A Sailor’s Story
Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.
Writer: Sam Glanzman
Artist: Sam Glanzman
Colors: Sam Glanzman
Letters: Sam Glanzman
Editor: Drew Ford
Review by PeteR
A Sailor’s Story is artist Sam Glanzman’s illustrated autobiography of his service in the Navy during World War Two on the ship, the U.S.S. Stevens. That description is akin to saying Huckaberry Finn is about a kid on a raft or “Moby Dick is about fishing. This is a deeply personal account of one person’s experience in the most brutal of crucibles. That it is presented in the graphic novel format heightens the journey for the reader.
Sam Glanzman, during his career in comics worked for Dell Comics on the series Combat and for Charlton Comics on Hercules, which lasted a total of 13 issues. Glanzman eventually found his way to DC Comics in 1970. There, under the wing of artist and editor Joe Kubert, Glanzman began providing four page back up stories about the U.S.S. Stevens. These stories appeared in various DC war comics including Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, G.I. Combat and Star Spangled War. Many of these stories were fictionalized versions of events that had happened to Glanzman or he had heard about from other sailors.
Sam Glanzman’s artwork is a hybrid between the styles of Dan Spiegle and Joe Kubert. Glanzman’s art for A Sailor’s Story is direct and unadorned by needless flourishes for the sake of sensationalism. Whether it’s his rendering of a combat scene, a couple of sailors having a conversation or a diagram of the interior of a destroyer vessel, Glanzman’s art is convincing and detailed with strong lines balanced with judicious use of shadows. The crewmen of the U.S.S. Stevens all have distinctive faces and body types. His technical drawings of various ships and airplanes could be used in a navel vocational manual or in Will Eisner’s preventive maintenance periodical, PS Magazine.
The story content of A Sailor’s Story originally appeared as two separate graphic novels published by Marvel Comics. The first, A Sailor’s Story came out in 1987 and the second, A Sailor’s Story, Book Two: Two Winds, Dreams and Dragons was published in 1989. Glanzman is credited as the colorist for Marvel’s two graphic novels. The new Dover Publications edition states “The artwork has been color corrected to closer reflect the author’s original vision”.
The first half of the book, A Sailor’s Story is a narrative of Glanzman’s life and times during the war. The second half of the book, A Sailor’s Story, Book Two: Two Winds, Dreams and Dragons are vignettes in the form of monthly travel logs of the U.S.S. Stevens and her crew. Both parts illuminate the horror of war, the foibles and grandeur of sailors as well as the ultimate authority of the Pacific Ocean itself.
Why you should buy this book? This is a graphic novel about real people and events. The tales are gritty and compelling. The artwork makes all of events more present and believable. This recent Dover Edition of A Sailor’s Story also contains a Forward by Max Brooks, an introduction by Larry Hama as well as an afterword by Chuck Dixon. There is also a section of tributes from such luminaries as Tim Truman, Beau Smith, Walt Simonson and Russ Heath. To complete the package, there is a ten page black and white story, Even Dead Birds Have Wings. Regardless of whether you are a scholar of World War Two, an aficionado of the Navy or just searching for an authentic tale of adventure, A Sailor’s Story is well worth your time and money.
There are no capes or spaceships in A Sailor’s Story but it is as close to time travel as you can experience.
Dover Publications has also recently released U.S.S. Stevens; The Collected Stories by Sam Glanzman. This is a massive tome, reprinting Sam Glanzman’s tales of the U.S.S. Stevens that were originally published in the various DC Comic’s war titles. The volume is an exceptional showcase of stories and should not be missed.