Continuing my Ira Schnapp detective work, I decided to look through some of the late 1940s – early 1950s DC Comics issues I have digital files of searching for early Ira Schnapp house ads. Most of the ones I found, and all the ones I’m including here, were on either the inside front cover or inside back cover, printed in black and white, sometimes with added gray tones. That’s ideal for looking at the lettering. Above is the earliest ad I found by Ira, from BATMAN #53 dated July 1949. Most DC house ads from the time were template ads, meaning the were somewhat generic and could be reused over months or years by simply replacing the cover or covers of the comics. This one is specific to SUPERBOY #2, and probably only published at or around this particular month. That became the standard later, but is unusual for this time. Lots of great Schnapp lettering here, including his Superman and Superboy logos, several styles of large display lettering, and giant exclamation marks. What reader could help being intrigued? Not me.Many house ads from the late 1940s looked more like this, actually about a half page on the right of the National Comics (now DC) title list. This ad is not by Schnapp, and I don’t think he did the lettering on this version of the DC bullet symbol either. I think the top two lines are type, and the script below that is definitely not as well-crafted as what Ira could do. I don’t know who was doing DC’s ads at the time, it could have been more than one person, but many of them have lettering that resembles this. It’s likely to have been done by a production staffer rather than a freelancer.
Here’s another ad probably by the same person from ACTION COMICS #154 dated March 1951. The one thing I do think is by Ira Schnapp is the revised DC bullet symbol, which is now much more polished and appealing. The rest of the ad has nice if somewhat cartoony art, and the open letters at the top are okay, but the lettering style is not as good as Ira’s in my opinion. This ad is about as generic as it gets, with no specific comics or characters in it.
Another ad probably by the same person from the next issue of ACTION COMICS. This one is specific to TOMAHAWK, but could easily be reused later by putting a different cover in it. Again, the lettering is not bad, just not as good as Ira’s. Clearly this person was continuing to do some house ads at the same time as Ira.
Compare it to this ad which ran the following month in DETECTIVE COMICS #171, dated May 1951. Here the lettering in the center is more polished and precise, and very much in Ira Schnapp’s style. The open letters at the bottom have been reused from the ad above, and are probably not by Ira, though they could be. Another template ad, this one could be reused any time by adding covers for a particular month. It may well have run earlier than this example.
The following month, this ad not by Schnapp ran in DETECTIVE COMICS #172. Another template ad with multiple covers. I think it’s very likely this letterer and Ira were both working on house ads at the same time. Ira was on staff starting around 1949, and certainly there by 1951. I can imagine a scenario of Ira and the other production staffer sitting side by side, both working on house ads. Since this was likely to be staff work, and not freelance, there was probably no element of competition, just each of them doing a job as requested.
But you have to imagine that other guy looking at this Schnapp house ad from SUPERBOY #17 dated Nov. 1951 and realizing he was out-classed. Weird and spooky lettering was never Ira’s strong point, but what he did here is quite effective. Look at all the different lettering styles he used, all gorgeous, and the stylized art in the background adds a great deal of mood and mystery. Are those very tall trees against the full moon? Man, this ad would sure have made me want to get my hands on that comic! Ira’s HOUSE OF MYSTERY logo was not particularly spooky or mysterious, but the rest of the ad and cover lettering sold it.
And just to show his versatility, here’s a completely different approach from ACTION COMICS #170 dated July 1952. Ira does wacky humor! Okay, maybe his lettering was not all that wacky, but it sure reads well, and the layout and design of the entire page is exciting and appealing. It’s pretty obvious why nearly all the DC house ads would soon be lettered by Ira Schnapp.
I hope to look at more of these in the future. Other Schnapp articles and more you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.