Ira Schnapp in BIG TOWN

All images © DC Comics

In 1950, DC Comics launched another crime comic based on a popular radio and TV show (the first was GANGBUSTERS), also the subject of several movies. It revolved around the employees of a newspaper, The Illustrated Press, with the protagonist being editor Steve Wilson assisted by his sidekick and star reporter Lorelei Kilbourne. The show ran on radio from 1937 to 1952 starring Edward G. Robinson as Steve Wilson for the first five years. Four films were made in 1947-48 and the TV version ran from 1950 to 1956. The DC comic was first edited by Jack Schiff, but he soon turned it over to Julius Schwartz who edited from issue #3 on. It ran to issue #50 in 1958. Most issues had three Big Town stories, some had a short second feature, Johnny Law.

It’s likely that Ira Schnapp designed the cover logo and lettered the balloon on this first issue. There’s nothing distinctively Ira about the logo, but he did like classic forms and aligned letters. It doesn’t seem to match the title of the TV show. Ira’s involvement in this title was mainly on covers, though he did letter a handful of stories between issues 5 and 18.

As you can see from the second issue, Wilson was no desk jockey. Most of the early covers had captions lettered by Schnapp as well as some type around the logo in a torn paper shape perhaps meant to suggest “ripped from the headlines.”

Issue #3 has a combination of Ira’s script lettering and type.

With issue #4 from 1951 the logo area was revised with BIG TOWN now in a rectangle with rounded corners. The angled letters in perspective could easily be done digitally today, but then it was probably relettered by Ira, though it’s possible Jack Adler gave him an angled photostat to follow. Jack was a master of photographic tricks like that. This logo would remain for the rest of the series. With the property also on TV, the screen-like logo shape is appropriate.

By issue #17 in 1952, Schnapp word balloons were becoming more common, and the tagline at upper right is now lettered by Ira rather than type.

Issue #30 from 1954 has lots of cover lettering and a round caption touting the TV show but not the radio one, which had ended.

By issue #48 in 1957, sales were slipping and Julie Schwartz tried the usual trick of adding bizarre story elements to attract readers. It wasn’t enough, and the book ended two issues later.

Here are the covers I see Ira Schnapp lettering on: 1-9, 11-39, 41-50. That’s 48 in all.

Schnapp’s first story lettering in this series was a story in issue #5, above. Once Julie Schwartz used up the stories acquired by Jack Schiff, and I don’t know who lettered those, he turned to Ira and Gaspar Saladino, his regular letterers at the time.

Ira lettered one episode of Johnny Law in issue #13 from 1952, the rest were lettered by Gaspar.

Ira’s last story lettering on BIG TOWN was this story in issue #18 from 1952. The regular letterer had become Gaspar Saladino by then, and nearly all the remaining stories are lettered by him.

Here are the stories lettered by Schnapp. Big Town is the subject unless otherwise noted (there were no story titles) and I’ve listed the placement in parentheses.

#5 May 1951: 10pp (1)

#6 June 1951: 10pp, 10pp, 10pp (1-3)

#7 July 1951: 10pp, 10pp, 10pp (1-3)

#8 Aug 1951: 10pp, 10pp, 10pp (1-3)

#9 Sept 1951: 10pp, 9pp (2-3)

#10 Oct 1951: 10pp (2)

#12 Dec 1951: 8pp, 8pp (2-3)

#13 Jan/Feb 1952: Johnny Law 3pp

#14 March/April 1952: 6pp (1)

#15 May/June 1952: 6pp (2)

#17 Sept/Oct 1952: 6pp (2)

#18 Nov/Dec 1952: 8pp (1)

That’s a total of 174 pages on this book. More articles in this series and others you might like are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Big Town on Wikipedia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.