Suddenly in 1966 the volume of DC house ads more than doubled. I don’t know why, but can guess they were feeling the pressure of competition from Marvel Comics, the smaller company making a big impact on fans with titles like THE FANTASTIC FOUR, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and others. Perhaps the number of paid ads was dropping, leaving more room for house ads. Possibly management saw the value of Ira Schnapp’s ad work and thought it should be increased. He did lots, and there were also more than a dozen ads by Gaspar Saladino and others. The Go-Go Checks promotional gimmick took up a lot of ad space and cover space. I don’t know whose idea that was. It could have been Ira’s, as he was setting the style for the company through his ads, cover lettering and logos, but would DC have turned to a 72-year-old man for ideas about what might appeal to kids? The long-running “Coming Super-Attractions” ad in Superman-related titles was gone, replaced by many third-page ads for individual issues. Some new titles like THE INFERIOR FIVE received big ad pushes perhaps hoping to capture a new audience. There were only four new public service ads, three lettered by Ira, but romance group ads made a big comeback. There are so many ads to cover in this year that I’m going to do it in three parts, with totals for the year in part three. The image above shows two ads making a full page between them, but each was also used separately, so I count these as two ads for Ira.
DC was trying new ideas and new features in many titles, like this one in HOUSE OF MYSTERY. Whether they were interesting enough to readers to raise sales is another matter.
This ad promotes a new idea for DC romance books, a continuing series along the lines of a soap opera. Lots of fine lettering by Schnapp here along with a subscription coupon, which DC was also pushing.
SHOWCASE tryouts also received plenty of promotion. If scary was your thing, this might have made a sale.
80-Page Giants were still rolling out, full of reprints but clearly popular with readers who hadn’t been around when the original stories were published. Here the ad copy even notes the growing back-issue market for comics with the line “They’re worth gold!”
Reader-enticing gimmicks like the supposed death of a lead character became more common as editors seemed desperate to increase sales. Perhaps management was putting pressure on them.
Secret origins had proved popular at DC, so that gimmick was also used, often changing continuity, though that was not yet a concern, as the common belief at DC was that comics readership lasted about five years, and few readers would keep reading long enough to remember older storylines.
War titles did not receive as much attention as superhero ones, but they did have more promotion when there was an 80-Page Giant involved.
DC was even trying out some anti-heroes like Eclipso, perhaps responding to characters doing well at Marvel that did not fit the typical hero role, like Spider-Man.
Using crossovers is another idea that DC might have seen Marvel having success with. Generally DC characters rarely met each other in the past except in a few titles like JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and WORLD’S FINEST, but began to do so more often now.
Even while so busy with house ads, Ira Schnapp found time to do lettering on this paid ad from the same vendor as others he worked on. Some of the large lettering here is not his, and is probably by the artist who created the ad art, but all the small lettering is by Ira.
Black and white check patterns began running across the top of every DC cover with February 1966 issues. They were annoying and distracting to me as a reader at the time, and the name Go-Go Checks seemed quite lame and silly. In all I think it was a misfire, but DC pushed the idea through the year with ads by Ira like this one.
This fine full page ad by Ira has too many words, but his design skills and use of black makes it work. Included are early examples of covers with checks at the top certainly drawn by Schnapp.
Metamorpho was another anti-hero character who had the temerity to refuse membership in the Justice League alongside DC’s best-known heroes. Rebellion was in the air in the 1960s.
Subscription ads were being pushed hard, and ones for the entire line had many new designs, some by Schnapp like this one, some by others. Who had the patience to decipher all that backwards lettering that Ira had to do?
This public service ad is an early acknowledgement of mental issues not yet generally known or understood by most people, things like autism that are now well accepted.
A rare double-page spread house ad that I’ve turned sideways for better viewing of the lettering (it was too blurry turned the other way). DC was pushing their new soap opera hard, as well as subscriptions. The huge title by Ira might have reminded him of sign work he’d done for theaters, and all this lettering is excellent.
Even WORLD’S FINEST was getting a few darker stories, though not much darker perhaps.
WONDER WOMAN was trying a new look that was actually an old look, bringing back the visual style and characters from her golden age, but not much of those storylines.
One of many ads playing off the Go-Go Checks idea, though only one of the covers shown has them.
DOOM PATROL was perhaps the most in line with what Marvel Comics was doing, but it did not get much attention or appreciation from DC.
In the romance titles, Ira Schnapp designed classy new headers for letters and text pages, this being the earliest one I found.
The ad copy here is probably from editor Julius Schwartz, and pretty lame. How many kids would be amused by this comparison? Ira had fun with the display lettering.
The Challengers were being repackaged as as the Challenger Corps perhaps to make them more like the Fantastic Four?
Nice lettering for a lame idea. Artist Carmine Infantino is reported to have said the Go-Go Checks were useful to fans in identifying DC titles so they could skip past them to the Marvel ones.
The one place I do like the checks is on this new feature DIRECT CURRENTS with a nice logo by Schnapp. It listed all the upcoming titles from the company other than romance ones, and in an era before comics shops, was a good way for fans to know what was out there.
Another gimmick perhaps borrowed from Marvel was a superhero giving up on his career. I like the cityscape background here by Ira.
Even Jimmy Olsen was getting an anti-hero story of sorts.
The Spectre had been around for decades, but his SHOWCASE appearances brought him new attention. Another kind of anti-hero.
For those committed to traditional DC heroes and heroines, the 80-Page Giant series delivered collections of reprints like this. The display lettering by Schnapp is great, and the ad copy at upper left ties it to the Superman TV show, still in reruns.
The Teen Titans were a draw for younger readers, or so DC hoped. Too bad the DC idea of current slang was still stuck in the Beatnik era.
Bizarros were about as anti-hero as you could get at DC, though of course always played as buffoons for laughs.
These somewhat generic third-page ads for superheroes worked best when not choked with too much ad copy, as here. It gave Ira room to do interesting display lettering.
Similar ads for a specific issue could only be used once, and needed more explanation. Ira still worked in an exciting CONFESSES!
The war titles were also trying new characters and features to retain readers, who were perhaps less likely at this time in history to be war fans. DC took on the war in Vietnam with this feature.
Scooter, a Beatles look-alike, was thought to have appeal for DC romance comics readers. Again with the lame slang, though.
This ad gives us a break from the checks, and is one of the better designed ones of the year with an interesting central shape.
I don’t think Ira Schnapp designed the DIAL H FOR HERO logo, but did design this similar letters page header.
This checks ad has a feeling of desperation about it to me. DC was still leading in sales, perhaps because they had many more titles, but gradually losing the battle against Marvel.
This is an interesting ad for The Flash in an issue of THE FLASH that was an 80-page Giant, therefore all reprints. Again having a feeling of desperation, DC exhorts readers to ALSO buy issues with new stories.
Here you can see the way DC thought of the Doom Patrol, as freaks. Teaming them with Flash would make them more acceptable I guess.
Whew, that’s lots of items, and we’re not finished with April cover-dates yet! To be continued in Part 2. Other articles like this are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.
This section of the DC History article on Wikipedia has more on the competition with Marvel and Go-Go Checks.