|Ira R. Schnapp|
|Born||Israel R. Schnapt
October 10, 1892
|Died||July 1969 (aged 76)
|Nationality||naturalized American citizen|
|Notable works||Action Comics logo
DC Comics house style
Ira R. Schnapp (October 10, 1892 – July 1969) was a logo designer and letterer who defined the DC Comics house style for thirty years. He designed the world-famous Action Comics logo, as well as scores of others for the company.
Life and career
Early life and immigration
Schnapp was born in Sassow, Austria, in a region called Galicia. A Jew, he came to America with his family some time before 1910, when he was 18 years old. 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."
Stonecutter, engraver, intertitle designer, and lobby card designer
Upon his arrival in the United States, Schnapp was already a skilled stonecutter, engraver, and graphic designer. In 1911, while still only 19 years old, Schnapp was hired to hand-carve the engraving on the front of the main branch of the New York Public Library: "MDCCCXCV • THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY • MDCCCCII". He then worked designing and engraving stamps for the United States Post Office Department, and in 1914 was hired as a stone carver for the post office. Schnapp personally designed the lettering, and hand-carved, the famous slogan "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" in the facade of the James Farley General Post Office. In the later years of the 1910s, Schnapp found work as a silent movie intertitle designer and movie theater lobby card designer.
Little is known about Schnapp in the 1920s, but by 1934 he was working as a title designer for Trojan Publishing Corporation, a pulp magazine publisher. Shortly thereafter, in 1938, Schnapp was hired by comic book publisher DC Comics for his first job. It was an association that lasted for thirty years. Schnapp worked for DC from 1938 to 1968, creating scores of logos and lettering countless covers and interiors, yet ironically he only received a single in-print credit (in Inferior Five #6, published in 1966). Most of Schnapp's work was done on front covers, and "mere" cover letterers (or interior letterers, for that matter) were never credited in the era in which Schnapp worked.
In mid-1938, Schnapp created the iconic Action Comics logo for DC. He also refined and perfected the Superman logo in 1940. Over time, Schnapp designed scores of logos for the company's comic books, virtually defining DC's look for 30 years. In addition to the Action and Superman logos, some of the more celebrated logos Schnapp designed include:
- Adventure Comics
- The Atom
- The Flash
- Green Lantern
- Justice League of America
- Metal Men
- Secret Origins
- Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane
DC house ads
Among many other books, Schnapp was the original interior letterer on Superman and Green Lantern. Despite his brilliance as a logo and title designer, however, in the words of comics historian Kirk Kimball, "Schnapp's word-balloon lettering was . . . surprisingly pedestrian." Most of Schnapp's interior lettering was done for DC's line of romance comics. In fact, pop artist Roy Lichtenstein used the splash page of a romance story lettered by Schnapp in Secret Hearts #83 (November 1962) as the basis for one of Lichtenstein's most iconic works. Lichtenstein slightly reworked the art and dialogue, and re-lettered Schnapp's original word balloon. Drowning Girl (1963) is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Comics Code Authority seal
In 1955, with changes brought about by Dr. Fredric Wertham and the adoption of the Comics Code, Schnapp designed the Comics Code Authority seal, which became a fixture on comic book covers for over forty years.
Carmine Infantino's appointment as DC's editorial director in 1966 brought about a major shake-up in the company. One of the first things Infantino did was bring in Gaspar Saladino as the new cover letterer for the company's entire line of comics. Long-time DC writer Marv Wolfman recalled that "DC kept Ira employed doing miscellaneous things around the production department because . . . management felt they owed him for all his great work." Saladino called Schnapp "'Mr. DC.'" . . . It was sad that when he left it was as though he'd never been there at all. So much of it all came down to business, though. It was to make money."
Schnapp left DC in 1968 and retired to Florida.
According to census documents, Schnapp married a woman named Beatrice in 1919, and the couple took up residence in the Bronx, New York. They had two children, Martin and Theresa. Schnapp died in New York in 1969.
Mark Evanier, on the Superman logo:
It's probably the best logo ever designed for a comic book, and maybe for anything, anywhere.
Kirk Kimball of Dial B for Blog:
Readers — designers — look upon the work of Ira Schnapp, and despair! You will never surpass it! You will never equal it! You will never even come close to it! Try to imagine a world where Schnapp's work never existed... It simply can't be done, because Schnapp's designs are inextricably woven into the very fabric of American pop culture. That is a legacy most designers can only dream of.
- Kimball, Kirk. "Present at the Creation". Dial B for Blog. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
- Kimball, Kirk (October 10, 2006). "The Big Fall!". Dial B for Blog.
- Kimball, Kirk. "The Ira Schnapp Story". Dial B for Blog. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
- Social Security Death Index. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
- Kimball, Kirk. "The Big Chill". Dial B for Blog. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
- B.D.S. "Gaspar Saladino Interview". The Silver Age Sage. Retrieved July 19, 2008.