Ira Schnapp in RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

Images © DC Comics

In 1939 the now-iconic Rudolph and his story were created by Robert L. May for a coloring book given away to children by the Montgomery-Ward company, famous for their mail-order shopping catalogs. Over two million were given out that year. In 1948 he starred in a Fleischer animated cartoon and in 1949 was the subject of a hit song written by May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks and sung by Gene Autrey. It sold 2.5 million copies when first released. In 1950, DC began an annual comic book about Rudolph and his adventures that lasted for 13 issues until 1962, though the final one was called an Annual. More new Rudolph stories were created by Sheldon Mayer in the 1970s, but won’t be discussed here. The cover of the first RUDOLPH comic is above with a charming logo by Ira Schnapp, who also lettered the top line, but not the small type at the left. Some covers of this series had no lettering other than the logo, and Ira did those too. He also lettered many of the long stories inside, making these few issues the source of a surprising amount of story lettering for him.

Issue #3 from Christmas 1952 has some great upper and lower case lettering from Ira at the bottom.

Issue #4 from Christmas 1953 is the first and only one with a word balloon by Schnapp as well as a repeat of his previous caption.

Issue #5 from Christmas 1954 has a new Schnapp caption and I think he also did CHRISTMAS CAROLS.

Issue #6 is the first to include the years on the cover, so this would be from Christmas 1955, and it has a fine Schnapp blurb in a holly wreath. I don’t know how Ira felt about working on Christmas projects, as he was Jewish, but then so were many others at DC. He was probably fine with it.

Issue #11 has some new lettering by Ira and a revised logo that also appeared on issue #10, making the outlines of RUDOLPH much thicker. This is not done well and I think it wasn’t done by Ira, but probably by someone else in the DC production department. The caption at the left here was also used on issue #12.

The RUDOLPH ANNUAL (sometimes considered issue #13) has the most cover lettering of any, all by Schnapp, and returns to the original logo. I never saw any of these comics. I’m sure I would have loved to read this one, which reprints two earlier stories with one new story. To sum up, these covers have Ira’s lettering, not counting repeats: 3-6, 11, 13 (Annual), seven in all.

Ira Schnapp lettered the single long Rudolph story in the first issue of 1950. There are puzzle pages interspersed that are not by Ira, but are included in the 48-page story numbering. Ira’s work, sample above, is only on the actual 42 story pages.

Ira did not letter issues 2 and 3, and is next seen in issue #4 from 1953.

Ira’s work on issue #5 of 1954 included a clever dashed line on the last page for a parent to write in the name of their child to make the Christmas gift more personal.

Here’s a fun page from issue #6 of 1955 with a nice scroll caption.

Not all the pages were so easy, here’s a wordy one from issue #7 of 1956.

Issue #8 ends with some holiday-inspired display lettering from Ira.

And the final page of issue #12 has even fancier display lettering showing the influence of Ira’s Old English style. Ira did no new lettering inside the Annual.

Here’s a list of the story lettering by Schnapp on this title, all starring Rudolph:

#1 Dec 1950/Jan 1951: 42pp

#4 Dec 1953/Jan 1954: 26pp

#5 Dec 1954/Jan 1955: 26pp

#6 Dec 1955/Jan1956: 26pp

#7 Dec 1956/Jan 1957: 28pp

#8 Dec 1957/Jan 1958: 28pp

#10 Dec 1959/Jan 1960: 28pp

#11 Dec 1960/Jan 1961: 28pp

#12 Dec 1961/Jan 1962: 28pp

That’s a total of 260 pages, a lot for so few issues. More articles in this series are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Wikipedia on Rudolph.

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