I’ve just received advance copies of “Stardust,” the second in a series of new paperback versions of Neil Gaiman books with wonderful cover paintings by illustration legend Robert McGinnis and titles and type design by me. I wrote about the first one, “American Gods,” HERE. This book’s release date is Sept. 27th, so it will be on sale soon. Here’s how the final cover was achieved. Continue reading
MORE FUN grew out of the first comic published by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, NEW COMICS, begun in 1935. The title changed to MORE FUN with issue 7, then MORE FUN COMICS with issue 9 dated March-April 1936. When the Major’s comics were taken over by Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, MORE FUN continued as the first title published by “Detective Comics, Inc.” now DC Comics. For many years it was an action-adventure anthology containing features of all types, with superheroes gradually filling the pages, including Doctor Occult, The Spectre, Doctor Fate, Congo Bill, Johnny Quick, Green Arrow and Aquaman. The title was edited by Mort Weisinger for a while, with Jack Schiff taking over with issue #83 in 1942. With issue #101 dated Jan.-Feb. 1945, a new feature, Superboy, was introduced, the stories of Superman as a boy. With issue #108 dated March 1946, all the superhero features moved to ADVENTURE COMICS, and the remaining issues of MORE FUN were mainly filled with humorous stories. Issue #121 dated April 1947 saw the introduction of a fantasy strip, “Jimminy and the Magic Book,” which was the lead feature until the series was cancelled with issue #127 dated Nov.-Dec. 1947.
As with other 1940s National (DC) comics I’ve looked through, Ira Schnapp’s involvement begins with issues dated in early 1945, which means his work for it was begun probably in the fall of 1944. Starting with cover lettering, issue 105 dated Sept.-Oct. 1945, above, is clearly lettered by Ira, the script style of “Featuring” is unmistakable. Some of the other lettering is his early display style seen on other covers he did in this period. Let’s see if we can follow his style back through a few earlier covers. Continue reading
Kurt Busiek’s unlikely short story host “The Broken Man” is back with two stories about the importance and impact of music in Astro City, one from the days before there was a city about a traveling minstrel, the other about a music-inspired hero from the poor, black part of town in the early 20th century. Both stories are well told and nicely illustrated, and the framing stuff about Broken Man is funny, sinister and wacky, with the cover by Alex Ross as exhibit A. I admire Kurt’s ability to get to the roots of power fantasies by the downtrodden and make them ring true, while putting them in such colorful and entertaining packages. I also admire the lettering of Comicraft’s John Roshell on this issue, always and here in particular. I know how time-consuming that lettering for Broken Man must be.
Determining which stories in WORLD’S FINEST were lettered by Ira Schnapp is the focus of this article, and on the early examples it’s not an easy task. For one thing, his style had not yet settled into the familiar one I see in many DC issues from 1946 on. For another, I don’t have great scans of some early issues. Let’s begin by looking at the story lettering for issue #15 dated Fall 1944, for which I do have good scans. Continue reading
WORLD’S FINEST COMICS began really as WORLD’S FAIR COMICS, two annual-sized issues released in 1939 and 1940 as promotional advertising at the New York World’s Fair of those years, though they may also have had newsstand distribution. There, for the first time, two of National (DC) Comics’ most popular characters, Superman and Batman (with Robin) appeared together for the first time, though only on the covers. Interior stories featured each separately, along with many other stories and characters. The idea was continued in 1941 with a similar comic, WORLD’S BEST COMICS, retitled WORLD’S FINEST COMICS beginning with issue #2. WORLD’S FINEST was issued quarterly for a few years, then switched to bimonthly (6 issues per year) for many years.
Until issue 71 (July-Aug. 1954) each issue had Superman, Batman and Robin together on the cover, but inside Superman had his own stories initially produced by Joe Shuster’s studio in Cleveland, and Batman and Robin had THEIR own stories initially produced by Bob Kane’s studio in New York. Other features came and went between these bookends at the front and the back of each issue. With issue 71, the page count was cut from 68 to 36 pages. In order to keep Superman, Batman and Robin prominent they then began appearing in the same lead story together, and did so for many years.
WORLD’S FINEST was edited initially by Whitney Ellsworth, then by Jack Schiff beginning with issue #8 dated Winter 1942-43. Schiff remained the editor until issue #140 dated March 1964. As the series went on, the Shuster and Kane studios had less to do with the stories featuring their characters. The same was true for the “Boy Commandos” feature by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon originally. World War Two was taking creators into military service for one thing, and keeping up with the amount of material needed to fill several titles for Superman (his own title and ACTION) and Batman (his own title and DETECTIVE) meant that Jack Schiff at the DC offices gradually took the lead in creating story ideas, and hiring writers and artists to produce them. On the stories he handled, Schiff also needed to hire letterers, and that’s where Ira Schnapp comes into the picture.
Ira Schnapp’s first work for National (DC) comics was the revamped Superman logo he created based on the earlier versions by Joe Shuster. It first appeared on SUPERMAN #6 dated Sept.-Oct. 1940. Ira continued to work for the company after that, but exactly what he did and when has not yet been defined. That’s what my research aims to find out. Continue reading