Ira Schnapp in STRANGE ADVENTURES

All images © DC Comics

Before Julius Schwartz was an editor at DC Comics, he was an active science fiction fan and then a science fiction agent with his friend Mort Weisinger for many well-known authors. Julie must have long thought a science fiction comics anthology was a perfect fit for him, and his first one began appearing with an August/September cover date in 1950. Weisinger co-edited the first two issues, the rest were handled by Julie until he passed the book to editor Jack Miller with issue #164 in 1964. Julie called in some of his science fiction friends and former clients to write for the comic, like Edmond Hamilton and Gardner Fox, who scripted the eight-page adaptation of the George Pal film “Destination Moon” for the first issue. Permission for this may have come from the author of the screenplay, Robert Heinlein, another SF friend. It was the only Hollywood connection for the series, but a great one.

The book started out bimonthly but went monthly with issue #3 and remained so for many years, something of a rarity for DC at the time, so there were lots of issues to look through for the work of Ira Schnapp. I found it mostly on covers. Ira did letter some stories, including an important one in 1967, but they were few and sporadic. The main letterer for the Schwartz issues was Gaspar Saladino. He often lettered entire issues up to about #60, and usually one or two stories after that, though other letterers began appearing regularly then too. While the cover lettering is all type on issue #1, the logo is pure Ira Schnapp, utilizing the kind of telescoping also seen on other logos he designed beginning with his revamped Superman logo in 1940, and letter shapes he liked. Note that the loops of the R’s are fully rounded while the S, G and D are a mix of straight and rounded shapes. The first A in ADVENTURES is very wide, perhaps to emphasize it.

The second issue has cover lettering by Schnapp in the story title and credits box. Giving credit to writers (and one artist, Virgil Finlay, a well-known science fiction pulp illustrator) was unusual for comics at the time. Writer credits often appeared on the stories inside, too. Julie must have convinced management that to attract SF magazine readers, author credits were a selling point. That may have helped sales, as the book was a success.

Again on issue #3 we see Ira’s lettering including two writer names. The title often had continuing characters like Hamilton’s Chris KL99. They came and went over the years, appearing in a series of short stories along with other non-series tales in each issue.

Another continuing feature was Captain Comet, as featured on the cover of issue #14 in 1951, also having the first Ira Schnapp word balloon on the cover as the series took on a more typical DC Comics cover approach. While stories sometimes had genuine science fictional elements, often they were more space opera, adventure and mystery offerings with science fictional trappings.

The cover of issue #40 in 1954 has a relatively rare Ira Schnapp “electric” or “radio” balloon. Unlike other letterers, Ira did not always radiate the points of these from the center, but as here kept all the angles roughly the same.

There’s nothing remarkable about the lettering on issue #79 from 1957, but I couldn’t resist showing this unintentionally funny image.

Issue #110 from 1959 benefits from the gray wash tones of colorist Jack Adler, and Ira’s caption has an unusually amorphous border.

Of the series within STRANGE ADVENTURES, my favorite was The Atomic Knights. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by armored men riding giant dalmations in a post-apocalyptic America? I sure was! Issue #144 was their only cover appearance, oddly enough, with great lettering by Schnapp.

Ira Schnapp continued to letter covers after Jack Miller took over as editor, including this first appearance of the character who became Animal Man on issue #180 in 1965.

With issue #202 in 1967, a new Ira Schnapp logo appeared, emphasizing the book’s shift away from science fiction to mystery and horror. I have to say it’s one of my least favorite logos by Ira. The rest of the lettering on this cover is by Gaspar Saladino, who was gradually taking over that job at the time.

A different version of that logo, also by Ira, had begun on issue #204, and with issue #205, the book featured the new character Deadman, with a logo also by Schnapp at the bottom. If anything, I like this STRANGE ADVENTURES logo even less. “Spooky” was never Ira’s strong point, and this logo doesn’t work for me at all. I do like his Deadman logo, though.

Ira’s cover lettering appeared for the last time on issue #210, dated March 1968, around the time Ira left DC. His run of cover lettering on this book is an amazing one.

Here are the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp: 3-12, 14-21, 23-50, 52-57, 59-62, 64-69, 71-75, 77, 79-87, 89-94, 96-98, 100-151, 155-177, 179-183, 185-189, 191-193, 195-201, 203-206, 210. That’s 185 covers in all.

The first story lettering I see on this series is from issue #2, above. It’s interesting that he took a quite different approach to the story title from the one he lettered on the cover.

This story from issue #23 is a more typical mix of art and lettering for the time, with Ira’s generally small lettering helping him get more words in those last two panels.

Ira’s story title for the lead in issue #54 has an unusual electric treatment for him.

Ira’s most important story lettering for this series was this, the first story and origin of the long-running supernatural character Deadman. As a last effort, it was a fine one.

Here are the stories I find Ira Schnapp lettering on in this series:

#2 Oct/Nov 1950: The Doom From Planet X 8pp

#3 Dec 1950: Chris KL99 10pp

#4 Jan 1951: Invaders From the Nth Dimension 10pp

#6 March 1951: Too Big For This World 10pp

#8 May 1951: Revolt of the Humans 10pp

#11 Aug 1951: Reign of the Elephants 10pp

#12 Sept 1951: Sideways in Time 8pp

#13 Oct 1951: The Hidden People 8pp

#15 Dec 1951: The Strange Sideshow of Dr. Schill 8pp

#23 Aug 1952: Last Woman On Earth 6pp

#25 Oct 1952: The Sniper From Space 6pp, The Living Jewel 6pp

#28 Jan 1953: The Indestructible Giant 6pp, Collector’s Item 4pp

#32 May 1953: The Human Bullett 6pp

#38 Nov 1953: Invasion From the World Below 8pp

#54 March 1955: The Electric Man 6pp

#61 Oct 1955: The Strange Thinking Cap of Willie Jones 6pp

#63 Dec 1955: The Sign Language of Space 6pp

#64 Jan 1956: The Maze of Mars 6pp

#85 Oct 1957: The Amazing Human Race 6pp, Thieves of Thought 6pp

#86 Nov 1957: The Weather War of 1977 6pp

#132 April 1961: The Dreams of Doom 8pp

#134 June 1961: Star Hawkins 8pp

#136 Jan 1962: Lost–100,000 Years 8pp

#139 April 1962: The World Without Tomorrow 8pp

#154 July 1963: A Space Museum Story 8pp

#171 Dec 1964: The Diary of the 9-Planet Man 9pp

#205 Oct 1967: Deadman 17pp

That’s a total of 232 pages, not a lot for Ira, though with the covers it’s a solid amount of lettering work. After the end of Ira’s involvement, the title returned to editor Julius Schwartz for a while with Adam Strange as the main feature (mostly in reprints from MYSTERY IN SPACE) and it ended with issue #244 in 1973.

More articles in this series and others you might enjoy are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Wikipedia entry for STRANGE ADVENTURES, with a list of recurring features.

5 thoughts on “Ira Schnapp in STRANGE ADVENTURES

  1. Mark Evanier

    The 1967-1968 STRANGE ADVENTURES logos are the only really poor ones I ever saw out of Mr. Schnapp. He was never as good with “shaky” lettering forms and you have to wonder if the changes going on around DC at the time had anything to do with him producing a logo that was so un-Schnapplike.

    But I also wonder to what extent the lettering in his last years was plagued by physical problems. His interior lettering got very shaky.

  2. Todd Klein Post author

    There are a few others I dislike just as much from this period like Animal Man (the one with the different animal hide patterns). I’m sure his motor skills were in decline in his last years. We all get there if we live long enough, and 70 plus years was older then perhaps than it is now.

  3. David Goldfarb

    There was a film from 1984 called “Buckaroo Banzai”. Possibly you remember it. It had aliens from “Planet 10”. With the lettering here giving us “The Doom From Planet X”, all the recent X-Men stuff around “Powers of X” primed me to read that initially as “The Doom From Planet Ten”. A second later I realized my mistake, of course…and then I finally got the joke from the decades-ago movie.

  4. Eric Gimlin

    One small detail on the logo: The upper bar of the T in “Strange” is missing a line in the telescoping, but it’s there in “Adventures”. They corrected it by issue #180, though. What’s interesting to me is that it was pointed out by a fan on the letters page, and they promised to correct it as soon as possible. It’s one of the earliest mentions of lettering I can recall seeing in a comic, or at least a DC comic. I can’t remember what issue it’s in exactly, though; although I could probably track it down if anybody is interested.

  5. Todd Klein Post author

    That error occurred when the black areas of the telescoping on the original logo were opened up for color, something probably not done by Ira Schnapp. Similar missing lines should be under the crossbar of the A in each letter and under the joint of the horizontal and vertical bars of each T to be consistent. Those were never added.

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