IRA SCHNAPP in BATMAN Part 1

Batman 27 cover
This and all images © DC Comics

Continuing my research into the lettering work of Ira Schnapp, I’ve gone to my usual sources: digital copies of the actual comics, and the Grand Comics Database. I was surprised and happy to find that, on BATMAN, unlike the other early DC titles I’ve researched, lettering credits are often filled in, thanks to researchers like Joe Desris and Martin O’Hearn, and sometimes verified by the letterers themselves! This made my job much easier on this title, even though I don’t always agree with their attributions. More on that as we go along. The cover of BATMAN #27, Feb.-March 1945, is very much in Ira Schnapp’s style, especially the Old English style of SEASON’S GREETINGS.

Batman 27 cover detail

A closer look. While the script style of FROM and the shape of the B in BATMAN AND ROBIN is not typical of Ira’s later work, the style of the first two words is so familiar that I’m sure this is one of his, and it’s made me reconsider at least one of the ACTION COMICS covers from the same time that I now feel is by Ira, where before I didn’t think so. Ira’s style took time to develop to the one we know from the 1950s, and this is on that road.

Batman 24 cover

Without information found in the GCD, I would have given this cover lettering from issue #24 to Ira with a question mark, but it’s actually by George Roussos, and confirmed by him! George had a long career in comics, and began as a letterer. It’s wonderful he was able to confirm his work on this title. While many of the earliest BATMAN covers used typeset or had no cover copy, George did letter a few others.

Batman 29 cover

Issue #29, June-July 1945, is the second BATMAN cover lettered by Ira Schnapp.

Batman 29 cover detail

While the single-line letters are again not typical of Schnapp’s later style, the open letters definitely are.

Batman 32 cover

Issue #32, Dec. 1945 – Jan. 1946 is again by Ira with the lettering inside a handsome scroll caption.

Batman 32 cover detail

There are Old English elements in the story title that Schnapp used whenever he could, and notice that, in the regular lettering, the right leg of the R is curved, something Ira did early and only occasionally in his story lettering, I think an influence of another letterer he used as a style model.

Batman 34 cover

Lettering on the cover of issue #34, April-May 1946 is credited by Desris and O’Hearn to Ira Schnapp. At first glance, I didn’t agree.

Batman 34 cover detail

Looking closer, I think it probably is by Ira, but using styles he later abandoned or modified. Note that all this lettering would have been created in black ink, but parts of it were moved to the various color plates by the color separator to create this effect.

Batman 35 cover

The lettering on issue #35, June-July 1946 is definitely not by Schnapp, and I think is probably by cover artist Dick Sprang.

Batman 36 cover

There’s no mistaking Ira Schnapp’s Old English lettering on issue #36, Aug.-Sept. 1946, here given many additional curls and flourishes. What could be better for the subject matter? The shape of the F in FEATURING is one we wouldn’t normally recognize today, but in context it reads fine.

Batman 37 cover detail

This blurb on the cover of issue #37, Oct.-Nov. 1946, is one I would have had trouble with, but the GCD identifies it as by George Roussos, confirmed by him. It looks to me like George was following Schnapp’s lead for cover lettering style here.

Batman 38 cover detail

Ira Schnapp has become the regular cover letterer with issue #38, Dec. 1946 – Jan. 1947, above, and missed very few covers for the next twenty years. 38 to 45 are all by him. Issue #46 is by George Roussos.

Batman 47 cover

Issue #47, June-July 1948, shows Ira’s style beginning to solidify into the one he used for the rest of his career. I particularly like the exclamation point on its own line, something that wouldn’t fly today, but it looks perfectly fine here.

Batman 51 cover

By issue #51, Feb.-March 1949 we see a typical Schnapp word balloon on the cover. In the blurb, some of the lettering was knocked out in white from the blue background, but the printing smeared some of the blue ink across it, making it hard to read.

Batman 54 cover

Issue #54, Aug.-Sept. 1949, feature’s Ira’s story title lettering in a major role. By this time Ira’s contributions were clearly appreciated and planned for.

Batman 70 cover

In the early days of the title, cover copy played a minor role, but as time went by, it grew in importance as an element to intrigue readers and make sales. Ira’s elegant lettering styles undoubtedly added to the appeal, as here on issue #70, April-May 1952. Notice the Batman symbol in a circle at upper left, balancing the DC symbol on the right, something the company used for a while.

Batman 87 cover

A typical Schnapp lettering job on the cover of issue #87, Oct. 1954, as BATMAN drifted into ever sillier stories.

Batman 88 cover

Issue #88 is credited by O’Hearn and Desris as a combined effort: Ira Schnapp on the blurb under the logo and Pat Gordon on the balloon. Well, maybe. I’m not completely convinced the open lettering is by Schnapp. The word FEATURING is, but could have been picked up from another cover. As for the word balloon, it’s unlike Pat Gordon’s style on the interiors, but it could be hers.

Batman 112 cover

On issue #112, Dec. 1957, we see the sort of heavy display letters Ira Schnapp gradually went to for story titles from this period on.

Batman 122 cover

Issue #122, March 1959 is another example, and a favorite cover of my youth, one of the first Batman comics I ever owned.

Batman 164 cover

When BATMAN took on a new style with issue #164, June 1964, courtesy of artist Carmine Infantino (not the artist here, but the influence), Ira Schnapp continued to letter the covers for a while.

Batman 169 cover

Issue #169, Feb. 1965, saw the first appearance of cover lettering by Gaspar Saladino. Gaspar had been working alongside Ira Schnapp for fifteen years at this point, and Carmine Infantino preferred his more dynamic style. Over the next few years, the cover lettering gradually shifted from Ira to Gaspar, as Carmine rose in the company and made his preferences felt.

Batman 176 cover

But Ira Schnapp continued to letter some of the covers until he left the company in 1968. When BATMAN went to occasional all-reprint issues, his older style was particularly appropriate, and what a lot of work for him on this cover of issue #176, Dec. 1965!

Batman 184 cover

In some cases, even in these later issues, Schnapp’s lettering became as important as the work done by the artist. Remove the lettering from this cover, and it would be rather dull and pointless! No doubt it was designed with the lettering in mind by Carmine Infantino for issue #184, Sept. 1966.

Batman 200 cover

The last new cover lettering on BATMAN by Ira Schnapp appeared on issue #200, March 1968, allowing him to go out on a high note. His blurb at the center of the figures by Neal Adams looks great, and might have been requested by Adams, who befriended Ira when they worked together in the DC offices. Some of the reprinted covers in the background also feature Ira’s lettering.

Here’s a list of the issues on which I find Ira Schnapp cover lettering:

27, 29, 32, 43, 36, 38-45, 47-56, 58-87, 89-155, 158-168, 170-172, 174-181, 184-188, 190-192, 194-196, 199-200.

That’s 155 covers, if my arithmetic is right, quite a long and impressive run.

Next time I’ll discuss Ira’s lettering inside the pages of BATMAN. Similar articles on other titles, and lots more about Ira Schnapp, can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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