Ira Schnapp in THE FLASH

Images © DC Comics

In 1955, DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz began a revival and revamp of some of the company’s 1940s heroes. His efforts were successful, launching what became known as the Silver Age DC superheroes, with the earlier versions known as the Golden Age ones. The dividing line between the two is somewhat blurred and often debated, but many comics historians place the beginning the the Silver Age at this comic from 1956, where Schwartz and his creative team—writer Robert Kanigher and artists Carmine Infantino and Joe Kuber_created a new, modern version of The Flash. The logo by Ira Schnapp used square, slanted letters similar to those from the 1940s series FLASH COMICS, but Ira’s letters used better proportions, and he added speed lines to suggest appropriate movement. This logo appeared on three later SHOWCASE tryout issues before DC okayed a series for the character, which must have sold well enough to warrant one.

The Flash’s own series began in 1959, picking up the numbering of the previous FLASH COMICS, which had ended in 1949 with issue #104. In those days, number one issues were not yet sought out by fans as collector’s items, and often met resistance from stores that sold comics, as their racks were already full. The fascinating cover (at least to me at the time) included a new larger logo by Ira Schnapp that improved on the SHOWCASE version in several ways. First, the outlines of the letters were much thicker for more impact. Second, the F is larger than the rest, giving the word better balance. Third, THE is now small and in script, leaving the emphasis on FLASH, where it should be. Fourth, Ira’s speed lines are cleverly reversed in the letter outlines, making them read and work better. Ira also did the cover lettering, as he would on most of the series until issue #177 in 1968.

Along with a new, sleek look for the hero, regular writer John Broome and penciller Carmine Infantino created a Rogue’s Gallery of new super-villains to oppose The Flash that were as interesting as he was, all enhanced by Ira Schnapp’s cover lettering.

Inside the book, as on this page from issue #106, many of the stories were lettered by Gaspar Saladino, but Ira Schnapp created another version of his character logo for the top of each splash page. This one was wider and had fatter letters that were all the same size.

You would think a character with super-speed would be hard to deal with, but the Rogue’s Gallery found plenty of ways with their own devices and abilities.

By issue #111 in 1960, The Flash had a young sidekick, Kid Flash, who also had a story logo designed by Ira Schnapp. These were the only things Ira did inside the book. The rest of this page is lettered by Saladino.

More new characters were introduced like The Elongated Man in issue #112, soon another regular backup feature alternating with Kid Flash. Ira’s thought balloon here is the same as his speech balloons except for the two-bubble tail. Compare the more typical thought balloon of Saladino in the page above.

Issue #118 from 1961 has something odd going on in the top line lettering. A white box has replaced what was there, and plain type KID FLASH in magenta ink is inside. I think Ira’s original lettering said “A New Elongated Man Story!” but the issue had a Kid Flash one instead, perhaps a last-minute switch. The error wasn’t caught until the book was due at the printer, and there was no time for DC to provide new lettering, so this poor substitute was cobbled together either at the separator or at the printer.

Editor Julius Schwartz began another trend that changed DC Comics with issue #123, introducing the idea that the Golden Age heroes were still alive and living on an alternate version of Earth, allowing the two versions of Flash to meet and work together. The concept was expanded in THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and other places, and many Golden Age heroes and villains returned. Ira Schnapp’s caption (probably written by Schwartz) was prophetic, this issue did become a classic.

By issue #131 in 1962, Flash and another revamped Schwartz hero, Green Lantern, were appearing together in THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, and also crossed over into each other’s books. Added interest is given to Ira’s caption by holding the character names in appropriate colors.

THE FLASH continued to gain popularity and sales, and by issue #153 in 1965 had added time-travel to the mix, and Flash’s opposite in every way, Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. I love the captions and arrows on this one.

Issue #155 has lots of lettering by Ira, and a new top-line, “The Fasted Man Alive!” that I think is by someone else, perhaps Joe Letterese. This is the beginning of the period with too much lettering on many DC covers.

Another example on issue #156, but I do like the sign work by Ira Schnapp here. That’s Kid Flash with a new uniform.

Issue #159 from 1966 has another large sign with handsome lettering, but I don’t think it’s by Ira Schnapp, who did do the caption. I don’t know who lettered the sign, possibly Gaspar Saladino.

Several issues of THE FLASH were 80-Page Giants like issue #160. This was a series of reprints that appeared across many titles, similar to early DC Annuals. Only the cover was new, and it had lots of Schnapp lettering. He even did the price, issue number and date.

The cover of issue #163 is often used as an example of cover lettering that increased sales. That may be so, but it’s not the work of Ira Schnapp, nor that of Gaspar Saladino. Someone else did it, perhaps cover artists Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, perhaps someone else in DC’s production department like Joe Letterese. Elements are similar to Ira’s work, but not as good in my opinion, and in general the lettering is a poor melange of styles and forms. This gimmick must have worked, as it was used again elsewhere.

Issue #173 from 1967, on the other hand, is full of large Ira Schnapp lettering that works well. The countdown idea is carried across perfectly by the giant numbers, and the rest is fine support. Another example of a cover that’s more lettering than art.

On issue #174, the logo takes center stage, and this time it’s definitely by the cover artists, Infantino and Anderson, though based on Schnapp’s original except for the shape of the A. Ira did the caption, and the tiny logo at the top is, I think, the one he did for stories. Carmine was playing with logos at this time in interesting ways.

Ira’s final cover lettering was for issue #177 from 1968, and likely done in 1967. His larger than usual balloon is well made, and a fitting farewell to his work in this series.

Here are the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp: 105-136, 139-141, 143-145, 147-162, 164-166, 168-175, 177. That’s 63 in all. Ira did no story lettering in this title.

The Flash on Wikipedia.

Julius Schwartz on Wikipedia.

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