ALL-AMERICAN COMICS was the flagship title of the publisher of the same name, a sister company of National (DC) comics in the early 1940s. When those two publishers merged in 1946, it continued as a super-hero title for a while. When interest in superheroes waned, it became ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN for a few years. Finally, in 1952, the book made another genre change, becoming one of three new DC war titles under the editorship of Robert Kanigher, who also wrote some of the stories. It was a success, moving from bimonthly to monthly after the first year, and continuing so until returning to bimonthly in 1960. It ran 118 issues. The numbering is unusual because the first two issues continued the numbering from ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN, #127 and 128. Then it was renumbered, but beginning with issue #2 instead of the correct #3.
The new logo for the war book is by Ira Schnapp. I love the banner and the overall design, but I’m not crazy about the inner border on MEN and WAR, which looks to me like an afterthought. It makes the inside shapes inconsistent, and I also don’t like the blunted points. Still, it’s a fine logo, and with the right coloring is very effective. Ira also lettered the top line and probably the rather wimpy sound effect. He would go on to letter nearly all the covers of the series, but only four interior stories.
The second issue has a typical Ira Schnapp caption. Most early issues had only captions or story titles.
The first issue of the renumbered series is #2 on the indicia, but as is typical for DC, no issue number is on the cover. The thinking, I believe, was that vendors might reject a new series because their displays were already too full of comics, so while first issues became a valuable selling point later in the direct and fan markets, they were often disguised before that. Note that Ira’s hand-lettered top line has been replace with set type.
Many early issues like #8 from 1954 had only a list of story titles in a caption with no other info.
Issue #24 from 1955 has the first Schnapp word balloon on this title. The former top line is now hand-lettered in the caption.
Issue #35 from 1956 has been called the first DC painted cover. The art is by Jerry Grandenetti and was probably done in gray watercolors, then enhanced by the colors of Jack Adler. The story title at bottom left is not typical of Ira Schnapp’s work, but is probably his. The color separations may have required it be redrawn by the separator, which in this case was probably Adler, who might also have redrawn the inner shapes on MEN and War.
By issue #62 in 1958, the inner shapes of MEN and WAR were thinner, making the overall look better to my eye. The contrast between those words and OF between them was always an excellent choice. Beginning with this issue, story titles by Ira, either open and floating or in a caption box, became much bigger for a while.
Issue #79 from 1960 is one of many gripping covers by Joe Kubert who became the artist most associated with DC’s war comics. The word SHOWDOWN is in both the thought balloon and the caption for extra emphasis, I guess.
Issue #82 from 1960 features the debut of Johnny Cloud, ace pilot, perhaps the first native American featured character outside of westerns. It also has an Ira Schnapp radio balloon. I like the way the logo is obscured by the translucent cockpit cover.
Issue #89 from 1962 begins a run of covers split into three images with a repeating caption by Schnapp. I’ve only listed his lettering below on the first of them.
Reaching issue #100 in 1963 warranted only a small top line by Ira, but the fine art by Russ Heath is the best selling point on this exciting cover.
By issue 112 in 1965, interest in war comics was waning, and editor Kanigher tried to attract readers with a new logo treatment and character from World War One. The ALL-AMERICAN banner is so small as to be almost unreadable here, making room for a new Ira Schnapp character logo. I think removing the inner shapes from MEN and WAR is an improvement.
Even exciting covers like this final one from 1966 were not enough to save the book, though it would return for a second run in 1977.
Here are the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp: 128, 2-6, 8-89, 94, 96-103, 105-117. That’s 110 in all.
Nearly all of the stories in this title were lettered by Gaspar Saladino. In the first 50 issues, I saw only a few stories lettered by anyone else. Four of those were by Ira Schnapp, whose first was in issue #2, above.
Ira’s last story lettering was for issue #27, above. Clearly editor Kanigher thought Gaspar was the perfect choice for his war comics and used him as much as possible. After issue #50 the work of other letterers shows up more often, but Gaspar continued to letter many of the stories until the final issue.
Here are Ira Schnapp’s stories:
#2 Dec 1952/Jan 1953: Secret Weapon 6pp
#3 Feb/March 1953: 60-Second Veteran 4pp
#14 Oct 1954: The Soldier and the Tiger 6pp
#27 Nov 1955: Fix-it Fighter 6pp
That’s just 22 pages in all. I should add that Ira might have lettered a few one or two-page “fillers” for this series. Those were usually given to DC production staffers like Morris Waldinger and Joe Letterese, and others whose style is hard for me to tell from Schnapp, possibly because they were told to imitate him. I’ve opted not to try to pick out Ira’s work on such pages. It was probably minimal. He was already doing a ton of other work, including house ads and public service pages as well as so many covers and story pages, so my guess is his work on filler pages was not significant.
All-American Men of War on Wikipedia.
More articles in this series can be found on the Comics Creation page of my blog.