While Ira Schnapp began lettering covers for DETECTIVE COMICS in 1945, the first interior story page lettering I see for him is the Batman and Robin story in issue #112 dated June 1946. The story title on the splash pages is very much his work, and the caption lettering, while still not quite settled into his later style, is right: very square and even.
A closer look, and here are some of the clues I use to identify Schnapp story lettering (which is somewhat different from his cover lettering): the G is square on the right side, the M has vertical sides, the W and V lean a bit to the left, the C is evenly rounded, the B has loops of nearly even width and size, the U is square at the bottom.
Identifying early Schnapp story lettering is made more difficult by the work of at least one other letterer with a very similar style, who I call Proto-Schnapp. Here’s an example from the “Air Wave” story in issue #120 that I think is NOT by Schnapp, but looks quite similar. Clues I look for in this style: the letters are all slightly wider and curvier and a little less even. The loops of the B are often not joined to the left side. The right leg of the R is almost always curved rather than straight (though Ira did that too at times, perhaps imitating this other letterer). The V is more curved and does not lean left. The center stroke of the G is longer and higher. Generally the story titles are rounder and bouncier. I suspect Ira may have studied the work of this unknown letterer when developing his own story lettering style, and at times seems to follow it more closely than others. This is what gives me major problems in identifying early Ira Schnapp story lettering. It could be an alternate style from Ira, but there’s no reason he would be using both styles at the same time, as they appear in these comics. Once we get into 1947, Ira’s lettering is distinctly his own, but on early examples I can’t be as sure. It’s all guesswork based on style, and this article has my best guesses. I may have guessed wrong or guessed differently on some examples in my other blog articles on this topic. It’s a matter of what I saw that particular day.
Here’s another page from the Batman and Robin story in issue #112 to show more of what I think is Ira’s early work. His balloon shapes are distinctive, but also similar to that other letterer, as is the way he overlapped top panel borders at times. Ira’s question marks are also very small.
By far the most frequent work of Schnapp inside DETECTIVE is lettering the lead Batman and Robin story, I found his work on 60 of them, but he also worked on other features. Above is what might be his first work on “Slam Bradley” in issue #118. The work here is very similar to Slam Bradley in issue #116, probably by Proto-Schnapp, but with narrower letters and other style points that suggest Ira to me. I found 22 Slam Bradley stories I think are lettered by Schnapp.
While the Air Wave story in issue #120 does NOT look like the work of Ira Schnapp to me, this one in issue #121 does. I find Schnapp lettering on 12 Air Wave stories.
Ira first lettered “The Boy Commandos” feature in issue #121, above. The “spooky” title lettering is similar to what he did elsewhere, and I think it’s a style he was never particularly good at, but helps to identify his work here.
A detail from a later page of the same story. Is this Schnapp or the other guy? Hard to be sure, but the letters are generally square rather than wider than square, and other clues suggest Schnapp to me. I find Ira’s lettering on seven Boy Commandos stories.
With issue #138, Aug. 1938, a new Robotman series began. At first I assumed this was not lettered by Ira because he didn’t letter any of the ones I’d already seen in STAR SPANGLED COMICS, but these are by a different writer and artist, and Schnapp lettered many of them. He probably designed that cool art deco logo at the top of the page, too. The story title is not typical of Ira, and may have been pencilled by the artist, but that’s just a guess. Every letterer does things that aren’t typical from time to time. I found 18 Robotman stories lettered by Schnapp.
Letterers in those days at DC often had an incredible amount of work to do on a page. Here’s a prime example from the Batman and Robin story in issue#161, July 1950. At least half that page is lettering! They weren’t all this bad, but man, I’m sure glad I didn’t have to do it…
This feature starred Roy Raymond, TV Detective, and the name of the series later changed to that, but in the early stories it was “Impossible But True.” The first one Ira lettered is in issue #173, July 1951. I found a total of nine of them with Schnapp lettering.
DC editors were always trying to fit in features that followed popular trends of the time, particularly in the 1950s when sales were dropping. “Pow-wow Smith, Indian Lawman” combined detective work, indians, and westerns. The only one that Schnapp lettered is in issue#194, above.
Perhaps the most successful backup feature in DETECTIVE was this one, giving rise to a character still around today, and in the “Supergirl” TV show: J’onn J’onzz. The first one Ira lettered was in issue #231, May 1956. He worked on six total.
As DETECTIVE came into the 1960s, Ira’s work for inside stories dwindled. This is the last of them, from issue #310, December 1962.
Written by Batman co-creator Bill Finger, it’s old-fashioned, too wordy, and features the silly character Bat-mite, but…kind of fun in its own way. Ira’s work is looking less skilled here. He was 68, and still doing lots of lettering, but perhaps not as well as he once had. The entire Batman series is looking pretty tired and old-fashioned, and the lettering was an element of that. Less than two years later, in 1964, all the Batman features got a “New Look” with art by Carmine Infantino and lettering by Gaspar Saladino.
Ira’s work in DETECTIVE was enjoyed by fans, even though he never received credit for it in his lifetime. Here’s a complete list of his story lettering as I see it, not counting house ads and public service pages that ran across the entire DC line.
DETECTIVE COMICS #112, June 1946: Batman & Robin 12 pages
TEC #114 & #115 8-9/46: Batman 12 pp
TEC #116 10/46: Batman 12 pp,
TEC #118 12/46: Batman 12 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #119 1/47: Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #120 2/47: Batman 12 pp
TEC #121 3/47: Batman 12 pp, Boy Commandos 11 pp
TEC #122 4/47: Batman 13 pp, Air Wave 8 pp
TEC #123 5/47: Batman 12 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp, Boy Commandos 12 pp
TEC #124 6/47: Batman 12 pp, Air Wave 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp, Boy Commandos 12 pp
TEC #125 7/47: Batman 13 pp, Air Wave 6 pp, Slam Bradley 6 pp
TEC #126 & #127 8-9/47: Batman 12 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp, Air Wave 6 pp
TEC #128 10/47: Batman 12 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #129 11/47: Batman 12 pp, Air Wave 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #130 12/47: Batman 12 pp, Air Wave 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp, Boy Commandos 11 pp
TEC #131 1/48: Batman 13pp, Slam Bradley 6 pp, Boy Commandos 12 pp
TEC #132 2/48: Batman 12 pp, Air Wave 6 pp, Boy Commandos 12 pp
TEC #133 3/48: Batman 12 pp
TEC #134 4/48: Slam Bradley 7 pp, Air Wave 6 pp
TEC #135 5/48: Batman 12 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #136 & #137 6-7/48: Air Wave 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #138 8/48: Robotman 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp, Boy Commandos 12 pp
TEC #139 9/48: Robotman 6 pp, Boy Commandos 12 pp
TEC #140-142 9-11/48: Robotman 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #143 1/49: Batman 12 pp, Robotman 6 pp, Slam Bradley 6 pp
TEC #144-145 2-3/49: Robotman 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #146 4/49: Robotman 6 pp, Slam Bradley 6 pp
TEC #147 5/49: Slam Bradley 7 pp, Robotman 6 pp
TEC #148 6/49: Robotman 6 pp Slam Bradley 6 pp
TEC #149-151 7-9/49: Robotman 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #152 10/49: Batman 12 pp, Robotman 6 pp, Slam Bradley 7 pp
TEC #153 11/49: Batman 12 pp, Robotman 6 pp
TEC #154 12/49: Robotman 6 pp
TEC #155-165 1-11/50: Batman 12 pp
TEC #168 2/51: Batman 13 pp
TEC #169-172 3-6/51: Batman 12 pp
TEC #173 7/51: Batman 12 pp, Robotman 6 pp, Impossible But True 8 pp
TEC #174 8/51: Batman 12 pp, Impossible 8 pp
TEC #175-177 9-11/51: Batman 12 pp
TEC #178 12/51: Batman 10 pp
TEC #179, 181, 184, 186-190 1-12/52: Batman 12 pp
TEC #191 1/53: Impossible 6 pp
TEC #193 3/53: Batman 12 pp, Robotman 6 pp
TEC#194 4/53: Pow-wow Smith 8 pp
TEC #202 12/53: Batman 12 pp
TEC #229 3/56: Batman 12 pp
TEC #231 5/56: John Jones 6 pp
TEC #238 12/56: Roy Raymond TV Detective 6 pp
TEC #239 1/57: Batman 12 pp
TEC #241 3/57: John Jones 6 pp
TEC #251 & 260 1/58 & 10/58: Roy Raymond 6 pp
TEC #263-264 1-2/59: John Jones 6 pp
TEC #267 5/59: Roy Raymond 6 pp
TEC #269 7/59: Batman 12 pp, Roy Raymond 6 pp
TEC #280 6/60: Roy Raymond 6 pp
TEC #285 11/60: John Jones 7 pp
TEC #291 5/61: Roy Raymond 6 pp
TEC #303, 307 5-9/62: Batman 13 pp
TEC #308 10/62: John Jones 12 pp
TEC #310 12/62: Batman 13 pp
If my math and my picks are right, that’s 1,319 story pages lettered by Ira Schnapp on this title. More Schnapp research soon. Other articles you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.