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THRILLING WONDER STORIES SUPERBOY #30 JIMMY OLSEN #53
.THE VISIONARY - PART 4 of 10
COMING SUPER-ATTRACTIONS!


IRA SCHNAPP, a Jew who immigrated from Austria to America in the early 1900s, found his destiny at DC Comics, designing logos and ads and hand-lettering comic book covers. Schnapp designed the ACTION COMICS logo, and his classic refinement of Joe Shuster's SUPERMAN logo remained totally unaltered for over four decades!

Yet in 1939, many people thought that Superman, and superheroes in general, were just a fad that would soon fade away -- just as the pulp magazines were slowly .fading away, supplanted by comic books and cheap, paperback novels. Many had already fled the dying pulp business to stake their claim in the world of comic books, including former pulp editor and writer Mort Weisinger (pictured left).

Weisinger came to DC determined to take over the Superman books, and equally determined to inject them with fresh ideas, both real and "imaginary" (see blurbs at right), which would prevent the character's popularity from fading away. Many of Weisinger's "fresh ideas" were borrowed from the pulps -- such as the recycled giant turtle man attacking the bridge scene pictured on the three covers at the top of this page, all former Weisinger books.

In the early sixties, Mort Weisinger teamed up with our hero, Ira Schnapp, to create a unique series of typographical ads meant to tease and torture kids into buying upcoming issues in DC's Weisinger-edited "Superman family" line: Action, Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Adventure. Weisinger wrote the copy, and Schnapp did the ads -- completely by hand, of course. No typesetting for Ira! Here we go, reader... it's the first-ever collection of ads featuring that super-memorable headline: "COMING SUPER-ATTRACTIONS!"

AUGUST 1960
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When the "Coming Super-Attractions" advertising campaign started, it featured ads such as the one above. Three rectangles filled with type, each a freestanding mini-ad in its own right, were placed at angles, over an all-black background studded with stars. No artwork of any kind was used, except for the logos of the books being advertised -- all of which had been done by Ira Schnapp, who also hand-lettered every ad in this unique series! (Actual covers for these books pictured below.)
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LOIS LANE #19 ACTION COMICS #267 ADVENTURE #275

NOVEMBER 1960
“Two themes in particular became hallmarks of Weisinger's editorial reign, interwoven heavily throughout the stories and reflected on the covers. The first was the growing emphasis on Superman's disguise as Clark Kent ... the other innovation Weisinger pioneered was an ongoing emphasis on Superman's Kryptonian heritage." --Mark Waid
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As the campaign progressed. images slowly started to creep into the ads. They weren't full cover images, just sections of covers, usually the main figures. The image of Superman in a wheel chair with Krypto at his feet, seen in the ad, was taken from the cover of Action #270, pictured below left.
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ACTION COMICS #270 ADVENTURE #278 SUPERMAN #141

JANUARY 1961
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The Weisinger/Schnapp ad above featured only one image, but it had a bit less type then was seen in previous ads.
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ACTION COMICS #272 SUPERBOY #86 JIMMY OLSEN #50
MARCH 1962
Here's a sort of "interim" ad -- a preview of Schnapp's ultra-dynamic, non-Weisinger advertisments. Here, the familiar red "Coming Super-Attractions" logo and starry-universe background are nowhere in sight. There's no miles of intriguing copy and no slogans, just the super characters and their logos...
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APRIL 1962
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Two years into the campaign, the images got bigger and bigger, and they appeared in more than one box. They're still not full cover images -- they're cropped to show just the main figure, leaving plenty of room for Ira Schnapp to work his magic by hand lettering Weisinger's ad copy. These boxes are very small, and Weisinger's copy is very long -- but still, Schnapp manages to hand render a different type style in each box!
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SUPERMAN #152 ACTION #286 LOIS LANE #32

FEBRUARY 1963
"I created the Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen books, over a lot of opposition, as spinoffs from Superman. The management protested that the characters weren't strong enough and they'd never go. But I had a gut feeling, and I talked to kids. I'm not taking credit for the success of those books, but I did know my Superman character and mythology, and the proof of success was in the box office.” -- Mort Weisinger
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The images have begun to take over in earnest now, with different cover figures dominating each box, including complete word balloons from a Jimmy Olsen cover. Weisinger's copy hasn't gotten any briefer, Schnapp is just using smaller letters!

This situation is typical in advertising, where copy writers eternally want to stuff entire dictionaries into the tiniest of ad spaces, and graphic artists must somehow wedge everything in and make it hypnotic and wonderful. This small, half-page ad contains 157 words -- and that's not even counting the three microscopic word balloons in box three -- yet somehow our man Ira makes it all look good!
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ADVENTURE #305 LOIS LANE #39 JIMMY OLSEN #67

JULY 1964
“I would bring out a new element every six months, to keep the enraptured kids who were our audience involved. Why should Superman be able to fly? Why should he have X-Ray Vision? It's contrary to science and to reason. I originated the concept that in a world circling a yellow sun his powers are multiplied, and that a yellow sun gave him these abilities." -- Mort Weisinger
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Here, in a bit of a throwback, Schnapp's type again dominates the ad -- but notice that the boxes have begun to burst out of their starry-universe background. Also, Johnny DC has popped up in the ad's lower right hand corner. Johnny, still wearing his graduation cap, reassures us that these are good, clean, quality DC comic books!
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LOIS LANE #50 ADVENTURE #322 JIMMY OLSEN #78

AUGUST 1964
Weisinger was not personally popular among his employees, to say the least. In fact, he had a reputation for backstabbing and duplicity. Weisinger's childhood friend, longtime DC editor Julie Schwartz, used to joke that when he passed away, Mort's he adstone should read: "Here Lies Mort Weisinger -- As Usual."
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In the ad above, the type still dominates -- but the images are getting bigger and bigger. The scene in box two shows the entire cover of Lois Lane #51 (actual cover pictured below). The titles of the stories are also increasing in size, and the massive amount of bombastic copy has been reduced to a single sentence per box.
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ACTION COMICS #315 LOIS LANE #51 ADVENTURE #323

SEPTEMBER 1964
“To make Superman more of a likable character, the type of story I became fondest of was the one where somehow he lost his powers and had to survive on his natural wits. I'd do that repeatedly. You could identify with him then, an outstanding character deserving of your admiration, a real hero because of the clever things that he did, when deprived of his super-powers.” -- Mort Weisinger
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This ad follows the same basic format as the previous one, but now full cover images have replaced cropped main figures, and copy is held to a maximum of one sentence per box (along with the book's logo and main story title). Back-up stories are mentioned only in box one, in an even smaller box within a box, within an ad, within a comic, within a planet, within a universe -- yeah, yeah, yeah!
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SUPERMAN #171 JIMMY OLSEN #79 SUPERBOY #115
Wonderful as these nostalgic ads are, they barely hint at the full range of Ira Schnapp's talent., which had yet to be seen. But all that was about to change... if comic books could survive the coming assault, that is!


CLICK HERE TO READ "THE VISIONARY" PART FIVE

SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT!
DELINQUENCY ON THE RISE!
U.S. SENATE BLAMES COMIC BOOKS!


IRA SCHNAPP TO THE RESCUE?!?!

You'll laugh until you cry at...

"THE BIG CHILL!"