IRA SCHNAPP in BOY COMMANDOS & LEADING COMICS

Boy Commandos 20 cover
This and all images © DC Comics

Continuing my research into the early work of letterer/designer Ira Schnapp, I found little of his work in the first of these titles, more in the second. 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. The 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.

Boy Commandos 20 cover detail

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 wrong for Schnapp, especially in the word MOON.

Boy Commandos 27 cover

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

Boy Commandos 27 cover detail

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.

Boy Commandos 28 cover

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

Boy Commandos 32 cover

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.

Boy Commandos 33 cover

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.

Boy Commandos 34 cover

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

Again, issue #35’s cover with lettering that looks like Ira Schnapp work, including some handsome script.

Boy Commandos 36 cover

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.

So, to summarize, Ira Schnapp lettered these BOY COMMANDO covers: 27-28, 32-36, seven in all.

Boy Commandos splash page

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 he usually did in that way with a perfectly round O.

Boy Commandos page

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 rarely 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 soon became one of the most prolific letterers on both covers and inside pages for this new format, it’s his lettering on this cover, with lots of bounce.

I found no evidence of Ira Schnapp on the covers through issue #44, when the book’s indicia changed to LEADING SCREEN COMICS, though the word SCREEN was added to the logo starting with issue #34, above. This is DC once again trying to suggest to readers that the features inside were cartoon stars, but none of them were to my knowledge. The content remained the same after the logo and indicia change until the book’s demise with issue #77 in 1955. I’m including those issues here, and some of the covers were lettered by Ira.

Issue #54 has a Schnapp word balloon, though I think the FEATURING blurb was picked up from an older cover and is by Proto-Schnapp.

Issue #70 has Schnapp lettering in the balloon and on the road sign, but the balloon shape might have been drawn by the artist.

The final issue has a Schnapp thought balloon, not common on this series. Here are the issues I see Ira’s cover lettering on: 54, 62-67, 69-71, 73-77, that’s fifteen in all.

Leading Comics 25 page

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

Leading Comics 26 page

This Doodles Duck story from issue #26, Aug.-Sept. 1947, is one of only two in this title’s early issues that I think are 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.

Leading Comics 39 page

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.

With issue #48 in 1951, Ira’s story lettering became much more frequent, example above. This aligns roughly with the time that Proto-Schnapp’s work ends, so I think Ira was taking on much of his workload. From this point Ira lettered multiple features in many issues until the end.

Here’s a lead story from issue #56 lettered by ira.

Many stories in this series were written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer. Some may be lettered by him, but often Ira did the regular lettering, while Mayer did the sound effects, balloon shapes, and sometimes the larger display lettering. This was probably a time-saver for Mayer, and even though it’s a collaboration of sorts, I include those stories in Ira’s lettering totals.

Here are the stories lettered by Ira Schnapp in LEADING. Peter Porkchops (hereafter PP) often had two stories, so they’re numbered.

#26 Aug/Sept 1947: Doodles Duck 5 pages,

#39 Oct/Nov 1949: Lippy Leprechaun 6 pages.

#48 April/May 1951: Puss & Pooch 7pp, Tortoise & Hare 6pp

#49 June/July 1951: Rufus Lion 5pp

#50 Aug/Sept 1951: Roly & Poly 5pp

#52 Dec 1951/Jan 1952: PP (1) 5pp, Puss & Pooch 6pp, PP (2) 4pp

#53 Feb/March 1952: PP (1) 6pp

#54 April/May 1952: Tortoise & Hare 5pp

#55 June/July 1952: PP (1) 6pp, Puss & Pooch 4pp, Bo Bunny 6pp

#56 Aug/Sept 1952: PP (1) 6pp Roly & Poly 5pp, Dizzy Dog 6pp, Nip & Chip 4pp

#57 Oct/Nov 1952: PP (1) 6pp, Roly & Poly 4pp

#58 Dec 1952/Jan 1953: PP (1) 6pp

#59 Feb/March 1953: Custer Cat and Cheesy Mouse 5pp

#60 April/May 1953: Puss & Pooch 3pp, Bo Bunny 6pp

#61 June/July 1953: Tortoise & Hare 4pp

#62 Aug/Sept 1953: PP (1) 6pp, Ozzie Owl 3pp, Nip & Chip 4pp, Doodles Duck 6pp

#63 Oct/Nov 1953: Doodles Duck 6pp, Blackie Bear 3pp, PP (2) 4pp

#64 Dec 1953/Jan 1954: PP (1) 6pp, Roly & Poly 4pp, Doodles Duck 6pp, PP (2) 4pp

#65 Feb 1954: PP (1) 6pp, Dizzy Dog 4pp

#66 March 1954: Dizzy Dog 6pp, PP (2) 5pp

#67 April 1954: PP (1) 6pp, Nip & Chip 4pp, Pinky & Winky 4pp

#68 June 1954: PP (1) 6pp, Bo Bunny 6pp, PP (2) 4pp

#69 Aug 1954: PP (1) 6pp, Dizzy Dog 5pp, Bo Bunny 4pp, PP (2) 4pp

#70 Sept 1954: PP (1) 6pp, Fraidy Cat 4pp, Bo Bunny 6pp

#71 Oct 1954: PP (1) 6pp, Blackie Bear 4pp, Doodles Duck 5pp

#72 Dec 1954: PP (1) 4pp, Doodles Duck 4pp, Bo Bunny 4pp, Pinky & Winky 4pp, PP (2) 4pp

#73 Feb 1955: Bo Bunny 6pp, Doodles Duck 5pp, PP (2) 4pp

#74 March 1955: PP (1) 6pp, Bo Bunny 6pp, Blackie Bear 4pp, Dizzy Dog 5pp, PP (2) 4pp

#75 April 1955: PP (1) 6pp, Doodles Duck 5pp, Dizzy Dog 5pp, Bo Bunny 6pp, Goofy Goose 6pp

#76 June/July 1955: PP (1) 6pp, Doodles Duck 6pp, Blackie Bear 4pp, PP (2) 6pp

#77 Aug/Sept 1955: PP (1) 6pp, Bo Bunny 6pp

That’s a total of 406 pages, most in the last 20 issues.

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

Boy Commandos in Wikipedia.

Leading Comics in 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.