AS EVER, WAS IN DIRE PERIL -- threatened this time by an “Alien Invasion.” The DCU had long endured such earth-shattering menaces, on an almost daily basis in fact, but this particular crisis was unique in one aspect. It rated its own "Special Invasion Edition" of The Daily Planet! (Pictured right.)

The paper, a promotional gimmick published by DC to hype the “Invasion” event, was a 16-page, two-color newspaper, complete with headline (Earth to .Invaders: Drop Dead), black and white photos (of DC staffers) and even a masthead (shown left)!

The masthead for the paper contained the names of several DC characters, such as supposed Planet founder Joshua Merriweather, but it also listed many actual people. The group of names at bottom of the indicia reads: Cecil S. Mayer, Albert Plastino, Stanley Kaye, Leonard Dorfman, John and Raymond Burnley. The final name on the list is I.R. Schnapp, Senior Vice President of Advertising.

All these men have an intimate connection to Superman, the character that made DC famous and created the entire comic book industry. Cecil S. Mayer, aka Shelly Mayer, is the man who rescued Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman from a slush pile -- Mayer is “the editor who discovered Superman.” Al Plastino was a longtime Superman artist, as were Stan Kaye and the Burnley brothers. Leo Dorfman wrote hundreds of the Man of Steel’s adventures, both in the Golden Age and beyond.
But who in the world is I.R. Schnapp? Why does HE deserve to be ranked among the hallowed creators who guided Superman through his earliest adventures? And why as “Senior Vice President of Advertising,” of all things? The surprising answer: Schnapp deserves to be there, perhaps more so than any of the others, because all the other people on this masthead came to Superman after his first adventure had been published. Not Schnapp. He was there from the very beginning. Schnapp was, as they say, “present at the creation.”

Ira R. Schnapp was an eyewitness to the first-ever appearance of the Man of Steel. He also saw the debuts of the Caped Crusader, the Scarlet Speedster, the Emerald Gladiator, and the Amazing Amazon... in person. He was there the day Barry Allen raced across the bridge between the earths and became the Flash of Two Worlds. He saw the mightiest heroes of comics' Golden Age unite for the first time to form the Justice Society of America. And he witnessed the unforgettable first meeting of the JSA and Justice League of America with his own eyes. Through it all, there was one constant, and one constant alone: IRA SCHNAPP.

Hang on, reader -- you are about to experience a jaw-dropping new ten-part series that will forever change the way you look at DC comics (especially if you love DC house ads, logos, blurbs and lettering). A bold claim, to be sure. Perhaps I should tone it down a bit. But instead, I’m going to go even further. I consider this series to be a comic book history-making masterpiece that will stand forever as the supreme achievement of DIAL B for BLOG. Who am I to say such a thing? Who else! I am Robby Reed, creator of this site and author of this article! Enough talk. Now begins the incredible saga...



Ira R. Schnapp was born October 10, 1895, in Sassow, Austria. His last name "Schnapp" (family coat of arms pictured right), indicating a German heritage, derives from the German word "Snappen," which means "to chatter." The Biblical appellation "Ira," mentioned in 2 Samuel 20:26, is a Hebrew name that means literally "one who sees," or figuratively, "THE VISIONARY."

Being labeled a visionary chatterbox must have put a lot of pressure on little Ira when he was growing up in Austria, but he was destined to more than live up to expectations by eventually becoming a master stone carver, an accomplished musician, and a superlative graphic artist whose work would become both world famous and immortal!

We'll cover Schnapp's childhood and early life later in this series -- for now, all we need to know is that young Ira Schnapp came to America with his family sometime before 1910, when he was 15 years old (at the oldest). Although his exact schooling is unknown, Schnapp was apparently well educated. According to DC colorist Jack Adler, "Ira Schnapp was a very nice guy who had a classical background. He'd talk about things a lot of people wouldn't know about."

Young Ira brought one other huge asset with him to America -- a background in stone carving. He must have been just a teenager when he heard the news that a gigantic new library was to be built in his adopted home town, Manhattan. Plans for the structure included a stone inscription. With his background in stone carving, Schnapp, even in his early teens, was apparently more than qualified for the job, an inscription which was to be carved in classical Trajan-style lettering.



After the library engraving job was completed, in mid-1911, Schnapp turned his talents to designing postage stamps. A century ago, designing stamps was far more complex than creating an image, slapping some type over it, then shipping it off to the printers. In the early 1900s, stamp designers were expected to create the means to reproduce the stamp as well as the actual design itself.

In a process known as engraving, stamp designs were hand cut into a small metal plate called a die. The die was then copied to a small metal cylinder known as a transfer roll. During printing, the transfer roll was covered with ink and pressed against a special paper, creating a sheet of uncut stamps. The stamps were then perforated for use as postage.

Pictured below is a selection of stamps from the early 20th century, around the time when Ira Schnapp was a stamp designer. These stamps were not necessarily designed by Schnapp himself (although that is certainly possible), but they are certainly representative of the type of stamps Schnapp designed and hand engraved.

Engraving made it possible to produce the tremendous numbers of stamps needed to move an ever-increasing amount of mail, but Schnapp must have seen early on that there was no future in the stamp engraving business. In a short time, engraving would be superseded by modern processes such as gravure and lithography, which reproduce images with greater detail, and allow a far greater range of artisans to serve as stamp designers. Where would Schnapp's talents lead him next?

After Schnapp left his mark on the New York Public library, word of his rock-solid dependability must have spread like wildfire. If you wanted a classical style inscription carved in your building, there was really only one man to see: Ira Schnapp. There's little doubt that Schnapp's reputation got around, and soon led to his landing another inscription job -- this time at the new Post Office. Schnapp's old stamp-designing connections may also have helped him secure the postal job, another Trajan-style inscription to be carved into the structure's stone edifice: "UNITED STATES POST OFFICE." The New York Post Office building opened on September 7, 1914.


But the building's name was just the beginning of Schnapp's massive carving job. The Post Office's famous motto, in its entirety, was also carved into the stone facing which surrounds building's perimeter. It reads: "NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN NOR HEAT NOR GLOOM OF NIGHT STAYS THESE COURIERS FROM THE SWIFT COMPLETION OF THEIR APPOINTED ROUNDS." There is a small triangular flourish between each word. Below are two close-ups of the famous motto, which show the astonishing uniformity and clockwork precision of Schnapp's work.
The photograph below reveals the amazing depth of each letter in the Postal motto, and shows that Schnapp stuck closely to the original classical form of each letter, while at the same time slightly modernizing the letters by increasing their thickness and accentuating their angles.

I'm not sure of the exact mechanics involved, but presumably Schnapp carved this inscription into a series of marble slabs in a studio, then the slabs were transported and placed on the building's surface. Schnapp must have stood over these blank hunks of stone, armed with only a chisel and his own mighty talent, chipping away, day after day, for months on end, with literally no room for error whatsoever. And all this age age sixteen!

By imagining the kind of steadiness, patience, and intestinal fortitude that would take -- not to mention sheer brute strength -- we get our first glimpse of Ira Schnapp the man. Reader, if you've ever tried to carve even a single letter out of stone and given it up as impossible, you may be ready to declare young Schnapp a flat out genius right now and be done with it, but wait! When it comes to Ira Schnapp's talents, we've only just scratched the surface. (So to speak.)


Carving inscriptions in stone could not have been considered a long-term career. After all, how many grand new buildings are built in a given year? So, as the 1920s approached, it was time for Ira to move on. Where did Schnapp go next? To Hollywood! Sort of. His next job was designing titles for silent movies, which were created right in Schnapp's new home town -- the Bronx, a borough of New York City.

The very first films, silent films, had no audible dialogue. Black cards with white, hand-lettered words were used to relate dialogue or key story points. These cards are called titles or intertitles. The artists who created them were minor star players in the silent era, because films often depended on titles not only for exposition, but also for style and atmosphere. Pictured below, from silent classics, are: (1) A title card from The Squaw Man, (2) An intertitle from King of Kings, and (3) the end title from King of Kings.

Once again, these intertitles were not necessarily designed by Ira Schnapp (although that is possible). They are presented here as prime examples the style of lettering Schnapp would have done for the silents.
Many silent title designers also created hand-lettered promotional ads placed in theater lobbies, called lobby cards. Lobby card designers were in huge demand, and naturally our man Ira Schnapp was among the most popular. According to longtime DC artist Murphy Anderson, a friend of Schnapp's from the old days, "There were periods in the thirties when practically every movie house in Times Square had Ira Schnapp lettering on display somewhere!"

The two lobby cards shown below, again possibly done by Schnapp, represent of the type of material he would have been designing at this point in his career. Take special note of two typographical hallmarks that would later become a staple of Schnapp's work -- the unique style used to write "The" in The Winning Goal (left), and the thick, blocky script used for Baby Face Morgan (right).


The stamp-designing business had been revolutionized by new printing methods, and now the silent movie industry was slowly giving way to "talking pictures," or "talkies." The first feature-length, all-sound film, Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer, premiered in October 1927, signaling the end of the silent era. The new sound technology revolutionized the industry, and many actors and actresses lost their careers after their voices were heard in public for the first time.

The advent of sound synchronization also meant there was no longer any need for hand-.painted movie titles, Ira Schnapp's bread and butter. The national economy was heading into the Great Depression, and now, at the worst time possible, Ira Schnapp needed a new job. Fortunately for him, a former teacher and two teenagers in Cleveland were about to create not just a single job, but an entire new industry.

M.C. Gaines (pictured right) had been a school teacher, a principal, an entrepreneur specializing in advertising gimmicks, and a printing salesman. Then, in 1933, he created the .comic book. America's first comic book, a free promotional item, Funnies On Parade (1933), contained reprints of well-known comic strips. So did the first newsstand comic, Famous Funnies #1 (July 1934, pictured left), which Gaines dared to price at ten cents a copy. Was America willing to pay that much for a bunch of reprints?

Yes! The new form of entertainment Gaines had somewhat inadvertently created proved to be a tremendous hit, and, as chronicled in Ted White's famous fanzine article "The Spawn of M.C. Gaines," Maxwell Charles Gaines became the father of the comic book. Gaines had created a new medium! The medium still lacked its own distinctive superstar... but not for long.

Wait! I think I see him leaping into the story right now! Look! Down on the page! It's a bird! It's a plane... It's...

Superman, the "world's most popular adventure strip hero" is the creation of writer Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and artist Joe Shuster (1914-1992). The character was invented in 1933, .and intended for sale as a newspaper comic strip. Since the comic book industry didn't yet exist, newspaper strips were basically the only game in town.

Siegel and Shuster submitted Superman to nearly every editor of syndicated strips in America... and were turned down by ALL of them. Superman, one of the most unique and sophisticated characters ever invented, was rejected time after time as being "ordinary" and "immature."

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster went on to create other characters who were accepted for publication, such as "Spy" and "Slam Bradley," and as their workload grew, Superman was shelved in favor of these other projects. The days stretched into months, and after six long years of rejection and apathy passed, Joe and Jerry had just about given up hope that their new character would ever see print in a newspaper. As mentioned, the comic book industry didn't yet exist -- but that's only because Superman had yet to create it.

The comic book industry was created almost entirely by Jewish men who, like Ira Schnapp, had been swept up in the wave of immigrants seeking refuge from persecution by coming to America near the turn of the century. (Their complete story is told in the engrossing new comic book history tell-all "Men of Tomorrow," by Gerard Jones.)

Harry Donenfeld was born in Romania in 1898. After immigrating, the gregarious Donenfeld and his two brothers had inherited a small printing business from their father, and mob connections enabled them to use the distribution arm of the family .business to make a fortune rum-running during the days of prohibition. Notorious for his womanizing, heavy drinking and shady business practices, Donenfeld eventually ousted his siblings and changed the family printing company's name to Donny Press.

In 1929, Donenfeld found himself in need of a new business manager, and hired a friend's son -- a fellow Jewish immigrant who had been born Yakov Liebovitz in Proskurov, Ukraine in 1900. Now going by the name Jack Liebowitz, he was a skilled accountant and a dedicated socialist who had recently cooled on socialism and left his union position. Thus began the thoroughly capitalistic partnership of the real dynamic duo, Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz.

One of Harry and Jack's enterprises (they ran many, under many different names), was the Trojan Publishing Corporation. Trojan was officially owned by Adolphe Barreaux and Frank Armer, but Harry's wife, Gussie, was listed as an owner in the company's annual statements of ownership.

Trojan, located at 480 Lexington Avenue in New York City (future home of DC Comics), specialized in one of the hottest current entertainment fads: publishing text stories printed on cheap newsprint pulp paper, known as "Pulps." The sensational debut of Buck Rogers in the August 1928 issue of the Amazing Stories pulp and the phenomenal success of The Shadow in 1930 led Harry Donenfeld to attempt to create a popular pulp magazine of his own. One of Trojan's first titles was Super Detective (three early covers shown below).
Leaving aside the lurid cover paintings... the "Super Detective" logo is weak and unevocative, and its blurbage is almost entirely devoid of style. To make their titles stand out on the crowded magazine racks, Harry and Jack must have eventually realized that they would need to secure the services of a talented designer to create new logotypes and hand-render cover copy blurbs. Is there any evidence that shows when this designer might have been hired, and who he might have been?

Take a look at the ashcan and final versions of "Spicy Adventure Stories," from November 1934. An "ashcan" comic was a cheap, in-house collection of stapled photocopies created for the purpose of securing a copyright. Ashcans were never meant to be printed or seen by the public, and they often reveal a title's early direction and original or rough logotype.

Check out the two covers below. What looks to be the book's original logo has been replaced. The old version was amateurish and unreadable, while the new version looks sleek and sophisticated, spicy and adventurous! Almost as if Trojan Publications, aka Harry and Jack, had realized the overwhelming importance of a book's logo, and decided to hire a topnotch designer to create a memorable and professional-looking logo for their new "spicy" title!
According to comic fandom expert Jerry Bails, Schnapp started working for Trojan in 1934. Did Ira Schnapp design the "Spicy Adventure Stories" logo? Did he hand-render the logo and lettering for this classic pulp cover, just as he had once hand-etched stamp designs into metal plates, hand-carved letters into two prominent buildings, and hand-painted silent movie intertitles? The thick, blocky, serif lettering styles used on all three pieces is remarkably similar. Schnapp started at Trojan in 1934, so the timing fits! And the logo looks like it just might be Schnapp's...
According to DIAL B for BLOG reader (and comic historian) Mike Tiefenbacher, Schnapp also did some work for the Hal Seeger-edited “Stanhall Comics” line, which also had its offices at 480 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Stanhall, a combination of the names Stanley Estrow and Hal Seeger, was the humor-oriented, non-salacious part of Trojan. Stanhall Comics featured Ira Schnapp logos and cover lettering on at least four of its five titles, all pictured below:

Ira Schnapp designed the logos for G.I. JANE, THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER, MUGGY-DOO BOY CAT and OH, BROTHER!

The BROADWAY HOLLYWOOD BLACKOUTS logo seen right may also be one of Schnapp's. (He definitely did at least the cover lettering on BHB #2, as well as BHB #3, pictured right.)
But wait a minute -- how did Ira Schnapp go from creating silent movie intertitles to designing pulp and comic book logos? Is nepotism the answer, as has previously been thought, or is there another connection, previously overlooked, that really led Schnapp to the pulps? Reader, as usual, Robby's got the goods. Wherever you go, whatever you do, don't miss the next history-making issue of DIAL B for BLOG!



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