Gaspar Saladino worked for over fifty years in the comics industry, and was famed for his lettering, logo designs and advertising for DC Comics, his work so distinctive, only his first name was necessary. Before there was Prince or Madonna, there was Gaspar.
Born September 1st 1927 in Brooklyn, he died on Thursday, 4th August 2016, weeks short of his 89th birthday.
Beginning work at DC in 1949, he worked in the DC offices as a freelancer, working on everything from Superman to their cowboy comics, gaining a name for himself on Schwartz's sixties superhero titles, while also working for other publishers on comics magazine such as Eerie. In was under Carime Infantino that he would move to letter all the DC Comics titles that gave the line a new, more consistent, dynamic look through the late sixties and into the seventies, as well as lettering Swamp Thing and creating that distinctive lettering style for the character. He also lettered a number of Marvel titles so was the natural choice for that first crossover Superman Vs Spider-Man and then Superman vs Mohammad Ali.
He did the titles and letters for all DC Comics covers through the sixties and seventies, worked on plenty of Marvel Comics and in the eighties took on the challenge of lettering the experimental Arkham Asylum graphic novel over Dave McKean's artwork, a career highlight forty years in.
He took on lettering for DC's war titles in the seventies and Stan Lee's newspaper strip The Virtue of Vera Valiant. He would return to specialising for DC Comics on titles such as The Flash, LEGION and recalling his work on Arkham Asylum, four years on Hellblazer, though he reduced his workload considerable 15 years ago.
Ex-EIC Paul Levitz posted on Facebook,
My words never looked better than when rendered in the careful calligraphy of Gaspar Saladino, and if I must say farewell to him, I won't do it referring to him by his most frequent but inadequate title of 'letterer." Gaspar was an artist with design, creating logotypes that have endured and influence, ads that sent us running to the newsstand, and what he did with "simple" sound effects or words in balloons. His work on Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson's SWAMP THING run established a new level for what lettering could do to add to storytelling in periodical American comics, bringing more drama with his innovative style.
I grew up enjoying Gaspar's uncredited work, mostly on Julie Schwartz's titles, and then was delighted to meet the man and have the opportunity to have him render my awkward sketches into a beautiful logo for ADVENTURE COMICS and to have him collaborate by bringing his talent to my comics and newspaper strip run. He was a smiling craftsman, enjoying each challenge or even routine task. I'm sad to hear that he's passed, but I have beautiful examples of his talent hanging on my walls to cherish with my memories.
Gaspar was an inspiration to me, especially his cover lettering and house ad work, which I often studied. In 1985, while on staff at DC, I put together a 54-page xeroxed collection of Gaspar's cover lettering, as a source for myself, and also for the production staff assembling the DC covers, as sometimes we were able to reuse parts of Gaspar's work, to save him and us a little time.
Here's an example.
Richard Starkings once described him as,
The master and originator of the more elaborate DC style of lettering. I'm told that Gaspar had a stone on which he would grind down the nibs he used for lettering and so create the perfect point for his line. Todd Klein, Bill Oakley and others who seek to letter in his style have been described as "kissing the Gaspar Stone."
You can check out so much of the man's work and legacy in memory, at Dial B For Blog who ran a twelve part special on the man. And you can see the influence of his work in all the comics you read today.