DC began making a comeback with issues having 1980 cover dates (work prepared from Fall 1979 to Fall 1980). Newsstand sales continued to decline, but they were offset by increased sales in the direct market: retailers who focused on comics and other collectibles. Newsstands still worked on the old distribution system of returnable product, so sell-through was never certain, while the direct market bought comics on a non-returnable basis, hoping to sell items eventually as back issues even if they didn’t sell right away, and betting on what they thought collectors would want long-term. Comics collectors were also now more informed about their hobby through publications like the Overstreet Price Guides and the COMICS BUYER’S GUIDE, a weekly newspaper for collectors and fans full of information on upcoming products, sales trends, and comics history. Gaspar Saladino was again being called on more often to letter house ads, still the main method of promotion for DC, and there were enough of them in books for this year for me to break them into two articles. Above is another fine war comics ad by Gaspar, one of his favorite genres.
DC was also trying to revamp long-running titles like ADVENTURE, now the home to two features, as seen here. Saladino’s lettering is full of energy and creative touches like the stick of dynamite in that word.
DC was also experimenting with crossover titles like WEIRD WAR TALES, with a foot in two genres, and as here, putting horror characters into SUPER FRIENDS. Saladino’s display lettering at the top is his fine dry-brush work.
DC was expanding their line by doing spinoffs, as here, putting Superboy in a new title of his own, knowing that LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES would do fine without him due to its strong fan base. The company had come a long way from their previous clueless attitudes about their readers, partly due to the leadership of publisher Jenette Kahn, and partly to new, younger creators and younger editors like Jack C. Harris, Len Wein and Paul Levitz, who were more in touch with what readers wanted, being fans first themselves.
Rather than focusing so much on the past, DC was now willing to look into the future, as seen in this issue and ad, with Gaspar’s fine display lettering making it all more appealing.
New young marketing specialists had been hired by DC to better connect what readers wanted with what the company was creating. A decade of DC tag lines began with the one seen at the bottom of the ad. There would be many others. Ad copy was improving, and approaching the level of Marvel’s skill in that area. The text in this ad is much more interesting and engaging that what DC was doing a few years earlier. Gaspar’s ad lettering was a major plus.
DC was no longer shy about promoting creators they thought would help sell comics, and the direct market and collectors were often more interested in creators than in characters. It’s hard to imagine DC or any company promoting “12 Tremendous Talents” a few years earlier. And isn’t this a fun ad layout by Gaspar?
DC continued to promote subscriptions, here for the Superman titles. Even with a savings discount, DC made more money this way than on distribution sales. The top display lettering here is rather sedate, I suspect it was penciled in by artist Kurt Schaffenberger, and Gaspar just inked it.
Even the larger Dollar Comics anthologies were looking for subscribers in this ad.
In this amusing ad, editor Len Wein takes on the Stan Lee huckster role for his title ADVENTURE COMICS, with great display lettering by Saladino to add excitement.
DC was promoting more genres again after focusing on superheroes, war and “mystery” for a while. THE WARLORD, a sword and sorcery title by Mike Grell, had already developed a strong following.
Gaspar could always be depended on to deliver great spooky lettering for the “mystery” titles and their ads. Here we see that Unexpected has been shrunk from Dollar Comics size back to regular size, but these titles continued to sell well enough for DC to stay with them.
On the other hand, DETECTIVE went from bi-monthly to monthly as a Dollar Comic, showing that Batman and his related characters were popular. Some features that had been cancelled elsewhere like Black Lightning were added. This ad claims that DETECTIVE was the very first monthly comic with all-new material. This is clearly untrue even just counting the earliest titles from the company that became DC Comics, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications, which began with NEW FUN as an all-new monthly in 1935, but few fans would have known that or anything about the origins of DC, who never mentioned those days.
An odd sort of math in this ad, but an interesting way to grab reader attention for this digest comic. Gaspar’s lettering is the best part, and that tagline is being drummed in.
TIME WARP was an interesting experiment from editor Joe Orlando, the first new science fiction anthology from the company in many years. I sure enjoyed working with him on the logo design, but Gaspar’s lettering on this ad is way better than anything I could have done. Sadly, it did not last long.
The top ad copy here cleverly ties the three promoted series titles into a sentence. Gaspar’s display lettering and unique layout make it more interesting, and I love the bold burst at the top.
With DETECTIVE a Dollar Comic, there were only two regular-sized Batman titles to promote in this subscription ad with intriguing ad copy and appealing art I think by Jim Aparo. I wonder if Aparo pencilled in the open lettering at the top left, it looks a bit off-model for Gaspar, so he may have just inked what was there, or Aparo did it when he inked the art.
And in the same issue is a subscription ad for DETECTIVE with more great Saladino lettering. Notice that DC is still trying to make amends for the way they USED to mail subscription copies by emphasizing that they now mail them FLAT.
The Legion was getting lots of ad attention at this time. I think DC saw them as their best competition for Marvel’s X-Men, at least that’s my guess. Certainly they had a solid fan base. Great display lettering from Saladino.
DC lured Marvel’s popular artist John Byrne over just long enough to pencil the first issue of this miniseries, but I’m sure they were delighted to put Byrne’s name on this ad. Saladino’s fanciful lettering makes it all the more interesting.
To sum up, I found 20 ads lettered by Gaspar in these issues. I will cover the rest of the year next time and do year totals then. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.