GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1963-July 1968

Gaspar Saladino, 1950s, photo courtesy of Lisa Weinreb.

Gaspar Saladino was born in Brooklyn, NY on September 1st, 1927. As a child, he was a fan of comic strips like “Secret Agent X-9” by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond. Gaspar was also a comics reader and budding artist, confirmed by a drawing of an airplane published in FUNNY PAGES Volume 3 #8 dated October 1939 when Gaspar was eleven. For that image and more details about his life and career, see THIS article on my blog.

For high school, Gaspar enrolled in Manhattan’s High School of Industrial Arts (later renamed the High School of Art and Design), commuting to school by subway from Brooklyn. Many of its students became comics professionals, including Neal Adams, Jack Adler, Frank Giacoia, Joe Giella, Dick Giordano, Sol Harrison, Carmine Infantino, GIl Kane, Bernard Krigstein, Joe Kubert, Joe Orlando, John Romita Sr., and Alex Toth. Of these, Gaspar reported in an interview with Kirk Kimball, “Joe Kubert I knew of. And I knew Carmine and Gil Kane. I knew Joe Orlando. Joe was in my grade. Alex Toth was in the grade below me.” Joe Giella was also a classmate of Gaspar. While he was in high school, some of the New York comics studios employed students, and Gaspar did a little inking for Lloyd Jacquet Studios, but described them as “occasional one or two-pagers.” Gaspar graduated in the class of 1945, and was then drafted. He spent two years in the Air Force serving as a public relations staffer under General Douglas MacArthur as part of the U.S. occupation force in Japan.

In 1947, Gaspar returned to Brooklyn and was soon out pounding the pavement looking for work. His original direction was toward fashion design, but he found little work in that field. Finally, in 1949 he put together some sample comics pages that he drew, lettered and inked, and took them to National Comics (now DC Comics) where the Production Manager Sol Harrison, a graduate of the High School of Industrial Arts himself, was known to be friendly to other graduates. Several of Gaspar’s former schoolmates were already working for the company. Harrison showed the samples around to the editors, and Julius Schwartz expressed interest. Julie said that, while he didn’t like Gaspar’s art enough to hire him for that, he did like his lettering, and offered him regular lettering work, which Gaspar was happy to get. Gaspar worked as a freelancer, but in the DC offices in his early years. A series of articles beginning HERE detail his first work for DC. He lettered countless stories for many titles, primarily ones edited by Julie Schwartz and Robert Kanigher, mainly western, war and science fiction titles at first. When Schwartz began reviving DC’s golden age super-heroes like The Flash, Green Lantern and The Atom in the late 1950s, Gaspar also lettered many of their stories.

Gaspar worked concurrently with Ira Schnapp from late 1949 until Ira left the company in 1968. Schnapp was the company’s go-to person for logos, cover lettering and house ads, but Gaspar filled in for Ira here and there during those years in the latter two areas. When Carmine Infantino became Art Director and later Editor-In-Chief at DC around 1967, he began shifting that high profile work from Schnapp to Saladino, hoping to give the company’s image a fresh look. Gaspar responded to the challenge with fine, creative, energetic lettering and design, and when Schnapp left the company, Gaspar continued in that role as the go-to person for logos, cover lettering and house ads.

Like Ira Schnapp, Gaspar did most of his prolific lettering and design work for DC Comics, but unlike Schnapp, Saladino also became a regular letterer and logo designer for Marvel Comics beginning in 1971, and he designed all the logos for the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard line in 1974-75. That work, as best I can identify it, is included here. It’s likely I’ve missed some Saladino logos, and it’s also likely that Gaspar did logos for other companies. Wikipedia’s article about Saladino claims he did logos for Eclipse Comics and Continuity Comics, but I’ve looked through all the covers from both companies and I don’t see any logos that I think were by Saladino. Gaspar worked regularly for MAD, but probably not as a logo designer. Beyond that, anything is possible, but I know of only one other comics logo by Gaspar, and have included it here. Anyone with knowledge of logos by Saladino for other companies, please contact me.

This and all following images © DC Comics. From SHOWCASE #45, July-Aug 1963

Editor and writer Robert Kanigher was one of Gaspar’s biggest fans at DC, and Gaspar lettered the majority of Kanigher’s war comics stories from the beginning of the line forward. Kanigher was the first to assign Gaspar a cover logo as far as I can tell, this Sgt. Rock logo from 1963. Notice how the indent on the right side of the R falls below the center, as if it was a P with the right leg added. This is a style point characteristic of Saladino’s block lettering throughout his career, and one of the surest ways to identify his logos. Otherwise these block letters might have been done by Ira Schnapp, though the thin lines meant to separate the color stripes have a delicate energy that also suggests Saladino. The Sergeant’s stripes in place of a period after SGT is a clever and creative touch. I think this was the first appearance of this logo, but it’s possible it appeared earlier. I haven’t found any logos before this one that look like the work of Saladino.

From SHOWCASE #57, July-Aug 1965

A second logo assignment from Kanigher in 1965 shows Gaspar beginning to express his own style in the block letters, which have rough outlines that add energy. The iron cross symbol, used by Prussia and then Germany in World War One, has the straightest lines, though they’re curved. That element again adds interest. I think this was the first use of this logo. Both Rock and Enemy Ace appeared earlier in Kanigher war titles, but without a logo as far as I’ve seen.

This photocopy of the original logo from the DC files shows the block outlines better as they were lettered, black on white, while the iron cross is a different version. I don’t know which came first, but this is probably a later one. I don’t see it on any covers from the early Enemy Ace appearances.

From OUR FIGHTING FORCES #102, Aug 1966

A third Saladino logo from 1966 was also commissioned by Robert Kanigher to promote his Capt. Hunter character in OUR FIGHTING FORCES. Ira Schnapp’s logo for the series is present above and much smaller. Note the Saladino R shape again in HUNTER. This logo has thick letters and telescoping with much thinner outlines, something that Gaspar did more than Schnapp. The curve and angle add appeal, but it’s still pretty conservative. There’s something about the construction that immediately says Gaspar to me all the same.

From INFERIOR 5 #7, March 1968

Carmine Infantino’s shift of logo work from Schnapp to Saladino happened some time in 1967, but because of the lag time between when work was done and when it appeared, PLUS the intentional post-dating of comics to try to keep them on display longer, the first Gaspar revamps of existing DC logos began hitting newsstands with March 1968 cover dates, like the one above. Ira Schnapp’s logo for the first six issues of this series was an odd one that didn’t fit the space very well. Gaspar’s revised version fills the logo area better. The first three words are very 1960s psychedelic, similar to rock posters of the time, with a variety of colors enhancing that idea, while the large 5 (replacing Ira’s spelled-out FIVE) seems to hold things together and command attention. The series might already have been selling poorly, as it was canceled with issue #10.

From INFERIOR 5 #7, March 1968

Gaspar was not often asked to create new logos for the first pages of interior stories, something Ira Schnapp did a lot of. For one thing, the era of lengthy anthologies with four or more regular features was mostly past (there would be a few in the future, but not many), and for another, most DC features either dropped the use of a logo on the first story page, or used the one from the cover. Here’s an exception, a variation Gaspar did for the first page of the issue with his new logo.

SHOWCASE #73, March-April 1968

Steve Ditko was best known for his work at Marvel Comics on Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. He came to DC with this new creation, and Gaspar did the logo. There are actually two versions of it on this cover along with other fine lettering by Saladino.

From BEWARE THE CREEPER #1, May-June 1968

A third version of the logo was used on the character’s new series which began two months later. All three are similar enough to pass as the same logo, but if you look closely you’ll see that there are minor differences in each. Here Gaspar was revealing his talent for rough, scary letter shapes that would become one of his trademark styles. No one before him had hit on this approach which combines rough edges with organic letter shapes to create the unsettling appearance of something alive and sinister. Perhaps furry rather than drippy or explosive like many previous “scary” logo styles. Though separated, BEWARE THE is part of the logo and uses another effective rough style. This is Gaspar finding his talent for logo design. Though there are three variations, I will count them as just one logo.

From SECRET SIX #1, April 1968

In an odd sort of team-up, Ira Schnapp and Gaspar Saladino each did logos for this new series that appeared together on the cover. Ira’s was at the top but relatively small. The cover was also the first page of the story, and this logo by Gaspar was in the first panel. It might be considered simply a story title, but it was also used as a story logo on at least one other issue, and it was clearly created with care and intended for reuse if wanted. Again, Gaspar is exploring new styles using rough outlines, but this time on more angular letters that are heavier at the top, sort of like art deco, but in fact unique to Gaspar, with letters of different sizes that are stacked at the bottom in two places. The exclamation mark adds excitement, but the logo as a whole is already full of energy. What reader wouldn’t want to know more about these six and their secret? By comparison, Ira’s logo is sedate, though actually innovative for him because of the clever use of brick patterns:

From SECRET SIX #1, April 1968

This is a pretty clear example of the torch being passed. Gaspar did not fumble the exchange.

Gaspar’s original is still in the DC files, and shows no white correction paint, so it was conceived, penciled and inked confidently. It’s unlike any earlier DC cover logo.

From SWING WITH SCOOTER #12, April-May 1968

Not all of Gaspar’s revamps were scary or even very original. For SWING WITH SCOOTER, he was asked to create something along the lines of Archie Comics’ teen humor logos. The result is not very interesting, and he would do a better one about a year later.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #174, May-June 1968

Editor Joe Orlando was charged with returning some of DC’s “mystery” titles to their scary origins, and Gaspar Saladino’s logos were a big help. This one follows the same general style as THE CREEPER, but with thicker and somewhat more square letter shapes, at least in places. The double outline leaves room for a second color to help MYSTERY read well, while THE HOUSE OF seems to be in a dry-brush style with a few small gaps in it, something Gaspar would develop more later. I don’t like the top line so much, but it was not a permanent part of the logo.

Gaspar’s original logo is in the DC files, though heavily trimmed and the worse for wear. Clearly someone cut it out and pasted it onto a cover instead of making a photostat and using that, as was the correct method. Parts of the first M are missing. White paint corrections are visible, but it’s unclear if they’re from Gaspar or some later user. This is why many original logos have a warning in large letters on them, “DO NOT USE! MAKE COPIES!”

From PLASTIC MAN #10, May-June 1968

Ira Schnapp’s appealing Plastic Man logo was used on all twenty issues of the character’s first DC series except for issue #10, where the art didn’t leave room for it and Gaspar created this version probably when he did the cover lettering. It’s the cover logo, so it still counts in my book. It’s certainly more pliable than Ira’s.

BLACKHAWK #241, June-July 1968

When a logo becomes a major element on a cover, it’s hard to tell if it was drawn by the cover artists (Dick Dillin and Chuck Cuidera in this case) or by a letterer. Either is possible here, but the way the logo stands apart from the art, except for shadows from the characters, suggests to me that Gaspar had a hand in it. He also did the banner across the top. The logo is based on the original version by Al Grenet, not the revamp by Ira Schnapp from the previous issue. I’m not sure if I should count this for Gaspar, but have decided I will.

From LEAVE IT TO BINKY #61, June-July 1968

A long-running teen humor title received a new logo from Gaspar in the same style as his Scooter one. This one I find more interesting because the main word is larger and has a little more bounce, but again Gaspar would revisit these teen humor titles and do better logos for them in 1969.

SHOWCASE #75, June 1968

Another Steve Ditko creation was tried out in SHOWCASE with an unusual multiple panel layout, lots of lettering by Gaspar, and a new logo by him at the bottom. He contrasts the warring personalities and ideologies with a rough treatment for HAWK and a calm, smooth one for DOVE but adds an exclamation point. The same logo was used on their brief series minus the exclamation point.

From STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #110, June-July 1968

Continuing the teen humor theme, a struggling title was given the same treatment as Binky and Scooter, though this one looks even more like an Archie logo to me. The stories were not really teen humor, but I guess DC thought linking it to that genre might help sales.

I like this unused version from the DC files much better, and I think it might have brought in at least a few more sales. Possibly it would have been on a later issue if the book lasted long enough, it’s similar in approach to logos Saladino would do for the other teen humor books in the near future.

From YOUNG ROMANCE #154, June-July 1968

This is the first of a series of new logos done for DC’s romance titles around this time. For years I thought they were by some unknown designer brought in by editor Joe Orlando to give the books a fresh look, but I’ve now decided they’re by Saladino, perhaps encouraged by Orlando to try new things, using non-comics references. This one reminds me of the original logo for “Rolling Stone,” the music newspaper, by underground comix artist Rick Griffin, at least the treatment of YOUNG does. It makes more sense to me now that Orlando and other editors would have liked the logo revamps Gaspar was doing and given him romance logo assignments too. The oddest thing about this logo is the way the textured drop shadow for the Y and G in YOUNG goes behind the letters of ROMANCE. I guess it was a compromise to keep the lower word readable. Somehow it works.

The original logo from the DC files show it was lettered just as it appears on the cover, and on typical comics art paper, another reason to think it’s by Gaspar and not some outside designer. I don’t think he ever got this experimental with line textures again.

From BOMBA

Not all of Gaspar’s logo revamps were a success, I don’t think this one works very well, and I prefer the previous one by Schnapp. BOMBA is okay, but not as interesting as what came before and the top and bottom lines don’t work for me at all. ADVENTURES OF should have been held white like THE, but that wouldn’t have helped a lot. Someone, perhaps a production artist, has added lines inside the inner telescoping of the B and O to match the background, which makes no sense, and the colorist rightly ignored them.

From THE SPECTRE #5, July-Aug 1968

Issue #5 has a half-hearted revision of Ira Schnapp’s SPECTRE logo, giving it a backward slant and somewhat different letter shapes. The only part I really like is THE, using a more typical Saladino style. Gaspar would do much better and more original logos for this title beginning with the next issue.

1968 was a very busy logo year for Saladino at DC, and I will continue with the rest of them in the next part of this series. So far I count 18 logos by Gaspar, and he was just getting started! Other logo articles you might enjoy are on the LOGO LINKS page of my blog.

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