SCHNAPP, DONENFELD and the PULPS Part 4

In late 1942 Harry Donenfeld and his partners (Jack Liebowitz and others) discontinued the Culture Publications imprint, and relabeling the “Spicy” line of pulps under a new imprint, Speed Publishing. Initially these carried the same logos with the word SPEED replacing SPICY. The covers showed considerably less skin, and were generally toned down, which pleased critics like the Post Office (who had denied mailing permits for the Spicy line). The logo revamps would most likely have been handled by Ira Schnapp, who I believe had designed many of them in the first place. That looks like his cover lettering on this first issue of SPEED ADVENTURE STORIES as well.

By 1944 the book had a new logo using the same letterforms in straight lines that leaned to the right, and incorporated motion lines on SPEED that are very similar to the ones Ira Schnapp used on his logo for the silver age FLASH revival at DC Comics in 1959, including the small white gaps in the black outlines of the large letters. The rest of the lettering on the pulp cover also looks like the work of Schnapp, including the new “A Speed Magazine” symbol, something reminiscent of the round DC symbol on their comics.

SPEED MYSTERY replaced SPICY MYSTERY (a logo I think Schnapp didn’t do). The title DARK MIRACLE on the first cover again uses triangles for the A’s, but the rest does look like Ira Schnapp’s lettering, so perhaps he did use that idea from time to time. By 1945, the word SPEED was in a more typical Schnapp style with speed lines.

SPEED DETECTIVE first simply replaced SPICY with SPEED in the same style, then used a new SPEED with speed lines. It’s interesting to note that the broken outlines on DETECTIVE seen in the first version of this logo from 1934 have been completed here. And I have to say, the more of these covers I see, the more clearly the lettering seems to be by the same person, who I believe to be Ira Schnapp.

SPEED WESTERN seems to be a completely new design based on the Art Deco style of the Speed symbol. I like the implied raised areas inside WESTERN, another very Art Deco idea that Ira Schnapp would have been familiar with. And it’s interesting to see how much of the WE in WESTERN is covered up, the publishers assuming everyone would still know what the word was. All these titles began with January, 1943 cover dates. SUPER-DETECTIVE, DAN TURNER: HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE and PRIVATE DETECTIVE STORIES all gained the Speed symbol and joined the imprint in 1943 as well. In addition to cleaning up the sleazier aspects of his pulps, Donenfeld tried to distance them further from his growing comic book business by creating a new distribution company for the pulps, Leader News, with his wife as one of the co-owners, but not himself.

Speed Publishing added FIGHTING WESTERN in 1945, using the logo style from ROMANTIC WESTERN for the word WESTERN, and a new banner for FIGHTING. WESTERN also adds telescoping with open areas at the top and shading lines in the now familiar Ira Schnapp style. Very hard to imagine anyone else doing this logo.

A new imprint, Arrow Publishing, was begun in 1945 mostly for romance pulps. They also carried the Speed Magazine symbol. This logo looks very much like some of Ira Schnapp’s logos and house ad lettering for DC Comics. The style of the E in LOVE is one he used a lot there.

Not sure if this was under the Arrow or Speed imprints, but it began in 1945 also. The earlier logo is very much in the Schnapp style. The revised one from 1948 might be by someone else. It has more typical block letters with ragged ends on WESTERN, and set type below that.

WESTERN LOVE is under the Arrow imprint, and began in 1945. Another logo that looks very much like the work of Ira Schnapp to me, and the rest of the lettering as well. The contrast between the script arced WESTERN and the much bolder straight LOVE is charming.

WINNING LOVE is another Arrow title that began in 1945. Also Schnapp, I’d say. The story title is quite nice on this one.

This title from Arrow in 1945 uses the same LOVE as the one above. I like the way the loop of M in MAGIC entwines with that of the L in Love, like they’re holding hands. So romantic. And all these romance pulps are a far cry from the sleazy sexuality that Donenfeld’s pulps began with, designed to appeal to women readers.

An Arrow romance pulp that began in 1946 with what I’d say is an Ira Schnapp logo and cover lettering. They must have sold, as the company kept releasing new titles. I really like the story title on this one, too.

One last Arrow romance title, which verges on slick sophistication. And what a long way we’ve come from LA PARISIENNE! Very probably all by Ira Schnapp.

Speed Publishing began this title in 1946. Notice that they’re promoting 16 pages of comics inside. Many of Donenfeld’s pulps had had a small amount of comics since 1934, but this seems to acknowledge that comics were overtaking typical pulp content in reader appeal. The logo, I believe by Ira Schnapp, goes back to his earlier western style of rounded E’s, and adds a rounded W this time. He continues to favor Art Deco styles.

I believe the last new title from Speed with new material was this one, begun in 1947. The logo breaks the previous mold and goes for a real western look, making the letters out of nailed-together boards, and adding a nice flame effect. I think this is also by Ira Schnapp, though unlike anything else he did that I know of.

The pulp magazine era was ending as the 1940s drew to a close. The last titles that Donenfeld put out under the Trojan Publishing umbrella were digest-size collections of previous material like these. Type was becoming the norm on magazine covers rather than hand-lettering, and while it’s possible Ira Schnapp did the words DETECTIVE and WESTERN, the rest seems to be all typeset. This last gasp ended soon after, and the Donenfeld pulp line folded in 1950. Trojan tried a line of comic books edited by Adolphe Barreaux in the 1950s, but they didn’t last long either, and that was the end of Harry Donenfeld’s pulp empire. Of course, he still had very successful comics and magazine distribution companies.

National Comics Publications, which we now know as DC Comics, was doing well. They’d hired Ira Schnapp to produce at least some of their logos in the 1940s, possibly story lettering as well on a freelance basis, and around 1949 I believe he joined their staff as the in-house logo, cover lettering and house ad designer and letterer. I’ve surmised this because in that year the amount of Schnapp work on the company’s covers takes a large jump, and by 1950 nearly all of it is by him. And it makes sense to me that he would be offered that job, since I think he was doing much the same thing (on a freelance basis I believe) for Donenfeld’s pulp line for many years, and had a proven track record as a logo designer for both companies. Ira was 56 in 1950, and the kind of hand-lettering work he’d been doing for magazines, advertising and movie theaters was disappearing, except in comics. I imagine the chance for a staff position that allowed him to continue doing what he did best was appealing. Schnapp would continue to produce his unique, somewhat old-fashioned by this point, but always graceful and well-crafted work for the company, providing them with a house style almost single-handed until about 1967, when most of that work shifted to another great designer, Gaspar Saladino. Schnapp was kept on for a year or two doing less important things as an acknowledgment of his long service to the company, but was let go in 1968, and died in 1969.

Harry Donenfeld continued to run or oversee his businesses I assume, though not always at 480 Lexington, aided by his son Irwin, who joined National Comics Publication’s management in 1948. Donenfeld was injured in a fall in 1962 from which he never recovered, and died in 1965.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this rather different logo study. Please keep in mind that I have no hard evidence that Ira Schnapp worked for Donenfeld’s pulp magazines, and that all the opinions expressed about that here are my own, and based simply on examinations and comparisons of style. Thanks again to designer Alex Jay for his research help. More logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

 

 

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

  1. Jim Ladd

    Todd, the “Leading” on the Leading Love pulp seems reminiscent of Leading Comics, one of DC’s Golden age titles, which makes sense…

  2. Todd Post author

    It’s slightly similar, but not very. I don’t know who designed the LEADING COMICS logo, but there are some aspects to it that suggest to me it wasn’t Ira Schnapp. The way the A sticks up above the other letters, the fact that the L has such a thick horizontal stroke, for instance. And I know he didn’t design that COMICS, it came well before Ira was doing DC logos.

  3. Jim Kosmicki

    I haven’t read the first three sections of this yet, but just in this entry, you’ve made connections between Trojan Publishing (the 50’s comics company) and Leader News (which was EC’s distributor that went out of business, throwing them into a difficult publishing situation that was one of the huge business obstacles that Bill Gaines faced in keeping EC in business) and the Donenfeld/NPP family of businesses. The early comics business was so intertwined – it’s like one of those old Rock Family Trees where the different versions of the band keep breaking up and forming new bands, except with distributors and comic book publishers instead.

  4. Allen

    I think that this would be a wonderful article for Alter Ego, or some other publication to reprint.

    Thank you for this.

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