Hello reader! A few years ago, starting in Dial B #373, I did a ten-part series on DC comics designer IRA SCHNAPP. This was one of the best series I ever created, and the reason for that is because I dearly love Ira Schnapp! "Ira" Schnapp, whose given birth name was "Israel," created EVERY Silver Age DC logo and house ad, and perfected the immortal Superman logo.
As I said in my original article: "Designers -- look upon the work of Ira Schnapp and despair! You will never surpass it. You will never equal it! When we are all dead and buried, the work of Ira Schnapp will remain."
Recently, my friend Arlen Schumer curated an exhibit of Schnapp's work for the prestigious New York Typographer's Club, located in Manhattan. The club has been promoting excellence in typography for 65 years! Arlen's exhibit was titled, "THE SUPER TYPE OF IRA SCHNAPP."
To many people, this was just another art exhibit in a city FULL of art exhibits -- but to ME, Arlen's show is a landmark in the history of comic books and a red-letter day for the graphic designers of the world. It was a long, long, LONG overdue recognition of the unequaled talents of one of the greatest designers who ever lived.
Sadly, Ira Schnapp is no longer with us. He passed away on July 24, 1969 at age 75, shortly after DC forced him into retirement. Oh, how I wish he could've been alive to see Arlen's grand and glorious exhibit! Oh, how I wish... I wish. I wish! And so I, Robby Reed, author of this review, decided to do something about it.
What?!?!? Hey Robby, what the hell do you mean by that? Schnapp has gone to the great beyond. And you can't "do" anything about THAT. Wanna bet?
Perhaps all by myself I can't do anything about it. But as we all know, I have a dial. An AMAZING dial. If you've read my web site, you know that my dial is the most incredible device in the history of the world. When I use it to "Dial B for Blog," a new issue of my blog appears.
Other times I use my dial, it transforms me into various superheroes. And when I am a superhero, I hang out with all the other superheroes. I am personal friends with Superman, Batman, Spidey and all the rest. They tell me their secrets, and I put them in my blog, usually in the form of a "Secret Origins" series.
This is all true! In my mind that is. Play along. Play along, and Robby will take you to a place no living human being has ever seen!
Recently, I tracked down Deadman to see if he could help me. No dice. He sent me to the Spectre. Spec was no help either. He referred me to ACG's Nemesis, another supernatural hero who is no longer alive. Nemesis didn't help me himself, but he told me who COULD help me.
Nemesis said, "Robby, despite all their abiilities, none of the heroes you visited so far have the power to help you. Neither do I! Only ONE hero does, and it is HE you must seek out! His name is Kid Eternity."
Nemesis was right! Why didn't I think of him first? KID ETERNITY! With the power to summon those who have passed into the great beyond... those who have DIED.
So I contacted KID ETERNITY, asked for his help, and he agreed. In the blink of an eye, he transported both of us to the world beyond. A world that has never seen by any living human!
There we stood, poised in the clouds, and the Kid shouted to me, "Robby! Stand back! I'm about to use my POWER!"
I backed away to a safe distance. The Kid looked down into the clouds and spoke these words: "IRA SCHNAPP! I summon you from the great beyond! ETERNITY!"
A bolt of lightning struck, a massive clap of thunder rang out. And when the smoke cleared, there, standing before me, was IRA SCHNAPP. A small man, modest and unassuming, clad in a rumpled white shirt and tie, wearing black horn-rimmed glasses.
"Hello young man!" Ira said to me, "Why have you summoned me?"
"Ira, my name is Robby Reed, and I brought you back because there is something I very much want you to see."
"Well OK then," Ira responded happily, "Let's go!"
I pulled my dial out of my pocket, and dialed M for Manhattan. In the blink of an eye, we were both transported to New York City, right outside the Typographer's club on West 36th Street.
We walked inside the building to the elevator, and headed up to suite 603, home of the celebrated New York Typographers Club. The club was currently featuring an exhibit curated by Arlen Schumer, titled "The Super Type of Ira Schnapp."
"Mr. Schnapp, we're here. THIS is what I wanted you to see."
We opened the door and walked inside. Mr. Schnapp walked in very, very slowly. Then he froze in his tracks. He turned to me.
"What... what IS all this?" he asked in a state of awe.
"It's an exhibit of YOUR work," I replied.
Mr. Schnapp was stunned. He could hardly speak.
"All this ... for ME?!"
"YES! All for you. After all, Mr. Schnapp, YOU are one of the greatest typographers who ever lived! And you did it all by HAND! No computers back then."
Mr. Schnapp looked around, and tears began to spill down his face. He looked around the exhibit room as if he was gazing into some kind of unreal dream world. He was afraid that if he tried to touch it, it might vanish away. It was a long, rectangular room, filled on all sides with massive reproductions of Mr. Schnapp's best work. His best house ads! His greatest logos!
The exhibit's mastermind, Arlen Schumer, took great care in reviewing ALL of Mr. Schnapp's works, and selected the best of the best. He then recolored each piece, remaining slavishly faithful to the original coloring. Schnapp's various works were then blown up to enormous, wall-filling size, mounted on cardboard, and arranged for display. Some as a giant background, some by theme, some just THERE. No frills. One section was devoted to Schnapp's logos: Action, Detective, Brave and Bold, Spectre... I could go on and on.
The list of DC's Silver Age comic books is the list of Schnapp's logos! He did them ALL. Oh wait, not all. Only 99.9% of them. Mr. Schnapp stared at this section of the exhibit for several minutes, then got emotional again.
"My logos... all my logos! Flash... Green Lantern... Justice League... I can't believe it! And so BIG! Such beautiful colors! I didn't know such a thing was possible. This must have cost a million dollars!"
"No Mr. Schnapp, reproduction and printing has gotten a lot cheaper since your day."
"Haha! My day... my day..."
We moved on to a space devoted to Schnapp's half-page house ads displayed in a light box, backed with a billboard-size blow-up of Ira's DC "go-go checks" ad. The effect was magnificent! Museum quality!
"I remember THAT one!" Mr. Schnapp said, pointing at a half-pager with a hundred words stuffed into it. "Oy!"
Moving along, we came to a massive blow-up of a Superman cover featuring, of course, the classic Superman logo.
"My Superman logo," Ira declared. "Where did they dig THIS up from?"
"Mr. Schnapp," I said, "They didn't dig it up from anywhere. It's STILL IN USE TODAY! A version of it."
"Still in use?" Ira repeated in disbelief, "Still in use?"
"Yes. Your work has stood the test of time. It's immortal!"
"Oh, by the way, I heard a rumor that they had some SUPER help setting up this exhibit."
With that, Mr. Schnapp, a genuinely modest and humble man, began to cry tears of joy.
"Do people really know who DID all these things? Silly comic book ads. How could people know who I am?"
"Because I told them," Robby Reed replied.
"And did you create this amazing exhibit?"
"Oh no. No no no! I had nothing to do with it, really. All this was done by my friend Arlen Schumer. Together, we've told the world about you."
"But why? Why go to all this trouble just for little old me? Who am I?"
"You," I told him proudly, "are Ira Schnapp!"
"That I am," the plucky designer replied, "That I am."
"And there's MORE... come on, Arlen's about to start his lecture."
Now, on a warm May evening, in a room packed with typographers and designers, the lights dimmed and Arlen began to speak. Arlen, a man in his Fifties. Arlen, a man in his Fifties? As Mr. Schnapp and I listened, we saw and heard no man in his Fifties.
We saw a young boy bursting with all the glorious the enthusiasm of youth. Soaring, flying along with the rest of the superheroes. Yes, he wore a suit -- but draped around that suit was a full-size red Superman cape! How silly. How childish. How absolutely glorious! The lights dimmed, and the presentation began, backed by music! The theme of the old Superman TV show.
"The Superman logo!" Arlen began, "The Coke-Cola of comic book logos. It's the greatest logo of all time! I had to pick one Superman logo for this exhibition, to represent Ira Schnapp, and I chose this particular cover. It has all the elements you could want, all Schnapp-designed. Not only all the lettering you see on the cover, but graphic icons that you've taken for granted for years. The DC bullet logo, the Comics Code Stamp. These didn't just come out of nowhere!"
Arlen's lecture, accompanied by numerous slides, was a tour through the life and work of Ira Schnapp. From his formative years as a boy in Austria, to his family's forced immigration to the USA, to designing the lettering on the Manhattan Post Office, to his movie lobby cards, to his early days at DC, to Superman, Batman, Flash, and all the rest, to the bitter end, his forced retirement to Florida, where he passed away in 1976.
To me, Robby Reed, author of this review, Arlen's lecture was a landmark. A big-time audio-visual presentation in the most incredible city in the world -- New York! Manhattan! A presentation for the ages! The most comprehensive speech on the life and times of Ira Schnapp ever given. As Mr. Schnapp and I stood at the back of the hall and listened to Arlen, we were immaterial and invisible.
No one in the room could see or hear us. But we could see and hear everything. We could hear the crackling vitality in Arlen's voice as he discussed Mr. Schnapp's work, weaving it into the fabric of our culture.
"Nowdays," Arlen said, "People talk, in popular culture, about 'rebooting' something. The Silver Age Flash is the first example of an American pop culture icon reboot! And Schnapp was there, to design all the logos and icons that gave DC comics its Silver Age identity."
We could hear the audience react with joy and excitement as Arlen spoke, mesmerized by his presentation. And by the work of Mr. Schnapp! Many in the audience had never seen anything like it! Because there has never BEEN anything like it.
The entire crowd was like a 12-year-old on new comic day, braving wind and rain to make it to the store, then gazing at the spinner with unbridled wonderment. When the lecture concluded, Arlen hosted a reception with drinks and cookies.
Cookies. I call them cookies. But each one of these "cookies" was its own work of art, because each one was imprinted with an edible reproduction of a DC comic cover featuring one of Mr. Schnapp's logos! Superman, JLA, Flash, GL ... There was even a Metamorpho cookie. I picked up that one, and offered it to Ira.
"What is this? My Element Man logo -- on a cookie? Amazing! And we can really eat these? I can't believe it!" He took a bite, and again tears came to him.
"I'm eating a cookie with my work on it -- a logo I drew more than fifty years ago! It's... it's..."
"SUPER!" I suggested. "I'm going to save mine. Like when people saved their slice of the giant cake Superboy baked when he left Smallville."
"Oh yes, I remember that story."
"We all do. And that story had YOUR Superboy logo on it!"
"Yes! I guess it did. Well, they all did. And you say this entire display was done by one man? Schumer is his name? Who is this ARLEN SHUMER fella?"
"He's from New Jersey. He's a designer, and artist -- a graduate of the Road Island School of Design and a former student of Neal Adams."
"Haha! Good old Neal. He thought he was better than everybody in the business. Probably because he WAS! But did you say this Schumer fella graduated from RISDI!?"
Mr. Schnapp repeated incredulously, referencing the highly-respected school's famous nickname, "That's a fine art school. My work isn't fine art. It's just some silly old comic book stuff."
"Mr. Schnapp, you're wrong. Your work IS fine art. In fact, it's the world's finest."
"Haha! I get it," Ira laughed, "WORLD'S FINEST. I did that logo in a half an hour!"
"I bet you did! Hey, did any of them give you trouble?"
"Oh yes, that STRANGE ADVENTURES logo took forever. That was probably my worst one! I never had a knack for those mystery book logos. Another fella in the office, Gaspar Saladino, was great at those."
"Actually, I have to agree with you. So what, though! Your batting average is probably 900. That's higher than Ted Williams!"
"No maybe about it!"
"Mr. Reed... Robby... all this is just overwhelming. What Mr. Schumer has done for me here is... it's.... I have no words. He's immortalized me! So have you."
"No Mr. Schnapp -- you have immortalized YOURSELF. And it has been our very great privilege to point that out to the modern world."
"Robby, is it possible... can I meet Mr. Schumer?"
"No... I'm sorry, but we can't be seen or heard. It's the rules. But your son, Martin, can meet him! We'll arrange it."
"Wonderful! Can you tell me, is Mr. Schumer Jewish?"
"Actually, yes, he is, how did you know?"
"I'm not sure. I just thought. Can give Mr. Schumer a message for me?"
"Of course!" Mr. Schnapp scrawled something on a piece of paper and handed it to me.
"Please give him this."
"I will Mr. Schnapp. I will! I promise you that. And now my friend, Ira, if I may call you Ira, I'm afraid we have to go. I hear Kid Eternity calling me from beyond. We have to go back." There was a sudden burst of smoke, and Kid Eternity appeared.
He reached out and took Mr. Schnapp's hand, smiled at me, then shouted out his magic word once again.
"Shalom!" Mr. Schnapp bid me as he vanished.
Then, poof! All trace of Schnapp was gone. Yet he was not gone at all. I took a final look at Arlen's exhibit, the room he had filled to bursting with Schnapp's brilliant work, then pulled out my dial and used it to transport myself back home.
Reader, my name is Robby Reed. One day, I will pass from this mortal coil. One day, I will die. And so will you! And most likely, we will both be quickly forgotten. Life is so brief. Memories are so short. But Ira Schnapp will never be forgotten. Through events such as Arlen Schumer's superb exhibit and presentation, Ira's astonishing work will live on forever.
Funny thing. Schumer gave his entire presentation completely unaware of the fact that there with him, at the back of the room, stood the immaterial spirit forms of Robby Reed and Ira Schnapp HIMSELF.
But later, I deliver Mr. Schnapp's message to Arlen. It read: "Dear Mr. Schumer -- from a place no living human has ever seen, from half a century gone by, from a world that no longer exists... Israel Schnapp says, from the bottom of his heart, THANK YOU.' "
Arlen Schumer and Martin Schnapp, Ira Schnapp's son!
Arlen Schumer, letterer Todd Klein, and Marty Schnapp.