War comics were a definite hit with readers in the early 1950s, and DC Comics made an unprecedented jump into the genre with three titles cover-dated August 1952. I’ve already written about two, OUR ARMY AT WAR and ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR. The latter was converted from a western series, and this one was converted from STAR-SPANGLED COMICS, originally a superhero title that had degenerated into a strange mixture of genres looking for an audience. As with ALL-AMERICAN, the first three issues continued the numbering of the previous version, #131-133, then restarted with #3, meaning there was an extra issue in there. Since the title eventually ran to 204 issues, it also meant there were two sets of issues 131-133 separated by fifteen years. Readers weren’t likely to notice that at the time. Unlike the other two new DC war comics, this one was not initially edited by Robert Kanigher. The likely editor was Murray Boltinoff. With issue #17, though, the title was handed to Kanigher, who was having great success with his war books, and he edited it for many years.
The logo was designed by Ira Schnapp using a similar style and layout as his logo for ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR. The stars on the banner are a nice touch and the only nod to the comic this came out of. The top line is type, but Ira lettered the word balloon, the caption and probably the sound effect. He would letter most of the covers until early 1968, but only a few stories inside.
Here’s the first issue of the renumbered series. As was typical, DC did not put an issue number on it hoping retailers would not consider it a new series and thereby reject it from their already full magazine racks. Ira has lettered the top line on this one. Most early covers had a caption listing story titles, some highlighting one, as here, some not.
By issue #6 DC still was not putting the issue number on the cover, an unusual move. The underwater jeep here presages the more fanciful stories that would be common much later in the series.
Issue #34 from 1955 continues to have a similar caption style, with the story title decorated by snow this time.
Issue #60 from 1957 has some Schnapp radio balloons in a style he rarely used.
Issue #84 saw the debut of the first hit feature of this title, Mademoiselle Marie, the French resistance fighter. She would be cover-featured for the next group of titles, and would be a continuing character for years. Somehow I think calling her a “Battle Doll” would not go over well today.
By issue #90 in 1960 the series had dropped from monthly to bimonthly, a sign that sales were down, and editor Kanigher decided to try something different by pitting soldiers against dinosaurs. The series known as “The War That Time Forgot” must have been popular, as it was cover-featured for the next few years. If readers were tired of traditional war stories, this was a new, fanciful option, and most kids like dinosaurs.
By issue #101 in 1962, Kanigher was throwing just about anything into the mix including robots. I was never a war comics fan myself, but some of these covers do look interesting!
There must have been some mockery of the dinosaur theme in this book leading to this Ira Schnapp caption, “DC BREAKS ALL THE RULES!”
With issue #133 from 1967, a new Ira Schnapp logo appears with major emphasis on WAR. I think it’s effective and one of Schnapp’s best late-career logos. The ragged edges on the stroke ends are something more often seen on Marvel Comics logos at the time.
With issue #138 from 1968, a new lead feature, Enemy Ace, begins with a logo by Gaspar Saladino. This is the last cover with lettering by Ira Schnapp, probably finished not long before he left the company.
Here are the covers lettered by Ira: 131-133, 3-27, 29-34, 36-38, 40, 42-73, 75-138. That’s 134 in all, a fine run.
Gaspar Saladino lettered a few stories in the early issues, but I can’t put a name to much of the other lettering. Once Kanigher took over as editor and used up the inventory from Boltinoff, Saladino became the main letterer, as on Kanigher’s other war books, often doing entire issues. Ira Schnapp lettered just five stories. A page from the first one in issue #5 is above.
Ira’s final story lettering for this title was in issue # 53 in 1957. I suspect he did not enjoy working on war stories and only did them when no one else was available, but that’s just my guess. Here are the stories with Schnapp lettering:
#5 Jan 1953: Three Volunteers 8pp
#11 July 1953: The Kid and the Kraut 6pp
#31 March 1955: Blue Piping 6pp
#44 April 1956: The Iron Soldier 6pp
#53 Jan 1957: The Silver Skis 6pp
Just 32 pages on this title. Other articles in this series are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.
Star-Spangled War Stories on Wikipedia.