GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS Aug-Dec 1968

This and all images © DC Comics. From BLACKHAWK #242, Aug-Sept 1968

Some time in 1967, DC Comics art director Carmine Infantino began reassigning many of the high-profile lettering tasks like logo design, house ads and cover lettering from long-time letterer Ira Schnapp to the younger Gaspar Saladino, also a long-time letterer for the company, but mainly on story pages. Both men were talented, but Ira’s style had come to be looked at as old-fashioned, and indeed he was in his seventies at the time. Gaspar was just entering his forties in 1967, and he responded to the challenge with admirable work full of unique styles, energy, and a more youthful approach that was just what Infantino wanted. We continue here with the rest of Gaspar’s new and revamped logos for books with cover dates from the second half of 1968. This one for Blackhawk uses pretty standard block letters, but notice that the curves are short ones, giving the letters more blockiness than what Schnapp usually did. Also notice that Gaspar’s unique style of R in block letters did not carry over to the letter K. Here the indent is centered rather than lowered. This logo is not very different from the previous Schnapp version, but the shorter curves and square K’s make it seem so.

ADDED: Mark Evanier has suggested this logo may be by cover and interior artist Pat Boyette because of similarities to the one he lettered on the splash page. He could be right, but I’m not completely convinced DC would have allowed a relatively new artist at the company to design a cover logo, so I will just offer it as a possibility and say that Mark makes a good case for Boyette. I will put it some of that in the comments.

From SHOWCASE #76, Aug 1968

Gaspar used a very different style for this logo about a western character created by editor Joe Orlando, Sheldon Mayer, Carmine Infantino and Sergio Aragonés, but one with humorous aspects, as rather than a typical gunfighter he was a pacifist, a ladies man, and a gambler along the lines of the TV series “Maverick.” The style is based on a Victorian font that became associated with the old west perhaps because it was used on wanted posters. Gaspar has added notches to further embellish the already complex letter shapes, and a thin second outline for a second color. The central openings in the B don’t follow the width of the rest, but they work fine. Making the top of the S wider to fill the space next to the A was a good idea. The logo in general is just quirky enough to suggest it’s a parody of traditional western logos, but maybe that wasn’t intentional.

This photocopy of the original logo in the DC files shows it was probably drawn on cover paper preprinted with the DC bullet symbol and the Comics Code seal. That was fine if the logo never needed to be repositioned, but if it did, the missing parts would have to be filled in. Ira Schnapp rarely did his logos on those pre-printed boards for that reason, and they were not around for much longer. The tag line at the bottom was added when the character received his own short-lived series and is also by Gaspar. I like the contrast of RUIN to the rest.

From TEEN TITANS #16, July-Aug 1968

With issue #16, TEEN TITANS left behind the existing Ira Schnapp logo, and for a few issues there were several different ones by Saladino before a final choice for a new logo was made. This logo simply uses standard block letters in perspective to work as a book title. The story title below it, also by Gaspar, is more interesting. In cases where a logo was not at the top, DC felt it necessary to also have the title in type so it would show on a typical newsstand comics rack, which often only showed the top third of a comic or less.

From ANTHRO #2, Sept-Oct 1968

ANTHRO was another new title from editor Joe Orlando, created, written and drawn by Howie Post. His first two appearances, in SHOWCASE #74 and the first issue of his own series, had logos by Post drawn into the cover art. For the second issue, Gaspar did this large logo with similar letter shapes, but handled in a more traditional logo way with thick outlines and open telescoping. The odd letter shapes are kind of an amalgam of Post’s original ideas with Gaspar’s take on them. The subject was a prehistoric character, and that idea doesn’t come through in this logo, though it’s certainly memorable and eye-catching. The series didn’t last long.

From BROTHER POWER THE GEEK #1, Sept-Oct 1968

DC’s sales had been losing ground to Marvel Comics through much of the 1960s, and after some foot dragging they were now trying all kinds of new things to see what might sell. This was one of the oddest efforts, and it only lasted two issues. Gaspar’s logo plays with three dimensional letters that go in two directions in GEEK, while BROTHER POWER looks toward the psychedelic styles of 1960s rock posters. An interesting logo, but the color choices don’t help it, and it’s not really a success in my view.

From SHOWCASE #77, Sept 1968

This Joe Orlando-edited tryout has a logo by Saladino I like much better, though perhaps Gaspar missed a chance by not tying the two character names to something that visually expresses their characters. The open letters with a double outline have appealing shapes and bounce, with contrast provided by a more angular AND THE. Once again the openings in each A are narrower than the rest. Incidentally, I doubt that SHOWCASE PRESENTS is by Gaspar, but it might be. It appeared on several issues, replacing the much better Schnapp logo.

The original logo from the DC files shows that AND THE was revised, with an earlier version covered by white paint. The letters NGE and PE are also revised and pasted over the original versions…or are they?

This is the way the logo looked when I had it scanned at the DC offices some years ago. The NGE had come loose and reveals that there’s nothing below it but a light blue outline. It looks like the pasted-on sections were saved from an earlier version and the A, L and A were redrawn to fit around them. Clearly this logo went through a difficult genesis!

From THE SPECTRE #6, Sept-Oct 1968

With issue #6, Gaspar and the cover artists (Jerry Grandenetti here) began to experiment with more diverse logos on THE SPECTRE. The letter shapes look like Saladino, but the extended ink lines on the S and E are probably from Grandenetti and inker Murphy Anderson, while any of them could have added the ink dot texture in the letters. This is better than the logo on issue #5, but the best ones are still to come.

The original art for the cover, courtesy of Heritage Auctions ha.com, doesn’t add much to the discussion, but I thought it was still interesting enough to show. The outlines and drop shadow on the letters are at least easier to see here.

From TEEN TITANS #17, Sept-Oct 1968

TEEN TITANS also continued to experiment, this time with a logo that suggests 1960s rock concert posters, though it’s easier to read than many of those. There’s nothing here that definitely says it’s by Gaspar, but the rest of the cover lettering is by him, and he was obviously game for any new idea and was looking at current design trends that appealed to kids, perhaps even his own.

WONDER WOMAN #178, Sept-Oct 1968

Another experiment along the lines of rock posters with a Saladino logo designed to fit a particular space, and only used this once. It still counts in my book. Penciller Mike Sekowsky might have pencilled this in for Gaspar to follow. I like all these unusual logo ideas, DC was at least trying new things after years of sedate repetition.

From THE ATOM AND HAWKMAN #39, Oct-Nov 1968

When Hawkman’s title was folded into THE ATOM, it received this new title and Saladino logo. The shape is a bad fit for most cover art, and struggles to work here behind The Atom’s figure, but it does have appealing shapes and energy enhanced by the odd back-leaning angle. It’s not something you would notice if I didn’t point it out, but this is an example of something Gaspar often did: fake perspective. I haven’t tried it to be sure, but I can tell by looking at the angles of the short perspective lines in the telescoping (from the front of the letters to the back of the telescoping) that they do not all line up to a single vanishing point. Some that are close together, like the two near the top of the T in Atom go in obviously different directions. Gaspar did this to save time, and he was good enough at it to get away with it as far as most viewers were concerned, but to a logo designer it stands out. There are a few other things here that aren’t right, like the telescoping at the right side of the K. It should indent to follow the letters, but that would have left a big hole there, so Gaspar ignored it. This brings to mind something DC President Sol Harrison used to say when I started there in 1977: “Close enough for comics.” Few readers were examining logos with a critical eye. When it looked good it was good enough.

From CAPTAIN ACTION #1, Oct-Nov 1968

This is the first of many properties and short series from DC based on toys and licensed from toy companies, in this case Ideal Toy. Someone working for them designed the logo, but it was not right for comics and Gaspar did his own version of it with outlined letters and small differences to make it more readable. I think that still counts as a logo design for him.

From DC SPECIAL #1, Nov-Dec 1968

Another example of Gaspar hitting his stride with large, appealing logos. There’s nothing visual about the title, it’s not a character name, and “special” is a pretty bland and overused idea, so Saladino’s ability to make it exciting is impressive. The other lettering by Gaspar around it, full of its own energy and style, helps sell the idea. Comics as “Collector’s Items” was still a new idea, as comics fans were just beginning to gather in conventions and share their finds and knowledge, and the concept of comics industry awards to creators was also pretty new. This cover picks up on all of that. The large DC in a red circle commands attention like a stop light, and Gaspar’s take on those letters is crisp and muscular compared to the one Ira Schnapp did in his DC bullet. You can almost feel new ideas sweeping in.

From SHOWCASE #78, Nov 1968

Saladino’s logo for this one-issue tryout is eye-catching. The two bullseye targets are almost hypnotic, and the rest has a very heavy outline that won’t be overlooked. The top line works well as both a preamble and a rhyme for the character name. The private investigator character went no further, but elements resurfaced as The Human Target. It’s interesting to note that Ira Schnapp’s SHOWCASE logo is back for this issue, but PRESENTS is still that awful version.

The original logo from the DC files is just the same, but shows how much the red color helps both the block letters and the targets stand out.

From THE SPECTRE #7, Nov-Dec 1968

Another experimental logo probably penciled in by cover artist Jerry Grandenetti. I don’t like this one much.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #381, Nov 1968

With this issue, DETECTIVE gained a new Saladino logo using a large bat shape and Batman head, similar to past logos on the character’s own title, with DETECTIVE COMICS in upper and lower case at the top and BATMAN and ROBIN in large open letters below. Character figures on each side complete the branding, just in case anyone needs more visual confirmation. This works fine, but the bat shape takes up a lot of space. Note the Saladino R in ROBIN with the notch just slightly lower than center.

From TEEN TITANS #18, Nov-Dec 1968

Another one-time-use logo for this title, block letters in steep perspective. The A, N and each T are actually too narrow at the bottom for correct perspective, so it’s Gaspar faking it again, but it looks fine.

From WONDER WOMAN #179, Nov-Dec 1968

Having established a sharp break from the past last issue, Saladino created this new flowing, organic logo for Wonder Woman. I like the way it fills the logo area, I don’t like the large central spaces in each W, I would have extended the dividers further into it. Here the Gaspar R has almost pinched off the right leg. It works fine, though, and is a nice change from the blocky Schnapp version that came before it.

From SHOWCASE #79, Dec 1968

This logo shows that Gaspar did not always go for eye-grabbing emphasis. The lower case letters here are calm, elegant and graceful with just some up and down bounce to indicate her underwater nature. That awful SHOWCASE version is back, though. This character went no further.

From STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES #142, Dec 1968-Jan 1969

When Enemy Ace began as the cover feature in this war title, a new Saladino logo heralded his appearance. The style is drawn from German blackletter fonts made simpler to read well, but still infused with that foreign flavor perfect for the character. It’s hard to imagine how it could have been any more prominent!

From THE UNEXPECTED #110, Dec 1968-Jan 1969

Gaspar returned to his unique horror style for this new UNEXPECTED logo that I love. Two unexpected things about it: THE is at the right side even though it’s read first. Since the reader is led there by the top line, it works; and the letters lean to the left as if being blown by an uncanny wind, enhancing the feeling of motion. These two elements were soon revised, but I like this version the best.

The original logo from the DC files is just the same, no corrections or touch-ups. It was probably laid out with blue pencil and then inked. Masterful.

That’s twenty new logos for the second half of 1968, and a total of 38 for 1968 cover-dates, quite a lot for the time frame. Gaspar was well on his way to revamping the entire DC line except for a few long-time stalwarts like SUPERMAN, and there would be many more in 1969. Other parts of this series and more logo articles you might enjoy are on the LOGO LINKS page of my blog.

4 thoughts on “GASPAR SALADINO’S COMICS LOGOS Aug-Dec 1968

  1. Todd Klein Post author

    About the Blackhawk logo for issue #242, Mark Evanier writes:

    This was the famous (infamous?) issue of BLACKHAWK that Reed Crandall agreed to draw and then didn’t. A few days before it was due at the printers, Dick Giordano discovered that Crandall hadn’t even started on the job so he got Reed to mail the script to Pat Boyette. (Crandall was in Kansas, Boyette was in Texas) and Pat reportedly penciled, lettered and inked it in three days. You can see the last few pages look really rushed.

    Why would they ask a new artist to do a cover logo? I don’t think they would but it also doesn’t make a lot of sense that they’d ask a new artist living in TEXAS to draw the cover at all. Logic would tell you they’d grab Neal Adams or Nick Cardy or someone in the DC hallways…or Dick would draw it himself. (The cover on the next issue is one of those gangbang jobs. It looks like Pat drew the cover and then several different folks in New York redrew pieces of it.)

    My best guess would be that they shipped an Infantino cover sketch to Pat and when he drew it, he took it upon himself to design a logo…just like he did almost every time Charlton asked him to do a cover for a new comic. And they went with it because they had nothing better lying around and maybe there was a tight deadline.

    As for why it doesn’t match exactly the logo on Page 4…Pat was drawing six pages a day when he drew Page 4. He must have had more time on the cover.

    I agree some of this seems odd but having him draw the cover at all seems odd. Can you explain why they did that? They wouldn’t let Bruno Premiani do DOOM PATROL covers when he wasn’t visiting New York. They wouldn’t let Jim Aparo do AQUAMAN covers then because he was way off in Connecticut and wouldn’t take the train down to Manhattan to meet with Infantino about cover design. But they sent two BLACKHAWK cover assignments to a guy in San Antonio, Texas none of them — not even Dick — had ever met in person and who’d never worked for the company before?

    I am not arguing a firm viewpoint here. I just think that logo looks more like Pat’s handiwork than Gaspar’s. And I’ll admit here I’m not as big a fan of Gaspar’s output as some other folks, though I suspect some of his logos I don’t like may be more Infantino’s fault than his. (I think a lot of Gaspar’s best logo work was done when he wasn’t working for Carmine.)

  2. Scott Dutton

    On the Blackhawk logo and whether Saladino or Boyette drew it: Boyette was a great letterer, but he was also quirky as evidenced on his many covers for Charlton. While the letterforms fit into his style, the clean ruling and geometric precision shown here have me leaning towards Saladino.

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