GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS ADS July-Dec 1968

All images © DC Comics. From ACTION COMICS #365, July 1968

As we continue with the house ads of Gaspar Saladino in books cover-dated July to December 1968, we see here how less ad copy made room for larger display lettering, something Gaspar took full advantage of. By this time, ads lettered by Gaspar’s predecessor as DC’s style setter, Ira Schnapp, had nearly vanished, and Ira had left the company, so the full responsibility for DC’s promotion in ads, logos and on covers was in Saladino’s hands. I feel he did a fine job despite the large increase in his workload. After working at DC mainly as a story letterer for almost 20 years, I think Gaspar was eager to show he had what it took to succeed in his new more important role.

From ACTION COMICS #365, July 1968

Not all of Gaspar’s ad layouts were equally successful, though. Here the giant arrow seems to recede at the top because of the perspective letters of SUPERMAN, but it goes in front of the two covers EXCEPT for the Superman logo and Superman’s hand, then BEHIND the lower cover at the bottom. I doubt readers spent any time trying to figure out this odd mixture of contrary overlapping, and it reads fine. I do like the perspective on SUPERMAN.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #370, July 1968

Someone writing ad copy noticed the alphabetical nature of these three new titles, and it made for a clever ad. Again, I apologize for keeping sideways ads like this as is, mostly, because if I rotated them the lettering would be hard to see at the size I can use here.

From AQUAMAN #40, July 1968

DC continues its tease for this new character, now with his name included, and I love Gaspar’s version here on two lines with a small second A. Much of this ad is a repeat, but I am calling it a new ad because more than half the lettering is new.

From AQUAMAN #70, July 1968

The layout of this ad is brilliant. The triangular lettering areas point toward that amazing art, and the small word balloon makes it all the more dramatic. The ad would have been effective with only the word balloon and no triangles, but I think is improved by the rest of the lettering, and of course it tells readers where to find the story.

From BATMAN #203, July 1968

This ad for BATMAN #204 might be considered an elaborate next issue blurb, and it probably only appeared in this one issue, but Gaspar’s fine lettering makes it shine. This was from a time when 80-Page Giant issues came out in the same month as regular ones with new stories, hence the large promotion. I don’t know that Robbins and Novick ever received better press.

From FALLING IN LOVE #100, July 1968

DC’s romance line was not selling as well as it had in the past, probably due to the changing times, and some titles had taken on continuing soap opera storylines like this one to hold on to readers. If you imagine this melodramatic ad copy being read by a TV soap opera announcer, it works fine.

From SECRET HEARTS #129, July 1968

Some romance titles kept the traditional anthology format with new characters and situations in every issue, like this one, for readers who preferred that kind of reading material or didn’t want to come into the middle of a longer story. Gaspar’s ad lettering is deftly divided into three sections through the use of black.

From ACTION COMICS #366, Aug 1968

DC editors were mostly old men now with little understanding or connection to the kids and teens they were trying to sell comics to. They tried, lamely, to use the language of the day, but the stories it promotes are all old ones with little relevance to 1968. Gaspar’s lettering is the most modern thing about it.

From ACTION COMICS #366, Aug 1968

Here’s a paid ad lettered by Saladino, a job that would probably have gone to Ira Schnapp a few months earlier. I bet the Tootsie Roll makers were pretty happy with it. Gaspar might even have done the figure art, but that’s a guess. He certainly does a good job imitating the logo.

From YOUNG ROMANCE #155, Aug 1968

At this time, DC decided to start promoting their female superheroes in romance titles, beginning with this relaunch of Wonder Woman. Romance readers might well have gotten the news first. The back view of Diana is a clever tease, I bet some readers went looking for the issue to find out more. Gaspar’s lettering also does a fine job of provoking curiosity.

From BEWARE THE CREEPER #3, Sept 1968

It’s all about the black shapes and the circles in this ad layout, as well as the ad copy of course, but that’s pretty obvious stuff. Saladino’s treatment of APE is impressive.

From SECRET HEARTS #130, Sept 1968

Gaspar takes a shot at some calligraphic script lettering in this ad, and I think it works fine, though the curls make it a bit hard to read in places, and the reverse to yellow on black fills in the pen work in a few spots. Is the ad copy at the top referencing The Byrds’ hit version of the Pete Seeger song “Turn, Turn, Turn” from 1965? Could be.

From ACTION COMICS #368, Oct 1968

I think Gaspar was trying to update the venerable DC bullet symbol in his logo for the top title, and he should have used the same shapes in the ad lettering. The D is pretty close, but the C, more like the Schnapp version, seems a bad match. Otherwise, I like this ad’s layout and text.

From ACTION COMICS #369, Nov 1968

There’s no denying that the three stories promoted here were great ones, and I’m sure this reprint was a delight for readers who hadn’t already seen them, but DC continued to put much of their focus on past triumphs when new ideas and projects were needed if they were going to match the successes of Marvel. Of course, Marvel did plenty of recent reprints too. Both companies were taking advantage of the scarcity of older comics at the time, but comics shops with back issues were beginning to appear for those who wanted to find them.

From ACTION COMICS #369, Nov 1968

Heroes becoming victims, heroes helpless to help themselves, heroes dying. These were the themes DC thought would sell, but they undercut the very idea of heroism. I’m not sure it was a good way to go. And this ad and these comics look back to the overblown and overwritten ones of the past rather than searching for new ideas. Gaspar’s lettering at least brought some visual excitement.

From ACTION COMICS #369, Nov 1968

What DC saw as a great new idea was Batman killing Robin, for instance. So NEW it had to be lettered twice!

From ADVENTURE COMICS #374, Nov 1968

This cleverly designed and appealing ad tries hard to sell a venerable western title (TOMAHAWK) and a new one (ANTHRO) as great new ideas, but neither would last much longer, despite some fine cover art.

From AQUAMAN #42, Nov-Dec 1968

DC was trying new things, but some of them, like this title from Joe Simon, were too odd to attract readers, and misfired on both title and ad language. The current understanding of the word “geek” is much more positive than what it had at the time, a repellent sideshow freak.

From AQUAMAN #42, Nov-Dec 1968

This film noir crime character seems a more likely property to find a DC readership, but it only made one SHOWCASE appearance. I love this ad and logo by Saladino, but it took until 1998 for a revamp of the character to have some success.

From THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #109, Nov-Dec 1968

A larger ad for this series with the same ad copy, but new lettering. The extra cover corners on the right seem like filler, but perhaps Gaspar had no better ideas for that space. Saladino’s psychedelic styles are in evidence in the ad copy and on the cover, and I think they work well.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #381, Nov 1968

You have to at least admire DC for promoting these new titles with effective house ads, even though sales were not good enough to keep them going for long. Too bad, as both The Creeper and Angel and the Ape were appealing efforts.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #375, Dec 1968

Here’s a signal of changing times, a DC ad promoting Bat Lash based on its reception at a comics convention, something DC had barely acknowledged to this point. They were obviously grasping at any positive feedback on their new titles, and this was another that deserved better sales than it received.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #375, Dec 1968

Meanwhile, DC’s most famous heroes were on the run from a dog in this ad, and far from heroic on the cover. How could this compete with Marvel’s mighty heroes and cosmic villains? It couldn’t.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #375, Dec 1968

Instead, DC chose to focus on the most banal and silly ideas from their past, as in this title. Wonderful lettering by Saladino almost makes this comic seem appealing. Almost.

From THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #81, Dec 1968-Jan 1969

DC seemed set on tragedy and despair as themes in some of their comics, like this one. Gaspar certainly did his part to up the melodrama, but was it what readers wanted to see? Not me, at least. One can’t help feeling the despair of the editors trying desperately to make progress against their rival, Marvel comics.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #382, Dec 1968

And if all else fails, let’s threaten to kill our characters. That’ll bring readers in. Right. Clearly new talent and new ideas were needed at DC, but the old timers on staff weren’t the ones to supply them. Things would turn around in the future, but for now, DC seemed to be in a death spiral.

To sum up, I found 27 ads by Saladino in the second half of 1968. Adding the 27 from the first half of the year, that’s 54, a little more than one per week, lots of time-consuming creative work for Gaspar, and many fine examples of his lettering skills. More to come. Other articles in this series, and more you might enjoy, are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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