Ira Schnapp in DETECTIVE COMICS Part 1

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This and all images © DC Comics.

Continuing my research into the work of lettering legend Ira Schnapp at DC Comics beginning in the 1940s, I’ll start with Ira’s lettering on DETECTIVE COMICS covers. The first work I think might be his is on issue #104 dated Oct. 1945. Most of the early DC covers had little or no text other than the logo and trade dress, but here we see some very fine lettering on a large billboard.

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While it may have been done by cover artist Dick Sprang, this lettering also reminds me of the work of Ira Schnapp, particularly the smaller words. I put a question mark on it, possibly by Ira.

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The next issue, #105 is definitely lettered by Schnapp, the script word “Yes!” is the clincher, very much his style. The issue would have been on sale in Sept.-Oct. 1945, and probably produced about two months before that. Other titles I’ve already looked at in this series have him beginning on DC covers as early as late 1944.

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Issue #106 has a story title that is again very much in Ira’s style, particularly “Batman and Robin vs.”.

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Issue #110 dated April 1946 looks like Ira’s work at first glance, but the wider letters are probably the work of the unknown letterer I call Proto-Schnapp because I think Ira used his work as a model for his own.

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Issue #155 dated Jan. 1950 has a typical example of Ira’s word balloons as well as lots of other work by him including a creative logo treatment for “Pow-wow Smith.” Like most DC comics at the time, DETECTIVE was an anthology with Batman and Robin in the lead feature and several other series as backups.

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The following issue, #156, has some particularly graceful title lettering and also Ira’s work on the blueprint of the Batmobile. Ira’s very regular and square letters look appropriate there.

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By issue #182 dated April 1952, word balloons were far more common, often Batman and Robin talking to each other, or a villain talking to them. Ira’s theater playbill lettering looks great here!

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Ira lettered many DETECTIVE covers between 1945 and 1968. Even after the “New Look” Batman began in the May 1964 issue #327, above, Ira continued to work on the covers, though gradually and eventually replaced by Gaspar Saladino, who took over most of the interior lettering with this issue. I think Ira also redesigned the DETECTIVE COMICS logo for this issue, making it much more prominent.

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The introduction of Batgirl in issue 359 features lots of Ira Schnapp display lettering on the cover. It’s nearly as eye-catching as on his many house ads for DC. Only the word “Starring” in an arrow at the top is by someone else, Gaspar Saladino.

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Here’s the last DETECTIVE issue with Schnapp lettering, #373 dated March 1968, so probably done in the Fall of 1967, not long before Ira was retired by the company. The story title is one of his best efforts, with an icy CHILLING and nice bounce and texture on the rest. The majority of DETECTIVE covers after this feature Gaspar Saladino lettering, which I like just as well. Gaspar had been on staff at DC since late 1949, and was a favorite of cover artist/art director Carmine Infantino. He was well equipped for his new role as Ira’s replacement on covers.

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Until I looked at all the DETECTIVE covers for this article, I had thought Gaspar’s first cover lettering began to appear in the mid 1960s, but I found a much earlier example from issue #262 dated Dec. 1958. Ira must have been unavailable at the time, and Gaspar’s style is equally unmistakable!

Here’s a list of all DETECTIVE covers lettered by Ira Schnapp:

104? 105-106, 108, 112-122, 124-128, 130-136, 138-175, 177-213, 215-261, 263-328, 330-340, 342-352, 354-356, 358-363, 366-369, 373.

That’s 247 covers if my math is right, quite an accomplishment. Next, in Part 2, I’ll cover Ira’s story lettering in DETECTIVE. Other parts of this research and more articles you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

4 thoughts on “Ira Schnapp in DETECTIVE COMICS Part 1

  1. clem robins

    Ira began in 1945? are you sure, Todd? i’ve got vague memories of older stuff being his work, like logos and some covers.

  2. Todd Post author

    Ira first worked for the company in 1940 revamping the Superman logo. His first work on THIS title is in 1945. Please read carefully.

  3. Bob Bailey

    Excellent blog on the great Ira Schnapp. I loved his house ads. I just sent you a friend request to follow you.
    Bob Bailey

  4. BK Munn

    Thank you for doing this research. So wonderful. Beautiful work by Ira and your attention makes me rethink what I love about these old comics and treasure hand-lettering and design even more. What a great run on that title he had. He was responsible for so much of the identity and attractiveness of these books.

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