Ira Schnapp in BUZZY

This and all images © DC Entertainment.

Continuing my research into the comics lettering work of Ira Schnapp, BUZZY was National (DC) Comics’ first attempt at a teen humor comic, probably spurred by the success of Archie Andrews and company over at MLJ, soon to become Archie Comics. National’s approach was more akin to the college humor magazines like LIFE, JUDGE and COLLEGE HUMOR, particularly the style of John Held Jr. seen on this LIFE cover from 1926:

Not as heavily stylized, but getting cues from 1920s jazz age fellows and flappers. The writer on most early stories was Alvin Schwartz, and the artist was George Storm. The cover lettering on early BUZZY issues has some style similarities to the work of Ira Schnapp, but not enough to convince me they were lettered by him, though it’s possible.

Buzzy himself is a jazz-mad teenage horn-player who is sweet on Susie Gruff, and hated by her father Popsy Gruff, as seen on the cover above. His rival is an oddly vampirish boy named Wolfert, always after Susie too. Storm left the title around issue 20, and the art and writing soon became much more like Archie Comics.

Though the art style had changed by issue #30, the cover lettering is still quite similar to the earliest issues, and probably not by Schnapp. It might be by the unknown letterer I call Proto-Schnapp because of his many similarities to the work of Ira, and I think the person Ira used as inspiration.

Issue #43, May-June 1952, is the first one I think might have been lettered by Ira. Note that cover lettering on BUZZY was much simpler than most other DC covers of the time, often a single word balloon or sign, so it’s a little more difficult to pick up style points.

Issue #47’s larger balloon with open letters is more typical of Ira Schnapp’s work, and the first I’m sure is definitely by him.

I don’t think the balloon on issue #48’s cover is by Ira, but I do think he created this new logo for the book, using the same letter shapes as before, but more even and aligned. It’s possible Schnapp designed that first BUZZY logo too, I’m not sure about it, but this one is definitely in his style.

Another cover NOT lettered by Schnapp, in my opinion. The balloon shapes are wrong, the letters are too thick overall, and the question marks are also wrong.

Issue #54 is by Ira, using a shaky style for the first two words and the balloon shape to indicate shivering. From this point on, I believe all the covers are lettered by Ira.

On issue #57, the balloon shapes are clearly not by Schnapp, and probably by the cover artist, but the letters are Ira’s.

Issue #69 has a four-panel gag lettered by Ira, an interesting way to give readers a little extra for their money, but by this time the title was fading, and soon being published less often.

The final issue, #77 dated Oct. 1958, has some nice art by Owen Fitzgerald and fine lettering by Ira, but it was published a full year after issue #76, perhaps to use up remaining inventory.

Here are the BUZZY covers I believe were lettered by Ira Schnapp:

43, 47, 49, 53-77, a total of 28.

Interior lettering on the early issues is probably by artist George Storm himself, as seen on this page from issue 3. Here you can more clearly see the the jazz age caricatures he used.

By issue #6, Storm had turned the lettering over to others. This might be by Proto-Schnapp.

Issue #17, and others near it, are lettered mostly by Proto-Schnapp, as seen here. His letterforms are similar to Ira’s but the large display letters are not, everything is a little wider, and the balloon shapes have more air in them than Ira’s.

Compare it to this story from issue #26, July-Aug. 1949, which I think is lettered by Ira. Notice there’s less air in the balloons, and the emphasized words are not larger than the rest, for example. Schnapp lettered two other stories in this issue, and many more from this point on. As I’ve already documented, Schnapp lettered plenty of superhero stories for National/DC, but I think his total pages lettered on humor titles will turn out to be far greater.

From his standpoint as a letterer very likely being paid by the page, there’s a lot to like about working on humor titles such as BUZZY. First, there’s generally fewer balloons and less talking than in superhero comics. Second, these are anthologies of short stories, often six pages, rarely more than eight. That would help Ira get more done on his own schedule, between longer assignments. Third, until the last few issues, there were no story titles, which take extra time, and few sound effects. As someone who did not grow up reading comics, Schnapp might have also found humor more appealing than heroics, but that’s just a guess. One reason for his taking on more work in this title is that Proto-Schnapp’s involvement begins to decline across all National titles around this time, and is mostly gone by 1950. I surmise he was an older man who either became ill or retired.

A Schnapp-lettered page from issue 27.

Toward the end of the series, another letterer comes in with a very good imitation of Ira Schnapp’s style on many points. One clear difference is the shape of his question marks, which are much more rounded than Ira’s.

Most of the stories in the final issue, #77, are lettered by Ira, though they may have sat in the drawer for a while. Here he tackles the difficult task of making a complicated formula work in word balloons.

Here’s a list of all the Ira Schnapp-lettered stories I’ve found in BUZZY:

BUZZY #26, July-Aug. 1949.  2nd Buzzy story 4 pages, 3rd 5pp, 6th 6pp

BUZZY #27 Sept.-Oct. 1949. 1st Buzzy story 6 pp, 2nd 5pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 3pp, 5th 7pp

BUZZY #28 Nov.-Dec. 1949. Ist Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 9pp, 4th 8pp

BUZZY #29 Jan.-Feb. 1950. 3rd Buzzy 4pp, 4th 7pp

BUZZY #30 March-April 1950. 1st Buzzy 10pp, 2nd 4pp, 3rd 5pp, 4th 9pp

BUZZY #31 May-June 1950. 1st Buzzy 8pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 6pp, Howie 1page, 5th 4pp, 6th 6pp

BUZZY #32 July-Aug. 1950. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 5pp, Pam 6pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 6pp

BUZZY #33 Sept.-Oct. 1950. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 7pp, Willy Nilly 4pp, 3rd 4pp, 4th 7pp

BUZZY #34 Nov.-Dec. 1950. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 7pp, 4th 6pp

BUZZY #35 Jan.-Feb. 1951. 1st Buzzy 7pp, 2nd 8pp, Liz 3pp, 4th 7pp

BUZZY #36 March-April 1951. 1st Buzzy 10pp, 2nd 7pp, 3rd 8pp

BUZZY #37 May-June 1951. 1st Buzzy 8pp, Pam 3pp, Liz 3pp

BUZZY #38 July-Aug. 1951. 1st Buzzy 8pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 7pp, Willy Nilly 3pp, 5th 6pp

BUZZY #39 Sept.-Oct. 1951. 1st Buzzy 8pp, 2nd 7pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 8pp

BUZZY #40 Nov.-Dec. 1951. 1st Buzzy 8pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 7pp

BUZZY #41 Jan.-Feb. 1952. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 5pp, 3rd 7pp, 4th 9pp

BUZZY #42 March-April 1952. 1st Buzzy 9pp, 2nd 6pp, Coby 3pp

BUZZY #43 May-June 1952. 1st Buzzy 8pp, 3rd 6pp

BUZZY #44 July-Aug. 1952. 1st Buzzy 8pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 6pp

BUZZY #45 Sept.-Oct. 1952. 1st Buzzy 8pp, 2nd 6pp, 4th 7pp

BUZZY #46 Nov.-Dec. 1952. 2nd Buzzy 6pp, 3rd 4pp, 4th 6pp, 5th 6pp

BUZZY #47 Jan.-Feb. 1953. Coby 3pp

BUZZY #48 March-April 1953. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 3pp

BUZZY #49 May-June 1953. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, Tips for Teens 2pp, 3rd 6pp, 5th 6pp

BUZZY #50 July-Aug. 1953. 2nd Buzzy 7pp, 3rd 6pp

BUZZY #51 Sept.-Oct. 1953. 3rd Buzzy 7pp, 5th 6pp

BUZZY #52 Nov.-Dec. 1953. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 5pp, 3rd 6pp, Willy 5pp

BUZZY #53  Jan. 1954. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 6pp

BUZZY #54  Feb. 1954. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 5th 6pp

BUZZY #55  April 1954. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, “The Fittin’ Thing” 2pp

BUZZY #56  May 1954. Liz 6pp, 3rd Buzzy 6pp, 4th 6pp, 5th 6pp

BUZZY #57  July 1954. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 6pp, 4th 8pp

BUZZY #58  Aug. 1954. 2nd Buzzy 6pp, 3rd 6pp

BUZZY #59  Oct. 1954. 2nd Buzzy 5pp, Kitty Kar 3pp, Coby 6pp, 3rd Buzzy 6pp

BUZZY #60  Nov. 1954. 2nd Buzzy 5pp, 3rd 7pp

BUZZY #61  Jan. 1955. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 3rd 5pp.

BUZZY #62  Feb. 1955. 1st Buzzy 6pp

BUZZY #63  April 1955. 2nd Buzzy 7pp, 3rd 6pp

BUZZY #64  May 1955. 2nd Buzzy 6pp

BUZZY #66  Aug. 1955. 2nd Buzzy 6pp, Liz 5pp, 3rd 3pp

BUZZY #67 Oct. 1955. 3rd Buzzy 7pp

BUZZY #68  Nov. 1955. 2nd Buzzy 6pp

BUZZY #70 March-April 1956. Buzzy & Susie 4pp, Susie 2pp, 2nd Buzzy 4pp, Wolfie 2pp

BUZZY #71 May-June 1956. 2nd Buzzy 4pp, 3rd 3pp, 4th 4pp, 5th 1 page, Buzzy & Boppo 1 page

BUZZY #74 Nov.-Dec. 1956. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 3rd 6pp

BUZZY #75 Jan.-Feb. 1957. 1st Buzzy 6pp

BUZZY #77 Oct. 1958. 1st Buzzy 6pp, 2nd 6pp, 3rd 7pp, 4th 6pp

That’s 878 pages, if my math is right, a solid amount of work. Other articles in this series as well as more you might enjoy can be found on the Comics Creation page of my blog. I’ll continue when I have time.

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