I’ve had a tough time trying to decide which early stories in ADVENTURE COMICS were lettered by Ira Schnapp. I’m sure there were none in issues 1 to 102. In issue 103, Superboy begins as the lead feature, and it seemed likely to me that at least some of those would be lettered by Ira. He had an association with the character: he designed the first and second logos, and of course an association with Superman as well. Above is a page from the Superboy story in issue #103, and it doesn’t look anything like Ira’s work.
A closer look at the story’s title caption confirming it’s definitely not by Ira. It’s by another letterer who often worked on Superman stories, I don’t know his name. His letters are very wide, and on his R the right leg is very curved and the loop sometimes does not join the left side. That’s also true of the center line between the loops of the B. This letterer continued to work on some Superboy stories in this title until the early 1950s.
Elsewhere in issue #103, I found this story title on the Shining Knight feature and thought it must be by Ira Schnapp, it’s in an open Old English style that he liked to use. Yet the rest of the lettering did not look right.
A closer look. The regular letters are wide, but not as wide as in the Superboy story, and while the right leg of the R is curved, the loop is always connected. Many of the letter shapes here are similar to those of Ira Schnapp, but still generally wider than his, which tend to fit into a square. Other letters, like the V are more curved than Ira usually did them. I believe this is the work of the unknown letterer I call “Proto-Schnapp.” I think he was an older letterer, perhaps working in the National (DC) Comics bullpen, who befriended Ira and who Ira used as a role model for his own comics lettering style. At times, I’ve been tempted to think this was early work by Ira, but in my research I’ve often found this style in the same issues as Ira’s work throughout the 1940s. Since there’d be no reason for Ira to have two different lettering styles (even if he could), I’m sure this is the work of someone else. What makes it tricky is that Ira imitated Proto-Schnapp’s style points and titles at times, or possibly they influenced each other and Proto-Schapp imitated some of Ira’s title styles. Another difficulty in this series is that the scans I have of many issues from 103 on are very poor ones made from microfilm, and the lettering is too blurry to pick out the finest details of style. A few weeks ago I went through the entire run and made a list of all the stories I thought were lettered by Schnapp. Then I got busy with other things, and put the project aside. Last weekend I started looking again, and this time about half of the stories from the 1940s I had down as lettered by Ira I now think are by Proto-Schnapp instead. It’s that tough a call on many of them, and if I went through them again I might change my mind on a few one way or the other! Below are my best guesses and some of the better examples I could find on both sides of the argument.
Here’s the kind of blurry scan I have for many of the issues in question. While it’s hard to be sure, this page from the Superboy story in ADVENTURE #104 seems to be by Proto-Schnapp. I think he also lettered the Shining Knight story in this issue, and other stories in issues 105 to 110, where I now think there’s no Schnapp work.
The earliest story I think is lettered by Ira Schnapp in this series is the Johnny Quick story in ADVENTURE COMICS #111, Dec. 1946. Notice how much narrower the letters are, most would fit into a square. There are a few curved right legs on the letter R, but most are straight, as Schnapp did them all later. There’s a little more air in the balloons around the lettering as compared to Proto-Schnapp, above. This matches what Ira was doing in other titles at the time.
I have a much better scan of issue #112, and here’s a panel from the Superboy story in that issue, lettered by Proto-Schnapp. Note all the style points I gave earlier: wide letters, curved right leg of the R, more curved diagonal strokes. Proto-Schnapp’s question marks are also a little different than ira’s.
The Superboy story in ADVENTURE #114, March 1947, is the second one I think is lettered by Ira. Again, note the narrower letters, the straighter diagonals, and a little more air in the balloons around the letters.
The splash page of the Superboy story in ADVENTURE #115, April 1947, is a puzzle. The title caption looks like it could be Ira’s work, while the rest of the lettering on this page and the rest of the story is by Proto-Schnapp. I can’t think of a good reason why that would happen, but here it is. Possibly the title caption was a last minute change Ira did when the main letterer wasn’t available.
The Superboy story in issue #116 looks like Ira Schnapp’s work to me. Note the art deco sign in panel 3: Perfume.
A typically poor microfilm scan from issue #117, I think the only story lettered by Ira Schnapp. The title style is not typical for him, but I have seen it on other stories.
From the splash page of the Superboy story in ADVENTURE COMICS #120, Sept. 1947. That title definitely looks like Ira Schnapp’s work, as does the rest of the lettering in this story.
By comparison, the Johnny Quick story in the same issue has the wider letters and style points of Proto-Schnapp. Another example of why it’s so unlikely these are all by the same letterer.
The Superboy story in issue #121 again looks like Ira’s work. Many of the other stories in these issues are by Proto-Schnapp. That letterer and Ira seemed to both be lettering whatever stories were available, so in issue #122 they are all Proto-Schnapp, in issue #123 the Superboy, Aquaman and Johnny Quick stories are by Schnapp, with only the Green Arrow story by Proto-Schnapp.
In issue #124, most stories are by Proto-Schnapp except possibly the Johnny Quick story, above. This one could be by Ira, but…
…I’m not sure. Here’s the title caption. That very elaborate and graceful border looks more like Proto-Schnapp to me, and some of the letters are pretty wide. I’m calling it for him. You see what I’m up against, these are tough calls.
I already showed the splash page from the Superboy story in issue #133, Oct. 1948 in the first part of this article, calling it for Ira Schnapp, but looking again now, I see a lot of very wide letters, and balloon shapes that aren’t quite right. Now I think it’s by Proto-Schnapp.
By comparison, the Shining Knight story in issue #139 has very narrow letters and a title that’s more like something Ira would do than Proto-Schnapp, so I would definitely put this one down as Ira’s work.
Typical Ira Schnapp lettering on the Johnny Quick story in issue #150, March 1950…
…and here’s what I think is the last Proto-Schnapp lettering in this series, the Aquaman story also from issue #150. This would have been done in late 1949, and so far I haven’t found any work by Proto-Schnapp later than that. My guess is that he either retired, moved to another job, or died around that time. I have to say it makes identifying Ira’s work on the rest of the series much easier, though there isn’t a lot of it. Ira seems to have been largely replaced on this title by other letterers in the 1950s. He was very busy elsewhere!
I can’t resist showing a page from the Shining Knight story in ADVENTURE COMICS #151, art by Frank Frazetta, lettering by Ira Schnapp. If only it were reproduced better!
Here’s a rare team-up of Superboy and Green Arrow from issue #258, March 1959, lettered by Ira.
Schnapp mostly missed the Legion of Super-Heroes appearances in ADVENTURE, but his very last work on the title was this four-page feature in issue #316, Jan. 1964 with not a lot of lettering, but all of it distinctively Ira’s. The first two pages of this feature are reprinted from SUPERMAN ANNUAL #4, Feb. 1962. The last two seem to be newly done, or at least newly assembled.
Finally, a complete list of all the ADVENTURE stories I think are lettered by Ira, at least today. It may not be right, but it’s official, as they say. Note that in some cases, where the penciller and inker were the same person (often George Papp), the artist drew in the balloons, Ira only did the lettering in them.
ADVENTURE COMICS #111, Dec. 1946: Johnny Quick 10 pages
ADV #114, March 1947: Superboy 7 pp
ADV #116, May 1947: Superboy 8 pp
ADV #117, June 1947: Johnny Quick 9 pp
ADV #120, Sept. 1947: Superboy 10 pp
ADV #121, Oct. 1947: Superboy 10 pp
ADV #123, Dec. 1947: Superboy 10 pp, Aquaman 7 pp, Johnny Quick 9 pp
ADV #125, Feb. 1948: Aquaman 7 pp
ADV #126, March 1948: Johnny Quick 9 pp
ADV #128-130, May-July 1948: Superboy 10 pp, Johnny Quick 8 pp
ADV #131, Aug. 1948: Superboy 10 pp, Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #133, Oct. 1948: Superboy 10 pp
ADV #135, Dec. 1948: Johnny Quick 8 pp
ADV #137-138, Feb.-March 1949: Superboy 10 pp
ADV #139, April 1949: Shining Knight 6 pp, Johnny Quick 8 pp
ADV #142, July 1949: Shining Knight 6 pp
ADV #143, Aug. 1949: Superboy 10 pp, Shining Knight 6 pp
ADV #145, Oct. 1949: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #146, Nov. 1949: Green Arrow 10 pp
ADV #147, Dec. 1949: Aquaman 6 pp, Green Arrow 10 pp
ADV #148-150, Jan.-March 1950: Johnny Quick 8 pp
ADV #151, April 1950: Aquaman 6 pp, Shining Knight 8 pp
ADV #157, Oct. 1950: Johnny Quick 8 pp
ADV #159-160, Dec. 1950 – Jan. 1951: Green Arrow 10 pp
ADV #164, May 1951: Green Arrow 10 pp
ADV #172, Jan. 1952: Superboy 12 pp
ADV #176, May 1952: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #181, Oct. 1952: Johnny Quick 6 pp
ADV #188, May 1953: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #189, June 1953: Aquaman 6 pp, Johnny Quick 6 pp
ADV #195, Dec. 1953: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #208, Jan. 1955: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #235, April 1957: Superboy 12 pp
ADV #245, Feb. 1958: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #257, Feb. 1959: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #258, March 1959: Superboy 13 pp, Green Arrow 7 pp, Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #259, April 1959: Superboy 13 pp, Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #262, July 1959: Aquaman 6 pp, Green Arrow 7 pp
ADV #263, Aug. 1959: Aquaman 6 pp
ADV #264, Sept. 1959: Green Arrow 7 pp
ADV #266, Nov. 1959: Aquaman 7 pp
ADV #290-291, Nov.-Dec. 1961: Tales of the Bizarro World 11 pp
ADV #316, Jan. 1964: Origin and Powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes 4 pp
That’s a total of 530 pages, if my math is right, a good amount of work from Ira.
Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog. More Ira Schnapp research when I have time to do it!