Ira Schnapp in G.I. COMBAT

Images © DC Comics

Despite its long association with DC, this title began at another company, Quality Publications, with the first issue appearing in 1952, above. The logo was excellent, and recent research by Alex Jay has discovered it was designed by Al Grenet. With the second issue, the bullet holes were removed, and that version of the logo remained on the title through 42 Quality issues and 245 DC issues to March 1987, making it one of the longest runs for a logo at the company. Quality got out of the comics business in 1956, and DC bought the rights to their properties. G.I. COMBAT was one of only three Quality titles that continued without interruption, the others being BLACKHAWK and the short-lived ROBIN HOOD TALES. (A fourth title, HEART THROBS, continued after a lapse of a few months.) At DC, the book was added to Robert Kanigher’s already successful war comics titles, and he edited it until Joe Kubert took over in the late 1960s. Many of the DC issues had cover lettering by Ira Schnapp, though he did not letter any of the stories. As with the rest of Kanigher’s books, his go-to letterer was Gaspar Saladino, who lettered most of the stories in the 1950s, and many after that.

The first DC issue was #44 dated January 1957. In addition to the logo, DC kept Quality’s typeset top line for a while, and on this issue, the story title was also typeset. as had been the case on most of the Quality issues. Only the word FEATURING is by Ira Schnapp, and that could have been pulled from another cover, so I’m not counting this as having any Schnapp lettering.

With issue #45, Ira began lettering a caption on most issues in his usual styles, though word balloons were rare.

Another typical example on issue #50. Ira often used open letters with a drop shadow for his story titles.

Issue #54 is the first one with a word balloon.

For a while the story titles became larger, as on issue #70, as they did on the other Kanigher war books. Then there was a stretch of covers with no captions or balloons, just atmospheric painted art, giving this title a different feel from the other DC war magazines.

Issue #86 has an unusual switch, a radio balloon but no figures. The grim story takes a few moments to be understood.

There were a few continuing characters and features, the most popular being “The Haunted Tank,” which first appeared in issue #87. By issue #90 it rated an Ira Schnapp top line which was used on many subsequent issues. Where there’s no other cover lettering I don’t count those.

Issue #100 has an addition marking that milestone, but I believe it’s type, and there’s no other Schnapp lettering beyond the existing top line.

With issue #104 in 1964, Ira’s lettering returns in typical fashion similar to the many other DC covers he was doing at the time.

Issue #115 from 1966 shows the trend then for lots of cover lettering, and the beginnings of the team of continuing war heroes later called “The Losers.” It’s a complete turnaround from the wordless covers of two years earlier.

Issue #125 from 1967 has a burst caption by Schnapp that I think is one of his best, and I believe it shows him looking at the work of fellow letterer Gaspar Saladino for ideas. Gaspar would soon be taking over the company’s cover lettering after Ira departed.

Ira’s final cover work was on issue #128 from 1968, but undoubtedly lettered in 1967. He would leave the company soon after.

Here are the covers with Ira Schnapp lettering, not including repeats: 45-66, 68, 70-74, 84, 86, 90, 97-98, 104-128. That’s 56 in all.

As I said, no stories were lettered by Ira, a rare occurrence for any DC title that began in the 1950s. Some of the one page fillers look like his work at first glance, but I think they were all done by others imitating his familiar style.

G.I. Combat on Wikipedia.

More articles like this are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

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