Written by Bryan Stroud
Samuel Joseph Glanzman (born December 5, 1924) was an American comics artist and memoirist. Glanzman is best known for his Charlton Comics series Hercules, about the mythological Greek demigod; his autobiographical war stories about his service aboard the U.S.S. Stevens for DC Comics and Marvel Comics; and the Charlton Comics Fightin' Army feature "The Lonely War of Willy Schultz" - a Vietnam War-era serial about a German-American U.S. Army captain during World War II.
In 2003, Glanzman began working on webcomics, writing and drawing the 19th-century nautical adventure Apple Jack, and re-teaming with his "Willy Schultz" writer, Will Franz, on the Roman centurion series The Eagle. In 2012 and 2013, new "U.S.S. Stevens" stories by Glanzman appeared in the Joe Kubert Presents six-issue anthology limited series.
Mr. Glanzman passed away on July 12, 2017.
Sam Glanzman was one of the last of the Golden Age artists and I felt it a particular privilege to speak with him. He was warm and personable and his autobiographical U.S.S. Stevens stories made me feel like I was sort of acquainted before we ever started. During the interview he mentions his "Sleepy Holler" strip that he tried to shop to the syndicates (I later learned the brothers were named after he and his real life brothers) and one day he surprised and delighted me by sending the proof sheets and one original strip from the unpublished series, which is a treasured memento of a great gentleman and a genuine World War II participant who deserves our undying respect and thanks. Fair winds and following seas, shipmate!
This interview originally took place over the phone on May 13, 2009.
Bryan Stroud: I did a little research and I see the Grand Comics Database has listed over 1300 credits for you. That’s a pretty impressive body of work and I’m sure it doesn’t include everything. Does that figure surprise you at all?
Sam Glanzman: No, it doesn’t surprise me, because I’ve done a lot of work, but I haven’t counted it.
Stroud: I’m sure you haven’t. It looks like you started back in the early 40’s, is that correct?
SG: Well, my first published comic was the Flyman. I can’t remember if that was after the war or before the war. Anyway, that was my first job and it paid practically nothing for the storyline and the pencils and the inks.
Stroud: You had to do the whole thing, huh?
SG: Yeah. I didn’t do the lettering. I’ve never done any lettering.
Stroud: Well, that’s okay. You’ve done everything else. Has anyone else ever inked after you or have you always just done your own?
SG: (Chuckle.) No, nobody could ink my pencils because my pencils are almost like stick figures.
Stroud: Very loose, huh? I see that you’re basically self-taught as an artist.
SG: Yeah, when I was a kid I copied Hal Foster and a fella by the name of Kidd who used to illustrate for the Daily News. I can’t even think of all the guys I used to copy.
Stroud: Milt Caniff, maybe?
SG: No, I never copied Caniff, but Hal Foster, yes. I copied a lot of the pulp guys. Wood pulp magazines. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them.
Stroud: Yeah, I sure have.
SG: Morton Stoops was one of them. He was a wood pulp artist, and I already mentioned Kidd. I used to copy everybody, and that’s how I learned how to draw.
Stroud: Well, it worked out for you just fine.
SG: (Laughter.) Yes, it did. It became my second profession.
Stroud: What was your first?
SG: Bullshit artist.
SG: Joking, just joking. Actually, I had all kinds of professions. I used to work in lumber yards and cabinet shops and boat yards and Republic Aircraft. Before comics I spent most of my time in cabinet shops.
Stroud: I guess it wasn’t too hard to switch to something a little easier on the body.
SG: That’s right.
Stroud: Back when you were at it, Sam, comics sometimes didn’t have a very good reputation. Did that give you any second thoughts?
SG: Well, I forget who they were, but a couple of guys didn’t pay up and they disappeared. Another thing, too, this was maybe before the war and you know I’ve got a Jewish name. My father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic and they were against Jews during the war and so I used to use the name “Glanz,” and sometimes another name just to get free from that. I can’t remember what the other name was.
Stroud: That’s okay. You’ve got a lot of things to look back on, so some of it may be a little hazy.
SG: Speaking of a lot of things, I’m trying to clean up my studio as we speak and you wouldn’t believe all the crap I’ve got around here. Unbelievable. I’m throwing away a bunch of old comic books and everything.
Stroud: I bet there’s a few years accumulation there.
SG: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of the Sgt. Rock and G.I. Combat stuff.
Stroud: That was how I stumbled across you, actually, Sam. I was looking through an old issue of G.I. Combat and back at the end in the letter column you’d written up a mini-autobiography and a self-portrait sketch.
SG: Which issue was that?
SG: Maybe I’ve got it here. (Pause.) I guess I’m not that far yet. So far I’m only up to #146. Anyway, I’ll have to check that out.
Stroud: Among other things you were talking about riding a Freedom Machine. I presume that was your Harley?
SG: (Laughter.) No. All my life I’ve wanted a Harley. I used to buy a bike and ride it and then I’d sell it and take the money to go to casinos hoping I could win enough to buy a Harley. I must have owned about seven bikes over the years, but I sold them off and I never did get my Harley. Now I don’t have a bike, I don’t have a Harley and I don’t have the money! I sold my last bike in 2004 and I’m thinking I’m pretty old now and the wife is a little worried about me driving them, but I sure would like to get another one.
Stroud: I can’t blame you, though I can’t blame her, either. I had a teacher once who got a bike a little later in life and he had a cartoon on his desk showing an old man in leathers on a chopper in front of his wife with the caption, “As the years dwindle down to a precious few I figured…what the hell?”
SG: (Laughter.) You know what my saying is? I ain’t afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens. That’s my favorite saying. I got it from someone else.
Stroud: It’s very good. I’m guessing your Navy service was a big help in your later career.
SG: Well, I write a lot of stories about her, my ship, you know. Yeah, that really helped because DC picked up on my war stuff.
Stroud: Yes, and a lot of the equipment you drew looked so accurate it looked like reference material all on its own.
SG: Well, I had a sketchbook and I think I gave it to the guy who did Jonah Hex stuff.
Stroud: Tony DeZuniga?
SG: No. Tim Truman. Anyway, the sketchbooks were what I often used for reference and I remember a lot of my ship and also of course I’ve got a good reference file on ships and stuff like that.
Stroud: I was really impressed with your aircraft and tanks and so forth. They were just outstanding.
SG: Well, I don’t just draw them out of my head. I use a lot of reference, buddy. I want to make sure its right.
Stroud: That’s what Russ Heath told me, as well.
SG: Russ’ stuff is very good. Russ is great. Next to Joe Kubert. Joe Kubert is tops. Nobody can come anywhere near Joe Kubert.
Stroud: He’s fantastic, isn’t he?
SG: Joe Kubert is unbelievable.
Stroud: He’s still doing work, too. I guess you knew that.
SG: Oh, yeah, he still works. By the way, did I hear right that Ric Estrada died?
Stroud: Yeah, just this month.
SG: He was good, too. Ric Estraada was good, too. I don’t think many people picked up on him. He was very good.
Stroud: He sure was. A sweet man, too. I got to talk to him just a few weeks ago.
SG: Nice guy, yeah. I got to meet him a few times when I used to go to the conventions.
Stroud: Do you go to them any more, Sam?
SG: No. I used to have a camper, so we’d go from New York to California with the camper, my wife and I. We just recently got rid of it, so no, I don’t go to conventions any more. I’d like to. Maybe I’ll pick up another one again. I don’t know.
Stroud: It looks like the vast majority of your work was in Westerns and jungle adventures and animal stories and of course the war titles. Did you have a favorite?
SG: Yeah, my own. Kona and Attu. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of that.
Stroud: I believe so.
SG: That one (Attu) I made up completely and did everything except the lettering. I had the idea of him going into the future and everything else. I’ve got a bunch of ideas in my head for new stories, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it.
Stroud: I notice you’ve done some script work. Do you like to write or do you prefer to draw?
SG: Well, I like the script work because I get paid for the storyline. So if I do the script I get paid for that. If I’m doing someone else’s story I don’t get paid for that. I like doing my own script when I can. I’ve done Sgt Rock with other writers and Haunted Tank, of course.
Stroud: Is it true that you created the Sarge Steel character?
SG: No. The only thing I created was the U.S.S. Stevens, Attu and “A Sailor’s Story.” I did some stuff for Marvel called “Mas.” That was a war thing, too.
Stroud: Did the comics code ever cause you any trouble?
SG: It seems like something I did with Tim Truman might have been a little bit of a problem, but they never bothered me. By the way, you should be on the lookout for a new book that I think is called “Joe Kubert Presents.” It should be coming out pretty soon. In fact, I just did a story for him and I’m waiting to get paid. (Chuckle.)
Stroud: Oh, good. You’re still doing some work then.
SG: Hell, yeah.
Stroud: Good for you.
SG: The story I did for him, of course, is the U.S.S. Stevens. The first one is titled “My son, my son.” So, look for it when it comes out.
Stroud: I sure will.
SG: I don’t know too much about the project. I hadn’t really bothered Joe about it, but apparently, it’s going to be a thick book.
Stroud: Sounds like it will be a nice anthology edition.
SG: Well, as I said, I don’t know too much about it, but when he told me he would like me to do some work for him I said, “Send it up. I’m ready!” He asked me to do the storyline and everything, so I did the story, the pencils, the inks, the coloring. Everything but the letters.
Stroud: Wow. That’s impressive, Sam. How long did it usually take you to do a page?
SG: (Chuckle.) What a funny question. I never timed them. First of all I’ve got to think about it, and then I’ve got to lay it out and decide how many panels. Then I’ve got to figure out what to put in the goddamn panels, and I’ve got to figure out composition. I’m very tight on composition. It’s important to me. How can I explain this? You’re looking at a page of comic book art?
SG: Well, I don’t want you to take your eye off of that page. That’s my purpose. So, I try not to have any of the figures looking off of the page, or any of the airplanes flying off the page, or any of the ships going off the page, you follow what I’m getting at?
Stroud: Yes, I do.
SG: In other words, I want to hold your interest. If a plane is going off the page, it’s likely that just for an instant your eye may go off the page and you see something interesting and you forget, you know what I mean?
SG: I like composition from the old masters. All of their corners are strengthened. It’s like building a house. You’ve got to strengthen the corners. It’s very involved. I used to make thumbnail sketches of the masters. When I lived on Coney Island I did a lot of comic book work and I used to have to go to Manhattan in New York. I had to take a train to get there from the island. The train used to stop at Grand Central Station and there used to be an art museum in the station if I remember correctly and every time I’d take my work into the comic publishers, I’d stop by the art museum and study the masters. I used to take a pen and pad and I would make rough sketches in black and white of their composition of their paintings. If you notice most of them…it’s very subtle, you’ve got to really know what you’re looking for, when you look at the old masters you’ll see that all of their corners are strengthened. And by that, I mean, take for example a picture of a house and a tree. You’ll notice in say, the upper right-hand corner you’ll see a tree branch coming off in such a way that it’s strengthening that corner. It’s very difficult to explain. I’d have to draw you a picture, buddy.
Stroud: I think you did a pretty good job. Did you ever do any covers, Sam or was it all interior work?
SG: I think only for my own stuff like Attu and “A Sailor’s Story.” I think I did one cover for DC for The Haunted Tank. It was pretty lousy. I’d like to do it over again.
Stroud: Did you ever do any syndicated strip work?
SG: No, but I was a fraction of an inch close to getting a job with the syndicate. The owner of the syndicate really loved it. It was a storyline about three guys who lived up in the mountains and it was called “Sleepy Hollow.” He loved it and I had to draw up 15 issues or more, I forget how many I did now, and they printed them up and his salesman took my job, “Sleepy Hollow,” and also that Viking comic strip. What was the name of that one?
Stroud: Hagar the Horrible?
SG: Right. That’s it. So, his agent took my stuff and Hagar around trying to sell it to the various newspapers and apparently, they liked Hagar better than mine. I think they pushed Hagar and Hagar took and mine didn’t take.
Stroud: Oh, doggone.
SG: (Chuckle.) Well, what can you do?
Stroud: You’ve worked for a lot of the publishers, Sam, like Harvey and Dell and Marvel and Charlton and of course DC. Did you have a favorite?
SG: I would do my work, take it in, drop it on the desk and leave and go home, so it was all the same to me. That’s the trouble with me, buddy. I don’t know anything about my business. (Chuckle.) And I never asked for my artwork back. I’ve got thousands of pages of artwork out there somewhere and somebody’s making a buck on it, but I ain’t. Well, I should mention DC used to give me my stuff back. Most of it anyway. But I never thought to ask for it, either.
Stroud: Well, and who knew back then that one day it would be worth a lot?
SG: Yeah, if I knew back then what little I know now, which is nothing…
SG: I’d still be nowhere. But, Joe likes my stuff and that’s good.
Stroud: It sure is. I saw where you’d done some work as recently as 2006 for Image Comics?
SG: I’m not sure. Every so often I’ll get a request to do a one-page feature. I don’t pay much attention to who it’s for.
Stroud: It doesn’t look like you did hardly any superheroes. Was that because nobody asked or did you not care to do them?
SG: I did a superhero way, way, way back. Right after I got out of the service. I think it was called Blue Bolt. Did you ever hear of that guy?
Stroud: I sure have.
SG: I think I did a couple of issues on him, but that’s about it. Well, that and Flyman. Those were the only superheroes.
Stroud: Is it true that D.C. Glanzman is your brother?
SG: Yeah, that’s my younger brother Dave. Now listen my older brother, Louis Glanzman, he’s the real painting artist. You can’t get anything off of him unless it’s six figures. He’s got stuff hanging everywhere. He did I don’t know how many covers for Time Magazine. His work is in museums. He did a lot of work for National Geographic. He’s a real painter. He’s 87 now and I don’t think he’s doing any current work.
Stroud: It sounds like artistic talent runs in the family.
SG: Well, Dave didn’t do artwork.
Stroud: He was a writer at Charlton, wasn’t he?
SG: Well, I don’t think so. I think somebody pushed that idea, but I doubt it. I don’t think so. He had something to do with the printing. Checking the pages or something. I don’t know.
Stroud: Like an editor?
SG: No, not an editor. Just a workman.
Stroud: Are you still doing commission work, Sam?
SG: Not really.