Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum


“Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth” was a truly ground-breaking project. An expensive hardcover book scripted by DC’s hot new superstar writer Grant Morrison (pictured right), illustrated in deranged fashion by Dave McKean, and lettered by Gaspar Saladino at the height of his talents. The story took the shopworn “Batman versus the Joker” plot to a frightening new level.

In today’s comics, custom lettering is commonplace -- particularly in Marvel books, and the “Vertigo”line, which DC launched in 1993. Today, many characters“speak” in their own unique font. For example, Sandman has his own dreamy font, the Thing’s letters are rough and rocky, and Thor’s words appear in psuedo-Asgardian script. Where did this technique begin? Who started it? ANSWER:

Arkham Asylum

The answer, of course, is Gaspar Saladino, who did ALL his balloons by hand. In his entire career, Saladino never used a single computer effect! Gaspar pioneered the use of custom lettering, starting with “Swamp Thing” and culminating with “Arkham,” pioneering a daring new style that would redefine the role of the letterer in modern comics.

Arkham Asylum

Gaspar"ARKHAM" might be considered Gaspar’s masterpiece, though perhaps it is not one he would wish to be most remembered for, because it is a masterpiece of dementia.

Gaspar was given complete artistic freedom to visualize the Joker’s maniacal thoughts and words as he saw fit, and he met the challenge by producing an ink-spattered lettering style as frantic and crazed as the Joker’s mind -- not an easy task for a man as calm and organized as Gaspar Saladino!
am Asylum
This is not simply “lettering,” this is a new art form, one which I would define as “Caligraphia Dementia.” Demented calligraphy! It goes way, WAY beyond anything ever seen up until this point, and adds a frightening new dimension to the story.
Arkham Asylum

How did conservative, old-school gentleman Gaspar Saladino get along with whacked-out genius Grant Morrison? We may never know. Surprisingly, Gaspar tells us, "I’ve actually never had the pleasure of meeting Grant Morrison. The editor of Arkham Asylum, Karen Berger, left it up to me to decide how to do it. She let me letter the script in whatever manner I wanted to."
Arkham Asylum
"All Karen asked," Gaspar continues, "Was that I make everything as menacing as possible! How do you make something as menacing as possible? You try different things and you hope it works out." Memo to Gaspar: It worked out... DAMN good!

 Arkham Asylum

The back of Arkham featured pseudo diary entries made by several Batman villains. These pages gave Gaspar a chance to just completely cut loose, to take the supremely controlled restraint he had developed over a lifetime and throw it all out the window in favor of a demented calligraphy that has been, as they say, "often imitated but never duplicated." Here's the Joker's wild entry:
Arkham Asylum

And here are some words of wisdom from the Mad Hatter, as written by Grant Morrison and lettered by Gaspar Saladino. With its oddly-formed letters, mad scribbles and bizarre underlining's, it's like looking into the mind of a madman!

Arkham Asylum
Seen below is a lovely little entry from Clayface, who apparently likes to write random naughty words such as tumor, vile, abortion, and sick excretion just for the fun of it!
Arkham Asylum
When he first read the Arkham script, Saladino was amazed at the story's crazed originality. And he points to the book as an inspiration for the latest Batman movie. According to Gaspar, "Arkham Asylum was something else! I think that one book started a whole trend. I think Arkham was a model for the new 'Dark Knight' movie."


Reader, we’re nearing the END of DIAL B for BLOG’s history-making, 24-hour long Gaspar Saladino series. Zero hour! The perfect time to present Gaspar’s lettering on the pivotal DC mini-series “ZERO HOUR,” written by Dan Jurgens, drawn by Jerry Ordway, lettered and SIGNED by Gaspar!
Zero Hour


Good news, reader: Gaspar Saladino has NOT retired! "I have a project in the works, so I’m keeping my hands in. We’ll see what happens." DIAL B will keep you posted! After all, Gaspar and his work are now officially immortal… not just for 24 hours, but for all eternity...

Zero Hour


Starting at the very moment comics began, visionary DC designer IRA SCHNAPP stored up a fabulous treasure of gold and silver. Years later, another humble genius of design used his own massive talent to infuse this treasure with the rebellious spirit of a new Gaspargeneration! His name? GASPAR SALADINO!

Gaspar, when I, Robby Reed, first told you I would make you immortal in a single day, you laughed. But after 24 incredible hours of coverage on comic sites all across the World Wide Web, the time has come to believe YOUR name cannot die!

GASPAR SALADINO! You, who lent your distinctive touch not to mere hundreds of comic books, but to several thousand! You, who infused DC's gold and silver treasure with the rebellious spirit of a new generation! You, the envy of your peers, the letterer's letterer, the Treasure Keeper!
Your time has come...

Let the annals of justice record that on this day, the entirety of comic book nation recognizes and acknowledges your matchless contributions to our beloved hobby! And let comic fans around the world declare with pride that THEY were there on the day history was made; THEY watched in awe as the priceless document below became a matter of historical record; and that THEY heard the following clarion call echo throughout eternity:

GASPAR SALADINO! You, who have achieved immortality! Come forth, and assume your rightful place among the pantheon of comic book superstars! So let it be written, so let it be done!

Zero Hour

SOURCES FOR THIS ARTICLE: Gaspar Saladino interview conducted by "Robby Reed" (Kirk Kimball); “Alter Ego” magazine, #2 September 1999, #10 September 2001, #54 November 2005, #60 July 2006, Twomorrows Publishing; “The Amazing World of DC Comics,” #1, “The Celebrated Mr. K: Joe Kubert” (July 1974), #?? “Sol Harrison and Jack Adler: Scenemakers Behind the Scenes” (January 1976); “Comic Book Artist” #5 Summer 1999, TwoMorrows Publishing; The Comic Book in America,” Mike Benton, Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, TX, 1989; “Comics Interview magazine,” Neal Adams interview, Fictioneer Books, 1991; “Deadman” reprint, DC Comics, 1985; “The Deadman Collection,” essays by Neal Adams, Arnold Drake, DC Comics, 2001; “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” reprint, essay by Denny O’Neil, DC Comics; “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book,” Gerard Jones, Basic Books, 2004; “Neal Adams The Sketch Book,” Neal Adams and Arlen Schumer, Vanguard Productions, 1999; “The New Wonderful World of Wonder Woman,” Mike Sekowsky, Wonder Woman #181, #184, DC Comics; “Roots of the Swamp Thing,” reprint, DC Comics, 1986; “Swamp Thing” reprint, essay by Alan Moore, DC Comics. OTHER SOURCES: Silver Lantern, Todd Klein, Tom Orzechowski, Clem Robins, Richard Starkings.


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