Continuing my research into the DC Comics lettering work of Ira Schnapp, this part will discuss Ira’s lettering on the covers of ADVENTURE COMICS. Prior to issue 103, above, dated April 1946, the title featured Simon and Kirby’s Sandman for several years, and few of the covers had any hand-lettering. What did appear was not like the work of Ira Schnapp. Issue 103 began a long run featuring Superboy as the lead character (Superman as a boy), and Ira lettered most of the covers from this issue on, when they had cover lettering at all, some did not. The word NOW! is very much in a style that Ira used throughout his cover lettering career (about 1942 to 1968). The rest of the lettering is typical of early Schnapp cover lettering, not quite like what he used a few years later, but similar.
Ira also designed the Superboy logo seen on this and many later covers and stories, derived from his revamp of the Superman logo from 1940 (itself based on the original logo designs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster). It’s interesting to note that while the P and R loops are rounded, the B and O in BOY have square corners that match the U. Ira designed a very different Superboy logo for the character’s own title a few years later.
Issue #105, June 1946, has the first examples of Ira’s word balloon lettering on the title. Again, this is not exactly like what he was doing a few years later, but similar. He also did the sign.
Issue #107, Aug. 1946. Though the blurb in the upper right corner is the same text as issue #105, it’s relettered. Some of these standard blurbs were reused. The blurb at lower right is new, and features some of Ira’s stylish script. I particularly like the Q in AQUAMAN.
The cover of issue #113, Feb. 1947, gave Ira a chance to use one of the Old English styles he liked for SEASON’S GREETINGS, though unfortunately it doesn’t show up well on the dark blue background.
Issue #121, Oct. 1947, has the first example on this title of the kind of open semi-script story title lettering Ira sometimes used. I think Ira also lettered the giant postage stamp, which features the most awkward flying pose I’ve ever seen!
In addition to a slight variation of the blurb at upper right, issue #123, Dec. 1947, has an early example of another style Ira often used in the sign at left, Art Deco block letters.
Issue #131, Aug. 1948 has a rare example from the time of cover lettering that I think is NOT by Ira Schnapp, but instead by someone else trying to imitate his style, and not getting it right. The biggest indication is the use of type for the story title, a shortcut Ira would never have taken.
Issue #133, Oct. 1948, has an odd cover where the lettering is a mix of type and hand-lettering. Some of this might have been put in by the artists. The open story title is too rough and uneven for it to be by Ira.
Much of the same art and lettering appears on the first story page inside. The balloons are by Schnapp, but some or all of the report card is done by the art team of Al Wenzel and George Roussos (also a letterer) as credited by the Grand Comics Database.
Issue #139, April 1949, was the first to feature a new and much improved ADVENTURE COMICS logo by Ira Schnapp. In fact, I think this is the best logo the title ever had. The editors and staff must have thought so too, it lasted until issue #397, Sept. 1970, over thirty years, and off-and-on after that until 1978. Longer than Ira himself, who left the company in 1968 and died in 1969. It also has a small version of the new Superboy logo Ira designed for the character’s own magazine.
Issues #155 and #159, Aug. and Dec. 1950, are, I think, two more rare exceptions that are NOT by Ira Schnapp. These do not look like Ira’s work.
By issue #163, April 1951, Ira Schnapp’s fully-developed cover lettering style is on display, including his typical word balloons and open titles, as well as his handsome script. This look would unify and brand the entire DC Comics line from about 1950 to 1967. Note that the balloon lettering style Ira used on covers was different from the one he used on story pages. It was done larger, and more carefully for one thing. The most obvious difference is that the S is more perfectly rounded.
Issue #192, Sept. 1953, has a particularly beautiful story title in one of Ira’s favorite Old English styles. Notice how the balloon lettering has become more condensed and has heavier lines.
Issue #210, March 1955, added Superboy’s super-dog to the mythos, with nice lettering by Ira.
By comparison, Krypto’s second appearance in issue #214, July 1955, has cover lettering definitely NOT by Ira Schnapp.
Perhaps the most famous ADVENTURE cover is issue #247, April 1958, which introduced the Legion of Super-Heroes, with fine lettering by Ira, including the name plates and voting signs.
Issue #255, Dec. 1958, features early cover lettering by Gaspar Saladino, who would become the main cover letterer about a decade later, replacing Ira.
Issue #290, Nov. 1961, has way too much lettering, but Ira Schnapp makes it work anyway, managing to keep it off the characters and action.
The Legion of Super-Heroes was very popular, and eventually pushed Superboy into an almost supporting role. Ira Schnapp was asked to add them to the cover logo, and that version first appeared here on issue #317, Feb. 1964.
As ADVENTURE rolled into the second half of the 1960s, the covers seemed to be trying too hard with too much lettering, very gimmicky stories, and poor trade dress design epitomized by those awful “go-go checks” at the top. DC, run by aging men, trying to hip, and failing miserably! Ira Schnapp did his best, but he and his style were also aging. Ira was 71 years old when he lettered this cover of issue #343, April 1966. His work was just as precise and accomplished as ever, but getting further and further out of date.
Ira’s final cover lettering on this title was for issue #366, March 1968, so done in 1967. It’s over art by Neal Adams, who befriended Ira when they worked together at DC, and he may have asked for Ira’s lettering. From this point on, most of the cover lettering is by Gaspar Saladino over the next decade or two.
Here’s a list of all the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp. Where repeated blurbs are the only lettering, I don’t list them here, though they are still technically Ira’s work.
ADVENTURE COMICS 103-113, 121-122, 125, 127-128, 131-135, 137-147, 149-153, 156-158, 161-163, 165-175, 177-213, 215-243, 245-253, 256-307, 309-315, 317-321, 323-327, 330-333, 335-338, 340-351, 353-356, 358-362, 365-366
That’s 229 covers if my math is right, quite an accomplishment! In Part 2 I’ll examine Ira’s work inside ADVENTURE COMICS. Other parts of this research and more articles you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.