Ira Schnapp in HOPALONG CASSIDY and CONGO BILL

Images © DC Comics

In 1904 the Western character Hopalong Cassidy was created by author Clarence E. Mulford as a rude, rough-talking, dangerous man with a wooden leg which caused him to “hop along.” In 1935 William Boyd took the lead role in a long series of Hopalong Cassidy films with the character and stories having little relationship to Mulford’s original. Hop was a more clean-cut, mainstream guy with no disability, and he proved very popular with young audiences. Fawcett Comics, the home of the original Captain Marvel, began publishing a monthly Hop comic in 1946. When they closed down their comics line in 1953, the property moved to DC, which began publication with issue #86 dated Feb. 1954, and ran to issue #135 in 1959. Julius Schwartz was the editor. The logo was picked up from Fawcett, I don’t know who designed it. Ira Schnapp did the cover caption, and it was reused on the next two issues. The top line is type. All the covers until #109 used photos of Boyd from the films. There were lots of films, so probably lots of photos. Schnapp lettered most of the covers, but only lettered three stories inside the book.

Issue #89 put story titles by Schnapp in a banner at the bottom. There were various strategies to get cover blurbs to work with the photos, most of them not very successful to my eye.

One of the best was on issue #99, which put a rare smiling photo of the actor in a circle, allowing Ira’s story title to go in the white frame.

A few covers have Ira adding not only lettering but art to the cover in an attempt to make it work better with the photo, but usually failing, as here. Nothing wrong with the lettering, but the sign post does not seem at all part of the photo, which features Hop’s horse Topper.

By issue #110, the series finally gained the drawn art of most comics, and I think looked much better. Ira’s thought and word balloons, and his caption work fine, and he even lettered the actor’s name. Boyd was born in 1895, so was almost the same age as Ira Schnapp. He was 40 when he began portraying Hop, and by the final film in 1948 he was 53. His white hair was not dyed, and I think makes him distinctive. From 1949-54, Boyd played Hop on TV, then retired from the role.

Here’s an unusual painted look for a cover of the series, inked in gray wash and separated by Jack Adler, who used Ira’s lettering but removed the caption and balloon borders. I think that works quite well.

The final issue, #135, has a dynamic scene with two Schnapp captions. By 1959 the character was no longer appearing in new films or TV shows, and that might have hurt sales enough to end the series, but that just a guess.

Here are the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp, not counting the repeats: 86, 89, 91-102, 104-135. That’s 46 in all.

Here a page from the first of three stories in the book lettered by Ira. Many of the others were lettered by Gaspar Saladino, including all the Hop stories in issues 86-94. Ira Schnapp’s stories are:

#110 Feb 1956: The Dangerous Stunts of Hopalong Cassidy 10pp, Secret of the Roaring Cave 8pp

#127 Jan/Feb 1958: Hopalong Cassidy’s Golden Riddle 8pp

That’s 26 pages in all.

Congo Bill was a long-running series that began in MORE FUN COMICS #56 in 1940, then moved to ACTION COMICS in 1941. It was similar to the comic strip Jungle Jim, the adventures of a white explorer in Africa. In ACTION COMICS #191 in 1954, Bill was joined by Janu the Jungle Boy, similar to a young Tarzan, with both often working with a Golden Gorilla. This dual feature gained its own title for seven bimonthly issues a bit later in 1954. The first cover, above, features cover lettering and logos by Ira Schnapp. The logo style is very Art Deco, an odd choice for a jungle series. Ira did no lettering inside the book, but lettered all the covers.

Issue #4 has more traditional cover lettering by Schnapp, similar to what he was doing on many other DC titles.

The final issue has more familiar Schnapp lettering. Though the series must have sold poorly, it continued in ACTION for years. In 1959, Bill and the Golden Gorilla began switching minds somehow, creating the character Congorilla, a gorilla with great strength and human intelligence, who has continued to appear occasionally.

As I said, Ira Schnapp lettered all seven covers of the series, though the word balloons on issue #6 are pulled from an inside story and are not by Ira.

More articles in this Ira Schnapp series are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Hopalong Cassidy on Wikipedia.

Congo Bill/Congorilla on Wikipedia.

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