Ira Schnapp in MUTT & JEFF

This and all images © DC Comics

A few years ago I did a number of blog posts searching for Ira Schnapp lettering in various early DC Comics titles, both on the covers and on stories. I’ve just spent a few days updating those previous posts because my mind has changed about Ira’s involvement in a lot of the material before 1949. Many things I had sourced to Ira I now think were lettered by another unknown letterer who Ira used as a model for his own work. I’ve nicknamed that person Proto-Schnapp. I wish I could find a name for him, but I’ve had no luck with that. There’s little information about early DC staffers, and everyone who might know is gone. Having done that, I’m going to try to find time for some new posts on the subject, beginning with this one. It’s a very easy entry, as you’ll see.

In 1907, Harry “Bud” Fisher created a daily comic strip called “A. Mutt” about a hapless fellow betting on horse races and usually losing. It appeared briefly in The San Francisco Chronicle. The strip was seen and liked by William Randolph Hearst who convinced Fisher to bring it to Hearst’s paper, The San Francisco Examiner in 1908. Fisher did something no other cartoonist of his time managed: he put a copyright notice for himself on the final episode that ran in the Chronicle, and that allowed him to gain control of the strip and all its rights. Mr. Mutt was soon joined by another hapless character, and the title changed to Mutt and Jeff. It was syndicated by Hearst’s King Features and became one of the most popular and longest-running strips of all time. Fisher became very wealthy, and by the time the strip added a Sunday page in 1918, most of the work on it was done by assistants and uncredited help. By the early 1930s, Bud Fisher was no longer involved in the strip at all, and starting in 1932 Al Smith became the regular artist (and possibly writer, I’m not sure). Al Smith did Mutt & Jeff for about the next 50 years.

Collected Mutt & Jeff strips appeared in a few hardcover books, and in 1939 All-American Comics, a sister company of DC Comics, began publishing them in comic books. All the interior pages of the comics were newspaper strip reprints, most or all by Al Smith, who may also have done the lettering. The covers initially also had the same style of lettering. In 1946, All-American was bought out by and merged with DC, and all their titles came under the editorial control of DC, though nominally under the All-American editor-in-chief Sheldon Mayer for a while. Looking through the covers, the first one I see with Ira Schnapp lettering is issue #43, above, dated Dec. 1949-Jan. 1950. Ira lettered a few more in 1950, then others did them for a few years.

In 1954, Ira was back as cover letterer, in his now familiar style seen on nearly all the DC covers from about 1950 to 1967. This one is particularly charming, I think, with some nice sound effects.

Schnapp lettered many Mutt & Jeff covers from then on, including this one from 1957.

The final DC issue, and the final one lettered by Ira, was issue #103, June 1958. The license then went to Dell briefly, and Harvey, who continued to publish the feature until 1965.

To sum up, I see Ira Schnapp lettering on these Mutt & Jeff covers: 43, 45, 46, 48, 71, 72, 75, 76, 78, 79, 82-87, 89-103.

That’s all there is to say and know about Ira Schnapp in this title. Others in the series can be found on my Comics Creation page.

Wikipedia on Mutt & Jeff.

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