It’s Letterer Appreciation Day — timed to the birthdate of the late, great Gaspar Saladino, who was born 96 years ago on Sept. 1, 1927…
The late Gaspar Saladino was one of comics’ greatest letterers and his Sept. 1 birthdate has been dubbed Letterer Appreciation Day in his honor. (The clarion call to celebrate an essential, yet frequently overlooked, part of the comics experience is the brainchild of letterer Nate Piekos.)
For this year’s tribute, we’ve tapped the mind of another of comics’ greatest letterers — Todd Klein, who is doubtlessly the world’s foremost expert on the subject. You absolutely, positively, need to check out his website, kleinletters.com.
With Todd’s gracious permission, here are 13 GROOVY SILVER AGE GASPAR SALADINO DC COMICS LOGOS. I made the picks, but the commentary and images are from Todd’s site. (Naturally, this is just a small sampling of Saladino’s work and Todd’s website.)
In chronological order, by publication date:
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.
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.
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.
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.
HOUSE OF MYSTERY
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!”
THE HAWK AND THE DOVE
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.
BROTHER POWER, THE GEEK