Ira Schnapp in REX THE WONDER DOG

Images © DC Comics

Starting in 1952, DC Comics launched this title about a reasonably realistic white German shepherd who acted heroically, often with his master Danny, in many locations and situations from the American west to Europe and elsewhere. Rex was smarter and stronger than average dogs. He was perhaps inspired by the real dog Rin-Tin-Tin who was rescued from a World War One battlefield and starred in a series of successful films from 1922 to 1931, or by films about Lassie, an equally heroic Scottish collie created in the book Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight in 1940, and in a popular film of the same name in 1943 and sequels. Rex’s predecessor at DC, though, was Streak the Wonder Dog.

Created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Alex Toth, also the creators of Rex, Streak first appeared in (Golden Age) GREEN LANTERN #30 in 1948. Streak was soon starring in his own stories, as in the example above from issue #36, and when the series was cancelled two issues later, Streak was essentially the star.

Editor Julius Schwartz must have thought a dog series by Kanigher and Toth would sell, and it did well through the rest of the 1950s, though Toth departed after a few issues, and artist Gil Kane became the regular penciller and cover artist after that. There were 46 bimonthly issues ending in 1959. The logo for the first issue, above, is one of the largest and, I think, best efforts of Ira Schnapp. THE ADVENTURES OF is repeated from previous DC titles, most recently THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE, the rest is new. Ira also did the lettering on this and most of the series covers. He only lettered two stories inside the book.

Here’s issue #12 from 1953 with typical Schnapp blurb lettering. There’s something compelling about the large letters of REX in the logo. I was only able to find and read a few issues when I was a kid, and I loved them, perhaps because at the time we didn’t have a dog of our own, even though I wanted one. Watching the Lassie TV show beginning in 1954 probably reinforced that.

The caption for issue #17 from 1955 offered Ira a chance to use some of his Old English style in the story title.

Issue #18’s cover is unusual for the thought balloon from Rex, I think the only one on a cover.

Issue #26’s strange cover suggests Rex as a media star with nice Schnapp lettering on the Autograph book cover.

The final cover of the series was once again lettered by Ira Schnapp. Here are the covers he worked on: 1-8, 10-21, 23-27, 29-37, 39-41, 44-46. That’s 40 in all.

Most issues had two Rex stories. Beginning with issue #4, a second feature, Detective Chimp, was added with a logo by Ira, who also lettered the character’s stories in two issues. One of them is above from issue #7. Gaspar Saladino was the main letterer on REX, he did nearly all the stories, missing just a few with Rex and perhaps ten with Detective Chimp. Only issue #36 has no Saladino lettering at all.

Here are the stories lettered by Ira Schnapp, totaling 12 pages:

#7 Jan/Feb 1953: Detective Chimp 6pp

#11 Sept/Oct 1953: Detective Chimp 6pp

Rex the Wonder Dog on Wikipedia.

Detective Chimp on Wikipedia.

Other articles in this series and about Ira Schnapp are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

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