Ira Schnapp in THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE

All images © DC Comics

Having had moderate success with licensed humor comics from radio shows like A Date With Judy and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett and a few featuring Hollywood stars Dale Evans and Alan Ladd, DC decided to launch this book featuring one of Hollywood’s most popular comedians, who was busy on, as the subtitle says, “Stage, Screen and Radio.” It was very popular, lasting seventeen years and 109 issues, and it paved the way for other similar comics from DC. The format of the comic, perhaps something Hope or his agent asked for in the contract, was unusual. Instead of three or more short humor stories like almost all other humor comics, THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE featured book-length adventures, though broken up into usually three chapters that were formatted like separate stories. Very few comics of any kind were telling stories as long as the ones in this title until decades later. The Bob Hope character in the comic was a single guy who lived in an apartment, often interacting with his landlady Mrs. Peabody, and each issue he would get involved in some kind of sports (golf and skiing were popular), job or travel adventure while always in wolfish pursuit of pretty girls and making plenty of wise cracks in every situation. I haven’t really read more than a few pages here and there, but they seem amusing, if socially incorrect for today. The first few covers used photos before reverting to typical drawn art. It was edited, like all DC humor titles then, by Larry Nadle and later by Murray Boltinoff.

The logo has large rounded letters for BOB HOPE with varying sizes, and at first that suggested the work of an unidentified letterer I’ve nicknamed Proto-Schnapp because I think his work was the inspiration for Ira Schnapp’s own lettering. After some thought, I’ve decided that this logo is too carefully done and consistent for Proto-Schnapp, and is the work of Ira himself. Proto-Schnapp’s logos have more bounce and cartooniness. This is also around the time Proto-Schnapp’s work was disappearing from DC and Ira was taking over as the main logo designer and cover letterer. Most of the covers that had lettering were done by Ira, whose work for this title was massive.

The first cover with a Schnapp word balloon is #8 from 1951, which also includes an appealing caption with lots of energy in the title.

Issue #15 has another caption describing the plot, but those soon faded away in favor of just word balloons giving Bob a chance to make some kind of wise crack, usually.

I like this cover lettering for issue #43 from 1957 with the translated cave-talk.

Issue #59 from 1959 introduced a new logo by Ira with tall block letters, less cartoony and more like a movie marquee perhaps, with THE ADVENTURES OF relegated to small script. The layout left big blank areas at the top, but on a humor book perhaps that wasn’t important.

As the series reached #87 in 1964, sales must have been slipping, and a talking dog was introduced to attract readers. He didn’t last very long. Ira’s caption here fits a lot of info into a small space.

Issue #93 in 1965 sported another new Ira Schnapp logo, and I like it the best of the three. It combines the squared letters of the second logo with the cartoony feel of the first, and takes up less space. Having Hope’s head on the left is also a good idea, but one can’t help seeing some desperation here. Sales are falling? Let’s try a new logo.

Desperation reached new depths with issue #95 and the introduction of Bob’s nephew Super-Hip, as if that wasn’t an indication of how UN-hip the idea was. The title was on a downhill slide by this time, and this gimmick did not help either. Even great art by Bob Oksner (and Neal Adams on the last few issues) was not enough to save it.

Ira Schnapp’s last cover lettering for the title was on issue #108 cover-dated January 1968, the next to last one, over Adams art. Neal Adams had befriended Ira in his last years at DC, and probably asked for him rather than Gaspar Saladino, who was doing much of the cover lettering at this point, but I find Ira’s lettering not a good match for the art in this case.

These are the covers I see Schnapp lettering on: 8-53, 55-81, 83-90, 92-93, 95-101, 103-108. That’s 96 covers.

Here’s a typical page of lettering from the first issue. The style is one that both Ira and Proto-Schnapp used, but Proto-Schnapp’s letters were usually wider than Ira’s, and at first I thought this was his work. It could be, but other things make me think it, and almost all the Bob Hope story lettering, is by Ira. First, we have a new title featuring a high-profile movie star that DC would want to look consistent. Next, we have very long stories in each issue. That doesn’t seem like an assignment that would be given to Proto-Schnapp, who I think was an older man about to retire, as his work is mostly gone from the company’s comics by the end of 1950. It seems more likely they would have Ira be the regular letterer, and this is around the time I think Ira started working on staff and taking on a lot of Proto-Schnapp’s other workload. One possible reason for Ira to letter wider is that I think the artist on most early Hope stories, Owen Fitzgerald, drew in the balloon shapes on his finished art. Fitzgerald was an animator living in California, and the usual process for DC artists like that was to send them a script and have them produce finished art, including the balloon shapes drawn around their pencilled-in lettering. When the art arrived in New York, the letterer would fill in the balloons, but perhaps Fitzgerald left shapes that were too wide for Ira’s usual letters, causing him to go wider to fill them better. After 1950 it’s almost certain that Ira was the only one using this style until years later when some other letterers began to imitate him.

Here’s a fun page from issue #2 that I bet Ira enjoyed working on.

Issue #5 has some creative non-English “lettering” by Ira simulating Arabic.

As I said earlier, the book-length Bob Hope stories were broken into chapter-like sections, though not labeled as chapters, and there were no story titles until many years later. The last page of each section said CONTINUED at lower right, as seen here in issue #10…

…and the first page of the next section had the Bob Hope logo as if it was a separate story, though the action continues from the previous page. I can’t think of another DC comic that worked this way, especially a humor title.

There were other short features in the book sometimes lettered by others and sometimes by Ira, as in this Bob Hope bio from issue #16. Some short features had continuing characters appearing in other DC humor titles, and there were the usual assortment of one or two-page fillers, text pages, public service pages and house ads, the later two items often lettered by Ira, though I’m not counting them here.

I have counted a few one-pagers by artist Mort Drucker like this one from issue #74. Drucker had worked alongside Ira as a DC production artist for a few years honing his drawing talent before finding success as a freelance artist at MAD, DC and other companies in the mid 1950s.

By issue #90 in 1964, Drucker was occasionally drawing the main Bob Hope feature. Story titles and chapters were introduced with issue #88 at a time when longer stories were another way to attract readers, or so DC thought. I find this amusing, since this title had already been using them for its entire run. Note the writer and artist credits, something seen rarely at DC then. Still no credits for lettering and coloring yet, and this was the last issue where Ira lettered the Bob Hope story.

After that they were often lettered by Stan Starkman, who also used the pen name Stan Quill. Issue #102 has what may be the first lettering credit on any DC Comic, in this case for Stan, and also a credit for colorist Tommy Nicolosi. It was the only issue to include them. Perhaps it was seen and squashed by management. Gaspar Saladino also lettered a few of the last issues.

Here are the stories lettered by Ira Schnapp. Bob Hope is the star unless otherwise noted, and even though the stories are book-length I’m listing the page counts for each section, as lettered on the pages. Late in the run the numbering changed to continuous through the three sections, so from there I list it as one item.

#1 Feb/March 1950: 8pp, 12pp, 12pp

#2 April/May 1950: 9pp, 6pp, 15pp

#3 June/July 1950: 8pp, 14pp, 10pp (1 page intro not lettered by Schnapp)

#4 Aug/Sept 1950: 6pp, 12pp, 14pp

#5 Oct/Nov 1950: 13pp, 5pp, 15pp

#6 Dec 1950/Jan 1951: 14pp, 5pp, 13pp

#7 Feb/March 1951: 10pp, 13pp, 7pp, Miss Beverly Hills 5pp

#8 April/May 1951: 10pp, 12pp, 11pp

#9 June/July 1951: 9pp, 10pp, 12pp, Miss Beverly Hills 5pp

#10 Aug/Sept 1951: 10pp, 9pp, 14pp, Miss Beverly Hills 5pp

#11 Oct/Nov 1951: 6pp, 9pp, 8pp, 6pp

#12 Dec 1951/Jan 1952: 8pp, 10pp, 6pp

#13 Feb/March 1952: 8pp, 10pp, 6pp

#15 June/July 1952: 8pp, 9pp, 8pp, Miss Melody Lane 5pp

#16 Aug/Sept 1952: 8pp, 8pp, 7pp, Kitty Karr 5pp, The Bob Hope Story 5pp

#17 Oct/Nov 1952: 8pp, 10pp, 6pp, Kitty Karr 5pp

#18 Dec 1952/Jan 1953: 6pp, 10pp, 10pp, Kitty Karr 6pp

#19 Feb/March 1953: 10pp, 10pp, 7pp, Kitty Karr 6pp

#20 April/March 1953: 5pp, 9pp, 8pp, Fittin’ Thing 2pp, Kitty Karr 6pp

#21 June/July 1953: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp, Fittin’ Thing 2pp, Kitty Karr 3pp

#22 Aug/Sept 1953: 8pp, 10pp, 6pp, Kitty Karr 7pp

#23 Oct/Nov 1953: 7pp, 10pp, 12pp, Rusty 4pp

#24 Dec 1953/Jan 1954: 10pp, 10pp, 9pp

#26 April/May 1954: 8pp, 8pp, 10pp, Liz 5pp

#27 June/July 1954: 10pp, 8pp, 8pp, Liz 6pp

#28 Aug/Sept 1954: 8pp, 10pp, 10pp, Kitty Karr 3pp

#29 Oct/Nov 1954: 8pp, 12pp, 6pp

#30 Dec 1954/Jan 1955: 10pp, 9pp, 7pp

#31 Feb/March 1955: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#32 April/May 1955: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp, Liz 4pp

#33 June/July 1955: 10pp, 8pp, 6pp

#34 Aug/Sept 1955: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#35 Oct/Nov 1955: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#36 Dec 1955/Jan 1956: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#37 Feb/March 1956: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#38 April/May 1956: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#39 June/July 1956: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#40 Aug/Sept 1956: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#41 Oct/Nov 1956: 6pp, 8pp, 8pp

#42 Dec 1956/Jan 1957: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#44 April/May 1957: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#45 June/July 1957: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#47 Oct/Nov 1957: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#48 Dec 1957/Jan 1958: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp, Willy Nilly 3pp

#49 Feb/March 1958: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#50 April/May 1958: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#51 June/July 1958: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#52 Aug/Sept 1958: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#53 Oct/Nov 1958: 8pp, 8pp, 6pp

#54 Dec 1958/Jan 1959: 8pp, 8pp, 8pp

#56 April/May 1959: 26pp

#57 June/July 1959: 26pp

#58 Aug/Sept 1959: 27pp

#59 Oct/Nov 1959: 26pp

#60 Dec 1959/Jan 1960: pp 17-26 only (10pp)

#61 Feb/March 1960: 26pp

#62 April/May 1960: 26pp

#63 June/July 1960: 26pp

#64 Aug/Sept 1960: 26pp

#65 Oct/Nov 1960: 26pp

#66 Dec 1960/Jan 1961: pp 1-15 only

#67 Feb/March 1961: 28pp

#68 April/May 1961: 26pp

#69 June/July 1961: 26pp

#70 Aug/Sept 1961: 26pp

#71 Oct/Nov 1961: 26pp

#72 Dec 1961/Jan 1962: 26pp, Beat 1pp

#73 Feb/March 1962: 26pp, Teen Dictionary 1pp

#74 April/May 1962: 26pp, Beat Nick 1pp

#75 June/July 1962: 26pp, Teens on the Job 1pp

#76 Aug/Sept 1962: 26pp

#77 Oct/Nov 1962: 24pp, Prof Aubit 1pp

#78 Dec 1962/Jan 1963: 26pp

#79 Feb/March 1963: 26pp, Beat Nick 1pp

#80 April/May 1963: pp 9-26 only (18pp)

#81 June/July 1963: 26pp

#82 Aug/Sept 1963: 26pp

#83 Oct/Nov 1963: 26pp

#84 Dec 1963/Jan 1964: 26pp

#85 Feb/March 1964: 26pp

#86 April/May 1964: 26pp

#87 June/July 1964: 26pp

#88 Aug/Sept 1964: 24pp

#90 Dec 1964/Jan 1965: 24pp

#97 Feb/March 1966: Mad Views 1pp

That’s an amazing total of 2,219 pages on this series! And I have a feeling I’ll find more DC humor books from this era with just as much Ira Schnapp lettering. Stay tuned.

Bob Hope on Wikipedia.

This comics series on Wikipedia.

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