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.)
234. Gaspar Saladino
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.
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!
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):
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…