Ira Schnapp in JACKIE GLEASON, SGT. BILKO and PVT. DOBERMAN

Images © DC Comics

From 1956 to 1958, DC Comics launched three new Hollywood comedy titles that did not last as long as their earlier successes with Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis. JACKIE GLEASON AND THE HONEYMOONERS ran for 12 issues from 1956-1958, probably edited by Larry Nadle, and was based on several Gleason TV shows with various titles of the 1950s. I think in each case with this type of book a contract must have been negotiated with either the star, his agent, or the network outlining what the content would be. In this one, The Honeymooners was the lead and longest feature, with the rest of the book filled by shorter stories featuring other Gleason characters from his TV variety show like Reginald Van Gleason III, the Poor Soul, and Stanley Sogg. In that way it was more like the TV show than most of these Hollywood books, with Gleason (and to a lesser extent co-star Art Carney) appearing in different roles in the same series. This idea is emphasized on the first cover, above, with Honeymooners characters playing parts in a movie they’re making.

Ira Schnapp designed the logo, as he did with almost every DC title in the 1950s, and did the cover lettering and signs. Schnapp’s take on Gleason’s temper and loud voice works well, I think. Ira lettered all the covers and many of the stories inside.

On the cover of issue #2 we have the Honeymooners in more typical costumes and more great balloon lettering from Ira. Anyone who has seen the show can hear the characters saying these lines.

One advantage the comic had over the TV show was outside locations at no extra cost. Despite a good effort, the book did not continue past issue #12. Possibly the contract was for just that many issues and wasn’t renewed, or more likely the book didn’t sell well enough. To repeat, Ira Schnapp lettered covers 1-12.

On this first page from the first issue, the unknown writer seems to capture the feel of the TV show well, abetted by Ira Schnapp’s lettering.

With his lettering for the Reggie Van Gleason III story in issue #7, Ira included a handsome logo. Again we see the advantage of comics, no TV show had a budget for this kind of story!

A page from the final issue. Some of the Gleason characters are ones I don’t recall, even though my family and I watched Gleason’s shows regularly. Here are the stories lettered by Ira Schnapp, identified by series name or character:

#1 June/July 1956: Honeymooners 10pp, Fenwick Babbitt 4pp, Reggie Van Gleason III 5pp, Stanley Sogg 1pp

#3 Oct/Nov 1956: Honeymooners 10pp

#4 Dec 1956/Jan 1957: Honeymooners 12pp, Stanley Sogg 2pp

#5 Feb/March 1957: Honeymooners 10pp, Stanley Sogg 2pp

#6 April/May 1957: Stanley Sogg 2pp, Charlie Bratton 4pp

#7 June/July 1957: Honeymooners 12pp, Rudy Repairman 3pp, Poor Soul 1pp, Reggie Van Gleason 4pp, Stanley Sogg 2pp, Charlie Bratton 3pp, Poor Soul 1pp

#8 Aug/Sept 1957: Honeymooners 10pp, Poor Soul 1pp Stanley Sogg 1pp, Charlie Bratton 6pp, Reggie Van Gleason 5pp, Stanley Sogg 2pp

#9 Oct/Nov 1957: Honeymooners 12pp, Reggie Van Gleason 4pp

#10 Dec 1957/Jan 1958: Fenwick Babbitt 6pp

#11 Feb/March 1958: Honeymooners 12pp, Charlie Bratton 4pp, Poor Soul 1pp, Stanley Sogg 2pp, Reggie Van Gleason 5pp

#12 April/May 1958: Stanley Sogg 2pp, Poor Soul 1pp (first of two)

That’s a total of 162 pages.

SGT. BILKO ran 18 issues from 1957 to 1960, probably again edited by Larry Nadle, and based on The Phil Silvers Show on TV (at first called You’ll Never Get Rich) running from 1955 to 1959. In this case, each issue had one book-length story. Early issues had no ads, so the stories ran 32 pages, unusually long for any DC Comic at the time other than the annual RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER issues. After that ads were included, shortening the stories, which were divided into pseudo-chapters, as with other DC Hollywood comedy books. Ira Schnapp again designed the logo, this time with more bounce and an open drop shadow to allow the use of a second color. A CBS logo is in the bottom right corner, so the network may have been involved in the negotiations and format. Ira lettered most of the covers.

Speaking of negotiations, with the second issue the logo adds star Phil Silvers as a top line, and his head is in the O of Bilko. Perhaps Silvers or his agent had a hand in that. The writer does a good job with Silver’s comedic delivery in Ira’s word balloons. The CBS logo is now larger.

Issue #7’s cover is crowded with characters, lettering and logos, but still works fine to my eye, a tribute to Ira’s skill.

With issue #16 there’s a new Schnapp logo using more conservative block letters, and the Bilko head is on the left off the logo. The black and white photo doesn’t work very well with the colorful caption and trade dress. Here are the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp: 1-4, 6-9, 13-14, 16-18, thirteen in all.

Here’s the first page of the first story with Schnapp lettering. Ira worked on all the stories, though in two cases only lettered parts of them.

Here’s the last story page of issue #3 with far too much dialogue, but Ira gets it in somehow. Note the rare “32” page number.

The final story page from the final issue, #18 with a Schnapp sign. Ira’s distinctive “The End” in script is one of the ways I can identify his work.

Here’s the list of Schnapp story lettering, all stories feature Sgt. Bilko:

#1 May/June 1957: 32pp

#2 July/Aug 1957: 32pp

#3 Sept/Oct 1957: 32pp

#4 Nov/Dec 1957: 32pp

#5 Jan/Feb 1958: 32pp

#6 March/April 1958: 32pp

#7 May/June 1958: 30pp

#8 July/Aug 1958: 26pp

#9 Sept/Oct 1958: 26pp

#10 Nov/Dec 1958: pages 21-26 (6pp)

#11 Jan/Feb 1959: 26pp

#12 March/April 1959: 26pp

#13 May/June 1959: 26pp

#14 July/Aug 1959: 26pp

#15 Sept/Oct 1959: 26pp

#16 Nov/Dec 1959: pages 1-8 of 26 (8pp)

#17 Jan/Feb 1960: 26pp

#18 March/April 1960: 26pp

That’s a total of 470 pages, a lot for this many issues.

SGT. BILKO is the only DC Hollywood title to have a spin-off, and it featured Private Doberman. It was again probably edited by Larry Nadle and ran for 11 issues from 1958-1960, ending at the same time as Bilko’s book. Ira Schnapp designed the logo using very regular block letters with an open drop shadow and a different version of SGT. BILKO. The CBS logo again appears at lower right. Ira lettered this and many of the covers and stories too.

Issue #3 has some signs by Schnapp as well as word balloons.

The final issue, #11, drops the character head from the logo and features a well-designed sign by Ira. His cover lettering is on these issues: 1-3, 7-8, 10-11, seven in all.

Like the parent title, the stories were book-length but divided into chapters, and most were lettered by Schnapp, like this first one.

A story page from issue #6 with some nice Schnapp signs.

The final page from the final issue with Doberman as a failed Elvis Presley imitator. Here are the stories lettered by Schnapp, all feature Pvt. Doberman:

#1 June/July 1958: 28pp

#2 Aug/Sept 1958: 26pp

#4 Dec 1958/Jan 1959: 26pp

#5 Feb/March 1959: 28pp

#6 April/May 1959: 26pp

#7 June/July 1959: 26pp

#8 Aug/Sept 1959: pages 1-18 of 26 (18pp)

#9 Oct/Nov 1959: 26pp

#10 Dec 1959/Jan 1960: 26pp

#11 Feb/March 1960: 26pp

That’s a total of 256 pages for this short series.

More articles like this are on my Comics Creation page.

Jackie Gleason on Wikipedia, with a list and description of his characters.

The Phil Silvers Show on Wikipedia with cast credits.

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