Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1949

All images © DC Comics. From ACTION COMICS #130, March 1949

The big news in early 1949 issues was the debut of Superboy’s own title. It had a great new logo by Ira Schnapp, and this ad by him is full of fine lettering and enthusiasm. Ira had been associated with Superman since 1940 when he revamped Joe Shuster’s Superman logo. He’d begun lettering the Superman newspaper strip in 1943, and became a regular on Superman stories in the comics soon after. When Superboy began appearing in 1945 in MORE FUN COMICS, Ira was there as letterer for many of them, and he also lettered many stories in this new title. Ira’s ad lettering was often meeting new high points of style and lettering skill, as seen here. I particularly like the giant exclamation points.

From SENSATION COMICS #87, March 1949

DC finally agreed that Scribbly was part of their teen humor line in this ad by Ira. The music they liked was probably from big bands at this point.

From ALL-STAR COMICS #46, April 1949

DC hoped to attract Hollywood fans with this new series, and the first issue also features Alan Ladd, who they already had a deal with to star in his own DC comic. The ad by Schnapp is full of handsome lettering and fine design, and Ira’s logo for the book is also classy.

From FUNNY STUFF #45, May 1949

With Comic Cavalcade there were now six DC funny animal titles, these five and the one the ad ran in. The art looks too elaborate for Ira, so is probably by one of the funny animal artists.

From WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #40, May 1949

I’m not sure about this ad, but I think it’s by Ira. Some of the styles, especially SOCKEROO, seem wrong for him, but no one else at DC was doing such elegant script, so I will call it his. The series did not last long, but DC would soon have other Hollywood titles.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #141, June 1949

This ad for the second issue of SUPERBOY is nearly the same as the first one seen above with just a small revision in the final blurb and a different cover image. I won’t count it as a new ad.

From WONDER WOMAN #36, July 1949

Editor Julius Schwartz decided to combine the western and romance genres (DC was just starting to get into the latter) for this title. The ad has lots of great Schnapp lettering, and he also did the logo. The book was not a success, though, and only lasted five issues.

From ACTION COMICS #135, Aug 1949

Editor Jack Schiff had long been a champion of public service comics and ads, and finally in 1949 he was able to launch a regular series of them beginning with this one. Ira Schnapp did not letter all of them, but he did most including this one. Almost all are like a single page comics story in format, and lettered that way, generally with an attractive title at the top and a bottom blurb stating: “Published as a public service in cooperation with the Advertising Council. This page appears in more than 10,000,000 magazines of the National Comics Group [Superman-DC Publications]”. The Ad Council’s involvement did not last too long, but Schiff kept the series going almost monthly until his retirement in 1967. It’s a fine achievement, and one of DC’s most admirable accomplishments. That claim about DC’s total circulation for all their comics seems startling and impossible today, but at the time it could well have been true.

From LEAVE IT TO BINKY #10, Aug 1949

This ad for the third issue of the series has an unusual style in the top two lines that I don’t think Ira ever used anywhere else in comics. I’m not sure what it’s meant to be, perhaps tickertape?

From COMICS CAVALCADE #34, Aug 1949

Humor ads, like humor stories, were able to rely on amusing characters and art to appeal to readers without a lot of explanatory text. Much easier for Schnapp.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #150, Aug 1949

Superboy continued to get a good ad promotion with this third issue one by Ira. I think this was the last for the book for quite a few years.

From STAR SPANGLED COMICS #96, Sept 1949

Like Superman, DC’s Batman and Robin did not get much ad promotion in the late 1940s. The lettering on this ad is mostly by Ira, but there’s some headline type at the top and in the center circle.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #151, Sept 1949

The second public service ad features some of DC’s funny animals. Ad coverage varied a lot, with some ads appearing only in a few titles, but the PSAs usually appeared in nearly every DC comic. Lettering by Schnapp, though already in most of them, was now appearing in every issue through these ads.

From ACTION COMICS #137, Oct 1949

The third PSA features some of DC’s teen humor characters, and they would appear often, perhaps because they could address problems kids had that superheroes and funny animals couldn’t. Great title by Ira on this one.

From ACTION COMICS #137, Oct 1949

I think all the art on this handsome ad is by Schnapp as well as the lettering. Like myself, he seemed most comfortable drawing backgrounds and inanimate objects rather than figures, and he did that well.

From ACTION COMICS #138, Nov 1949

Here’s Alan Ladd’s own title in a spectacular ad from Ira that is crammed full of great lettering and brimming with energy. In fact, the picture of Ladd is the quietest part! If Ira could be said to have arrived at his full potential in house ad design, this is the moment.

From A DATE WITH JUDY #13, Nov 1949

Ira’s looser and more bouncy work is still appropriate for some titles and subjects, and it’s fine here. It’s hard to tell if STAR-STUDDED STORIES is lettered with a brush or just imitating that with pen work, but I think it’s brush lettering, something Ira would have learned for his time as a showcard letterer.

From ACTION COMICS #139, Dec 1949

The fourth public service ad, and the last in this year, features Green Arrow, and co-stars The Red Feather Kid, representing a charity idea I’ve never heard about anywhere other than here, though I did find one reference to it in a 1954 newspaper article.

From SECRET HEARTS #2, Feb/March 1950, Simcoe Publishing of Canada

Finally, there’s this startling ad that was not published in any American comics, but instead in Canadian versions of DC issues from 1948 to 1950 by publishers National Comics of Canada and Simcoe Publishing. These were almost replica editions of U.S. versions with the addition of “Published in Canada” on the front cover and a different indicia on the inside front cover. This ad often ran on the back cover. The relationship between National of Canada/Simcoe and America’s National Comics (DC) is not known, but the ad certainly seems to be the work of Ira Schnapp. The huge three-dimensional tagline is in the style of his Superman logo but with more Art Deco letterforms, and the caption is typical of his work. The abstract background is unusual, but well crafted in a showcard style I think Schnapp might have used. The story here may never be known, but I’m going to count this ad for Ira. Note that the DC bullet symbol is the earlier version before Ira revamped it some time in 1949, so confirming the date of the ad’s creation as before that. There may be other Schnapp house ads from this period that I’ve missed, but of the ones I’ve seen, all I can attribute to Ira are here.

To sum up, I count 15 house ads lettered by Schnapp and four public service ads for a total of 19. Less than the previous year, but the amount of ads did fluctuate some over time, perhaps dependent on how many paid ads could be sold. I’ll continue with Ira’s ad work in 1950.

Other posts in this series and more you might like are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

3 thoughts on “Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1949

  1. Jerry Beck

    The Batman full page may have been tied to the 1949 release of the Columbia “Batman and Robin” serial, which was released first run in May that year. “For More Adventures…” seems to be referring to that. Schnapp also did lettering in promotional posters, comic strips and advertising for the DC Columbia serials at that time – including the ones for The Vigilante and Superman. Love Schnapp and Love this series, Todd. Thanks.

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