In some 1940s National (DC) titles I’ve found Ira Schnapp story lettering beginning as early as 1945, but in ACTION COMICS I don’t see any until 1947. Many of the mid-40s stories are instead lettered by an unknown person I’m calling Proto-Schnapp for convenience, example above from ACTION #110, July 1947. Proto-Schnapp shares style similarities with Ira, and at first glance this could be Ira’s work. Notice the very regular and classic lettering and the balloon shapes with large scallops that sometimes overlap the panel above. My theory is this was an older letterer who Ira used as a model for his own work, but that’s just a guess. A closer look, and here are some style points I think indicate Proto-Schnapp. Most of Ira’s letters would fit into a square, these are often wider and would not. The right leg of the R is curved in most cases. On close examination, this lettering is somewhat less regular and even than Ira’s. Most of the letter shapes are very similar to Schnapp’s though.
The Superman story in ACTION #113, Oct. 1947, is the first one I think is lettered by Ira Schnapp, despite the wobbly title treatment.
Here’s a detail from the second page of the story, so you can more easily compare it to Proto-Schnapp. Less wide letters that would usually fit into a square. Very even and regular: all the matching letters look the same. Very small question marks. By my count, Ira Schnapp lettered 36 Superman stories in ACTION, beginning with this one.
The obvious question is, why couldn’t both styles be by Ira? My answer is, these styles appear at the same time here and in other titles, and I can’t think of any good reason why Ira would consistently use two different styles, at least in the 1940s when the only task was to get the words on the pages, not impress with style variations.
Here’s another example from the Superman story in ACTION #114 of Proto-Schnapp lettering. Again, wider and a bit less regular than Ira, though similar. Notice the curved right legs on some of the R’s.
The second story that might have Ira Schnapp lettering in ACTION is the Vigilante one from issue #115. Here a very rounded story title is suggesting Proto-Schnapp, but the width and shapes of the other letters say Schnapp to me.
A detail from that story, and now I’m not so sure it IS by Ira! Some of these letters are too wide, and a few of the R’s have curved right legs, so perhaps it is by Proto-Schnapp after all. You see what I’m up against in these identifications.
The Superman story in ACTION #117, Feb. 1948, looks more like Ira Schnapp work, particularly the Old English style title.
Some balloons from later in that story confirm for me this is Ira’s lettering and not that of Proto-Schnapp.
The Congo Bill story in ACTION #117 also looks like it was lettered by Schnapp, and the title is a big clue. I see Ira’s lettering on 26 Congo Bill stories, following the adventures of an African explorer. He’d later become Congorilla, more on that below.
Western crime-fighter Vigilante’s story in ACTION #118, March 1948, is the first one I think is lettered by Schnapp. I found four others I believe he did.
The magician Zatara’s story in ACTION #122, July 1948, is the first one I think Ira lettered. He did ten more. As with most story lettering at the time, unless the artist was lettering himself, there were no regular assignments, and most features have lettering by several different people, probably whoever was available when the pencilled art came in from the artist.
Issue #133, June 1949, has some very narrow Ira Schnapp lettering on this Superman story. I’m guessing the editor (Mort Weisinger, I think) asked him to try making the lettering more condensed. Ira’s work was already pretty narrow for the time, this is even more so. It seems to have been an experiment that only lasted for this one issue.
Also in issue #133 is the first Tommy Tomorrow story lettered by Ira. He would eventually do 15 of them in all.
In ACTION #248, Jan. 1959, Congo Bill became Congorilla for the first time, changing bodies with a golden gorilla temporarily. This added an element of fantasy to the strip, and kept it going for a while, as gorillas seemed to sell stories for DC. Ira Schnapp lettered this first Congorilla story (and logo) as well as two others.
Ira Schnapp did not letter the first Supergirl story, but he did work on the second one in ACTION #253, June 1959. He lettered only one other, in issue #255. Note that the GIRL in the SUPERGIRL logo is Ira’s work, too.
Ira Schnapp’s story lettering was rarely on the majority of pages in ACTION, and it dropped off quite a bit starting in 1952, probably because he was busy with other work. This Superman story from issue #283, Dec. 1961, is the last one he lettered for the title.
Here’s a list of all the stories I’ve found in ACTION COMICS lettered by Ira Schnapp.
ACTION COMICS #113, Oct. 1947: Superman 12 pages
ACTION #117, Feb. 1948: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #118, March ’48: Vigilante 9 pp
ACTION #119, April ’48: Superman 12 pp
ACTION #120, May ’48: Superman 12 pp
ACTION #121 June ’48: Vigilante 8 pp
ACTION #122, July ’48: Superman 12 pp, Zatara 7 pp
ACTION #123, Aug. ’48: Superman 12 pp, Zatara 7 pp
ACTION #124, Sept. ’48: Zatara 7 pp
ACTION #125, Oct. ’48: Superman 12 pp, Zatara 7 pp
ACTION #126, Nov. ’48: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp, Zatara 7 pp
ACTION #127, Dec. ’48: Superman 10 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp, Zatara 6 pp, Vigilante 8 pp
ACTION #128, Jan. ’49: Congo Bill 6 pp, Zatara 6 pp
ACTION #129, Feb. ’49: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp, Zatara 6 pp
ACTION #130, March ’49: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp, Zatara 6 pp, Vigilante 8 pp
ACTION #131, April ’49: Superman 13 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp, Zatara 6 pp
ACTION #132, May ’49: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp, Zatara 6 pp
ACTION #133, June ’49: Superman 12 pp, Tommy Tomorrow 8 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #134, July ’49: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #135, Aug. ’49: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #136, Sept. ’49: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #137, Oct. ’49: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #138, Nov. ’49: Superman 10 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #140, Jan. ’50: Tommy Tomorrow 8 pp
ACTION #141, Feb. ’50: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #142-143, March-April ’50: Superman 12 pp
ACTION #144, May ’50: Superman 12 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #145-146, 148-151, 153, June ’50 to Feb. ’51: Superman 12 pp
ACTION #154, March ’51: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #156-157, May-June ’51: Superman 12 pp
ACTION #162, Nov. ’51: Superman 10 pp, Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #163, Dec. ’51: Tommy Tomorrow 6 pp
ACTION #176, Jan. ’53: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #178 & 181, March & June ’53: Tommy Tomorrow 6 pp
ACTION #182, July ’53: Tommy Tomorrow 6 pp, Vigilante 8 pp
ACTION #183-184, 186, Aug.-Nov. ’53: Tommy Tomorrow 6 pp
ACTION #188, Jan. ’54: Congo Bill 6 pp, Tommy Tomorrow 6 pp
ACTION #211, Dec. ’55: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #213, 215-217, Feb.-June ’56: Tommy Tomorrow 6 pp
ACTION #219, Aug. ’56: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #221, Oct. ’56: Tommy Tomorrow 6 pp
ACTION #225, 227, Feb.-April ’57: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #242, July ’58: Congo Bill 6 pp
ACTION #245, Oct. ’58: Superman 13 pp
ACTION #248, Jan. ’59: Congorilla 7 pp (first)
ACTION #249, Feb. ’59: Congorilla 6 pp
ACTION #250, March ’59: Tommy Tomorrow 7 pp, Congorilla 6 pp
ACTION #251, April ’59: Superman 13 pp, Congorilla 6 pp, Tommy Tomorrow 7 pp
ACTION #253, June ’59: Supergirl 8 pp
ACTION #255, Aug. ’59: Superman 12 pp, Supergirl 7 pp
ACTION #256, Sept. ’59: Superman 12 pp
ACTION #283, Dec. ’61: Superman 13 pp
If my guesses and math are right, that’s 846 story pages in ACTION lettered by Ira, not counting house ads and public service pages that ran across all the titles. Lots of work!
Hope you’re enjoying this research as much as I am, more articles about it and many more you might like can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.