Ira Schnapp in TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED

Images © DC Comics

In 1956, DC Comics added a new anthology to their line which drew ideas from science fiction, fantasy and horror (or as DC called it “mystery”). It was perhaps most similar to MY GREATEST ADVENTURE, but also not too different from STRANGE ADVENTURES, MYSTERY IN SPACE, HOUSE OF MYSTERY and HOUSE OF SECRETS. The editing credit is only for Whitney Ellsworth for many years, as with the entire DC line. Actual editing was probably by Jack Schiff and/or his associates George Kashdan and Murray Boltinoff, each of the last two got solo editing credit for a while in the 1960s. The series ran for 104 issues under this title, then was renamed simply THE UNEXPECTED, ending with issue #222 in 1982.

Ira Schnapp designed the logo word UNEXPECTED, while the words above it are set in type. This allowed that type to vary in size as needed to make room for cover art. Schnapp’s telescoped block letters are unsurprising except possibly for the depth of the telescoping. This is the only logo of his I can think of which is intended to run off the page at the top. The logo works fine, and the curved shape adds interest. Ira also lettered the word balloons and caption, and did so for most of the covers until early 1968. He lettered only eight stories inside the book. I like this cover idea about a cartoonist, and Ira’s tiny lettering in the drawn comic strip is just as good as the larger balloon.

Issue #2’s cover includes some handsome handwriting by Ira on the blackboard and note, as well as a gorilla to help boost sales, or so DC thought at the time.

Issue #7 has quite a lot of lettering between the radio balloon, the captions, the signs, and Ira’s contest blurb at the top running on many titles. TALES OF THE has shrunk to the size it would stay at for a long time.

I guess the variety of themes was meant to attract a large variety of readers. It must have worked, as the title moved to monthly frequency with issue #5 and stayed there until issue #67 in 1961. This cover for issue #22 promotes a typical mixed batch of short story themes.

With issue #40 in 1959, the series gained a new continuing feature, Space Ranger, as noted in the bottom blurb. Space Ranger, essentially a space lawman, had two tryouts in SHOWCASE #15-16, and he appeared in every issue of this title for about 40 issues. The editors did not seem to promote him much. He didn’t appear on the cover for the first few appearances, and his story always remained one of three and usually not the first one in any issue.

Space Ranger made his first cover appearance on issue #43 in this handsome art with gray washes probably by Jack Adler. Ira’s caption about him is a little larger now. He must have been gaining readers.

There were always the silly factors of Space Ranger’s alien sidekick Cryll, looking like an alien toy, and his secretary/girlfriend Myra. I haven’t read many of the stories, but they were generally not scientific. Even the character’s half-there glass helmet seems kind of useless. At least Ira Schnapp’s lettering was always well done, as on this cover for #62 in 1961.

When all else failed, turning the hero into an alien monster seemed par for the course, as on the cover of issue #76.

Issue #84 from 1964 has a rare example of Ira Schnapp using a special lettering style for an alien. I think it works well. Appealing to the reader was another trick DC used to boost sales.

DC tried a few other continuing features like Auto-Man, a robot, though again he didn’t appear on the cover of his debut issue, #91. His top blurb by Ira has forced TALES OF THE to be even smaller. I like Ira’s story caption here with the wavy double border.

Issue #104 from 1968 was the final one for this series title, and it has a new logo by Schnapp that I think is one of his better efforts for the last years of his career. The notched letters and v-shaped perspective of UNEXPECTED works well for me. The Neal Adams cover art is also an improvement over most of the previous issues.

With issue #105 the title was shortened, but the logo design remained.

Issue #106 with a cover date of April/May 1968 was the final one that Ira lettered, though he might have done it in 1967. Gaspar Saladino replaced him as the regular cover letterer, and also designed a new logo for issue #110.

Here are the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp: 1-8, 10-29, 31, 34-86, 88-89, 91-106. That’s 100 in all, a good run.

Ira’s first story lettering did not appear until this example in issue #25 from 1958. I can’t identify most of the letterers on this title, but their styles are familiar from other DC books.

Ira also lettered this story in issue #66 in 1961 featuring a typical Schnapp story title. Here are the stories lettered by Ira Schnapp:

#25 May 1958: The Sorcerer’s Asteroid 6pp

#27 July 1958: I Filmed the Cosmic Wonders 6pp

#28 Aug 1958: The Super Space Salesman 6pp

#33 Jan 1959: The Man of 1,000 Planets 8pp

#62 June 1961: The Case of the Rampaging Robots 8pp

#66 Oct 1961: The Strange Code of Creox 8pp

#71 June/July 1962: Manhunt in Galaxy G-2 8pp

That’s 50 pages in all. More articles in this series are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Tales of the Unexpected on Wikipedia.

Space Ranger on Wikipedia.

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