Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1947

All images © DC Comics. From ACTION COMICS #104, Jan 1947

The alphabet ad series will finish up this year, and there are quite a few other ads lettered by Ira Schnapp to look at. Opossum is back to the cartoony style of all these ads except Newfoundland. Ira liked to occasionally go very long with a few letter strokes and the PP in Opossum do that here.

From ACTION COMICS #105, Feb 1947

The cloud shapes behind the big letters in these last two alphabet ads are probably by Ira, he did similar ones in many of his later ads.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #113, Feb 1947
From ACTION COMICS #105, Feb 1947

Here are two versions of the same ad with some of the same lettering in each. DC was promoting series featuring Robin in STAR SPANGLED COMICS and Superboy in ADVENTURE COMICS, but there was no point promoting Superboy in ADVENTURE, so the top ad is just for Robin. The open script at the top shows Schnapp still working out his style for that, it’s not as well or as carefully done as he would do it later. In fact it’s a bit hard to read. Some of Ira’s other open lettering here is also looser than he would do it later, and most of these styles would become more regular in the future. Note that Schnapp designed both of the character logos, though they’re based on earlier work. Superboy just changes the end of Ira’s Superman logo, and Robin is based on the long-standing version seen in DETECTIVE COMICS and BATMAN as a small addition to Batman’s logo. There is some repetition here, but enough new lettering in each to call it two ads.

From ACTION COMICS #106, March 1947

Most of this ad uses headline type, only the bottom blurb is lettered by Schnapp, but I wanted to include it because this blurb was used on many ads produced by others in the DC production department. I’m going to count all of them as one ad for Ira because of that small bit of lettering. Note that the company sometimes described itself as SUPERMAN D-C with a dash between the last two letters. That always looks wrong to me. The DC was said to stand for DETECTIVE COMICS, though Irwin Donenfeld once told someone his father Harry Donenfeld, co-owner of the company, said it really meant Donenfeld Comics. The headline type in this ad might have been created in the DC production department on a Headliner phototype machine that created lines of large type on a roll of photographic film. The operator would look through a shielded viewport into the red-lit innards of the machine and turn the wheel with the alphabet on it to each letter wanted, lining it up next to the previous one already in place, then hit a switch to make the photographic exposure. A slow process, and only useful for short amounts of text, but quicker and cheaper than sending out to a type house for it. The Headliner had a number of fonts available, but I think DC only bought a few, and this was one of them. This font probably had large and small versions on the same wheel.

From ANIMAL ANTICS #7, March 1947

The rhymesters were really stretching things for this animal with a name beginning in Q. It’s an extinct subspecies of the Zebra.

From ACTION COMICS #107, April 1947

DC seems to have had high hopes for this fantasy feature in MORE FUN, a delightful one by artist Howard Post lettered by Ira, and with this fine logo by him. The art is similar to what Walt Kelly did in ANIMAL COMICS from Dell which of course lead to Kelly’s Pogo, but DC readers did not support Jimminy, and it didn’t last long.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #115, April 1947

This rabbit reading a comic book is even more funny animal than usual for these ads.

From STAR SPANGLED COMICS #67, April 1947

There was no need to advertise Robin in STAR SPANGLED, so this half-page ad just promoted Superboy. All the lettering is repeated from the combined Robin-Superboy ad above, so it doesn’t count as a new ad for Ira, but I wanted to include it anyway.

From ACTION COMICS #108, May 1947

Always on the lookout for a new genre, in 1947 DC introduced Tomahawk, a frontier fighter mainly against Indians in the early years of America. It was as close as they had come to a Western strip to this point. The character proved popular and gained his own long-running title in 1950 that lasted for 140 issues. This ad lettering by Schnapp is classy and exciting, even though the attempt to tie in Batman and Robin is a bit of a stretch.

From ANIMAL ANTICS #8, May 1947

Extra points to the rhyme writer for using the word imprimature, though DC thought it needed an instant definition.

From ACTION COMICS #109, June 1947

Another alphabet ad with art that reminds me of Dr. Seuss.

From ACTION COMICS #110, July 1947
From STAR SPANGLED COMICS #71, Aug 1947

Movie serials were a low-budget form of entertainment, but the chapter-a-week format kept viewers coming back for more just like comics. I don’t know how successful this one was, but DC was happy to promote it. The full page version has some different lettering than the two-thirds page one, but they are similar enough that I will just count this as one ad.

From BUZZY #14, July 1947

The alphabet ad had to reach out to fantasy for this entry. Another option would have been Umbrellabird.

From MORE FUN COMICS #125, Aug 1947

I missed this one, thanks to blog reader Lou for pointing it out! It ran in only a few titles, as others replaced it with a paid ad. Vicuña is another animal few think of, but it works.

From ACTION COMICS #112, Sept 1947

A nice full page ad for REAL FACT with appealing lettering from Schnapp and more cartoon figures. If I was a comics reader at the time, this would have stayed near the bottom of my potential purchase list.

From ACTION COMICS #112, Sept 1947

The rhyme loses its way in this ad, but recovers with the clever match of chortle and portal. In the art, the animal is reading a cartoon version of the comic shown at the bottom.

From ACTION COMICS #113, Oct 1947

Sometimes less is more when it comes to ad text. Ad writers at DC seldom remembered this, but the one above confirms it, and is quite effective.

The rhymester threw in the towel on this one. There are a few birds and fish beginning with X, but obscure ones.

From LEADING COMICS #27, Oct 1947

Similar to the Tops ad above, and equally simple and effective. Ira’s thin lettering is in danger of disappearing when reversed on black here due to ink gain in printing, something he learned to compensate for with heavier lettering where it would be reversed.

From STAR SPANGLED COMICS #73, Oct 1947

Here’s that other title from the attempted new line of comics I wrote about in the 1946 post. Quite nice Schnapp lettering on it, and my first thought was, “Did DC publish The Gumps?” They didn’t, though it was a long-running and successful newspaper strip. My guess is the comic didn’t find the right audience, which was probably adults. You could say that this isn’t technically a DC ad, but really it is.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #128, Oct 1947

BUZZY was the company’s first entry into the teen humor arena that was so successful for Archie Comics (originally MLJ). The original version and art were more along the lines of college humor magazines with very stylized cartooning and Art Deco influences. Later it became like Archie. Schnapp had fun with the W in WILL, the F in OF and the H in THE.

From ACTION COMICS #114, Nov 1947

Another attempt to gain readers for Jimminy in MORE FUN. I don’t know why it didn’t succeed, the art is great and the stories seem appealing. Perhaps it was not a good fit for DC superhero fans, and not what humor readers were interested in, as it’s more fantasy than humor. The layout of this ad by Schnapp is excellent.

From ACTION COMICS #114, Nov 1947

The penultimate alphabet ad has more realistic art like the Newfoundland one, so perhaps those two were by a different artist. I still see a lot of wasted space in the layout.

From ACTION COMICS #115, Dec 1947

This was DC’s first foray into crime comics, and quite mild for the genre, which specialized in gore, sex and murder stories. DC’s two crime books were based on popular radio shows, which helped them succeed for years. This ad has two firsts for Ira in his house ads: the first lightning bolts (coming from the microphone), and the first explosions, which are handled quite well. And of course he designed the logo.

From ACTION COMICS #115, Dec 1947

DC launched another new title based on a radio show at the same time, this one in the teen humor genre. Ira’s fine lettering is full of bounce, energy and enthusiasm. Again, he designed the logo and lettered many of the stories. My favorite thing is the way the cent sign merges with the 0 of 10¢.

From A DATE WITH JUDY #2, Dec 1947

And what better place to advertise BUZZY than in JUDY? This is the first ad by Schnapp to use all reversed lettering, and you can see that here he made it heavier so it would hold up well to ink gain when printed.

From LEADING COMICS #28, Dec 1947

Humor comics got quite an ad push in December cover-dated DC titles. They now had five with funny animals, so that area was growing. I think all the lettering was drawn open with outlines and then the background was filled in with black rather than reversing it, which is more work. Perhaps they thought it would have a color in the background but it didn’t work, so someone blacked it in.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #130, Dec 1947

The final ad of the year is also the end of the alphabetical series, now back to cartoony art. DC never again ran so many ads in a connected series. If you compare the lettering in the earliest ones to this one, you can see how Ira’s style evolved over that time, especially in the poem lettering.

This is an ad from a trade publication for distributors and newsdealers from 1947 lettered by Ira, courtesy of Robert Beerbohm. I don’t have any other information on it as of now, and there could well be more from other issues or other years. I hope to learn more about these in the future.

To sum up, I found 28 house ads by Ira Schnapp in 1947, as well as that one distributor ad for a total of 29, quite a jump from the previous year. And there were others which used only type or were lettered by someone else. We’ll see how Ira does in the following year. Other articles in this series and more you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

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