Making an Indelible Mark (Encouragement for Creators)

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We all have hopes and ambitions in life — dreams of achieving great things. But sometimes the road to fulfilling our fondest dreams takes us to unexpected places. These places may be momentary detours or side stops on the way to our final destination; but occasionally the “side stop” ends up actually being the end of the journey, the place where we’ll make our mark in the world. We can’t always be sure if and when this is the case. We can, however, make sure that we take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way, even if it’s not the perfect fulfillment of the dream, or the best use of our gifts and talents.

Many of us have “day jobs” which pay the bills while we wait for our “big break” in life. But will we recognize that one great opportunity when we see it? Not always. So it’s important to be open to the “detours” and “side stops” we encounter; to use our time and talents wisely, but also to be willing to use them in less than ideal situations which, at first glance, may seem far short of where we want to be.

This means allowing God to use us when and where He needs us. And that means making ourselves available — always faithful and humble, especially with respect to our God-given abilities. It also means being a servant. Above all, it means approaching every job, no matter how insignificant it may seem, with energy and enthusiasm, always doing our best, always giving 100%!

Israel Schnapt understood these principles well. He was an 18-year-old Jewish graphic designer and engraver who emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1910. After arriving in New York, he simplified his name to Ira Schnapp and started looking for work. Schnapp held a variety of jobs, including designing and engraving U.S. postage stamps, and lettering the filmed title cards for silent movies.

Schnapp was also a highly skilled stonecutter, and in 1911 the City of New York hired him to design and hand-carve the lettering above the main branch of its library: MDCCCXCV • THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY • MDCCCCII. Three years later, Schnapp designed and carved this famous phrase above the entrance to New York’s James Farley General Post Office: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Due to the historic significance of these facades, Schnapp’s contributions to Americana are impressive, but his greatest contributions to pop culture were yet to come.

In 1938, Ira Schnapp was offered a job at DC Comics designing title logos for its magazines. The great American comic book was still in its infancy, and working on so-called “funny books” wasn’t exactly something to brag about. Schnapp could have easily and understandably rejected the offer. He’d already left some impressive and enduring marks on U.S. history, so to create the mastheads for what the general public considered lowbrow and “disposable” entertainment, was a huge step DOWN! But Schnapp was open to any legitimate venture that allowed him to use his talents. He decided to give the new opportunity a shot, and see what he could create in the new arena of comics.

Apparently, Schnapp soon discovered he actually enjoyed working for DC (—at the time, the company was called National Publications). He stayed with the publisher for 30 years, until he retired, lettering covers and creating dozens of inspired logos for comics, including such mainstays as Action Comics, The Flash, and Justice League of America. Along the way, Schnapp created one of the most recognizable logos in the world: the stunning title for Superman comics.

Ira Schnapp left indelible marks on both the New York Public Library and comic book history. All because he was humble and open to new opportunities; because he made himself available; because he saw a need for his special gifts and talents and decided to fill that need. Because he knew the importance of making the most of every circumstance and situation.

Few of us can be certain when or where we’ll make our big mark in life. Will that mark be left on newsprint or canvas, on TV or in the movies, in a boardroom or at a soup kitchen, on a military installation or in the mission field — or in the stone blocks fronting some public edifice? We won’t know, really, until we reach the end of our journey and look back. So don’t take chances; be open to all of those little detours and side stops you encounter along the way. And wherever you find yourself, always remember to bloom where you’re planted.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23 New King James)

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Not Just Lucky (Or, What’s YOUR Brand?)

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For most Americans during the Golden Age of Hollywood, his was the most recognizable face in movies. He was handsome and well built, with a distinctive voice and presence many perhaps found intimidating.

Weissmuller, as Tarzan, tries to steal this big scene.

He began his film career in 1926, and during the next thirty years he appeared in over 100 movies. MGM, the studio that employed him, was so pleased with his work that they ensured he was featured in at least one brief scene in nearly every picture they produced, including such classics as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. And yet, he’s never listed in any of the movies’ credits!

He posed for publicity photos with legendary Hollywood starlets, including Greta Garbo, and often participated in studio promotional tours. His most enjoyable performances, however, were in a series of low-budget Tarzan movies, in which he played opposite the Olympic Gold Medalist (for swimming)-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller. Only in these cheaply-made jungle flicks did he get the opportunity to truly show off his acting chops.

However, the most remarkable part of his career was his uncanny good fortune. He survived two train wrecks, an earthquake, and a studio explosion! But his most amazing death-defying escape involved a plane crash!

Wreckage of Leo's plane!
Wreckage of Leo’s plane!

Shortly after departing from San Diego, on a heavily-reported publicity tour, the star’s specially designed single-engine plane crashed in the Arizona desert. The pilot, Martin Jenson, left his VIP (very important passenger) lounging in the “guest suite” with plenty of sandwiches, milk, and water, and then made a four-day trek through the wilderness. Once Jenson found a phone, he called the studio bosses, who immediately wanted to know just one thing: Was their star okay?

Miraculously, MGM’s most visible talent came out of the crash totally unscathed. So, the folks at the studio started calling their star Leo the Lucky. That wasn’t his real name, of course, but he did look like a “Leo.” Have you guessed the identity of this ubiquitous performer? His name was Jackie. Just Jackie. He was the famous MGM lion who roared (perhaps a bit irritably) at the beginning of most of the studio’s movies.

Jackie patiently awaits her close-up.
Jackie patiently awaits his close-up.

We can imagine that you’re wondering exactly how we intend to use this bit of biography to encourage dreamers to never give up and creators to keep on creating. Well, it’s like this….

Actually, we just thought it would be fun to write about Leo, one of the most recognizable trademarks in the world, and…. Hey, that’s it! Trademarks! Branding! That’s how we’ll round out this story!

Trademarks can facilitate and protect the dreams of creators and entrepreneurs. And maintaining a recognizable brand name can ensure that writers, artists, singers, and musicians — as well as designers, manufacturers, and inventors — keep a loyal following; which is necessary if these creators hope to sufficiently fund their work (and hence, be able to continue pursuing their dreams).

The MGM Grand Hotel proudly displays its famous trademark.

Companies rely on trademarks to protect their products and services. And of course, brand names help consumers to find these commodities. And believe it or not, some authors and artists have gone so far as to trademark their names.

Publishing competitors Marvel and DC Comics even joined forces to trademark the word superhero. So, although third-party companies may use the word inside a comic book, these publishers who arrived late to the party CANNOT use superhero in their magazine titles or anywhere else on the covers of their books. In this way, industry giants Marvel and DC hope to ensure that readers looking for exciting tales of good guys in colorful costumes will pick up one of their comics.

Personally, we too have a “brand” — and we share it with all those who believe in Jesus Christ. We identify ourselves as followers of the Son of God, who’s also known in the scriptures as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah! He may not have had His own dressing room at MGM, but His story is far more fascinating than even Leo’s. And His “stamp” of approval is upon all His creations, including the earth and all its inhabitants — even the feathered, furry, and finny ones!

Leo wasn’t just Lucky! The protection of MGM’s mascot is a perfect example of how much God cares about all His creation. The Psalmist writes, “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations. All the creatures look expectantly to you to give them their meals on time. You come, and they gather around; you open your hand and they eat from it.” (Psalm 104:24-30 MSG)

Does the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” care about you too? Absolutely! You are His highest creation, “fearfully and wonderfully made” in God’s “own image.” (Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 139:14 KJV) And He loves you dearly! (John 3:16)

Jesus said, “Stop being worried or anxious about your life [and your
dreams]…. Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow [seed] nor reap [the harvest] nor gather [the crops] into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they?”
(Matthew 6:25-26 AMP)

Indeed you are! So go ahead and roar!

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