GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1977-1978

All images © DC Comics except as noted. From WEIRD WESTERN #39, March-April 1977.

The first new Saladino DC logo design for comics with 1977 cover dates is this one, using fine western-style letters with a small open drop shadow on a broken-ended banner. The character replaced Jonah Hex in WEIRD WESTERN when Hex got his own title.

Gaspar Saladino’s logo design work began to decline in these years, as far as I can identify it. At DC Comics, some logo assignments were being given to staffers. As Ira Schnapp knew, being in the DC offices every day was the best way to have the pick of assignments. Gaspar had started out that way, but by the time he was designing logos, he had moved further from the offices to Plainview, Long Island, and usually visited DC once a week to drop off and pick up work. This made it more likely a production staffer might get a logo design assignment, as the editor could simply stop by their desk to discuss it with them, after getting the okay from the Production Manager Jack Adler. Jack knew how busy Gaspar was, and was usually fine with that. (Later production manager Bob Rozakis was of the same mind.)

John Workman was hired as a DC production artist in the summer of 1975, and worked on staff until late 1977, developing his lettering and logo design skills. I’ve written about his DC logos beginning HERE. He designed 16 cover logos in that time. I joined the production staff in the summer of 1977 and stayed for ten years. I, too, worked on my lettering and design skills and was given an increasing number of logo assignments. In 1978 I did one cover logo. In 1979 I did seven, and by 1986, the year before I left staff, I was doing about twenty DC cover logos a year. As DC moved from having the editors make most of the logo decisions to having an art director or cover editor involved in the 1980s, more new designers from staff, as well as outside freelancers, were given logo work at the company, including Alex Jay starting in 1986, Ken Bruzenak, Keith Wilson, Steven Bové and others.

At Marvel, the story is more opaque to me, and more complex. Opaque because I never worked there, so I have to go by hearsay and the evidence of the actual logos. Complex because in 1975, Marvel hired the talented letterer Jim Novak. Many letterers of my generation revered the work of Gaspar Saladino and tried to emulate it, including myself, but Jim was the best at that. When he started designing logos around 1977, he absorbed Saladino’s logo work to the point of even imitating Gaspar’s quirky style points, like his unusual R shape. From then on, it becomes much harder to know if a Marvel logo was designed by Saladino or Novak, and as I can’t tell in most cases, I’m not going to guess. For instance, here’s a logo that Jim Novak mentioned designing in an article in COMICS INTERVIEW #1 (1983):

From POWER MAN #50, April 1978, image © Marvel.

Everything about this logo, except perhaps the very thick outline around the entire thing, seems a perfect match for Saladino. Except for a few cases like this where Novak is known to have lettered a logo, I have only the evidence of my eyes to go by, and I feel it’s not enough. By the way, Novak’s most famous logos were for Marvel’s comics adaptation of STAR WARS and the movie CREEPSHOW, but beyond that I’m sure of only a few. I tried asking him about logos once, but he didn’t seem that sure himself which one’s he’d done, and sadly, Jim passed in 2018, so it remains an open question in many cases. I may be missing some Saladino Marvel logos due to this, but I feel that’s better than taking credit away from Jim Novak. I should add that once Sam Rosen and Artie Simek were gone from Marvel by 1976, other designers were also getting logo work there, including Danny Crespi, Morrie Kuramoto, Tom Orzechowski, Alex Jay, Ken Bruzenak, and myself (after 1987), so perhaps it was less likely that they would be calling Gaspar from that point on.

From SGT. ROCK #302, March 1977

With this issue, SGT. ROCK replaced the decades-long run of OUR ARMY AT WAR. Rock had been the main attraction for some time, and later issues featured a different logo for him. This new one by Saladino follows the plan of his first Sgt. Rock logo from 1963, but I think it’s fair to say it shows how his logo design talents had matured. The letter shapes are taller and more effective, the narrow open drop shadow adds depth and room for a second color, and the double-bordered frame adds room for two more color options, plus the center could be opened up to the cover art without detracting from the logo’s readability. Well done.

From DC SPECIAL #27, April-May 1977

This issue of DC SPECIAL featured a new book-length Captain Comet tale. The story title, lettered with energy and impact by Gaspar, became the feature logo, with Captain Comet’s Ira Schnapp logo small at the top.

A photocopy of the original logo from the DC files is the same, but you can see the dry-brush work on DANGER better.

From BLACK LIGHTNING #1, April 1977

This new superhero created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden gained a series with a logo by Gaspar having two words curved in different directions. BLACK has telescoping, while the L of LIGHTNING illustrates the idea with a long lightning bolt below the rest. It seems like this shouldn’t work, but I think it does, though it takes up a lot of space.

The original logo from the DC files is just the same, I see no changes or corrections, though you can see the bottom facets of the telescoping were filled in black on the cover, and two were added inside the B for consistency, though to be really consistent you would need to add two more under the horizontal bar of the A and the top bar of the B as well as filling in that tiny opening in the A. These are minor points that few people would notice.

From DC SPECIAL #28, June-July 1977

Another issue of this book with three new stories on a common theme. Instead of predictable broken letters for SHATTERING, Gaspar went with his horror style, including thick, rough outlines and inner textures.

A photocopy of the original logo is almost the same, but shows the telescoping on EARTH was originally open.

From SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #1, June-July 1977

Ten years ago I wrote an article about this logo, which is HERE. In that article I suggested it was at least partly designed by Bill Morse, the letterer of the first six issues of the series, and a DC production staffer at the time. I contacted Bill (who has since passed) and he thought he might have done the dot shading on CHANGING, but thought the rese was mostly by Saladino. I’m offering it here as a mostly Gaspar logo, and therefore one I can count for him. Certainly SHADE, MAN, and the strange shape in the background are his, I’m not sure about the letter shapes of CHANGING.

From MEN OF WAR #1, Aug 1977

A new war title from editor Paul Levitz has a conservative block letter logo design from Saladino in a round-cornered frame. An open drop shadow on WAR gives it a lift off the page.

From MEN OF WAR #1, Aug 1977

Inside, this new feature has a handsome and energetic logo by Saladino. The second line reminds me a bit of his signature writ large.

From DC SUPER STARS #17, Nov-Dec 1977

Gaspar’s similar logo for SUPER-VILLAINS from 1975 had been reused on issue #14 of this series, and here he revised the bottom line, changing it to HEROES. The word OF has been added in the center on both, perhaps it was left off by mistake in the original version. The infinite telescoping now vanishes behind the OF, and that works better and looks good to me. I count this as a new logo.

This scan of the SUPER-VILLAINS version from the DC files shows that the OF is a pasted-on photostat done separately. I see no other changes.

From SHOWCASE #97, Feb 1978

One of Gaspar’s most memorable logos from this time is for Power Girl. The letters are block style, large, thick bordered, and using a different form of W for Saladino. His R shapes are present. The open telescoping makes no sense at all, and is therefore kind of abstract and interesting in its own right. The colorist made choices that work well.

From OUR FIGHTING FORCES #178, March-April 1978

This venerable DC war title was now being edited by the venerable Murray Boltinoff. The venerable Ira Schnapp logo is replaced by a new much larger Saladino one, with THE LOSERS now a smaller feature logo, but in the same style Gaspar had used previously. Classic block letter forms were Gaspar’s usual choice for war titles. I don’t think the background shape adds much here except to hold the logo and feature together, and its telescoping contradicts the direction of the open drop shadow.

From DEVIL DINOSAUR #1, April 1978, image © Marvel.

Here’s an example of a puzzling Marvel logo that the Grand Comics Database attributes to Saladino without any citation or reference. That certainly could be correct, but it could also be by Jim Novak. On one hand, would Marvel have given a new Jack Kirby title to the relatively untried Novak? Perhaps not, but on the other hand, he was probably handy, and as Kirby was mailing his work in from the west coast and not involved in logo decisions, it would be an easy call. The logo would have been created in late 1977, around the same time as Novak’s POWER MAN AND IRON FIST one shown earlier. This is why I can’t give Gaspar credit on logos like this. I also think the shapes used in DEVIL seem unlike Gaspar’s work, but that’s just a gut feeling that could be wrong. The GCD also attributes the cover lettering to Saladino, but I’m not sure that’s right either, I think it’s by Danny Crespi.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #459, Sept-Oct 1978

With this issue, ADVENTURE gained a fine new Saladino logo using block letters tilted toward the reader. The bottom edge is gently arched to make room for COMICS, and both words have telescoping, deeper on ADVENTURE, shallower on COMICS. The epic feel heralds a return to large anthology size as in the title’s early days, but with all new material. Well worth the price in my opinion. Incidentally, this features the new DC Bullet corner symbol designed by the Milton Glaser studios that had begun appearing on February 1977 covers.

From ALL-STAR COMICS #74, Sept-Oct 1978

The final issue of this ALL-STAR COMICS revival has a new feature logo for JUSTICE SOCIETY by Saladino using some of the newer block letter forms he liked at the time such as S’s with serifs of a sort that extend toward the center and round corners on the E in JUSTICE. I like the joined JU. This version of the book logo is not by Saladino, I’m not sure who did it.

From BATTLE CLASSICS #1, Sept-Oct 1978

Now a tale of woe must be told. New DC publisher Jenette Kahn and her editors had engineered a substantial increase in comics production nicknamed the DC Explosion, with both new titles and expanded older ones that was just starting to reach retailers with issues like this. Gaspar’s logo for the war reprint title is appealing and well-done, and even if the telescoping on BATTLE doesn’t make much sense, it looks fine. Ads promoting the expansion had been running for several months, but at Warner, the parent company of DC, executives looked at sales figures from the previous year and those available from the current year so far, and decided to reverse this plan. They cancelled 40% of the line, including many of the new titles and some long-running ones, and also laid off staff in both production and editorial. This became known in comics fan circles as the “DC Implosion.” I survived the purge, but it was a sad and disheartening time at the company that was only reversed with the success of the first Superman movie. So, the first issue of BATTLE CLASSICS was the only one to make it out the door.

This photocopy of the original logo shows that the L in CLASSICS was deemed too wide, and Gaspar was asked to do another one, which he did right below. It’s the one used on the cover. You can also see that the telescoping goes to at least three separate vanishing points if not more.

From DYNAMIC CLASSICS #1, Sept-Oct 1978

Another victim of the DC Implosion, this was the only issue of a planned Batman-featured reprint series. I love this Saladino logo, which builds on the Milton Glaser corner symbol but makes it much more exciting and dynamic, appropriately. The way the D and N connect to the outer shape is brilliant. What a shame it didn’t have a longer run.

This photocopy of the original from the DC files is the same and still works fine without the color.

From SHOWCASE #104, Sept 1978

The final issue of this long-running series has a new feature logo and large title (or maybe it’s all one big feature logo) by Saladino using several styles of block letters and decorated with a handsome dagger. Many other new issues and features were in the works, but because of the Implosion they were not published until later, or never published.

This is one of the new planned titles that didn’t make it out the door. The completed cover was one of many unpublished covers and stories issued in two massive Xeroxed collections titled CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE to secure copyrights on the material. There were only 35 copies made, and beyond the ones sent to Washington DC, the rest were given to contributors. I like this Saladino logo, decorated with the character’s costume symbol and cleverly emphasizing X as a subliminal nod to Marvel’s X-Men perhaps.

Another finished cover that never saw print, and another fine Saladino logo. The wood pieces of CLASSICS is creative and well done, and the handling of WESTERN is right on target.

The original logo from the DC files is the same, except that you can see the black drop shadow on the bottom banner better. I think the DC Implosion is another reason that Gaspar’s logo output dropped around this time, as the company issued fewer new titles over the next years.

To sum up, I count 18 new Saladino logos for books with 1977 and 1978 cover dates, considerably less than he’d been doing in recent years, but there are some fine ones. Other articles in this series and more you might like are on the LOGO LINKS page of my blog.

One thought on “GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1977-1978

  1. Martin Gray

    I love these posts! My faves here are Adventure Comics and the totally classic Scalphunter and Sgt Rock looks.

    The only one I’d call a dud here is the Justice Society effort, it’s very dull to my eyes, it could be on a can of beans rather than a superhero strip. The previous one was much more interesting. And the joined JU is so random.

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