Here begins a new series of posts focused on Ira Schnapp’s logo work mostly for DC Comics. I will cover what I’ve found chronologically, with links to other relevant articles on my blog. I can’t be sure I haven’t missed some, of course, nor can I be sure all the ones I’ve called his actually are, but I’m giving it my best shot, and if new information turns up, I will add it. Dates are cover dates where that applies, but keep in mind that those were at least two months later than the actual release date, and the work was probably done at least a month before that, so the Superman logo above was probably created around June of 1940.
Ira did all kinds of lettering work for DC, so what exactly qualifies as a logo? Well, if it’s the title of a comic on the front cover, that’s an easy call. Interior series or character logos can be trickier. My feeling is it must be large and memorable, more than just “larger than usual” standard lettering, and it must be intended for use on multiple stories, even if it ends up being on only one. So, intent is part of the equation, and that’s sometimes a judgement call that you might or might not agree with. Logos are usually created at the beginning of something, when hopes are high that it will be popular and often repeated. Logos are meant to be appealing and recognizable, a trigger that will bring readers back to a property they like, and make it easy to identify. DC has not always followed this plan. The character and feature Space Cabbie first appeared in MYSTERY IN SPACE #21, Aug 1954, and was in many later issues, but he never had a feature logo, for instance.
I’m starting at the beginning of Ira Schnapp’s logo work at DC with his revamp of Joe Shuster’s Superman logo, above. Ira told a young Michael Uslan it was his first logo for DC, and I have no reason to doubt that. More about this logo is HERE. At the time, Ira was a busy freelancer probably designing logos for the pulp magazines owned by Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz as I describe in a series of articles beginning HERE. He was also doing other kinds of freelance work such as showcard lettering on signs for movie theaters in Manhattan, as he told artist Murphy Anderson. Gradually he picked up more and more comics work from National (DC) Comics through the early 1940s, until by 1945 he was probably working almost exclusively for them. It’s hard to imagine he had time for much else! I have little hard evidence about who designed any of the early DC logos, but my ideas are in THIS article and more beginning HERE. Mostly I’m going by style, but a lot of guesswork is involved. Certainly his Superman revamp was excellent work that DC was very happy with, so it seems likely they would have offered him more. Below are my guesses about that for these years.
It seems likely any variations of Ira’s Superman logo would have been done by him, and this is the earliest one I’ve seen, created for the company DC set up to handle Superman licensed products. The address is the same as the DC offices at the time, and this logo must have been created a month or three after Ira’s Superman revamp. Not a comics logo, but I think it counts in this case.
Of the other early 1940s cover logos, this one looks the most like Ira Schnapp’s work to me. The open block letters are well-crafted, and in styles he used elsewhere. The S in BEST is particularly familiar from Ira’s later logo for WORLD’S FINEST and other logos. Whoever else was doing logos for DC at the time tended to reuse an existing version of COMICS, but this one is new and in the same style as the rest. Unfortunately, it appeared only on this one issue.
The next issue changed BEST to FINEST, but the entire logo is different. Perhaps someone thought the earlier one’s letters were too thin, for one thing. I don’t think Ira would have done it this way, some of letters are very off-model and poorly designed, especially the S in COMICS, but the R and D in WORLD’S are not much better. I think someone just thickened the outlines on the existing letters by adding ink to the inside, which meant some lousy inner shapes were created. Look at how the point between the legs of the R comes up too high, for instance. Unfortunately, this logo was used for years until Ira redid it for issue #96 in 1958. At least it was easy to read.
This is the first of several more variations Ira created from his Superman logo for trademark registration. There was never a Superwoman comic, this is the only place it was used as far as I know. With that date, it would have been created in 1941, and that’s what the copyright also says. Michael Uslan commented on another of these:
The following is the legal reason why they may have designed that Superbaby logo but, upon receiving better legal advice, never did anything further with it:
“Since trademarks are issued to preserve distinctiveness, anything diluting the meaning of a mark can be grounds for cancellation.”
So it is therefore possible that a lawyer suggested to them that if they keep making logo variations of Superman with such things as Superboy, Superwoman, or Superbaby, that will ultimately cost them their exclusive trademark on Superman.
This makes sense, and it might be why this logo was never used, though I think it might have prevented other companies from producing a Superwoman comic.
Ira created this logo for a series of comic-like booklets that were a combination of comic story, clothing catalog and activity book for products sold by the Superman-Tim Store in these booklets, licensed by Tim Promotions, Inc. That company predates this combined effort. The booklets seem to be monthly, and Superman first appears in the one for Aug 1942, but the logo is not used until the following issue. Again, not typical comics, but pretty close, and I think the booklets were produced and printed through DC. Since the Superman part of the logo is unchanged, there would be less of a legal issue here.
Two more Superman variations by Schnapp, and in the Superbaby one, which is a scan of the original logo, you can see how they were made. A photostat (photographic copy) of the Superman logo was made, Ira trimmed off the part to be changed and pasted it onto a piece of art paper, then drew and inked the new section. Supergirl was used on her solo stories when they began appearing in SUPERMAN in 1958, then in ACTION COMICS in 1959, but never on the cover, perhaps because of the legal issue covered above. Superbaby was never used even though there were solo stories for the character around the same time. Note that on Supergirl the G has the angled corners of the U while the second R matches the first one. And on Superbaby, each B is rounded rather than matching the P and R. I find these mismatches hardly noticeable since the overall logo design is so strong.
This logo was created for a short-lived feature in WORLD’S FINEST that Ira lettered many of, and it looks like his work to me. It’s actually more like some of his funny animal feature logos, with rounded letters, and not particularly appropriate for the character, but Ira was still new at this, so I can give him a pass there. I find it appealing.
The next logo I suspect might be by Schnapp is this one. Aquaman was created in 1941 by writer Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris, and first appeared in MORE FUN COMICS #73. He had many logo variations on his stories, probably by artists Paul Norris and later Louis Cazanueve, and/or the letterer for any particular story. At the time, feature logos were not always prepared and reused, some artists redid the logo as if it were a story title on every issue, or at least did many different versions, and that happened with Aquaman. See THIS post for more on that.
This was the version that appeared in issue #97. As you can see, it’s pretty close to the one above, but uneven and kind of bottom-heavy. I think Ira was asked to created a revised and more professional version that could become the regular series logo, and if so, he did a fine job. He retained the most interesting parts of the previous one: the bubble-like openings in the A’s and Q and the fish-tail look of the Q’s extension, made it more even, and gave it a better drop shadow. This logo was used on all Aquaman stories going forward, and even on the covers of Aquaman’s appearances in SHOWCASE in the 1960s. Ira created a new Aquaman logo when his own title was launched, but it seems to me more likely that he did this one if it was deemed okay to use for SHOWCASE.
I’m not sure if Schnapp designed this logo, it could be by the cover and interior artist George Storm, but it’s not really much like Storm’s other lettering on the cover and stories, so I’m calling it for Ira. Certainly the letters are well designed and something I could see Ira doing, perhaps with input from Storm.
The next issue of MORE FUN after Aquaman’s revised logo saw the beginning of a new feature starring Superboy, and it had another logo by Schnapp based on his Superman one. This logo appeared only on a few covers as part of the caption, small, and when he gained his own series in 1949, it had a completely new logo by Schnapp. Here the B and O have angled corners like the U, though the P and R keep the original rounded ones. This logo might have been produced earlier in the 1940s like the other variations above.
Another example of a change of plans after the first issue was out the door, DC decided to change FUNNIES into COMICS for this funny animal/funny people series. The logos are cartoony, but that seems appropriate, and I see Ira’s style coming through in the small center arms of each E among other places. Ira used looser, bouncier styles for humor titles, especially in the 1940s.
With issue #15, DC changed their superhero title LEADING COMICS to a funny animal one, and Ira Schnapp lettered and designed logos for nearly all the stories in the next group of issues. This is a fine example of Ira’s versatility. All these logos say “humor” except perhaps Nero Fox, but each is different from the others. I particularly like the open looseness of Pelican Pete and the tagline on the kangaroo character Juniper, “Down-Under Wonder.” The book continued to use the existing logo on the cover, which was not by Schnapp.
One more logo makes it into 1945, another feature logo from LEADING. I don’t like this one as much as some of the others, but it does the job. In all I count 21 logos by Ira Schnapp in these years. Many more to come.