Incoming: BATMAN, THE DARK KNIGHT DETECTIVE Vol 5

Image © DC Comics

This trade paperback just arrived. It reprints Batman stories from DETECTIVE COMICS #612-614, #616-621 and DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #3. The monthly issues are written by Alan Grant, pencilled by Norm Breyfogle and inked by Steve Mitchell. The Annual is written by Archie Goodwin with art by Dan Jurgens and Dick Giordano. I lettered all of it. I’m rarely tempted to reread past comics work, but I don’t recall the Annual story, and I might revisit that one. Not sure when this is out in shops, but Amazon has it available on May 25th. For some reason their listing shows a different cover. Ask at your comics retailer if you’re interested, or try the link below.

Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1968

All images © DC Comics. From ACTION COMICS #358, Jan 1968

This was Ira’s final year at DC Comics, and his ad output was much reduced. New policies from Editorial Director Carmine Infantino, including the shift of house ad and cover lettering from Ira to Gaspar Saladino, are now in evidence, and their places were essentially switched, with Ira doing just 21 new ads, and Gaspar creating about 65, with another 25 coming from Henry Boltinoff and various unidentified DC production artists. Ira’s final ad ran in a December 1968 title, and it was probably created in August, or even earlier. I have no evidence, but I think Ira left staff and retired in either July or August. DC was definitely changing from the place he had worked so many years as new blood was brought in: artist Joe Kubert became editor of the war titles, and new editor/artists Joe Orlando and Dick Giordano joined the staff. Artist Neal Adams had begun working for DC in 1967, and by 1968 was gaining new fans for the company and inside the company with his excellent art that added previously unseen levels of realism, dynamic layouts, and in-your-face action to the mix. Steve Ditko launched new properties The Creeper and Hawk and Dove, and other projects that would probably not have been okayed in the past were being tried out like Angel and the Ape, Anthro, Enemy Ace, Bat Lash and more. DC comics in general were gaining a fresh look enhanced by the dynamic work of Saladino, beside which Ira’s lettering often did look old fashioned. The ad above that Ira lettered is prescient: new things were coming, and they would not include him. Ira turned 73 in October 1967. His time in comics was almost over, but these ads show his skills were still present, if showing their age.

Continue reading

Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1967 Part 2

All images © DC Comics. From ADVENTURE COMICS #356, May 1967

As noted in Part 1, I was surprised to find so many new Ira Schnapp house ads in DC Comics cover-dated 1967. We begin here with a full-page Superboy Giant ad that shows the impact of the Batman TV show in the use of large sound effects, and I think also shows that Schnapp’s skills had not diminished despite his age at the time of 72. Hand lettering involves fine motor skills, which tend to decrease with age, and Ira’s page lettering by this time was clearly not as good as it was ten years earlier, but his larger display lettering and ad lettering in general still looks great to me. It’s reported that Ira spent more time on things like this and did them more carefully, working out elements on tissue paper before finalizing them, so that would have helped.

Continue reading

Rereading: TUNNEL IN THE SKY By Robert A. Heinlein

First Edition cover

I loved this book as a kid, and enjoyed rereading it recently. Rod Walker is a teenager on a future Earth burdened with massive overpopulation, but a new technology that creates gateways to other worlds around our galaxy has provided an outlet: colonists leave for promising undeveloped new worlds on a regular basis. Rod enjoys watching their wagon trains head out for distant planets at the transport center on his way home from school. Rod is taking a survival course, and graduation from it means a field test. He and other students will be dropped off on a planet with only what they can carry. The goal is to survive until they are recalled, up to ten days later.

Rod wants to take the test, though his instructor is not sure he has what it takes to get through. Not everyone does. Once dropped, it’s survival of the fittest against any and every threat, including the most dangerous one of all, other humans from his and a few other classes dropped at the same time. Rod’s sister, a soldier, backs his plan, but his parents are against it. Rod sticks to his decision, and shows up for the drop with his pack of supplies but no weapons other than two knives, on the advice of his sister.

Rod spends a frightening first night in a tree haunted by horrible sounds from some unknown animal, and after escaping a ground predator. As he begins to get used to the new environment, Rod is knocked out from behind. He wakes with a headache and stripped of all his gear except one knife he had hidden. How will he survive until recall? Soon he meets and joins another test person from a different school and they decide to team up, but the recall never comes. Something has gone wrong, and they’re stuck in this hostile jungle with no idea if they’ll ever be rescued.

A great action-filled story until the last third when it becomes more about politics than survival at times, and a little heavy on lecturing, but still a fine read. Recommended.

Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1967 Part 1

All images © DC Comics. From THE FOX AND THE CROW #101, Dec 1966/Jan 1967

1967 was the final full year of employment at DC Comics for Ira Schnapp. At some point in 1968 his staff job was terminated. I don’t know when that happened, exactly how it happened, or whose decision it was, but Carmine Infantino is likely to be the person who gave Ira the news. Here’s what I wrote in my series of biographical articles about Ira from information I received from those who were there at the time like Neal Adams and Gaspar Saladino:

One of the most popular artists at the company then was Carmine Infantino, known for his excellent work on THE FLASH, among other titles. In 1966, Irwin Donenfeld made him art director, in charge of designing all the company’s covers, and Infantino was later promoted to Editorial Director. One of the changes Carmine enacted was to start putting long-time DC letterer Gaspar Saladino on logos, cover lettering and house ads, shifting that work away from Ira. Apparently Carmine felt the company’s design presence needed a fresh approach, and Gaspar’s work was excellent, as he rose to the challenge with dynamic, energetic and artful lettering and logos. Carmine kept Ira on for a while doing less important tasks, but in 1968 he was let go. As artist Neal Adams, who had befriended Ira when he started working at DC around 1967 put it, it meant Ira was being sent home to die. Gaspar Saladino has described Ira as “Mister DC,” and said it was sad that when he left, it was as though he’d never been there at all.

From these reports, I expected to see less ad work from Ira in 1966 and much less in 1967, keeping in mind that there is always a time shift between cover dates and when the work was done of three to four months. What I found in my research for these articles was that Ira’s ad output about doubled in 1966. Gaspar’s also increased, but to only about a dozen ads. In 1967, Ira’s ad output did decrease by a third, declining from about 120 ads to about 75. Gaspar’s ad output increased from about a dozen to about two dozen, and there were some ads by others in both years. This is significant, but not the dismissal of Ira’s ad skills I was expecting. There are enough Schnapp ads in 1967 to still require two parts, and we’ll look at the numbers at the end of Part 2.

Some changes in 1967: there were no new romance group ads. A few were reused, and otherwise ads for other DC books appeared. The public service ads that were the pet project of editor Jack Schiff tapered off this year with mostly repeats. Only four were new. Ira lettered two of those, including his finest one ever. Jack Schiff retired from DC in 1967 and his admirable project ended, though DC did some similar ads in 1976-77. The Go-Go-Checks push from 1966 was not continued much in house ads, only a few referenced them, and they quietly died out by the end of 1967. Ad emphasis remained on superheroes, though all genres other than romance received some new ones, like the Jerry Lewis ad above. There only the lettering by Ira is new, the art and layout are from past ads.

Continue reading