GASPAR SALADINO’S NEWSPAPER STRIP LETTERING

From DONDI by Edson & Hasen, Oct 2, 1955, © Chicago Tribune

ADDED: Discovered after this article was written, nearly a year of Gaspar Saladino strip lettering in 1955-56 on DONDI! I’ve written a separate article about it HERE. I counted 46 Sundays and 264 Dailies, roughly equivalent to 224 pages of comics lettering.

ADDED: And about a year later, in Dec 2023, two more Saladino-lettered strips have been discovered! Rodrigo Baeza brought to my attention some DAVID CRANE strips he thought were lettered by Gaspar, and I agree.

From DAVID CRANE, the first Daily, March 12, 1956 © The Hall Syndicate

Written by Ed Dodd of MARK TRAIL fame, with art by Winslow Mortimer, who Gaspar knew and worked with at DC Comics, the strip is the soap opera type about a minister. The lettering on this first strip isn’t immediately identifiable as being by Saladino, but I think it is, going by the distinctive S and G shapes.

From DAVID CRANE Sunday, Dec 15 1957 © The Hall Syndicate, image courtesy of Heritage Auctions

These panels from a page of original Sunday art are much more obviously by Gaspar, who was a practicing Catholic, and who would probably have found the religious subject matter of the strip appealing, but that’s a guess.

From DAVID CRANE Daily, Nov 12 1960, © The Hall Syndicate

The final strip I see with Saladino lettering is this one. Mortimer continued as artist for a few months longer than Craig Flessel took over, Gaspar didn’t letter any of those that I saw. The paper I found the strip in only ran the Sundays from Jan 1957 to Jan 1960, I’m not sure if the Sunday was produced before or after that, it might have been. I’m guessing Gaspar lettered about 156 Sundays. The Daily strips he lettered ran from March 12, 1956 to Nov 12, 1960, which would total 1,458 Dailies. I can’t be sure Gaspar lettered every one, but it’s a substantial amount of lettering. I count three Dailies as the equivalent of one comics page, and a Sunday equals 2 comics pages, so this adds about 800 pages to his total comic strip work, quite a lot!

OUR EVER CHANGING WORLD weekly panel, Oct 15 1960, © Columbia Features

While looking for DAVID CRANE, I came across another strip lettered by Saladino. This was a weekly single panel that ran on Saturday written by Otto Binder and drawn by Murphy Anderson, both veteran comics creators. I’m not positive this is the first strip, but I think it is. The strip ran for about nine years, but Anderson only did the art for a short time, and Saladino only lettered those strips. Again, it was a case of Gaspar and Murphy knowing each other through DC Comics.

OUR EVER CHANGING WORLD, Dec 31 1960, © Columbia Features

This is the last strip lettered by Saladino, and as you can see, there was often a lot for him to do. I count 12, and I would consider that the equivalent of six pages of comics lettering. There could well be more strips lettered by Gaspar that haven’t been identified yet. Now, back to the original article.

From LANCELOT Daily, March 16 1970, all LANCELOT images © NEA.

In addition to his vast amount of comic book work, Gaspar Saladino also lettered six newspaper strips that I know of. There could be others. Recently I discovered this short-lived strip, LANCELOT by Paul Coker Jr. and writer Frank Ridgway using the name Penn. It ran from March 16 1970 to April 29 1972. Coker was already a regular writer/artist for MAD by this time, and he would have known Saladino’s lettering from there, so it makes sense he might have asked Gaspar to letter this strip, though in the beginning some of the strips are lettered by Coker himself, and that also happened at the end. There were both Sundays and Dailies, but I’ve only found a printed newspaper run of the Dailies. The first Daily, above, certainly looks like Saladino lettering to me, though Coker probably did the balloon borders.

From LANCELOT Daily, March 26 1970

Here’s another early one I think is lettered by Coker, the style matches his art, but he probably was happy to hire Gaspar to allow him more time to draw the strip.

From LANCELOT Daily, Dec 25 1970

This Daily, rearranged so I can run it larger, has some fine and distinctive Saladino sound effects.

From LANCELOT Sunday, June 27 1971

I found only two printed Sundays, clipped from unknown newspapers and a few examples of Sunday original art, partial example above, with great swear symbols by Saladino. All those few examples are lettered by Gaspar.

From LANCELOT Daily, March 11 1972

Gaspar’s final lettering is on this Daily, the last few weeks were lettered by someone else, probably Coker himself. There’s another even more obscure strip with art by Paul Coker written by Duck Edwing, HORACE AND BUGGY, which ran about six months in 1971. Edwing was another MAD creator who often used Saladino lettering on his strips. I’ve found no newspaper run for this, only a few clipped strips and a few examples of original art. Of those, most have lettering by Coker, I saw two that might be lettered by Gaspar. With so little evidence, I can’t credit him with anything on HORACE AND BUGGY, perhaps someone else will be able to do that if they have the printed strips. For LANCELOT I counted 581 Dailies lettered by Saladino, the rough equivalent of 290 comics pages, as the usual method was to do two dailies on a sheet of comics art paper. For the possible 90+ Sundays, the few examples I found were lettered by Gaspar, so I’m going to conservatively award him 80 Sundays. Since these were larger and about the same amount of work as two comics pages, I will guesstimate it as 160 pages of comics lettering, or — in total — the equivalent of 450 pages of comics lettering for this strip. And he was doing it at a time when he was very busy at DC Comics!

All THE VIRTUE OF VERA VALIANT images © Los Angeles Times. Daily Oct 11, 1976

The next strip that Saladino lettered, and this one is well documented, is THE VIRTUE OF VERA VALIANT by Stan Lee and Frank Springer, which ran from Oct 11, 1976 to Aug 28 1977, a total of 48 weeks. It was a humorous/dramatic soap opera strip based loosely on the TV series “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” or at least inspired by it. It’s easy to imagine how Gaspar was recruited to work on this, he was already freelancing at Marvel, so familiar to Lee, and had worked with Frank Springer at DC. There were two collections of the strip issued in book form, but I don’t have those. I found images online, mostly in newspapers that ran it. Surprisingly, though they syndicated the property, the Los Angeles Times did not. I was able to find printed examples of all but the final week of strips and confirmed Saladino lettered all of those, and there’s no reason he wouldn’t have lettered the final week. Images drawn from the papers like the one above (I’ve stacked the panels to make them larger) are not very clear or well focused, but you can still see Gaspar’s lettering style coming through. I also found some original art on auction sites, which give a better look at the art and lettering.

From VERA VALIANT Sunday, Oct 17 1976

Four panels from the first Sunday. Saladino’s wide, angular style is easy to identify, and there are other style points like the shape of the bold Italic I in the third panel and his distinctive question mark in the second.

VERA VALIANT Daily, Jan 24, 1977 courtesy of Heritage Auctions, ha.com

Here’s the original art from a daily strip, still hard to see in this format, so I’ll stack the panels below.

VERA VALIANT Daily Jan 24, 1977 courtesy of Heritage Auctions, ha.com

A much better look at the art and lettering. The white correction paint in the balloons is interesting, it looks like Gaspar drew the balloon shapes first, then added the tails, or perhaps Springer added them when inking the art, then the section of each balloon where it met the tail was painted out, and in some places art inking that had crossed into the balloons was also painted out. Springer clearly did the creator box. Interesting to see that the man’s lower lip didn’t get inked in panel 2.

VERA VALIANT Daily March 14, 1977

On this Daily you can see a typical Saladino sound effect crossing the panel borders.

VERA VALIANT Sunday March 20, 1977

Part of a printed Sunday page found online, a nice large scan that shows off the lettering well. The elegant logo is type-based, but probably enhanced by whoever did it to make the swashes larger. That doesn’t look like Saladino’s work to me, but it might be.

I can’t be sure there was a Sunday page on August 28, 1977, but it seems likely, so the 48 weeks of the strip meant there were 288 Dailies and 48 Sundays. Both Sunday and Daily strips were done larger than comics pages of the time. As I described above, a page of comic book art paper turned sideways held two Daily strips, and was about the same amount of work as one comics page, while the Sundays were considerably larger and about the same amount of work as two comics pages. Therefore, I would count this as roughly the equivalent of 240 comics pages. The strip seemed popular at first, but Stan Lee was soon writing one about THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN which I think did much better, and that may be why he dropped this one. Some of the papers I found it in replaced it with Lee’s Spider-Man strip.

Promotional image © DC Comics, from The Chicago Tribune April 3, 1978

Gaspar’s third newspaper strip lasted much longer and had a higher profile. It was produced by DC Comics and distributed by the Chicago Tribune/New York News Syndicate. It ran Dailies and Sundays from April 3, 1978 to Feb 10, 1985. Initially titled THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHEROES and based on DC’s Justice League of America, in October of 1979 it was retitled THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHEROES PRESENT SUPERMAN, and in 1982 the title shrunk to simply SUPERMAN. Daily and Sunday strips followed the same continuity until Jan 8, 1983. From that point on, the Dailies told stories in continuity while the Sundays were puzzle and activity pages named THE SUPERMAN SUNDAY SPECIAL until the end of the run. Even the syndicate’s main papers like The Chicago Tribune were no longer carrying the strip by that time.

I’ve been able to look at examples of about 98 percent of the strips, at least one Daily and the Sunday, to look at the lettering, and Gaspar Saladino did most of them. I know from doing some myself that the six Daily strips were always lettered together, so if one is by Gaspar, they all are. I filled in for him a few times, and I found one Sunday lettered by Ben Oda, but the amount of lettering work by Gaspar on this strip was massive, and always artful and entertaining. As with VERA VALIANT, examples I’ve pulled from the printed newspapers are of poor quality, but I’ve also found some original art to show, and another fine resource is strip writer Paul Kupperberg’s website, where he’s published excellent images of most of the strips he wrote. Thanks for that, Paul!

This and following strip images are © Tribune Content Agency and DC Comics. Daily April 3, 1978

Here’s the best image I can get of the first Daily. Saladino’s lettering adds excitement, as always, with a burst, a scroll caption, and larger display lettering for NO! in the last panel. I often did production work on the strip, and I did the creator credits block. It was later modified to imitate the signatures of writer Martin Pasko and penciller George Tuska, inker Vince Colletta liked what I did and we kept it.

Daily Oct 2, 1978

This original art courtesy of Heritage Auctions, ha.com, gives a much better look at the art and lettering. Since the original art was done larger than comics art of the time, the lettering was also larger, giving Gaspar more room to be creative. I like the burst in the last panel.

Sunday Oct 22, 1978

Here are half the panels from a Sunday stacked so you can see them better. I did the logo, which was only used by some papers depending on the size and layout they chose (there were several), Gaspar did the full name credit box. I may have done the corrections in the last panel indicated by blue pencil, I think making a period into an ellipsis (three dots) in the first caption and adding a double dash to the last one.

Daily June 4, 1979

A Daily with some Saladino sound effects. Incidentally, artist George Tuska was not very good at doing the S symbol on Superman’s chest. I often corrected them, and may have here.

Sunday Aug 5, 1979

Partial original art from this Sunday with the later version of the logo using figures of DC’s three best-known heroes. I like Superman’s thought balloon in the last panel that begins with ?!.

Sunday, Oct 14, 1979

The first Sunday with the revised strip title. Superman was in the movies at the time, and DC and the syndicate must have felt he was the best selling point.

Daily Oct 10, 1980

One panel from this Daily that’s all Saladino. Wow indeed!

Sunday, April 4, 1982

From here on the better examples are from Paul Kupperberg’s website. A good look at Gaspar’s lettering, and this might be another S symbol I or someone in the DC production department corrected.

Sunday, June 20, 1982

A good example of a Sunday in color. The penciller is now José Delbo. The logo is the one created by Ira Schnapp in 1940.

Sunday Aug 15, 1982

The strip’s title has been shortened to just “Superman.”

Daily Dec 25, 1982

A fine holiday greeting lettered by Gaspar.

Superman Sunday Special March 13, 1983

These Sunday pages written by Bob Rozakis were a mix of Superman lore and puzzles. Some papers ran them even when they didn’t use the Dailies. The logo is by Gaspar except for the Schnapp “Superman,” this is the only example I found using it.

Daily Aug 9, 1983

Meanwhile, the Dailies continued to tell action-filled stories written by Kupperberg. Great sound effect by Saladino here.

Daily Nov 12, 1984

Paul’s final storyline brought in Superman’s parents from Krypton. I love the newspaper lettering by Gaspar.

Daily Feb 9, 1985

The last two panels of the Dailies.

Sunday Feb 10, 1985

And the final large panel of the last Sunday. This was a well-done comic strip in my opinion, though telling dramatic stories in this format was always a challenge, especially as the strips kept getting smaller in many papers.

Here are the details of the strip lettering. I’m just going to list dates, as listing week numbers gets too confusing. All are lettered by Gaspar Saladino except a few by me (TK) and one by Ben Oda.

April 3 1978 to Feb 4 1979: 44 Sundays, 264 Dailies

(Feb 5 1979 to March 11 1979: 5 Sundays, 30 Dailies TK)

March 12 1979 to May 17 1981: 98 Sundays, 588 Dailies

(May 18 1981 to May 23 1981: 6 Dailies TK)

May 24 1981: 1 Sunday

(May 25 1981 to May 30 1981: 6 Dailies TK)

May 31 1981: 1 Sunday

(June 1 1981 to June 6 1981: 6 Dailies TK)

June 7 1981 to Sat July 4, 1981: 4 Sundays, 24 Dailies

(July 5 1981: 1 Sunday TK)

July 6 1981 to Sat April 17 1982: 15 Sundays, 240 Dailies

(April 18 1982: 1 Sunday TK)

April 19 1982 to Sat June 20 1982: 8 Sundays, 54 Dailies

(June 21 1982 to June 26 1982: 6 Dailies TK)

June 27 1982: 1 Sunday

(June 28 1982 to July 11 1982: 2 Sundays, 12 Dailies TK)

July 12 1982 to Sat Jan 22 1983: 27 Sundays, 168 Dailies

(Jan 23 1983: 1 Sunday Ben Oda)

Jan 24 1983 to Oct 2 1983: 36 Sundays, 216 Dailies

(Oct 3 1983 to Oct 8 1983: 6 Dailies TK)

Oct 9 1983: 1 Sunday

(Oct 10 1983 to Oct 15 1983: 6 Dailies TK)

Oct 16 1983: 1 Sunday

(Oct 17 1983 to Oct 22 1983: 6 Dailies TK)

Oct 23 1983 to Nov 5 1983: 2 Sundays, 12 Dailies

(Nov 6 1983: 1 Sunday TK)

Nov 7 1983 to Nov 12 1983: 6 Dailies

(Nov 13 1983: 1 Sunday TK)

Nov 14 1983 to Feb 10 1985: 65 Sundays, 390 Dailies

That’s a total of 304 Sundays and 1,962 Dailies by Saladino, which is the rough equivalent of 1,589 pages of comics lettering. And it’s all excellent work, too.

From CONAN THE BARBARIAN Daily Sept 4, 1978

As if he didn’t have enough to do, Gaspar lettered the first seven weeks of this Marvel Comics strip as well. Above is the first daily with added color, as reprinted in MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #23 from 1979. The initial story written by Roy Thomas had art by John Buscema and lettering by Saladino, though he missed one Sunday in that run. The strip continued for several years with other artists and letterers, though Gaspar did return for two weeks of Dailies in early December.

From CONAN THE BARBARIAN Daily Dec 15, 1978

This is one of those strips. In all, Saladino lettered 54 Dailies and 5 Sundays on CONAN, the approximate equivalent of 37 comics pages.

From THE INCREDIBLE HULK Daily June 1 1982

Another Marvel strip, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, began in October 1978 and ran to September 1982. Gaspar Saladino’s involvement came toward the end, when the artist on the Dailies was Alan Kupperberg, sample above. At first I think Alan was lettering the strip himself, but beginning with the Daily for May 31, 1982 Gaspar was the letterer until the strip ended. For much of that time the Sundays were handled by Larry Leiber, or at least his name was on it, and it was lettered by someone else.

From THE INCREDIBLE HULK Sunday Sept 5 1982

Toward the very end Kupperberg began doing Sundays as well, but most of those didn’t see print before the strip was canceled, and those strips were not finished, though they were lettered. Above is part of the one Kupperberg Sunday that did see print, with fine Gaspar lettering.

From THE INCREDIBLE HULK Unused Daily, Sept 4 1982

One other oddity I found online was four strips that were finished by Kupperberg but not used, they were replaced by other strips lettered by someone else. This is a section of one of those showing Saladino’s lettering over Kupperberg’s unerased pencils.

In all, Gaspar lettered 70 Dailies including the unused ones and 7 Sundays, only one of which saw print, but the others can be found online. That’s the rough equivalent of 49 pages of comics lettering.

From Superman Daily Dec 31, 1951 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

One interesting surprise that I forgot to add when I first published this article was a run of 18 Superman strips from Dec 31, 1951 to Jan 20, 1952 lettered by Gaspar Saladino, sample above. That included three Sundays and 18 Dailies. Gaspar had only been at DC about two years at this point, and was considered a good choice to fill in for Ira Schnapp, something he also did on comics covers when Schnapp wasn’t available. Gaspar’s style is quite different, wider and more angular, but it worked fine. I think this was the only time he worked on any of Schnapp’s regular strips.

To sum up, Saladino’s lettering on these newspaper strips is about the same amount of lettering work as 3,186 pages of comics. And all done on top of his prolific work for DC Comics and others!

Other articles about the work of Gaspar Saladino can be found on the COMICS CREATION and LOGO LINKS pages of my blog.

One thought on “GASPAR SALADINO’S NEWSPAPER STRIP LETTERING

  1. Ed

    The only Superman S drawing that Vinnie couldn’t correct was Kirby’s. Same with Superman’s head shots. Swan-Colletta, Tuska-Colletta, Rosenberger, etc. all looked like the DC model. Inking Jack’s art into something proportionately correct took real talent. I think only Colletta, Sinnott and Giacoia managed to pull it off. Gaspar Saladino was truly one of the great letterers. Good feature on him. Very clean lines.

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