Self-portrait of the artist/series subject. Artist: Sam Glanzman.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1970
Creator: Sam Glanzman
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The drama of war, with heroes and villains trying to kill each other, often makes for an exciting comic book story — even if it can sometimes be a little hard to tell which is which. But as much fun as it can be to watch Sgt. Fury or Gunner & Sarge dodging bullets, nonfiction comics about war, such as Maus or I Saw It, often rise to the level of true classic. The autobiographical stories about the destroyer U.S.S. Stevens, by cartoonist Sam Glanzman (also known for fictional war comics such as The Iron Corporal and the …

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Dell Comics adaptation of Tales of the Green Berets) have garnered critical acclaim completely out of proportion to their prominence in the field.

The first Stevens story appeared in the back pages of DC's Our Army at War #218 (April, 1970), where the cover and lead story concerned the long-running Sgt. Rock of Easy Co. The hero's name was said to be Bridge Commander T.A. Kelly, but the story was based on Glanzman's personal experience with a kamikaze attack while serving aboard the real-life U.S.S. Stevens. Unlike most of Glanzman's comic book work, this one was done without the aid of a separate scripter.

Stories about The Stevens appeared sporadically, still packaged as fiction, in the back pages of G.I. Combat (where The Haunted Tank was the star), Our Fighting Forces (The Losers), Star Spangled War Stories (The Unknown Soldier) and even Weird War Tales (The War that Time Forgot, The Creature Commandos) for the next couple of decades. Altogether, DC published more than 50 of Glanzman's U.S.S. Stevens stories — but they never did break out of the back pages.

The last few were still staggering to the newsstands when Glanzman took his autobiography to Marvel Comics — this time, written in the first person and making no bones about the fact that they were true stories. Marvel published them as two graphic novels, under the name "A Sailor's Story", in 1987 and 1989.

At Marvel, they made only a little more impact on the publishing end of the comic book industry. But critically, it's generally agreed that they're among the best work Glanzman ever did.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Sam Glanzman.