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365 Reasons to Love Comics #234

I’m really glad that other people are showing their appreciation for the art of comics lettering. I’m not alone! Alright, so I thought for a long time who to feature in today’s entry, and it seems that there’s only one choice. What happens, however, when the internet fails me as an information tool? Find out inside! (And check out the archive.)

8/22/07

234. Gaspar Saladino

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There are, honestly, dozens of fantastic letterers I could talk about. Folks like Bill Oakley, Richard Starkings, Artie Simek, John Costanza, Tom Orzechowski, Tom Frame, Ken Bruzenak, Janice Chiang, Sam Rosen, Bob Lappan, Willie Schubert, Bob Pinaha, Ben Oda, Albert DeGuzman, Chris Eliopoulos, Nate Piekos, etc. they’re all great. They all help make comics excellent and memorable, and they never ever get the spotlight. Then we have the artists who rock at lettering, like Rian Hughes, Stan Sakai, Walt Kelly, Chris Ware, and that Dave Sim fellow. I could probably do 365 Reasons to Love Lettering. I’m sure I just neglected your absolute favorite and you’re going to put a pox upon my house. I apologize. There’s one man, however, who even the greatest of letterers look up to, and that’s Gaspar Saladino. If Todd Klein and Tom Orz say he’s the best letterer, well, I’m going to believe them.

Unfortunately, the internet has overlooked Gaspar Saladino. There’s very little information about him anywhere. And coming to this as a fan, I don’t know much. What I know of him, I know from his work. He’s got over 3000 credits on the Grand Comics Database, ranging from 1951 to 2002, with reprints lasting to this day. Throughout his career, he worked on loads and loads of good comics, from the Superman/Spider-Man crossover to the Flash to the Arkham Asylum graphic novel.

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He eventually went by one name– “Gaspar.” He was the Cher and/or Madonna of the comics world. And I mean that as a high compliment. All you had to see was the name “Gaspar” in his trademark calligraphy, and you knew you were getting a finely lettered funnybook. His “default” dialoguing style was curvy and naturally enmeshed with the artwork. Really, it should just be seen to be believed. So get on with the seeing!

Gaspar was a marvel at designing logos and titles for stories. I can’t possibly list all the mastheads he designed (they include Swamp Thing and Metal Men), but I can tell you, thanks to Brian Cronin’s Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #66, that Gaspar was hired as a “page one letterer” for a ton of Marvel books. Many editors feared their letterers couldn’t produce exciting title lettering, and brought Gaspar in to do the first page, and only the first page. Strange but true! I’ve also read that he lettered all the sound effects in the ’60s Batman show. Can anybody confirm this? If so: awesome.

And yes, he lettered Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Batman graphic novel, Arkham Asylum. Since it’s handy, I will show you how gloriously lettered it is. Gaspar did an absolutely beautiful job with it, giving characters their own fonts and going crazy with the Joker dialogue. And all done by hand! But don’t take my word for it– take the words on the page!

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Click on the above to enlarge. Arkham Asylum is one of the best lettering jobs I’ve ever seen.

Gaspar also worked on the Flash for years, and so, to wrap up, I will share with you my favorite Flash moment of all time. It comes to use from Flash #91, written by Mark Waid, drawn by the late, great Mike Wieringo, and lettered by Gaspar Saladino himself. You can find this story in the just-released Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told. It’s my favorite issue of Flash ever, and I think it stands as a tribute to a great artist (Ringo) and a great letterer (Gaspar):

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I have a link for you. After a marathon of Googling, I have dredged up this Gaspar interview. Enjoy.

And since it’s inevitable, you might as well start listing off your favorite comics colorists…

17 Comments

Dan (other Dan)

August 22, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Ooh, colorists! I’ve been waiting! Since I appear to be first, I’ll list some of the more obvious: Dave Stewart, Matt Hollingsworth, Tatjana Wood, and Frazier Irving.

Good lord. Is “The Boy Wonder’s Booty Patrol” a genuine story title, or a piece of photoshoppery – particularly with that splash panel?

favourite colourist?

Steve Oliff.

I’m a member in good standing of the Boy Wonder’s Booty Patrol. It’s totally real.

To be honest, my first reaction was “Gaspar who?”. But Arkham Asylum does have exceptionally good lettering come to think of it, so I can’t get mad at this choice. It’s your column anyway, als long as you stand behind your choices that’s fine enough. Good pick nonetheless.

As for colorist, Dave Stewart and Lynn Varley have my vote.

Nice article. One correction: Gaspar started lettering in 1951, not 1940. I’m sure he’d say, “Fifty years was long enough!” He was a mainstay on Julie Schwartz books such as Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space, then Justice League of America, The Flash, and many more. When I started in 1977 he was doing most of the war stories as well as plenty of super-hero and mystery stories.

Thanks for the link to that interview, too, I hadn’t seen it.

A great choice, especially since it’s one I wouldn’t have thought of off the top of my head. Bravo Gaspar!

Which makes me think: your continuing feature is a thing of beauty because it serves double-duty: it reconfirms stuff I love in an enthusiastic and articulate way, and it brings to the spotlight characters, books and creators that I might not have in my “top pantheon” but which I’m interested to learn more about. Even if I don’t agree with a choice I’m a sucker for people articulating why they do like something in an intelligent and energetic way. Well done.

Best “Page a Day” calendar on the web!

If you want input for colorists, look at Barry Windsor-Smith. Actually, you can lool at him for every job involved in the art-side of a comic. While his writing is only interesting for so long, his art is amazing. Consider the fact that he does the writing, penciling, inking, coloring (painted with water colors, usually), and lettering, you can’t NOT give him a ton of credit. At this point, I don’t think I’d want anyone to color BWS art but BWS himslef. His use of color is more like fine art than traditional comics coloring.

Who was the dude that did the Avengers in the Buisek/Peres run. Was it Tom Smith? He’d get a vote from me as well.

For inkers, you have Terry Austin, Klaus Janson. They’re the only two I can name immediately. I usually love it when the penciler inks his own stuff. I think we get a better repsentatoin of the artist’s vision that way.

Thanks for the post, I’ve recently been seeing a lot of Saladino’s work in DC’s Showcase reprints, enjoying what he did there.

One piece of trivia: Saladino did some work for Marvel using a pseudonymn, “L.P. Gregory”.

Oh, one thing I forgot to comment: The Grand Comics Database (http://www.comics.org) is welcome to any input you might have about lettering (and other credits).

The GCD currently records several of those “page one” credits by Gaspar on those 1970′s Marvel comics, but we’re probably still missing a few.

(Several of those 1970′s comics also have another uncredited letterer: Irving Watanabe, who could sometimes be found doing uncredited work on the last pages of many Marvel comics. I assume he was used when a book was running late. Watanabe used to work for the Johnstone-Cushing agency before that, you can find his work on some 1960′s comic-book ads, and also in the “Ben Casey” daily strip that Neal Adams did.)

I think Laura Allred deserves to be listed under the best colorists. Jamie Grant is also pretty awesome.

Gaspar did not letter those Henry Boltinoff filler strips. That credit was in the GCD for several years based on Tom Orzechowski’s ID of Gaspar’s style, but people kept questioning it, and eventually someone asked Gaspar and he said he didn’t letter them. Since Boltinoff’s signature in those strips looks very similar to the lettering, it seems that Boltinoff just had a very Gaspar-like lettering style.

I second the Laura Allred nomination. I don’t know too many colorists, but her colors of Mike’s story in FF 543 made me take notice. I loved the way the mole men were colored and for that she gets my vote.

Laura Martin, nee DePuy. John Cassaday wouldn’t be the great big popular artist drawing guy he is without her.

Gaspar did not do the sound effects on the Batman TV show. there is a rumor that Joe Letterese did, but I don’t believe this; it doesn’t match Joe’s sfx style. my guess is that it was done by 20th Century Fox’s in house art department.

and please add my name to the pantheon of letterers who consider Gaspar the best of all time.

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