Ira Schnapp in INFERIOR FIVE, BOMBA and THE SPECTRE

Images © DC Comics

E. Nelson Bridwell was hired by DC Comics in 1965 as an assistant to editor Mort Weisinger on the Superman titles. Bridwell has been described as one of the first comics fans to be hired by the company. I think it would be more accurate to say one of the first writers who was fan of comic books. Bridwell had an encyclopedic knowledge of comics that was put to good use, and he had already become a published writer at MAD and other places. Rumor has it that Weisinger treated Bridwell very badly, but Nelson persevered and outlasted his mean boss to become an editor and writer for the company. The Inferior Five was his creation along with artist Joe Orlando. It had a three-issue tryout in Showcase 62, 63 and 65, sample above, for which Ira Schnapp created a logo and lots of cover lettering introducing the characters. The series was a MAD-like parody of superhero teams that had some funny moments if not quite up to MAD standards in general.

The series began in 1967, edited by Jack Miller, but my guess is he basically let Nelson do as he liked. The first issue, above, has more Schnapp lettering, and Ira would do several more as well as lettering stories in the first few issues. The book would run to 12 issues in all.

Issue #4 is a good example of Ira’s cover lettering and pretty funny too. Ira lettered the covers of issues 1-2 and 4-5, four in all.

Nelson was someone who knew and appreciated DC’s history more than most of the staff at the time, and I think he must have enjoyed meeting Ira Schnapp and learning about Ira’s own history at the company. Nelson often used Ira on the early books he wrote for DC, including this one, and on the splash page of issue #2 I think he encouraged Ira to add a lettering credit for himself, the first one Ira had received in his twenty-plus prolific years at the company. It’s a bit hard to see in this image, but it’s at the lower right. That must have been a strange thing to Ira, who was by all accounts a very modest man who did not seek the limelight.

Ira also received a lettering credit on issue #5, just under the logo. These were the only two lettering credits Schnapp ever received at DC.

Also interesting is issue #6, which takes place largely in the DC Comics offices. On page 18, we see editor Jack Miller talking to production man and letterer Joe Letterese in the first three panels, ending with Miller saying, “Well, I’ll give this story to that NEW letterer we got!” In the next panel we see a medieval monk lettering by candle light. He’s unnamed, but he’s meant to be Ira Schnapp, making the “new letterer” all the more funny to those in the know, which was hardly any of the readers at the time. The last panel has some fine Old English style lettering by Ira, a fitting tribute to his own work and his history with DC written by Nelson. This was probably among the last stories Ira lettered, and it’s a nice if very late acknowledgement of his many years at DC, though it’s a shame he wasn’t named.

These are the stories lettered by Schnapp, all featuring The Inferior Five:

#2 May/June 1967: 23pp

#4 Sept/Oct 1967: 24pp

#5 Nov/Dec 1967: 23pp

#6 Jan/Feb 1968: 23pp

That’s 93 pages in all.

Another new series from 1967 edited by George Kashdan featured BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY, who had been featured in a series of books for young readers in the 1920s and 1930s, then in a series of twelve movies from 1949 to 1955. These were repackaged for TV in the 1960s, hence the TV reference on the cover of the first issue, above. Like Tarzan, Bomba was a white boy hero among the native people of Africa, and is considered a racist stereotype today. The comics were edited by George Kashdan, and the series had just seven issues. The logo is by Ira Schnapp, though decorated with art by someone else, and Schnapp also did the cover lettering on this and the next three issues. He did no story lettering for the title.

Issue #4, Ira’s last one, has his logo without the background art, and the logo becomes a series of drumbeat sound effects that work well in Ira’s style. To repeat, Ira lettered the covers of issues 1-4.

The Spectre was a Golden Age DC character who first appeared in MORE FUN COMICS #52 in 1940. Editor Julius Schwartz decided to bring him back in a somewhat revamped version, and he had tryouts in SHOWCASE #60-61 and 64 before getting his own series. Ira Schnapp designed the logo for the SHOWCASE issues, and I think it’s his best logo for a scary character. The letters are wavy but not extremely so, and retain pointed serifs to give the logo a dangerous feel. The spooky head added by cover artist Murphy Anderson also works well.

When the character’s own series began at the end of 1967, Ira Schnapp lettered the cover of the first issue, as well as the next two.

The art and sometimes the writing on the series was famously an early success for artist Neal Adams, who like Nelson Bridwell, became a friend of Ira Schnapp in Ira’s last few years at DC, and often asked for Ira on his covers until Schnapp left the company in 1968. Issue #3 was the last of these he worked on. To repeat, Ira lettered covers 1-3.

There was one more DC title Ira did a logo for, but no other work, SECRET SIX. The first issue, above, from 1968 had a small round logo at the top by Schnapp. On later issues it was somewhat larger. The series was again written by E. Nelson Bridwell, who probably asked for Ira to do a logo, but on the first cover it’s dominated by a larger one designed by Gaspar Saladino, who would soon take over most of Ira’s logo, cover, and house ad lettering at DC.

We’ve come to the end of this series of articles about Ira Schnapp’s work in individual DC titles, but I’m not finished yet. Next I’ll be indexing Ira’s lettering on everything other than stories, including house ads, public service pages, and more. Articles about that will begin in a new multipart series soon.

The rest of the articles in this series are listed as “Ira Schnapp in…” on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

E. Nelson Bridwell on Wikipedia.

Inferior Five on Wikipedia.

Bomba the Jungle Boy on Wikipedia.

The Spectre on Wikipedia.

Ira Schnapp on Wikipedia.

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