IRA SCHNAPP in BOY COMMANDOS

All images © DC Comics. BOY COMMANDOS #1, Winter 1942-43

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s first big hit was CAPTAIN AMERICA at Marvel, but they left after a year of that due to a pay dispute with Marvel ownership. They brought their skills and their studio of comics artists and letterers to DC with features like this one, which gained its own title in 1942 soon after it began appearing in DETECTIVE COMICS and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS. At first most of the stories and pencil art was by Simon and Kirby, and most of the lettering was by their studio man Howard Ferguson, but as time went on, the art and lettering was gradually taken over by others, sometimes commissioned directly by DC. The title ran 36 issues in all. Ira Schnapp was involved both as cover letterer and on stories. We’ll look at his cover lettering to begin with.

Issue #11 dated Summer 1945 is where I see Ira’s lettering first, in the caption. The style is different from what he would do later on covers, but it matches other cover work from this time.

On issue #12, I’m sure A 52-PAGE MAGAZINE is by Ira, but that could have been picked up from another series. The Tokio sign seems to be part of the cover art, but I think Ira lettered the one on the dog. I could be wrong, but I’m going to count this for Ira.

Issue #13 has more typical Schnapp cover lettering including his script word FEATURING, and he might also have done BUY WAR BONDS.

Issue #15 from 1946 has a caption using styles that Ira went to at that time, but moved away from later. From this point on Ira lettered many of the covers, though some had no lettering.

Issue #20 has a caption with open letters that are beginning to look like some of his later cover work.

Boy Commandos 20 cover detail

You can see the kind of open script Ira liked in the first two words, though not yet as carefully done as it would be later, while THE MOON is pretty uneven for him, but certainly readable. The lettering above is classic Schnapp linework.

Boy Commandos 27 cover

By issue 27, May-June 1948, the look is much closer to the familiar styles Ira would use later on covers, though here the open letters are too thin.

Boy Commandos 27 cover detail

As he grew more experienced, Ira would make sure the shapes of open letters were wide enough to hold up well to the kind of color shifts common on comics at the time, as here with the blue running into the open areas.

Boy Commandos 28 cover

Issue #28 has a text block designed and lettered on very similar lines but in perspective, showing Schnapp’s skill, and now the open letters are larger.

Boy Commandos 32 cover

The cover of issue #32, March-April 1949 shows Ira now in full mastery of his cover lettering skills and using a variety of styles that all work together well.

On Issue #35, Ira had a chance to use some of his script styles, and he also did the bold newspaper headlines.

Boy Commandos 36 cover

The final issue includes a handsome caption by Schnapp. I like the way he emphasized the letters ATOM.

To summarize, I think Ira Schnapp lettered these BOY COMMANDOs covers: 11-13, 15-16, 18-20, 22-29, 32-36, a total of 21 in all.

From BOY COMMANDOS #6, Spring 1944

This is lettering by Howard Ferguson, the Simon and Kirby staff letterer, one of the best at the time.

A close look at part of the caption. Howard used a wedge-tipped pen creating letters with thick and thin variations, and his letter shapes are often different from Ira Schnapp’s.

From BOY COMMANDOS #10, Spring 1945

Issues 9 and 10 have a different style of lettering, wider than Howard’s and less regular, but also using a wedge-tipped pen. I don’t know who did it.

From BOY COMMANDOS #11, Summer 1945

Issue 11 has a new letterer who uses a dead-line pen on the second caption, no thicks and thins. While somewhat like the previous unknown person, his letter shapes are different enough to be someone else. I think this is Ira Schnapp’s first story lettering on this title, and the story title is very much his. The style of the first caption is somewhat confusing, though, as it uses a wedge-tipped pen. There’s no reason Ira couldn’t have done that to imitate what Ferguson had established, and even there some letter shapes are different. I think Schnapp lettered all three Boy Commandos stories in this issue and many more through the rest of the series. Since the Simon and Kirby studio was not far from DC, pencilled pages could have been dropped off there for Ira once this working method began, or perhaps there was some other arrangement.

From BOY COMMANDOS #12, Fall 1945

Ira’s style at the time used very wide letters, they got narrower as the decade progressed. He also sometimes used a style of R where the loop doesn’t connect to the left leg, something he may have picked up from letterer Frank Shuster on Superman stories and strips. The question marks on this page are not all the same, but the one in panel 3 is where Ira’s style would go in the future.

From BOY COMMANDOS #13, Winter 1945

By issue #13, Ira’s lettering was getting a bit more consistent, though still very wide.

From BOY COMMANDOS #17, Sept-Oct 1946

By issue 17, Ira’s style is more like his later work, though still wider than what he would do in a few years. Even the story title and Memo caption as well as the sign are all very much his. Note that here he is often using an R made like a P with the right leg attached to the bottom of the loop and slightly up-curved. This is very similar to what he was doing on the Superman newspaper strip at the time.

Boy Commandos splash page
From BOY COMMANDOS #29, Sept-Oct 1948

The story title on this page from 1948 combines two of Schnapp’s favorite styles, Old English or blackletter for SWASTIKA and Art Deco for the rest.

From BOY COMMANDOS #36, Nov-Dec 1949

On this story from the final issue, Ira uses a title style he liked at the time but soon abandoned, and notice how much narrower his regular letters have become, most fitting into a square. This would be true for the rest of his career.

Here are the stories I believe Ira Schnapp lettered. All feature the Boy Commandos except as noted. All issues have three Boy Commando stories. Where Ira didn’t letter them all, I’ve put the numbers of the ones he did in parentheses.

#11 Summer 1945: 12pp, 11pp, 12pp

#12 Fall 1945: 12pp, 12pp, 12pp, Coast Guard 3pp

#13 Winter 1945: 12pp, 12pp, 11pp

#14 March-April 1946: 11pp, 11pp, 11pp

#15 May-June 1946: 12pp, 12pp (1 & 3), Delicate Dave 5pp

#16 July-Aug 1946: 12pp, 12pp, 12pp

#17 Sept-Oct 1946: 14pp, 12pp, 12pp

#18 Nov-Dec 1946: 12pp, 12pp, 12pp

#19 Jan-Feb 1947: 12pp, 11pp (1 & 3)

#20 March-April 1947: 12pp, 12pp, 13pp

#21 May-June 1947: 12pp, 12pp (1 & 3), Prof. Pipp 2pp

#22 July-Aug 1947: 12pp, 12pp, 12pp

#24 Nov-Dec 1947: Prof. Pipp 2pp

#25 Jan-Feb 1948: 12pp, 12pp, 12pp

#26 March-April 1948: 12pp, 12pp, 12pp

#27 May-June 1948: 12pp, 13pp, 10pp

#28 July-Aug 1948: 12pp, 10pp, 12pp

#29 Sept-Oct 1948: 12pp (3)

#36 Nov-Dec 1949: 10pp (2)

That’s a total of 566 pages on this title. More articles in this series are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Boy Commandos in Wikipedia.

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