Ira Schnapp in OUR ARMY AT WAR

Images © DC Comics

DC’s first war comic had been BOY COMMANDOS created by the Simon and Kirby shop in the 1940s. In the early 1950s, war comics had a new wave of popularity, and many publishers were issuing them. Editor Robert Kanigher jumped on this bandwagon with the bimonthly ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR, the first issue having an Aug/Sept 1952 cover date. This title began at the same time as a monthly with an August 1952 cover date. It would have a long and successful run of 301 issues ending in 1977. Kanigher remained the editor until the late 1960s when he was replaced by his most popular war artist, Joe Kubert.

Ira Schnapp designed this logo, using the same word WAR as on the other new title, and doing ARMY in the same style. The smaller words OUR and AT are not as well designed as Ira’s usual script upper and lower case letters in my opinion, but they remained on the logo for its duration all the same. Ira also did the top line and its creative exploding caption, which was reused for later issues, and the word balloon. Schnapp’s major contribution to this title was cover lettering, he did most of it until issue #189 in 1968. He also lettered a few stories inside the book in its first few years.

Issue #8 from 1953 is typical of many early covers for this series, with a Schnapp top line and a caption holding the story titles.

Issue #21 from 1954 adds another caption describing the contents, a four-part story.

After the comics code seal was added in the upper right corner of each issue, this series often put the logo on two lines, as seen here on issue #41 from 1955.

Issue #77 from 1958 has a particularly large story title with open letters at the bottom and two word balloons, which were gradually being used more often.

The star characters of the book were Sgt. Rock and his Easy Co. soldiers. Rock emerged gradually over a few issues. This is an early version from issue #81 in 1959. Joe Kubert became the regular Rock artist and cover artist around this time in stories mostly written by Kanigher.

Fans loved the feature, and by issue #91 from 1960, the Rock stories sometimes filled whole issues, or were two-thirds of it with an unrelated backup story. Ira lettered the blurb BY POPULAR DEMAND, something you didn’t see on DC covers very often.

Issue #112 from 1961 had the full roster of Easy Co. to that point drawn by Joe Kubert with lettering and captions by Schnapp.

Kubert’s covers were action-filled, and Schnapp’s lettering helped sell the story, as here on issue #140 from 1964.

This story filled two issues, #147 above and #148 from 1964, both designed to look like book covers with help from Ira’s open lettering.

Issue #151 from 1965 teased the first appearance of another popular feature, Enemy Ace about a World War One German pilot. It would run as a backup here and later get its own series.

From issue #158 in 1965, Sgt. Rock’s own logo took the limelight below the book title. Ira Schnapp did all the cover lettering, but the Sgt. Rock logo is by Gaspar Saladino, possibly his first for DC. The clue to that is the way the R in ROCK is shaped. It’s designed like a letter P with the right leg added, as indicated by the position of the notch on the right side, something Gaspar always did with his block letters.

Issue #162 from 1966 features a surprising team-up of Rock and the Viking Prince, a character created by Kanigher and Kubert for the first issue of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD in 1955. Lots of large, handsome lettering by Ira here!

In addition to twelve monthly issues, from 1966 on there was an annual-sized collection of older stories like this second one from 1967. I think the only new thing was the cover by Kubert with lettering by Schnapp. The characters were drawn from all the Kanigher war comics.

In the late 1960s, cover lettering was gradually shifted from Ira to Gaspar Saladino. Issue #189 from 1968 was the last with Schnapp lettering. Ira would leave the company soon after. His run as cover letterer for this title was a long one. Here’s a list of the covers he lettered: 1-66, 68-77, 79-156, 158-169, 171-172, 174-181, 183-187, 189. That’s a total of 181 covers. The uninterrupted run of Ira’s lettering for 78 issues from #79-156 might be a record!

The main letterer on this series, as with other Kanigher war titles, was Gaspar Saladino. In the early years, Ira Schnapp lettered 13 short stories. Other letterers also did a few, but Gaspar often lettered entire issues. In the early 1960s, Gaspar was mainly lettering just the Sgt. Rock stories until about 1965 with other letterers on the backups, and then taking over for many later issues. Above is the first page of Ira’s first story from issue #4 in 1952.

Here’s a page from Ira’s last story on this title in issue #40 from 1955. Ira’s lettering was much smaller than Gaspar’s, which helped in the last three panels on this page.

Here’s a list of Ira Schnapp lettering in this series:

#4 Nov 1952: Replacement 6pp

#6 Jan 1953: Battle Flag 8pp, Kid Private 6pp

#8 March 1953: Rear-Guard 4pp

#9 April 1953: Undersea Raider 6pp

#29 Dec 1954: Mule P.F.C. 6pp

#31 Feb 1955: Howitzer Hill 6pp

#32 March 1955: Battle Mirror 8pp

#33 April 1955: Combat Courier 6pp

#35 June 1955: Infantry Admiral 6pp

#36 July 1955: Clay Pigeon Paratrooper 6pp

#38 Sept 1955: Walking Sailor 6pp

#40 Nov 1955: War On Wheels 6pp

That’s 80 pages in all.

Other articles in this series are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

OUR ARMY AT WAR on Wikipedia.

Sgt. Rock on Wikipedia.

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