Continuing my research into the work of lettering legend Ira Schnapp at DC Comics beginning in the 1940s, I’ll start here with Ira’s lettering on DETECTIVE COMICS covers. The first work I think might be his is on issue #102 dated Aug 1945. The lettering styles in the caption are ones Ira was using on covers at this time, somewhat different from what he would be doing a few years later.
The cover before is the first one to have word balloons, but they’re lettered either by cover artist Dick Sprang or his wife Lora, both of whom use these distinctive exclamation points. Covers before that had little or no cover lettering that wasn’t set in type.
Issue #104 dated Oct 1945 had some great sign work I think is by Schnapp.
The block lettering is very well-drawn and confident, and the small words in an Art Deco style also point to Ira’s work. From this point on, many DETECTIVE covers were lettered by Schnapp.
The next issue, #105 is definitely lettered by Schnapp, the script word “Yes!” is the clincher, very much his style. Ira’s cover lettering was usually done larger and more carefully than his story lettering.
Issue #106 has a story title that is again in Ira’s style, particularly “Batman and Robin vs.,” with the story title being something he might have done less often.
Issue #109 dated March 1946 has lots of Schnapp lettering, both in the caption and on the bricks.
Issue #110 has word balloons very much in the style that Schnapp was using on stories and newspaper strips at this time, though again, done more carefully.
Issue #116 gives Ira a chance to use styles that suggest old-time England, something he enjoyed.
Issue #124 from 1947 has a fine oval caption, and I think Ira also did the song lyrics.
Issue #129 has some Art Deco styles in the caption that Schnapp rarely used.
Issue #140 from 1948 features the introduction of The Riddler, as Ira explains in his caption. The Top line was reused on later issues.
Issue #155 dated Jan 1950 has a later 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
102, 104-106, 108-122, 124-175, 177-213, 215-261, 263-328, 330-340, 342-352, 354-356, 358-363, 366-369, 373.
That’s 245 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.