Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1953

All images © DC Comics. From THE FOX AND THE CROW #7, Dec 1952/Jan 1953.

As DC Comics continued to expand its lineup in 1953, the house ads and public service ads they used to promote them had a new aspect: nearly all were designed and lettered by Ira Schnapp. Ads by others had mostly vanished, signaling that the company was now fully invested in Ira Schnapp’s work as the company style, as he was also designing most of their logos, lettering most of their covers, and many story pages. Ira worked on staff every day doing these things, and probably also did some at home. We don’t know how he was paid, was it by the piece or was he on salary? When Gaspar Saladino began working at DC in late 1949, he worked on staff but billed his work by the page as a freelancer would. When I started there in 1977, I was a salaried production staffer, but also did freelance lettering at home to supplement my income. Covers and house ads paid about twice the rate for story pages. Either payment method could have been true for Ira, we don’t know. It’s clear that he spent more time and craft on his house ads and covers than he did on story pages, and hopefully was paid accordingly. The ad above is full of charm and good design with thoughtful use of shapes and black and appealing styles in a variety of sizes. One could feel his enthusiasm for the work coming off the page, and readers loved it and wanted to buy the comics he was promoting even if they didn’t know Ira’s name.

From MYSTERY IN SPACE #11, Dec 1952/Jan 1953

DC was so happy with his work they were looking for more places to use it, as on this small house ad that filled only about one-sixth of a page, part of a half-page ad listing company titles and information. Even though it’s small, it counts!

From WONDER WOMAN #57, Jan/Feb 1953

The first public service ad of the year is quite relevant to today, sadly, and expresses opinions about fairness that must have come from editor Jack Schiff, as this series was his project. As before, Ira Schnapp lettered most of them.

From BUZZY #47, Jan/Feb 1953

A second PSA in appearance ran in many of the same issues as the one above, and there’s something not right about it. The ad promotes the use of air rifles, like the ones advertised in DC comics from Daisy, and also promotes air rifle competitions and clubs sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA). This ad looks like a sneaky paid ad to me, and notice that the public service bottom text is missing. I wonder what Jack Schiff thought about his idealistic series being imitated this way? We’ll never know. Ira lettered it just like the others.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #192, Feb 1953

The PSA series gets back on the right track with this entry about holiday spirit, and a fine title by Ira.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #192, Feb 1953

This ad designed and lettered by Ira fills a two-thirds page area, and was also used a bit smaller as a half-page. It’s generic enough that any two covers could be used on it and it was reused over time. DC was getting smarter about that sort of thing. The TOPS IN COMICS motto had been employed several times before, but I like this lettering of it by Ira.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #186, March 1953

DC’s teen humor characters often appeared in these PSAs. This is a wordy one but Ira makes it work.

From WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #63, March/April 1953

This small ad filled a space on the inside covers of some titles with comic characters I don’t recognize in the style of their teen humor ones. Another very generic ad.

From GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #22, March/April 1953

DC continued to keep their romance titles separate from the rest of the line, but in this year were able to sell more paid ads in them to clients like dress and clothing makers, fashion accessory vendors, and weight-loss gimmicks. They still got in some house ads, but not as many, and not as often on the back covers. Most, like this one, referred to a specific issue, so were not able to be reused easily. This one fits a two-thirds size to leave room for necessary legal information. Notice how Ira’s small scene at the bottom adds interest and depth, and the sunrise pulls things together.

Another fine sentiment in the PSA series. Only the two top lines of the bottom caption are not lettered by Ira, and probably added by a production staffer later.

From SECRET HEARTS #15, April/May 1953

DC’s romance editors continued to emphasize the word YOU in their ads to pull readers into the fantasy. I think the entire background here is by Schnapp, again adding depth and interest.

From ACTION COMICS #180, May 1953

This new full-page Schnapp ad was generic enough to be used for some time, and was also adapted for other versions, as we’ll see below. The layout is no mean feat, getting the stars and titles to work together in a random way that seems evenly spread across the page, and getting the titles to fit in the stars. Still missing are the romance titles.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #197, July 1953

With the addition of some comics covers, the same Line of Stars ad copy works fine in this version, so I’m not counting this as a separate ad, though Ira might have worked on it. This layout could be reused with different covers.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #198, Aug 1953

Another variation with the same lettering, also not counted as a separate ad. It could have been assembled by someone other than Ira in the DC production department.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #195, May 1953

Another wordy PSA. Note how Ira solved the problem of way too many words in the last panel.

From GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #23, May/June 1953

These romance ads are generally just for a single issue, but since they were only running in one or two other titles, I guess it made sense. The diagonals and black areas add interest.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #196, June 1953

Another PSA with some large signs by Ira. Of the 12 regular ones in 1953, Ira lettered 11 of them, and also that bogus one about air rifles.

From SECRET HEARTS #16, June/July 1953

How about that long tail on the Y of YOU? Nicely designed and with more background art by Ira.

From GIRLS’ ROMANCES #21, June/July 1953

I have the impression that Ira did best with background art that didn’t include human figures. I have the same issue myself, so I sympathize!

From DETECTIVE COMICS #197, July 1953

A PSA about bird-watching, a topic I approve of! The bottom sponsor line has changed with this one.

From GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #24, July/Aug 1953

More effective use of upper and lower case, diagonals and black areas.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #198, Aug 1953

Don’t be like Pete.

From ACTION COMICS #184, Sept 1953

Here’s the LINE OF STARS tagline used in a new way for a new title launch. Still generic enough to be reused for other new titles.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #18, Sept 1953

And so it was on this ad, though some new Schnapp lettering was needed, so I count this as another one for Ira.

From ADVENTURE COMICS #192, Sept 1953

This is the only 1953 PSA not lettered by Ira Schnapp. I don’t know who lettered it, but it’s someone who was reasonably successful imitating his style, though with even smaller letters.

From GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #25, Sept/Oct 1953

Was the script lettering on this ad done by hand, or is it headline type? Hard to be sure, but I think I see a few variations in the letters suggesting it was done by hand, but possibly not by Ira Schnapp. Perhaps by someone else in the DC production department who could also add headline type. I won’t count it for Ira.

From BATMAN#79, Sept/Oct 1953

Another variation of the LINE OF STARS idea. This one appeared with several different pairs of covers.

From ACTION COMICS #185, Oct 1953

A PSA about pet care, which I also heartily endorse. Ira’s title is hard to read because of the dark green color, though it may have appeared lighter in the actual comics. and the color wasn’t his choice anyway.

From THE FOX AND THE CROW #12, Oct/Nov 1953

This ad by Ira for a new funny animal title pulls out all the stops in design, lettering styles and layout. PETER PANDA was really more of a fantasy series than a funny animal one, and Ira’s lettering reinforces that.

From SUPERBOY #28, Oct/Nov 1953

Another version of the LINE OF STARS idea with new lettering by Ira. An unusual use of splash pages from the three stories in the issue, which have Ira’s logos on them.

From WONDER WOMAN #62, Oct/Nov 1953

These PSAs usually had two versions, a full color one for inside use and a black and white one for inside covers, as here. Gray tones were added to the black and white versions.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #202, Dec 1953

Another wordy PSA, but some issues needed more words.

From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #21, Dec 1953

This full page ad for REX works much better than the earlier one I think, and would have encouraged me to look for this comic with a dog somewhat like Rin-Tin-Tin.

From DETECTIVE COMICS #202, Dec 1953

The final new ad for 1953 is specific to BATMAN, encouraging readers of DETECTIVE COMICS to try it. The art picked up from inside is rather confusing, but Ira’s lettering works fine.

To sum up, there are 18 house ads and 12 public service ads by Ira Schnapp in this cover-dated year of 1953, for a total of 30.

More articles like this are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.

Ira Schnapp on Wikipedia.

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