Ira Schnapp in OUR FIGHTING FORCES

Images © DC Comics

Having had success with three war titles that launched in 1952, in 1954 DC began another one also edited by Robert Kanigher. I’ve looked but haven’t found out anything about Kanigher’s wartime service in the U.S. Army, but he certainly had a way with war stories, both as writer and editor. DC relied on him for many years in those roles, and readers seemed to love his comics. This title ran to issue #181 in 1978. In the 1970s it featured “The Losers” by Jack Kirby, but that’s beyond the time period I’ll discuss here.

The logo is by Ira Schnapp. The rounded letters are a surprising choice for a war comic, though they do set this one apart from the earlier ones. A telescoping drop shadow on FIGHTING FORCES added depth and made room for more than one color, and the script OUR is a nice contrast and similar to what Ira did on the other war logos. Despite the roundness, there’s a monumental elegance to this logo that seems appropriate to the subject. Ira also did the caption lettering, and would letter nearly all the covers until issue #111 in 1968, but he only lettered one story inside the book.

Issue #4 shows how Ira soon began highlighting one story title, sometimes with special effects like the flames here. Ira might have lettered the names on the bomb, but it’s more likely those were done by the artist, Jerry Grandenetti.

With issue #9 in 1956, the telescoping is gone from the logo, leaving just the letters. The word OUR is now smaller and in block capitals rather than script. This left more room for art, and the letters are thick enough to read well even against a busy background like this one. No one at DC seemed to mind if the Comics Code Seal covered part of the logo, as it often did on many titles, though I think it looks awful myself.

Here’s a much better trade dress on issue #45 from 1959 with a smaller logo that clears both the Code Seal and the DC Bullet, and OUR is now closer to the original version. Around this time Ira’s story titles were getting larger, and mention is made of continuing characters “Gunner & Sarge,” who first appeared in this issue and would be featured for many years.

A third member of the team was their German Shepherd Pooch, who was often colored brown on covers but always white inside the book, possibly to avoid confusion with REX THE WONDER DOG, another white German Shepherd in his own title. The two dogs were later revealed to be brothers, both originally in the K-9 Corps.

Issue #87 in 1964 featured a new Ira Schnapp logo with FIGHTING FORCES now in similar block letters to the other DC war titles. I think this is a better look, and helps tie the genre books together. As you can see, Pooch is white on the covers by now, a few years after the end of Rex’s book.

Issue #96 from 1965 briefly featured “The Fighting Devil Dog,” who was Lt. Larry Rock, brother of Sgt. Rock. Schnapp did his topline logo and the rest of the lettering on this busy cover.

With issue #99, a new lead series featured Captain Hunter, a Green Beret fighting in Vietnam, as writer/editor Kanigher tried to keep pace with real world events. Ira’s tilted caption fits the space well.

Issue #103 from 1966 features a new, large Capt. Hunter logo by Gaspar Saladino, though the caption is by Schnapp.

Sales must have been sliding, as the cover logo changed again with issue #106. LT. HUNTER’S HELLCATS is by Ira Schnapp, as is all the lettering here. This period is the worst for cover designs and trade dress at DC, but this one works well for me, and Ira’s burst at the left of the logo adds excitement. The notched look of HELLCATS suggests that Ira was looking at the work of his fellow letterer Saladino for inspiration, as that’s a technique Gaspar used to add interest to some of his story titles.

Ira’s final cover lettering on this series was a large balloon on the cover of issue #111 with a Jan/Feb 1968 cover date, no doubt produced in 1967. Here are the covers with lettering by Ira Schnapp: 1-29, 31-52, 54-84, 86-103, 105-107, 109-111. That’s 133 covers in all, an impressive run.

Ira’s only lettering inside the book was this six page story in issue #7 from 1955. As with other Kanigher war titles, Gaspar Saladino was the main letterer. He lettered all but two stories in the first 26 issues, for example, and the majority of stories for many years after that, though by the mid 1960s the work of other letterers was appearing more often.

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

Our Fighting Forces on Wikipedia, with details on continuing features.

Robert Kanigher on Wikipedia.

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