ANDELMAN: Well, to use the Marvel term, it’s astonishing, really. You guys only met twice in all those years, and yet, your work is so closely tied from that era.
SINNOTT: Never discussed the work. Never.
ANDELMAN: I’m baffled. Really.
SINNOTT: Of course, Jack and Stan used to write notes on the pages for each other. If Stan wanted something changed, or Jack didn’t like a certain way a story was being told or whatever, but when Jack sent the work to me, there was never, ever a note on the border saying Joe, would you do it this way or would you do it that way. And, of course, my son knows all the pages we did together. It astonishes me, Bob, sometimes also.
ANDELMAN: Do you have any guys that you were particularly close to from that era, from Marvel?
SINNOTT: No, no. Actually, it was pretty much the same as Kirby. They sent me the work, and they knew I was gonna do a complete, acceptable job when I returned it.
ANDELMAN: And where were you living at the time?
SINNOTT: I’ve lived in Saugerties all my life.
SINNOTT: Yeah. I was born here in 1926, and I went to the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York City for about three years, I guess it was. So I lived down on 74th Street and Broadway. Then I moved back up to Saugerties here when I got a firm account with Stan.
ANDELMAN: And that school you went to later became the School of Visual Arts.
SINNOTT: That’s right. Burne Hogarth was one of the directors there.
ANDELMAN: I think I saw that Silas Rhodes just passed away.
SINNOTT: Oh yeah. Well, I’d say it’s been about two or three years ago now.
SINNOTT: Oh, wait a minute. I thought you meant Burne Hogarth.
ANDELMAN: No, no, no. Silas. I think I just saw…
SINNOTT: I didn’t know that he passed away.
ANDELMAN: I think he was like 92 or something.
SINNOTT: He was. What a dynamic…They both were. Unbelievable. Both characters were dynamic personalities. Of course, Silas had been in the Marine Corps during World War II, and I would hate to have been under him, I’m telling ya. He was a, what do they call, not slave driver, but there’s another word.
ANDELMAN: Do you have a good story about him?
SINNOTT: Well, we used to call him “Rocky” when we were in school. He’d come around everyday, certainly. I’m telling ya, he was a dynamo. He was a strong person, and you could just see him in the Marine Corps. A lot of stories, little stories that he would tell. I remember one time he told me, he said, “Joe, you’re putting on weight. It’s not good. It’s very unhealthy.” I’m sure he was a health nut because he looked like he could take on a weightlifter. And like you just said, he lived to be 93, right?
ANDELMAN: Yeah. Yeah.
SINNOTT: It’s funny to think that as many times as I talked to him, that’s the one thing, of course two things, that’s the one thing I remember him saying to me, “Joe, you’re putting on a little weight.” I wasn’t aware that I was, but obviously, he could see it.
Another time when I was down at the school to apply for entrance, I had my little pencil and ink scratchings. I was very apprehensive about it cause I thought they weren’t good enough to get into school. So I went to see Silas Rhodes. He called me in, and he looked at my work, and he said, “Joe, this is really good stuff for a beginner. I gotta show these to Burne Hogarth.” And I was saying to myself he’s just saying that because they’re having trouble getting people into the school, and they want to make sure I come to the school. So he went in and showed the samples to Burne, and of course, Burne came out and told me, “Joe, these are pretty good for a guy at your stage.” I wanted to be an illustrator so I wanted to take the illustrating course. And Burne says, “No, Joe, you’re a natural-born cartoonist. I’ll tell ya, it’s not easy, it’s very hard, very hard work. But your work will lend itself perfectly to a comic strip or comic book cartoonist.” So that was the first day I was down at the school. Certainly, both of them impressed me so much at the time.
ANDELMAN: For people who don’t know Burne Hogarth, do you want to explain?
SINNOTT: Yeah. He was the illustrator for the newspaper strip “Tarzan.” It appeared in the New York Mirror back in those days. Of course, he was a great draftsman, and we used to love to have him come in and draw on the easel for us. He could draw anything you wanted. A sabertooth tiger or whatever. He was just a dynamic person and a great artist. He really was.
ANDELMAN: For a lot of cartoonists, especially in the action genre/adventure, he’s the gold standard, isn’t he?
SINNOTT: Exactly. Certainly one of them.
ANDELMAN: So when you come in there out of the blue, and Burne Hogarth tells you you’ve got what it takes, that must have been a pretty exciting day.
SINNOTT: Yes it was. Of course, I had come out of the Navy, and I didn’t go to school right away. When I came out, I was playing ball and having a good time, whatever. So then it came time, and I said, “I gotta go to art school.” And so when I went down there, we were doing some drawings in ink, and I was using a pen, and he came by me, and he knocked the pen out of my hand. He said, “Joe, in this school, we use a brush.” He was a great brush man. Here I was, about 21 years old. I wasn’t even aware that cartoonists used brushes. That’s how naïve I was. In those days, there were no conventions. You had no chance of ever meeting, especially up here in the mountains of the Catskills, I never met a cartoonist and never had the thought that I ever would whereas today, the kids, they see cartoonists all the time at these conventions. They know everything about the field even before they try to break into it. They know what supplies to use and what brushes and what pens and whatever. All I used was a post office pen that they used in the post office. The ones you dip in the inkwell.
ANDELMAN: Right. I did this biography of Will Eisner, and I remember he told me about taking his portfolio up to see Ham Fisher. He did Joe Palooka. And James Montgomery Flagg was there who did the famous Uncle Sam posters. And the big deal for him was he was just so overwhelmed, he didn’t know what to say to the man so he says, “What kind of pen do you use?” And Flagg said, “I use a 290 Gillette.” And so Eisner went out and bought nothing but 290 Gillette pens and used them for the rest of his life.
SINNOTT: Isn’t that amazing? Of course, the school used to get a lot of calls from people in the business or whatever. And they got a call from either NBC or ABC, one of the TV stations. There were only three at the time. And they wanted someone to come over on, I forget whose program, but Ham Fisher was the guest over there. And they wanted an art student to come over and talk with Ham Fisher about comic strips. So they used to send me on a lot of these errands, and so they called me up from the class, and they said, “Joe, Ham Fisher wants you to come over and ask you a few questions about school, things like that.” And I said, “Oh, I’m afraid not.” I thought I was too shy to go on TV. So I passed it up. They chose another friend of mine from the school, and he went over, and he came back, and he said, “You know what? Ham Fisher was showing the people on the easel how to draw Joe Palooka, and it was already drawn. It was in blue pencil, and you couldn’t see it, but he was tracing it.” Hey, those guys weren’t taking any chances, either. Another time, Ted Mack, I don’t know whether you remember Ted Mack.
ANDELMAN: “The Original Amateur Hour.”
SINNOTT: Yeah. He’s before your time. But anyway, they called me over. Well, the Amateur Hour used to be “Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour.” They could have still called it that. But, in any case, I was sent over there. So I did go over there and was up in the booth with him, and we were watching, I can still remember the Old Gold, the mother and the daughter. They were inside a cigarette pack, and they were both dancing on the stage. Do you remember that commercial?
ANDELMAN: I remember dancing cigarette packs.
SINNOTT: Well, that was Old Gold. So anyway, we watched that, and Ted’s agent was there, and he wanted me to do a caricature of Ted for Variety magazine. And I’ll tell ya, boy, I was nervous. And he said, “Make Ted look like a nice guy cause he’s really nice.” And actually, he was a really nice guy, but he looked like somebody from Guys and Dolls. How do you do a caricature of someone who looks like a gangster? I’ll tell ya, I was scared to death, and I kept drawing away. And Ted Mack said to me, “Joe, don’t be nervous. I’d like you to come with me over to one of the big nightclubs.” I just couldn’t do it. I said, “Ted, I really can’t.” I made up some excuse. I was just too scared. I really was scared. I was just a kid then. It would’ve been interesting. Looking back, I should’ve gone to see whom he would’ve met over there and whatever.
ANDELMAN: Well, to borrow the title of your biography, you had another brush with greatness, although I don’t know if you actually had contact with them. I suspect you didn’t. You did a comic based on The Beatles back in ’64, right?
SINNOTT: Yeah. 1964. They were on their way over to be on Ed Sullivan’s show, and Dell called me. They knew I did good likenesses, and they wanted someone who could do likenesses. So they asked me to do The Beatles book, which was 64 pages long. And I had a month to do it in. That was a lot of work in a short period of time. It came out really good, all things considered. They were very happy with it. Of course, I never did get to meet The Beatles. But the book is fairly unique, and it’s fairly rare, I guess.
ANDELMAN: And that was a project that you did the drawing for. You drew The Beatles for that. That wasn’t an inking job like you were known for much later. You drew The Beatles pages.
SINNOTT: Oh sure. Oh yeah, yeah. The book. A good friend of mine, Dick Giordano, he helped me out on a few pages toward the end. I was running out of time. Of course, Dick and I used to work many years ago together. I would pencil books for General Electric or Radio Shack, and he would ink them. Of course, that was an interesting period.
ANDELMAN: Now, I want to ask you about one more thing cause we’re running out of time. This is the summer, of course, that the Silver Surfer actually comes to life. I wondered if you have seen either of the Fantastic Four movies, and if you have, what you thought.
SINNOTT: Don’t embarrass me. No, I haven’t seen them.
SINNOTT: My family, my son, he’s a big comic fan, and he knows all about the comics. He took his two children to see it. Of course, they wanted me to go with them, but it was the first night, and I really didn’t want to go the first night because they get a lot of young people the first night. They pack the theaters, no question. I did see Spiderman 3 the first night, and it was hectic. The kids, they were quiet and everything, but there were just so many of them. I had to wait in line and all that. So anyway, I didn’t see it, but my son Mark, he’s quite a critic. He loved it. There were a few little things, naturally, he disagreed with, but he thought the Surfer was tremendous.
ANDELMAN: Yeah. It was great. I thought they did a great job with the Surfer. My daughter, who’s the upcoming comic fan in our house, she loved it. She just absolutely loved it.
SINNOTT: John Buscema and I did the first three Surfers. Of course, he continued with his brother for a while. I think they did maybe 17, 18 issues altogether. But I thought what a great character the Surfer was. Of course, John did a beautiful Surfer.
ANDELMAN: I think you have to go see the movie, not just to see what they did with the Silver Surfer, but I think you’ll get a kick out of Stan’s cameo in this particular movie.
SINNOTT: That’s what Mark said. The first couple that he was in, you could barely see him. Don’t blink, otherwise you’ll miss him. But I understand he had a little more…
ANDELMAN: Yeah, you can’t miss him in this one. It’s a very funny moment, especially for someone who’s known him as long as you have.
SINNOTT: He’s something, I’ll tell ya. He just called me about two days ago. And I was away from the “Spider-Man” Sunday comic strip for a while because my wife had passed away, and I was quite sick for a while. I was in the hospital three times.
ANDELMAN: I’m sorry.
SINNOTT: Yeah, over the last five months, so I had to hand over the “Spider-Man” to him, a friend of mine. And he very graciously took care of it while I was laid up. So I went back about, oh maybe a month ago, so Stan had to call me and tell me how great it was to be back working with me.
© 2007 by Bob Andelman. All rights reserved.