SCHNAPP, DONENFELD and the PULPS Part 2

Images © the respective copyright holders.

In 1933 Harry Donenfeld was making plans to expand his sexy pulp magazine empire, and this man, artist Adolphe Barreaux, was drawn into those plans. In a biographical article you can find HERE, writer David Saunders describes what happened:

In July 1933 Adolph Barreaux became involved with Harry Donenfeld and Merle Williams Hersey in an attempted revival of THE POLICE GAZETTE, which was to feature a comic strip by Barreaux about the saucy misadventures of a Broadway chorus girl named “Flossie Flip.”

Although the project never got off the ground, Barreaux soon found steady work drawing story illustrations for Donenfeld’s publications, which included a sensational line of magazines…

As a clever businessman that produced risque materials, Donenfeld cloaked the true ownership of his wide-ranging business in a maze of smoke and mirrors. He was a very successful and business was rapidly expanding. Rather than assign and approve a large number of illustrations from a variety of freelance artists, Donenfeld offered Barreaux the chance to run an art agency that would supply all of the black and white interior story illustrations he needed.

They formed a joint company and the Barreaux Studio was opened at 101 West 46th Street, where Barreaux directed and coordinated the production of the pen & ink art that appeared in Donenfeld’s magazines.

Barreaux was soon producing art and short comic strips for a new line of pulps put out by Donenfeld and his associates under the imprint Culture Publishing. Above is the earliest such strip from 1934. Donenfeld was the first to use comics in his pulps, and they were in the same lurid and sex-filled style as most of the stories. But as you can see, Barreaux was not much of a logo designer, and is described as working only on the interiors. So who was doing the cover logos and lettering? According to comics historian Jerry Bails on his “Who’s Who of American Comic Books” WEBSITE, Ira Schnapp began working for Donenfeld’s pulps in 1934. Bails does not give a source for this, but was a well-respected and knowledgable figure, and I’m ready to take his statement as one backed by some kind of reliable information, perhaps something Ira told an artist friend like, say, Murphy Anderson. Let’s look at the pulps and see if we can detect Ira’s work on them.

One of the new line was to be SPICY ADVENTURE STORIES, and I’ve lifted this pre-publication ashcan cover from a Dial B for Blog article about Schnapp. (Ashcans were prepared for trademark purposes before the first issue was assembled and printed.)

When the actual pulp hit the newsstands, it featured a much different, and much better logo, seen here on the third issue from December, 1934. Clearly someone had dashed off the ashcan logo, and then they hired a real logo designer for the actual magazine. And, to me, it certainly seems like it could be the work of Ira Schnapp. The classic serif letterforms, marred only by some over-large serifs on the T’s, the clever flag-wave shape of ADVENTURE—leaving space for the other two words above left and below right—even the somewhat wider than usual spacing between some of the letters all suggest to me that Harry Donenfeld, or perhaps someone who worked for him like Barreaux, had hired Schnapp to design this logo, and perhaps many more. If Schnapp did work on Donenfeld’s pulp magazines, it would most likely have been as a freelancer, since we know Schnapp maintained his own studio at least until 1941. Did the two meet and work directly together on these logos? We’ll probably never know, but Schnapp is often described in his later years by those who knew him as very friendly and outgoing, a person who loved to talk and tell stories about his career. Donenfeld was a salesman, first of clothes, then of printing services and magazines, so he probably was also an outgoing person. The two men were about the same age, and from a similar background as Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe. It seems likely to me they would have some reasons to become friendly and work directly together, but that’s only my guess.

Another in the SPICY line, and perhaps the first published, the April, 1934 issue features a logo somewhat similar in design to the ashcan version of SPICY ADVENTURE above, but with SPICY lettered in a much more accomplished open script with a slight drop-shadow that says “Schnapp” to me. And look at the word DETECTIVE. At first glance, fairly standard block letters with a double outline, but see how parts of the outline stop near the bottom and black telescoping is added? Quite a clever and complex idea that adds interest to the logo. My vote goes to Schnapp on this logo, too. (Incidentally, detectives were such a common and popular theme in the pulps that the publishers seemed to have no problem covering up so much of the word on the earlier cover, but the later version of this logo, as shown, has a thinner version of SPICY.) And on these covers, they’ve traded the usual Cooper Black type (as seen on SPICY ADVENTURE) for hand-lettered titles, something that Schnapp could easily have done for them with his background in show card lettering. I think the upper and lower case lettering with a slightly Art Deco flavor used for JAMES A. LAWSON looks quite similar to a style Schnapp employed on many DC Comics covers later.

You can see a little of it in THE and OF in this original Schnapp lettering from the cover of STRANGE ADVENTURES #159 from my collection, and other examples are easy to find on many DC covers from the 1950s and 1960s.

Harry Donenfeld also published this pulp beginning in April, 1934 originally under the Super Magazines imprint. It was edited by Frank Armer, from whom Donenfeld had acquired several pulps a few years earlier. (Armer continued to do editing work for Donenfeld.) The logo on this second issue is an interesting precursor to one that Ira Schnapp would refine in 1940 for SUPERMAN. The block letters are very much in Schnapp’s style, and the telescoping with top surfaces open for a second color, as well as the triangular shape, are all ideas that Ira Schnapp continued to use later in comics, and I feel pretty confident in suggesting this logo is designed by him, and perhaps the other hand-lettered titles as well.

It’s interesting to note that Donenfeld was combining genres in his new line of pulps, adding the sexy stuff to other tried-and-true pulp categories. The next one from Culture Publishing was SPICY MYSTERY beginning in 1935. The 1936 cover above has a logo that looks nothing like Ira Schnapp’s work to me. In fact, I can’t recall anything by him that used the kind of slanted, off-kilter lettering seen in MYSTERY here. The letterforms and stroke weights are inconsistent, not well designed, and the entire logo looks like it’s falling to the right like a string of dominoes. Cooper Black is again used for the rest of the type.

Donenfeld continued to publish some of his earlier sexy pulps, and the October, 1935 issue of this one featured a new logo, moving from an Art Nouveau look to a decidedly Art Deco version that preserved the basic shape and some of the fanciful touches of the previous one. This seems like another Ira Schnapp logo to me. Schnapp was a working letterer and designer throughout the entire Art Deco period, and it continued to be one of his favorite styles when he worked in comics. This excellent logo could certainly be by him. The rest of the cover uses Cooper Black type.

A third genre mash-up from Culture Publishing debuted in 1936. Rather than going for a western poster lettering style, as many western pulps did, this one is firmly in the Art Deco style, though adding wobbly edges to perhaps suggest a western roughness. Another logo that seems very likely to be by Ira Schnapp to me. Who else would go for Art Deco on a western cover? Even Ira didn’t go there when he did western-themed comics covers later. The way the entire logo area is so tightly integrated, and the flag-wave shape of WESTERN that allows the other words to fit around it are similar to what we saw on SPICY ADVENTURE, but more so, using negative space very creatively. The hand-lettered story title is again Art Deco style in contrast to the western theme.

In 1937, Donenfeld and his partners may have been feeling the heat from the authorities regarding the sexual content of his pulps. They produced some new magazines that seem to be an attempt to clean up their image somewhat. Under the Merwil Publishing name this very wholesome-looking and even patriotic effort led the way. A logo made from twisted rope is always a challenge to keep readable, and this one succeeds admirably, with well-crafted and graceful shapes, and a slight drop-shadow to make it more three-dimensional. I think it’s the work of Ira Schnapp, as is all the other lettering on the cover. In a way it’s a tour de force of hand lettering, using several quite different styles, yet making it all work, a trademark of Schnapp. And the large lettering at the bottom seems very much in the Schnapp style, too.

Meanwhile, back in 1936, Donenfeld had produced this rather elaborate ashcan edition of THE LONE RANGER under a new imprint, Spartan Publishing. The Art Deco approach suggests more Ira Schnapp work to me, as do the shapes of some of the letters. The character had begun on a radio show in 1933, and became quite popular, spreading to movies and magazines, and later TV.

When the pulp hit the stands, it looked quite different, and even the imprint had changed to Trojan Publishing. Donenfeld put out only eight issues of THE LONE RANGER MAGAZINE, each containing a novel-length story by the character’s creator Fran Striker. They were the first appearance of Lone Ranger stories in print form. This was clearly another attempt to appeal to a wider, more mainstream audience. The logo and lettering is again probably by Schnapp, very much in his style. The logo is much bolder in outline, but not as appealing to me as the earlier one. It does get away from Art Deco somewhat, and perhaps the company wanted that. In general, this is really quite an appealing cover. More Trojan magazines would follow close behind, but none were as clean-cut as this one.

I’ll continue with them next time. More logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

 

4 thoughts on “SCHNAPP, DONENFELD and the PULPS Part 2

  1. David Goldfarb

    With respect, I have to disagree with you that the Don Winslow rope logo “succeeds admirably”. My immediate reaction to it was, “What does that even say?” and my first guess at the second name was “Winkler”. It took me several seconds to read it as “Don Winslow”. (If he was a pre-existing character, that might have made a difference; it’s much easier to parse the logo if you already know what it says.)

  2. Robby Reed

    Fascinating post! Like traveling back in time. Todd, I think this series is your best work as a blogger. But of course I am prejudiced in that I love our man Ira too. I look forward to future installments with great anticipation.

  3. Jim Kosmicki

    I would have sworn that i’d seen that Don Winslow rope logo before, but it wasn’t on the Big Little Books or the Fawcett comics – I can’t seem to find any Sunday comic pages which would have a logo. it does appear to have been created for the Merwil publication.

    and very interesting that Merwil, who I’ve seen listed as an early, obscure publisher with ties to comics, is actually a Donenfeld company, plus that the short-lived Lone Ranger pulps were published by Donenfeld as well. I’m pretty sure the Lone Ranger pulps have been reprinted a couple of times and are held in pretty good esteem by both Western and LR fans.

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