GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS 1983-1985

All images © DC Comics. From THE BEST OF DC #37, June 1983.
From DC COMICS PRESENTS ANNUAL #2, July 1983.

Gaspar Saladino continued to be a valued part of the DC freelance work force, lettering many stories (with an emphasis on war stories), many covers (something few other letterers for DC were asked to do) and some logos and house ads, but as the structure of the company changed around this time to include an art director and/or cover editor, house ads were more often done in-house, and logo designs were assigned more widely to a larger group of staffers and freelancers. In Ira Schnapp’s time, he had essentially functioned as an art director, setting the visual style for the company through his logos, house ads and cover lettering from the late 1940s through the mid 1960s. When Flash artist Carmine Infantino was appointed the art director around 1967, he began shifting that high-profile work to Gaspar Saladino, and from 1968 to 1978, Gaspar’s work set the style for the company. Now art directors and cover editors, beginning with Neal Pozner and continuing with Richard Bruning, Keith Wilson, and Curtis King, were hired to place THEIR stamp on the company’s visual style, and each did so. Many of Pozner’s designs were strictly type-based, and that was a growing trend at DC and other companies. Also, art directors who were trained outside comics, even if they were comics fans, knew more about type design than hand-made lettering, so that was part of the trend. All this resulted in less house ad and logo design work for Gaspar, though I feel he still had plenty to offer. The two logos above show the variety of styles and ideas he was capable of, with FUNNY STUFF embodying all the joy of cartoony comics and SUPERWOMAN representing superheroes in a modern way.

From BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #1, Aug 1983

Here’s another fine example. Saladino has further modernized and streamlined the Batman shape to its essential and unmistakable elements, and using just a head outline and eye shapes is, if anything, more effective than the previous idea of having an entire Batman face included. Gaspar’s take on BATMAN using slab serifs is punchy and powerful, while OUTSIDERS is equally bold. The entire logo is a dominant element that commands attention and says, “New!”

From THE BEST OF DC #42, Nov 1983

This simple feature logo for a DC digest comic has great Saladino touches, like the connection of the A to the outer shape, the angular S, and the loose THE for contrast. Unfortunately the digest size presented his work small, and it had less chance to be noticed.

From POWER LORDS #1, Dec 1983

As he had in the past, Gaspar created his own version of a logo provided by a toy company, using outlines that would work on a comic book cover. His top line matches the style well, too.

From NEW TALENT SHOWCASE #1, Jan 1984

Here’s a fine combination of art director Neal Pozner’s cover design with an energetic Saladino logo. NEW TALENT is done in brush lettering style, while SHOWCASE looks back to the Art Deco roots of the company and the original SHOWCASE logo by Ira Schnapp, but handled in Saladino’s unique way. I love this logo.

The original logo from the DC files is much the same, but shows the left end of the S is unfinished, as if Gaspar thought it should run off the edge. It works fine either way.

In 1984, DC Comics awarded Kenner the rights to launch a line of action figure toys based on DC characters. The line was extensive, and in addition to DC superheroes, Kenner did figures for some of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters. Kenner and DC commissioned new logos for the ones that didn’t have any, and Gaspar did two. His logo for Darkseid’s henchman DeSaad is remarkably clever and original. I never would have thought of lining up the DeS like that, but it works well. One advantage of these Kenner logos was that they didn’t have to fit on a comic, just toy packaging.

Gaspar’s other entry was for KALIBAK, where he used rough block letters with telescoping to convey a character with energy. The shape of the K’s is again creative and unusual, giving a subtle “out of kilter” feel to the entire logo.

From STAR TREK #1, Feb 1984

“Star Trek, the Motion Picture” came out in 1979, and featured a slick new logo design for the franchise. Marvel had the comic book license for the property from 1980-1982, and someone did a logo for them based on the movie logo. When DC gained the rights to produce Star Trek comics, Gaspar did his own version of the movie logo, which used thicker letters that would show up well against cover art. I think it’s the best take on this design.

From DC COMICS PRESENTS #67, March 1984

Breaking from the usual Old English style for Santa Claus, this Saladino version has very curvy and organic letter shapes with mostly ball-end serifs, though the S begins with a more traditional serif. This suggests Gaspar was just winging it, and perhaps in a hurry, as if he came to the DC offices one day and DCCP editor Julius Schwartz said, “We need a Santa Claus logo right away!”

From MANHUNTER #1, May 1974

This was a one-shot reprinting the fan-favorite backup series from DETECTIVE COMICS in 1974 written by Goodwin with art by Simonson. I thought Walt might have designed the logo since it matches his art so well, but he told me he didn’t, and wasn’t aware of who did. That led me to believe it’s by Gaspar, and while it’s not quite like anything else he did, there are many style points that Saladino did use in other places. The angled ends add interest and give it energy, as does the variation between thick and thin strokes.

Here’s the original logo from the DC files done on typical DC paper, which seems right for Gaspar. The joining of the first three letters is more obvious here.

In 1984, DC decided to launch a new title for this popular franchise in a new format they were using with higher quality paper and printing. Gaspar was commissioned to do this logo, which strikes me as too tall, even for such a long title, and the stencil style of LEGION makes it a bit hard to read. This logo was used only in a house ad, which I haven’t been able to track down in print. I don’t remember seeing it at the time, but so I’ve been told. Possibly it was never published. I was also commissioned to do a logo for the book:

I think the two requests I was given were to keep it compact vertically, and to use something more type-based than I was used to doing. DC and the art director were happy with it, and it lasted for some years. As I say, I don’t recall ever seeing Gaspar’s version, I may not have. This kind of typifies where DC was going with logos and design in general at the time.

From DC COMICS PRESENTS #77, Jan 1985

This charming feature logo by Gaspar uses an organic, rough block letter style that no one else did as well. It makes me a bit sad, because I think Saladino himself was gradually becoming a forgotten DC hero. The editor of this book was Julius Schwartz, who had hired Gaspar as a letterer on his titles in 1949. They were getting older together, and Julie clearly appreciated what Saladino had to offer, perhaps more than some of the younger editors. Gaspar turned 58 in 1985, and perhaps was beginning to feel a bit like his predecessor Ira Schnapp, who had come to be seen as old-fashioned, but Gaspar’s talent meant he would continue to work for DC for many more years, just not in the same pivotal style-setting role he had enjoyed for a while.

From THE IMMORTAL DOCTOR FATE #1, Jan 1985.

This Saladino logo uses some unusual letter shapes, particularly the T’s, which suggest scimitars to me. THE IMMORTAL is Gaspar’s rough lettering, even rougher than usual, adding some energy.

From DC COMICS PRESENTS #78, Feb 1985

A matching logo for the opposite type of characters, only VILLAINS is new, and perhaps both were done at the same time, but I will call this a new logo anyway.

From AMETHYST #11, Nov 1985

Amethyst was a character and series that I designed a logo for in early 1983. This was her second series, and for issue #11, editor Karen Berger wanted a fairytale storybook approach, so she commissioned Gaspar to create this wonderful logo just for one issue. When I saw it, I thought it should have been used for the entire series.

From THE OUTSIDERS #1, Nov 1985

BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS was successful enough for DC to launch this new title in their higher-quality paper and printing arena. Batman was not featured, so Gaspar created a new version of this Outsiders logo with deep telescoping. One advantage of this shorter title is it left more room for cover art.

To sum up, I found 17 Saladino logos for this period. One final article to come will cover his remaining comics logos, as far as I’ve identified them. 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 1983-1985

  1. Graeme Burk

    The Manhunter logo is basically the logo used on the strip in the ’70s, only this logo is fatter, perhaps to stand out on a cover better. That doesn’t mean it’s not Gaspar, but it’s a derivative work.

    Dr. Fate I’m wondering if it might be Simonson originally. The logo is exactly what’s used on the title page of 1st Issue Special (variations of which were used when the character was a back-up feature in The Flash in the early ’80s) only it uses mixed case (the title pages tend to use all lower case) and spells out the full name (as opposed to “Dr. Fate” or “dr. fate”). Again, still could be Gaspar but it’s derivative of other work.

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