Ira Schnapp in HOUSE OF SECRETS

All images © DC Comics

In 1951 DC launched the anthology HOUSE OF MYSTERY, the first of what they called their “mystery” line. Early on, before the Comics Code, it was a much milder version of the horror anthologies published by others. After the Code went into effect in late 1954, the content switched from traditional horror themes like ghosts and werewolves to fantasy and science fiction based stories often involving some kind of alien monster. The book did well and was coming out monthly by mid 1952. Surprisingly, it took until 1956 for the company to begin this companion title along the same lines. It was edited by Jack Schiff with help from George Kashdan and Murray Boltinoff. It must also have done well, as it moved from bi-monthly to monthly in 1958. Ira Schnapp designed the logo, which has very thin outlines and open telescoping, and it remained unchanged through this book’s run. He lettered most of the covers and also one of the usual three stories in many issues until #59 in 1963.

Issue #7 from 1957 is a typical early example with a story title and a word balloon. Interestingly, the tail of the balloon does not point toward the character’s head, but perhaps it was placed wrong on the cover. Cover lettering was always done separately and then cut out and pasted on the cover art by someone in the DC production department.

Issue #13 from 1958 has a special wavy balloon shape for the ghostly face in the mist, something Ira did not do often.

Issue #23 from 1959 has lots of Schnapp lettering including a handwritten note. In this issue a new reoccurring character begins: Mark Merlin, an investigator of unusual things. He would continue to appear for many years in one story per issue.

By issue #30, a Schnapp blurb in a circle proclaimed “A Mark Merlin Mystery,” and the character is shown with his secretary/assistant Elsa. There was usually an alien or monster involved.

Science fictional storylines were also used. This cover could have appeared on MYSTERY IN SPACE.

In issue #61 from 1963, another new regular feature began, starring DC’s first combined hero and villain, Eclipso. He and Mark Merlin both appeared separately, and eventually together after Merlin went through a transformation of his own to become Prince Ra-Man, Mind Master.

Issue #75 from 1965 puts HOUSE OF MYSTERY in a corner to leave room for new Ira Schnapp logos for Eclipso and Prince Ra-Man. This move toward characters looking and acting more like superheroes may have been an attempt to boost sales, which were flagging.

Issue #80 dated Sept-Oct 1966 was the last of this run, and the last to feature Ira Schnapp lettering. The book would be revived a few years later by editor Joe Orlando, but Ira was gone by then.

Here are the covers lettered by Schnapp: 1-7, 9-14, 17-27, 29-80. That’s 76 in all.

Here’s the first page of the first story lettered by Ira in this series, from issue #3 of 1957. His style is evident in the title and the small, squareish lettering with question marks that are like a tiny 2 over a period. There’s one in the thought balloon in the first panel.

This story from issue #13 needed some newspaper headlines, which were no problem for Ira.

The story Schnapp lettered in issue #22 from 1959 has a title very much like ones he used on covers.

Schnapp lettered the first Mark Merlin story in issue #23, and his circular blurb began here.

For a character with no powers, Merlin sure got around! For this story title in issue #37 from 1960, Ira added wavy outlines to his standard open letters with less than successful results.

I like the title on this one from issue #56 much better.

By issue #59 from 1963, Ira had created a handsome new feature logo for Mark Merlin that first appeared in issue #56. It would not be used for long, though, as the character became transformed into Prince Ra-Man in issue #73. Schnapp did a logo for him as well, seen above. This is the last story lettered by Ira in this series. The most frequent letterer after this was Stan Starkman.

Here are the stories lettered by Ira Schnapp:

#3 March-April 1957: The Bad-Luck Charms 6pp

#13 Oct 1958: The Face In The Mist 6pp

#17 Feb 1959: The Man Who Hated Good Luck 6pp

#18 March 1959: The Criminal Who Couldn’t Be Caught 6pp

#21 June 1959: The Girl From 50,000 Fathoms 7pp

#22 July 1959: The Man Who Changed History 8pp

#23 Aug 1959: Mark Merlin 8pp

#25 Oct 1959: Prisoners of Mechanical Island 8pp

#26 Nov 1959: Mark Merlin 8pp

#34 July 1960: Bodyguard to a Planet 8pp

#37 Oct 1960: Mark Merlin 9pp

#41 Feb 1961: The Wizard’s Revenge 8pp

#43 April 1961: The Imprisoned Mind 8pp

#44 May 1961: The Valley of Doomed Creatures 9pp

#46 July 1961: The Pied-Piper Creature 8pp

#49 Oct 1961: Captives of the Parallel World 9pp

#50 Nov 1961: Pageant of the 300-Year Doom 8pp

#52 Jan-Feb 1962: The Alien Trap That Backfired 8pp

#59 March-April 1963: Mark Merlin 10pp

That’s a total of 152 pages on this title. Not much for Ira, but he was very busy elsewhere!

Articles like this on every DC title Schnapp had work in are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog along with others you might enjoy.

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