Listening to: JONI MITCHELL ARCHIVES Volume 1

© images Rhino Entertainment and Joni Mitchell

I asked for this five CD set for Christmas, and received it from my inlaws, thanks Ann and Dave! I’ve listened to it all several times now, and I love it. This is the Joni Mitchell I fell in love with in the late sixties after buying her first few albums, but it was all recorded before that, from 1963 to 1967, in home recordings, radio stations and coffee house appearances. The booklet includes a recent interview of Joni by Cameron Crowe about the music, and she is as feisty as ever, telling him she was in no way influenced by Joan Baez, for instance, when he suggests it. The first CD is all traditional songs with a few by Woody Guthrie and the like. After that it’s nearly all original Joni songs, about half of which were never recorded or released elsewhere. You can hear her finding her way, some songs that were recorded by her have earlier lyrics or tune sections that were improved on before recording. Some songs are unfinished, some use tunes that turned up in later songs. Throughout, Joni’s voice is strong and confident, with the wide range of her early work. Intro talk about some of the songs is revealing and interesting, setting the time and place and what she was doing then, or who the song is about.

There’s a fair amount of repetition of her own songs in live performance, but I don’t mind that, they’re all a little different. The sound quality is good, though in a few spots the clink of glasses and plates is too audible. If any of you are Joni Mitchell fans, as I am, you will definitely want this. I’m not sure about later volumes of the Archives, I’ll have to see what’s on them, but this one is excellent. The first link is the CD set, the second is for mp3 downloads.

Ira Schnapp in AQUAMAN and THE ATOM

Images © DC Comics

Aquaman had been a regular DC character since 1941, but did not star in his own series until 1962. The tryouts for that ran in SHOWCASE #30-33, example above. This Aquaman logo had been created to top the splash pages of his stories in 1944, though Ira Schnapp added AQUALAD for this use.

When the new series began it featured a new logo by Schnapp which used the letter shapes from the previous logo, but made taller with a larger A and in an arc. The editor was Jack Schiff, and later George Kashdan. Aqualad had a much smaller byline, and Ira used some flaming letters in the caption. Since he was a superhero, Aquaman didn’t have to explain how he breathed and spoke underwater, and his opponents were often as mythic or fantastic as those in many other DC books of the time. Ira Schnapp lettered most of the covers up to issue #33, but none of the stories inside.

Aquaman could speak to and command the creatures of the sea, and as seen on the cover of issue #3, he wasn’t above using them to save himself.

Issue #9 from 1963 has Schnapp lettering in the bottom caption, but the word balloons are by someone else, I don’t know who. Perhaps they were added later in the DC production department.

Issue #16 has a larger and relettered subtitle, and features Aquaman’s love interest Mera in the background.

Not wasting any time, Aquaman and Mera were married in issue #18 from 1964 with the Justice League in attendance, the first cover appearance of a superhero wedding. Interesting to note which members didn’t need breathing apparatus: Superman, Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter. The scroll caption by Ira shows his ability to work in curved perspective.

Not only was Aquaman the rare hero to marry, he and Mera had a son in issue #23 from 1966. Ira’s banner at the top announces the event, which seems to be a mixed blessing.

Ira Schnapp’s last cover lettering for was on issue #33 from 1968. The series ran to issue #63 in 1978. The character had several later series and remains one of DC’s most well-known characters. Here are the covers lettered by Schnapp: 1-21, 23-24, 26-29, 31-33. That’s 30 in all.

The Atom was the third 1940s DC character revamped by editor Julius Schwartz after The Flash and Green Lantern. His tryout ran in SHOWCASE #34-36 with a new logo by Ira Schnapp.

The first issue of Atom’s own series began in 1962 with Schwartz editing, and ran to issue #38 in 1968. Ira Schnapp lettered most of the covers but none of the stories inside, many of which were lettered by Gaspar Saladino.

Issue #4 used a rare four-panel sequence with Ira’s thought balloon lettering helping to tell the story.

In addition to the caption and balloons, Ira lettered some book titles on the cover of issue #9, and probably the numbers and letters on the phone.

Issue #12 from 1964 has a rare round caption by Ira, and this cover is a good example of poor color choices made for the lettering (not by Ira). In the caption at the top, the first two lines should have been reversed white or yellow to read on the dark background, and the final line of the lower caption needed similar help, perhaps making it red.

Issue #19 has a completely reversed upper burst caption which reads fine, and I like the lettering in the lower caption too.

By issue #23 in 1966, cover lettering was getting larger and more bombastic. This might have been in reaction to what Marvel Comics was doing on their covers, but DC could never get theirs to work as well.

Ira uses some tall Art Deco influenced lettering in his caption for issue #32. Notice how well the blurb fits into the space.

Ira’s final cover lettering for the series was on issue #35 from 1968, and the book would last only three more issues. The labels on this cover are quite well done, and I also like the push-pin in the caption. Here are the covers lettered by Schnapp: 1–6, 8-13, 15-19, 21-27, 29-35. That’s 31 in all.

Aquaman on Wikipedia.

The Atom on Wikipedia.

More articles like this are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Ira Schnapp in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA

Images © DC Comics

Following the success of his revamp of DC Comics’ Golden Age character The Flash, editor Julius Schwartz did the same thing with Green Lantern, and then thought of teaming all the best DC heroes together in one comic, as had been done in the 1940s in ALL-STAR COMICS with The Justice Society of America. The new team first appeared in a three issue tryout in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28-30. Long-time DC heroes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman teamed with the 1950s creation J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, and Julie’s new versions of Flash and Green Lantern. The book sold well and was soon in its own title.

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Incoming: LOCKE & KEY/THE SANDMAN #0

Images © DC and IDW

IDW sent me a few of these recently, and I didn’t know why until I opened one up. It’s a sort of preview/prelude to an upcoming crossover between Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Universe and IDW’s Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, and it includes an eight-page section from SANDMAN #1 that I lettered. I loved the original LOCKE & KEY series, and the preview includes a Locke & Key story I hadn’t read, “Open The Moon” from a comic titled LOCKE & KEY: THE GUIDE TO KNOWN KEYS. This 16-page story is a gem! Beautifully written, excellent art, lettering and coloring, very moving. It’s about a special new key created for Ian Locke, a boy who is gravely ill. It’s a key that will unlock the moon and what Ian finds there amazes and delights him. That sequence is done in the style of Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay. There are other things in the issue, including that guide to known keys, but this story is well worth the price of the issue on its own. I haven’t been reading any comics lately, but I think I might try to read this crossover.

Ira Schnapp in DC ANNUALS

Images © DC Comics

The idea of annuals as larger than usual collections of material, often reprints, has a long tradition in England and America going back to the late 1800s. Comics annuals, or annual-sized collections of reprints, began turning up from DC as early as 1935 with THE BIG BOOK OF FUN COMICS from National Allied Publications, the company that became DC Comics, and some publishers like Archie were issuing them regularly by 1950. DC did not begin annuals featuring their superheroes until 1960 with the publication of SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1, cover above, which set the style, a large central image surrounded by smaller ones. At the time, reprints of DC comics were almost unknown, and back issues were hard or impossible to find, so readers often knew little about the history and previous appearances of the characters. This comic, delving into the past, was the first time many like myself had any idea what had come before 1960, and it must have sold very well, as DC was soon putting out several annuals a year. In 1964, they decided to make a series from the annual format called 80-PAGE GIANT, and for over a year issued monthly annual reprint collections under that name. After issue #15, the Giants abandoned their own numbering and later ones were numbered as issues of the series they were collecting, so for instance, 80-Page Giant #G-16 featured The Justice League of America and is also issue #39 of that series. I’ve already shown a few of those in other articles, and won’t be covering them here, where I’ll focus on annuals that had their own numbering and were not part of any other series.

One thing that made reprints harder at DC was that they did not have copies of the art or printing materials for many of their older stories. Some time after Irwin Donenfeld, son of company co-owner Harry Donenfeld, joined the editorial staff around 1948, he established a new policy that the company would get back the film negatives created by the color separator to make the printing plates for all their titles rather than the previous system of chemically melting them to recapture the silver used to make the negatives. DC’s film archives begin at that time, and having them meant that reprinting those stories was much easier. Stories before then could only be reprinted by more expensive and time consuming methods like bleaching the color out of actual comics pages to make new art images and then retouching them, sometimes heavily, to get anything printable. It was done occasionally for important early issues, but not on a regular basis in the period covered here, which is to the end of the 1960s. That’s why DC’s reprints are mainly drawn from 1950s-1960s stories in this era.

Ira Schnapp did cover lettering on nearly all the annuals from the 1960s, sometimes including the back covers, and he occasionally lettered special one or two-page fillers inside the books. On the cover of the first annual, above, dated Summer 1960, he designed GIANT and ANNUAL to go with his SUPERMAN logo from 1940, as well as the rest of the lettering.

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