Ira Schnapp in SUPERBOY

This and all images © DC Comics

Superboy, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, was the creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and first appeared in MORE FUN COMICS #101 dated Jan/Feb 1945. Soon after that Superboy stories moved to ADVENTURE COMICS and stayed there for decades. The character was popular enough that DC decided to launch his own title edited by Jack Schiff in 1949, though Mort Weisinger took over as editor with issue #24. The book was published bimonthly for a while, then eight times a year, and generally had three Superboy stories in each issue, occasionally two, and rarely a book-length story in three parts. The regular cast included Ma and Pa Kent, Clark Kent as Superboy’s secret identity, his super-dog Krypto, and his girlfriend Lana Lang. The logo and cover lettering on the first issue above were designed by Ira Schnapp. The original Superboy logo by Schnapp is one of the oldest still in the DC Comics files, here’s a scan of it:

The logo draws on Ira’s love for the Art Deco era that was popular when he was a young man in the 1920s. Ira lettered many covers for the title, but just a handful of stories inside.

Some early covers had no lettering or were lettered by others. I see his work on issue #4, Sept/Oct 1949 using an upper and lower case style he didn’t employ often on covers, but one he sometimes used on house ads.

By issue #22 in 1952, Ira’s cover work had settled into this familiar style of captions and word balloons. Notice the marks around the word SIGH in Lana’s balloon. They are parentheses broken into dashed lines. This was the intermediate style for what I call “breath marks,” used to set apart words made only with breath and not voice. The original style was parentheses, then these broken or dashed parentheses, then the marks began to form radiating lines outward from each end of the word, the form used today.

Editor Mort Weisinger and his writers came up with endless odd ideas for their stories like this one from issue #47 in 1956 nicely captioned by Ira.

As you can see, one of the draws on young readers they used involved money, not only as the subject of the story but in a prize contest, all lettered by Ira, including the text on the currency itself.

I think issue #74 from 1959 is the first of the book-length “3-Part Novels” in this title, they were also used in SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS, and here involved Superboy’s native planet Krypton and his real parents.

The cover of issue #107 from 1963 has lots of Schnapp lettering, all of it appealing to me.

As the book moved further into the 1960s, the storylines became even odder, as seen here in issue #126 from 1966. Part of the story title is hard to read because of the color choice: red letters on an orange background.

DC published some Annuals, including one for Superboy in 1964 that used Ira’s cover lettering, and also experimented with 80-page Giant issues in the regular run like this one in issue #129, often filled with reprints. Only the cover and Ira’s lettering on it were new.

In the later 1960s, the cover lettering assignments gradually moved from Ira Schnapp to Gaspar Saladino. Issue #145 from 1968 is the last one with Ira’s cover lettering, which seems to have word balloons that are larger than usual. Ira left the company in 1968 and died in 1969.

Here are the covers on which I see Ira’s lettering: 1, 4, 11, 13-29, 31-45, 47-53, 55-68, 70-77, 79-101, 103-104, 106-113, 115-121, 123-130, 132-134, 136-137, 139, 141-145, SUPERBOY ANNUAL 1. That’s 124 if I’ve counted right, an impressive body of cover work.

SUPERBOY had many different story letterers over the many years of its run. In early issues the regular lettering looked like this, much wider than Ira’s work. It’s by a letterer whose name is unknown to me, but familiar from other DC titles of the time. This is not the other unknown letterer I’ve nicknamed Proto-Schnapp because I think Ira used his work as a model for his own. Proto-Schnapp lettered just a few early stories for this title.

Ira did letter one of the three stories in issue #1, a sample page is above. Notice how much narrower and generally smaller his letters are.

Here’s a page from a story Ira lettered in issue #23 in 1952. As you can see, the stories from this time often had lots of lettering and must have taken a long time to do.

This Ira lettering for issue #76 in 1959 is again full of lettering and signs, all expertly handled by Ira.

Issue #100 from 1962 had a few special feature pages, including this new one lettered by Ira. Another one he lettered, “How the Super-Family Came to Earth From Krypton,” was a reprint from SUPERMAN ANNUAL #2 of 1960.

Here’s a list of the stories Schnapp lettered in this series:

#1 March/April 1949: Superboy Meets Mighty Boy 12pp

#4 Sept/Oct 1949: Super Safety Boy 10pp

#13 March/April 1951: The Terrible Twigley Twins 12pp

#16 Sept/Oct 1951: Superboy on Mars 12pp

#23 Dec 1952/Jan 1953: The Super Superboy 10pp

#45 Dec 1955: A Trap for Superboy 8pp

#47 March 1956: Clark Kent’s Best Pal 8pp

#71 March 1959: Bad Boy Clark Kent 9pp

#76 Oct 1959: The Day Clark Kent Got a Haircut 8pp

#77 Dec 1959: The Grandson of Steel 8pp

#100 Oct 1962: Special 100th Anniversary Souvenirs 1pp

#103 March 1963: The Wild West of Jesse James pages 5-9 only

That’s a total of 111 pages. There may have been reprints of some his stories in later issues, I didn’t look past 1970. More posts in this series and others you might enjoy can be found on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

More about Ira Schnapp from Wikipedia.

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