IRA SCHNAPP in BOY COMMANDOS & LEADING COMICS

This and all images © DC Entertainment.

Continuing my research into the early work of letterer/designer Ira Schnapp, as you might guess, covering these two titles together means I didn’t find much of his work in them. BOY COMMANDOS was a new feature created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby when they came to DC from Marvel in 1941. It first appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS #64 cover-dated June 1942. It was soon also appearing in WORLD’S FINEST COMICS beginning with issue #8, Winter 1942-43 and in their own series with the first issue having that same cover date.

Simon and Kirby were fast, and all the early stories were by them, and often lettered by their in-house letterer Howard Ferguson, but as time went on they  they brought in others to help, and I think allowed National/DC to also commission stories. Their title series ran for 36 issues. By the second half of that run, lettering on both covers and interior stories was often done by the unknown letterer I’ve nicknamed “Proto-Schnapp” because his style is similar to Ira’s and was, I think, one that Ira used as a model for his own lettering work. At first glance, the cover lettering on issue #20, above, looks like the work of Ira Schnapp.

A closer look shows the, while the word FEATURING is a style both men did about the same, the next two lines are very wide, an indicator of Proto-Schnapp. The open letters also seem not quite right for Schnapp, especially in the word MOON.

The cover lettering on issue 27, May-June 1948, looks much more like Ira Schnapp’s work.

Notice how the regular letters are more narrow, most would fit perfectly in a square. The open title is also more even and controlled, and uses a mix of upper and lower case that Schnapp favored, and the entire block is well-defined and rectangular. I believe this is the first Schnapp cover lettering on this title.

Issue #28 has a text block designed and lettered on very similar lines plus in perspective, and is also by Schnapp.

Here’s the cover of issue #32, March-April 1949. Again the masterful design structure suggests Schnapp, and the styles are all ones he used at the time. Proto-Schnapp did too, but I put this one in the Ira Schnapp column.

Issue #33 is Ira Schnapp again, and notice that even when he has some fun with bouncy letters for the name CRAZY QUILT, they’re still pretty regular shapes.

Issue #34 also looks like Ira Schnapp work to me.

Again, the best image I can find of issue #35’s cover with lettering that looks like Ira Schnapp work, including some handsome script.

I’m not sure about the lettering on the final issue, #36. It’s probably by Ira, but also has some elements that suggest Proto-Schnapp. Still, the very rectangular layout and narrower letters allow me to put it in the Schnapp column.

The second half of the BOY COMMANDOS run has lots of interior stories lettered by Proto-Schnapp, but I could not find any I thought were lettered by Ira. At first I thought the above splash page might be by Schnapp because he liked using the Blackletter style seen in the word SWASTIKA here, but on looking closer, it was not constructed the way he usually did it. The art deco NEW YORK is also not something I’ve seen him do in that way with a perfectly round O.

A look at the second page convinced me it’s by Proto-Schnapp. The letters are often too wide for Ira, and look at the extra air in the balloons, something Ira almost never did. So, no interior lettering by Schnapp in BOY COMMANDOS.

LEADING COMICS began with a Winter 1942-43 issue as a home for a new super-team along the lines of the Justice Society, but using second-tier heroes that were not in that team. It followed the model of JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA in that it was broken into chapters each featuring one or two heroes. The lettering seems to have been done by one person each issue, and I saw no evidence of either Ira  Schnapp or Proto-Schnapp in any of the first 14 issues that followed this plan, either inside or on the covers.

With issue #15, June 1945, the book switched to funny animals. Proto-Schnapp again became one of the most prolific letterers on both covers and inside pages for this new format. I found no evidence of Ira Schnapp on the covers through issue #44, when the book changed title to LEADING SCREEN COMICS. Even though the content after the name change is the same, I’m only covering up to issue #44 at present, and will look at the rest later.

Here’s a typical Proto-Schnapp page from issue #25, the Peter Porkchops story. Though at first glance it’s very much like Ira Schnapps work, notice the wide letters and uneven balloon shapes, especially in the fourth panel.

This Doodles Duck story from issue #26, Aug.-Sept. 1947, is one of only two in this title that I think might be lettered by Ira Schnapp. Notice the generally narrower letters and tighter balloons, though a few are more Proto-like. After looking closely, I think this one is by Ira.

The Lippy Leprechaun story in issue #39, Oct.-Nov. 1949, definitely looks more like Ira than Proto-Schnapp to me. Otherwise, the majority of stories through issue #44 are lettered by Proto-Schnapp.

So, to summarize, Ira Schnapp lettered these BOY COMMANDO covers:

27-28, 32-36.

And these two LEADING COMICS stories:

#26 Doodles Duck 5 pages, #39 Lippy Leprechaun 6 pages.

Other articles in this series and others you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog. More when I have time.

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