WORLD’S FINEST COMICS began as WORLD’S FAIR COMICS, two annual-sized issues released in 1939 and 1940 as promotional advertising at the New York World’s Fair of those years, though they may also have had newsstand distribution. There, two of National (DC) Comics’ most popular characters, Superman and Batman (with Robin) appeared together for the first time, though only on the covers. Interior stories featured each separately, along with many other stories and characters. The idea was continued in 1941 with a similar comic, WORLD’S BEST COMICS, retitled WORLD’S FINEST COMICS beginning with issue #2. I believe the former title was designed by Ira Schnapp, but when it was changed for issue #2, someone else modified his logo by adding ink inside each letter, making a much poorer design with uneven qualities to it I think Ira would not have done. WORLD’S FINEST was issued quarterly for a few years, then switched to bimonthly (6 issues per year) for many years. Each issue included many stories featuring popular DC characters until the book shrank to regular comics size with issue #71 (July-Aug 1954). After that the lead story had Superman, Batman and Robin together in one adventure, with other features filling out the remaining pages. The book was initially edited by Whitney Ellsworth, then by Jack Schiff beginning with issue #8. He would continue as editor until issue #140 from 1964 when editing passed to Mort Weisinger.
Ira Schnapp’s work for National (DC) comics began with the revamped Superman logo he created based on earlier versions by Joe Shuster. It first appeared on SUPERMAN #6 dated Sept.-Oct. 1940. Ira’s work for the company gradually grew from that. He began lettering the Superman newspaper strip around September 1943, lettering Superman stories in ACTION COMICS in early 1943, as well as in SUPERMAN starting in the summer of 1943. Before long his work was also appearing on DC covers, just a random few at first, then gradually more and more, as editors began to make use of his talents. WORLD’S FINEST did not have much cover lettering in its early years. Most of the covers were silent scenes depicting a heroic, patriotic or humorous situation, but sometimes signs were needed. The first cover I see Schnapp lettering on is above, from 1944. The style is one Ira was using when he first began lettering covers but later moved away from.
Issue #21 from 1946 is the second cover with Schnapp lettering. Again, the caption uses Ira’s styles of the time that were later left behind, but the handsome script FEATURING is already heading in the direction he would take.
Issue #23, July-August 1946, has a small amount of lettering on the machine by Schnapp. Notice how even and regular it is, and most of the letters would fit into a square, a style that would become Ira’s main one for this type of block lettering in the future.
More handsome sign work by Schnapp is on issue #28 from 1947.
Issue #42 dated Sept-Oct 1949 has familiar Ira Schnapp cover lettering, including a grteat piece of script in INTRODUCING and open display lettering for THE WYOMING KID. From this time on Ira’s work appeared on an increasing amount of covers.
Here Ira tries to interest readers in a new character, but one that didn’t last long.
On the cover of issue #71 from 1954, we get classic Ira Schnapp lettering not only telling us that the heroes were now appearing in the same stories together (finally), but what that issue’s story was about. The look of this cover lettering is familiar to anyone who has seen DC comics from the 1950s and early to mid 1960s, nearly all by Ira Schnapp.
Ira’s lettering is on issue #72, and Issue #73 features the first example in this series of Ira’s cover-style word balloons.
While it resembles his interior story lettering, Ira’s cover lettering was drawn larger and produced with more care and precision, appropriate for a cover, the main on-site selling point for any comic.
With issue #96 from 1958, the book has a new logo designed by Ira. The original is still in the DC files.
These letters are more consistent than the ones in the previous logo, though the two S’s are still a bit wider than the other letters. I feel it’s definitely by Schnapp.
Ira’s lettering on issue #171 from 1967 shows his skills are still sharp near the end of his career.
Ira’s final cover work on the series appeared on issue #175 dated May 1968. Thereafter Gaspar Saladino was the main cover letterer.
Here are the covers I see with Ira Schnapp lettering: 13, 21, 23, 28, 40, 42-43, 49, 52, 62-64, 69-97, 99-134, 136-161, 163-166, 168-171, 175. That’s 112 in all.
In the second and part of this article I’ll cover Ira’s story lettering. Other Ira Schnapp articles you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.