Ira Schnapp in DALE EVANS COMICS, ALL-AMERICAN COMICS and ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN

This and all images © DC Comics

In 1948 DC published the first of many comics featuring Hollywood stars, DALE EVANS COMICS #1. It ran for 24 issues, ending with the July-Aug 1952 issue. Dale Evans had a complicated and eventful early life with four marriages, the first at age 14, the last in 1947 to cowboy star Roy Rogers that lasted until Rogers’ death in 1998. Dale broke into show business as a jazz singer in the 1930s and began making films in 1942 with a gradual emphasis on Westerns. She and Roy are probably best remembered for their popular TV Western show that ran from 1951-1957, for which Dale wrote the theme song “Happy Trails.” Many of the comic book covers are photos of her from her films. The top line lettering, “QUEEN OF THE WESTERNS,” is certainly by Ira Schnapp, and he also designed the logo. That top line appeared on many issues, and was the only cover lettering until late in the run, with other blurbs set in type.

By issue #17, May/June 1951, the covers had become more typical drawn art, and this is the first one with cover lettering in a caption by Ira Schnapp. As you can see, the stories had also become more fanciful in an effort to hold reader interest.

Issue #18 has what I think is the most interesting cover caption with an upper and lower case style that Schnapp rarely used. Note the unusual wheelchaired character Uncle Six. Here are the covers lettered by Ira, not counting the multiple appearances of the top line: 1, 17-24. That’s nine covers.

Ira lettered only three stories for the series, here’s a page from the first one in issue #19.

Ira’s final lettered story in issue #23 shows how far the stories had moved from traditional western fare with a kangaroo cowboy. Here are the stories Ira lettered:

#19 Sept/Oct 1951: Jumbo on the Range 10pp

#21 Jan/Feb 1952: Cowgirl Schoolmarm 8pp

#23 May/June 1952: Kangaroo Cowboy 8pp

That’s 26 pages for this series.

ALL-AMERICAN COMICS had once been the flagship title of the company of that name started by M.C. Gaines in 1939. It hosted many of their most famous characters including The Flash and Green Lantern. After the company merged with National (DC) Comics in 1946, it continued as a mainly superhero anthology for a while under the editorship of Sheldon Mayer and then Julius Schwartz. From this period, the cover of issue #88, dated Aug 1947, is the only one with cover lettering that reminds me of Ira Schnapp’s work, but I’m not sure it’s his. Other covers from the time have lettering by someone else.

Interestingly, that issue has the only story lettering by Schnapp from the superhero era, a 13-page Green Lantern one, first page above.

Another page, which is even more convincingly Ira. Note his typical question marks and small, regular letters. Most of the letterers from the All-American days continued in this period, but Ira must have been asked to letter this story to meet a tight deadline.

When superheroes began to wane in popularity, the book was retitled ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN with issue #103, above, in 1948. DC was looking for new genres to attract fans, and westerns seemed a good bet, and something editor Julie Schwartz handled well. Under this title the book lasted until issue #126, June-July 1952. The logo is designed by Ira Schnapp, but the rest of the lettering on this cover is not by him.

The first cover that I see Schnapp lettering on is #111, Dec 1949-Jan 1950, though the top line is probably by someone else from a previous issue.

Issue #113, April-May 1950 has more typical Ira lettering, and he’s redone the top line as well. I like the bottom lettering in script. Ira lettered most of the covers from this point on.

The final issue has handsome lettering by Ira, and as was often the case, shows the content veering far from typical Western fare to try to hang on to readers. I see Ira’s cover lettering on these issues: 111-121, 123-124, 126. That’s 14 covers.

Ira did only a few stories in the western incarnation of this series. For issue #104 he lettered two half-page stories, probably both on one page when he did them but on separate pages in the book. This is one. Julius Schwartz was soon using his new in-house letterer Gaspar Saladino on many of the stories.

Ira lettered one story in issue #105. This story title does not look typical for him, but perhaps was pencilled by the artist. I do think Schnapp designed the feature logos for this title.

Issue 106 has Ira’s lettering on this filler page by Martin Naydel…

…and he also lettered this story.

Here’s an example of Gaspar’s story lettering on the first story in issue #123. It’s very different from Ira’s work with large, exciting sound effects, open initial capital letters in some captions, and wide lettering made with a wedge-tipped pen.

A page lettered by Ira Schnapp later in the same issue. It’s interesting to see that, while Ira’s lettering is typically smaller and narrower, here he’s tried to imitate some of the Saladino style: an open letter A in one odd scroll caption and an open sound effect. This suggests Ira saw the skill in this new staffer’s work and on a title mostly lettered by Gaspar, tried to emulate it.

Here are the stories lettered by Schnapp in the western version of this book:

#104 Dec 1948: Western Facts 1/2 page, Cactus Charlie 1/2 page

#105 Jan 1949: Foley of the Fighting 5th 8pp

#106 Feb-March 1949: Injun Facts 1pp, Overland Coach 8pp

#123 Dec 1951/Jan 1952: Foley of the Fighting 5th 8pp, Overland Coach 6pp

That’s 32 pages total. More articles in this Ira Schnapp series can be found on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Dale Evans on Wikipedia.

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