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve (released in December 1978) was something to pin hope on. This second movie contest had a cape worn by Reeve in the film as the first prize, a valuable item indeed, and the contest required readers to answer trivia questions salted across many titles, something DC hoped would help sales. Gaspar Saladino’s lettering, as always, helps sell the idea with exciting display lettering. Even though sales were down and new titles scarce in this year, DC turned to Gaspar for his skill as a company promoter.

From ACTION COMICS #493, March 1979

This is one of Gaspar’s most appealing ads of the period. He went all out on the top banner, and I think the holly at the sides is also his. One problem with the new DC Bullet is seen in the banner: the size of the outer band made it hard to get the DC the same size as words next to it unless you ran that circle behind them, which was not done here.

From ACTION COMICS #496, June 1979

You can see that there were no ads lettered by Gaspar in some months in 1979, though there were ads lettered by myself and others. That might have been a cost-saving measure, it’s hard to say. This house ad shows Saladino’s mastery of war themes. Those bursts are terrific. I don’t know if he did the background art, but he might have.

From ACTION COMICS #496, June 1979

DC was still trying to celebrate its history with issues and ads like this one, but at least the stories were new, and not reprints. Most ads for a specific issue show the entire cover, this one has only a vignette of the art.

From ACTION COMICS #496, June 1979

Wonder Woman’s live action TV show was in its last season, and perhaps the producers and DC hoped this contest would increase interest in both the show and Wonder Woman comics. The prizes were not as major, but the contest was not as difficult either. The lousy paper quality at the time made color photo reproduction a poor bet, and that’s why black and white halftones were used instead. Gaspar’s lettering makes this contest more appealing.

From ACTION COMICS #499, Sept 1979

By this time the financial success of the Superman movie (which DC would get a share of) was clear, and the restrictions by management must have been eased enough to allow DC to launch a few new Dollar Comics titles like ALL-OUT WAR and TIME WARP. Neither lasted very long. Gaspar’s fine ad lettering is greatly enhanced by excellent Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art, including the Superman face on the dollar. Sorry for the sideways ad, but if I ran it the other way, the lettering would be hard to see.

From ACTION COMICS #499, Sept 1979

Another media success for DC was Super Friends, a long-running cartoon show and an equally long-running comic. Gaspar’s balloon lettering makes this busy ad more interesting, and DC was always trying to get subscribers to their comics, as they made more money that way, even with a discount.

From THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #155, Oct 1979

DC had success with their oversized tabloid comics, and were now trying digest-sized ones that could be sold in supermarkets and other stores as well as newsstands and comics shops. Many supermarkets and big box retail stores had a rack at checkout counters for this size magazine, and Archie Comics were already there in force. I think DC did pretty well with their digests, though I never liked the small size of the comics inside, and in many cases the lettering had to be made larger to be readable on cheap newsprint paper, mangling the the original page layouts. Gaspar’s lettering here works well, it’s much more interesting than the type, and he probably did the boxing glove too.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #273, Oct 1979

Toward the end of this year, DC again made a major effort to enlist subscribers, offering 12 issues for the price of 10. The ad lettering by Saladino also mentions they are mailed in protective wrappers, and I assume no longer folded in half. This ad is for the remaining three regular-sized “mystery” titles, as DC liked to call their horror line: GHOSTS, HOUSE OF MYSTERY and SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE. Gaspar’s work on the top display lettering is great.

From SGT. ROCK #333, Oct 1979

The same deal here is offered for the three remaining regular-sized war titles: SGT. ROCK, MEN OF WAR and UNKNOWN SOLDIER. Sorry for the poor image, it’s all I could find. Ad images are getting ever more scarce for these years and forward, as most online sources stopped including them.

From ACTION COMICS #501, Nov 1979

The Justice League of America, teaming most of DC’s most popular heroes, continued to sell well, and was not promoted much, so this ad is an exception. You have to figure if someone was a fan of any one of DC’s lead heroes, they would also want to read about him in this book. The art in this ad is kind of a mish-mash of pasted-up elements, but the lettering is fine.

From ACTION COMICS # 501, Nov 1979

Another subscription ad for the remaining three regular-size Superman-related titles: SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS and DC COMICS PRESENTS. The art by Kurt Schaffenberger gives it a nostalgic look, but the lettering adds excitement in my opinion.

From ACTION COMICS #501, Nov 1979

Madame Xanadu from DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE was also folded into the UNEXPECTED Dollar Comic, as seen here, and she and the other horror hosts such as Cain, Abel, Destiny and the Three Witches all stayed around for a while. About ten years later many were included in Neil Gaiman’s popular revamp of THE SANDMAN. I love Madame Xanadu’s balloon shape style by Saladino.

From ACTION COMICS #502, Dec 1979

Short phrases allow for very large display lettering, always a good way to attract reader attention, as seen in this Digest ad. I doubt Saladino did the hand art.

From ACTION COMICS #502, Dec 1979

The Green Lantern/Green Arrow team had begun with ground-breaking stories in 1970, but perhaps sales were falling and DC thought new interest could be generated by making this a solo series again. I think it worked pretty well, and sales must have increased some, as the book continued for many years. It’s interesting to see the silver age artist of the character, Gil Kane, being promoted for his cover on this issue, but he was no longer involved in the book with this one exception. Saladino’s lettering provides a clear path for the eyes through this ad from upper left to lower right.

From ACTION COMICS #502, Dec 1979

Here we see DC trying to increase sales by splitting Superboy off into his own new title, and making ADVENTURE an anthology again with two features, including nostalgic favorite Plastic Man. The Legion of Super-Heroes had a strong fan base and no longer needed Superboy’s support. This busy ad is divided by Gaspar’s layout into three distinct sections that all work together.

From ACTION COMICS #502, Dec 1979

The original run of SWAMP THING by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson was already a legendary fan favorite, and DC reprinted it many times, including in some Dollar Comics issues like this one. It’s surprising that Gaspar did not do more of his horror style in the ad lettering, but of course his Swamp Thing logo is there.

To sum up, I found just 17 ads lettered by Saladino in books with 1979 cover dates. There would be a higher amount in 1980. Other articles in this series, and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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