September 2011
For 11 years now I've had the pleasure and envy of being friends with a childhood idol of mine; the guy that wrote the COOLEST episodes of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Donald F. Glut. Any comic book fan worth his salt could view an episode of Amazing Friends and tell that Don was the guy with a wealth of Marvel Universe research behind him.
Q) To give the readers some background on yourself, what had you been doing preceding working for Marvel Productions LTD. and what led to you getting work there?

Don Glut: That's a very long story - too long to go into any great details here. Suffice it to say that I'd had a number of "careers" before working for Marvel Productions. I'd been a musician/singer, copywriter, bookstore clerk (thankfully, for just a very short time), and actor, but also a writer. Before Marvel Productions, I'd written for "monster," psychic phenomena, teen, and movie magazines, among others. And also for comic books, mostly for Gold Key and Warren, but for other companies too, including Marvel. At Marvel Comics, I'd been doing most of my script-writing for my
friend, Roy Thomas. When Roy Thomas moved to Hollywood and gave up his position at Marvel Comics as editor in chief (when Jim Shooter 
replaced him) a lot of us West Coast

Don Glut!

freelancers suddenly found ourselves unemployed. It was a natural evolutionary step for us to move into TV animation. Working on the comic books - being trained to think visually and to work fast - really helped us in making the transition to animated cartoons. Before working at Marvel Productions I'd already amassed a good list of credits working for other animation studios, like Filmation and Hanna-Barbera. When I found out that Marvel was starting up its on animation studio, I just phoned them, told them who I was and what I had done and could do … and that was that.

Q) For Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, you wrote four episodes in the first season and an uncredited re-write on "The Prison Plot". What was the process for choosing which episodes you got and how many you got to write?

One of Don's many comics

Don Glut: It was really kind of a race with all the writers competing to get their ideas heard first and then get a positive response. You pitched a basic idea to story editor Dennis Marks. If he liked it, he hired you to write an outline. If he (and I think also the network and network censor) approved the outline, then he'd hire you to write the script. The outlines were really the hard part, because that's where you had to break down your plot scene by scene. Writing the script was basically filling in the blanks - and you got paid a lot more for a script than an outline. Almost all of my scripts were generated by me, and I kept pitching cross-overs (because I liked them) with other Marvel characters (e.g., Captain America, Kazar, Thor, the Black Knight, Sub-Mariner, etc.). I think there were only two plots that Marvel gave to me. One was "Along Came a Spider-Man." They wanted me to write the origin story - and it took so long to get the censor's approval of letting Uncle Ben die that I lost out on writing 
a lot more episodes, not to mention getting on the Hulk series. "The Prison Plot" was literally dumped on me. The thing was a real mess and I was brought in to "fix" it. Needless to say, it's the least favorite of the episodes I worked on. As to how many we got to write? As many as we could get before all the slots were filled by other writers.

Q) Since you were a comic book fan growing up, what was your opinion at the time to be writing superhero cartoons instead of comic books (specifically related to the 'Broadcast Standards and Practices')? Were the standards so strict that you felt like the cartoons weren't doing the characters justice?

Don Glut: I never felt I was writing those shows for the kids. I was really writing them to please the censor - i.e., BS&P - and later, with shows like Transformers and G.I. Joe, to please the toy companies. Yes, it was frustrating. But the money was a lot better than what the comic books were paying, and the scripts were easier (for me, anyway) to write. Also, there was the caveat of the TV cartoons maybe leading to yet bigger and better things, like movies.

Don's Spider-Man film

Q) I’ve always thought that BS&P was the reason you once mentioned that you preferred your work on the 1981 syndicated Spider-Man cartoon than what you did on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.
Don Glut: Correct. With the syndicated Spider-Man series – which was done to add more episodes to the old 1960's series, so that series would be more saleable in reruns – we didn’t have the censorship/BS&P situation we did with the network Amazing Friends series. Of course, we couldn’t go “too far,” but I did get away with having a Nazi villain and, if memory serves me correctly, we may also have been allowed to show guns.
Q) In your stories for Amazing Friends, it almost seemed as if you avoided contradicting the syndicated Spider-Man show so that Amazing Friends would work WITH it, which is something other writers did not. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

Don Glut: You're probably right. I was very much into "continuity" at the time. At the very least, I was doing my best to make the characters and stories as true to the comic books as the story editor would let me. As to the other writers, well, not all of them - including Dennis Marks - knew or cared about the comics. Some of them were basically just animation writers, which accounts for some of their rather odd choices (e.g., Dracula and not the Marvel Comics version of that character) for villains and stories.

Q) I got to have a few conversations with Dennis Marks, the story editor, before he passed away. Dennis was quite candid that he had no knowledge of the Marvel characters and, in my opinion, he didn't seem to think that knowledge was too important. But, obviously, Dennis liked a lot of your "Marvel saturated" outlines. What was the relationship like between you two? The nine year old in me wants to think that you two had sword fights over the correct use of the Marvel characters but the adult in me wants to know how it was to deal with a boss in a situation where you KNOW you're right.

Don Glut: Right, Dennis was one of those strictly animation writers and a real veteran. I had no real conflict with Dennis. We worked very well together and he seemed to like it – as certainly did Stan Lee, who was almost always present at the studio – when I brought in all that Marvel lore. But almost always I had to explain to Dennis who these characters were – Namor, Black Knight, etc., although I think he did know who Captain America was. I always figured that the kids watching the show would also be reading the comic books. It seemed to me that TV shows and movies based on comic-book heroes were always more successful when they stayed “true” to their source material, such as the new Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men movies, and the Christopher Reeve and George Reeves movies and TV show, respectively, as opposed to some of those revamped Dr. Strange, Captain America and Wonder Woman efforts we got back in the 1970s. (I was amazed that Smallville was so popular on TV, because it bears so little resemblance to the Superman mythos.)
Q) I think you hit the nail on the head. These shows were the gateway to new comic book fans at the time. I can't begin to tell you how many people have told me that Amazing Friends was what got them into comic books. So in pitching your outlines, I assume that you used Marvel characters that you were fond of that coincided with stories ideas that grabbed you.

Don Glut: That is indeed correct. That goes for the villains as well as the heroes. Kraven the Hunter was always a favorite of mine, which is why I used him in both of the Spider-Man series I wrote for. And, of course, I've always been partial to Cap.
Q) How did the idea for the Black Knight episode ("Knights and Demons") come about? Since the Marvel Comics version of the character was not used, I assume the end result was quite different from what you proposed.

Don Glut:
Really glad you asked that question - because, until now, I don't remember anyone ever asking me before. I'd always liked the Black Knight, especially the 1950's Atlas version of the character. My original story outline included both Black Knights …a flashback to Medieval times with the first BK, then the main body of the story featuring his modern-day counterpart. Dennis, who you remember was not a "Marvelite," thought having two Black Knights, and then having to explain why there were two, would be too confusing and would take away some screen time better spent (in his opinion) on action. He didn't understand why I wanted to have both characters and didn't believe the viewers would

Don's Spider-Man film

care. So, upon Dennis' insistence, I had to combine the two characters, which kind of resulted in the creation of a third having attributes of both.

Q) Instead of using a Marvel Comics villain, you used Video-man as the antagonist in the episode "The Origin of the Iceman". What was your original proposal and how did Video-man end up in the final version?
Don Glut: Arrgghhh! Another sore spot (the sorest being "The Prison Plot"). Video-man was literally foisted upon me. Dennis - again, not a Marvel Comics fan - really liked the Video-man character (as he really liked that embarrassing Ms. Lion pooch, which was his creation, pride and joy), who was, let's face it, your typical Saturday-morning-type bad guy. Dennis wanted to feature Video-man in another episode, but also wanted to do an Iceman origin. Both got dumped on me and, well, one has to make a living. 
Q) Looking back on Amazing Friends after all of these years, it showcased the Marvel Universe very well. (You, almost alone, expanded the solo Spider-Man cartoon to include other Marvel Universe heroes.) These two cartoons showcased the Marvel Universe better than what a lot of cartoons these days are able to do because the character rights are being sold off to different studios. That said, it is still surprising that the first family of the Marvel Universe never made an appearance on either Spider-Man cartoon. Did you have any fondness for the Fantastic Four?
Don Glut:  Yes, I loved the FF, especially in the old Lee and Kirby days. I don't recall why I never used them. Possibly the rights were still tied up with Depatie-Freleng (which really became Marvel Productions). Or maybe Stan or someone at Marvel was holding back on the FF - maybe they were too important a franchise to "waste" doing a guest shot on a Spider-Man show.
Q) In the episode "Pawns of the Kingpin" you batted a triple into the Marvel Universe with Captain America, the Kingpin and Dr. Faustus. In the comic books, Dr. Faustus was a fat man with red-hair and a red beard and mustache. But in the show he was a slim, balding man with a grey beard and mustache. He looked similar to Dennis Marks, who did the voice for the character. I asked the show's character designer, Rick Hoberg, if this was intentional but Rick didn't remember the character or if Dennis had anything to do with the changed visual appearance (which is understandable after 30 years)…but he said he wouldn't put it past Dennis' doing. Any memory of it?
Don Glut: No, I have no memory of why the change was made. In fact, I didn't even remember that there was a change. It's been a long time since I saw that episode! But the revamped Dr. Faustus didn't look much to me like Dennis. Who did look (and sound) to me like Dennis was that recurring villain [Gargamel] on THE SMURFS. Possibly Dennis changed the look so that the episode wouldn't feature two heavyset villains, which might have been confusing to the kids watching the show, visually at least. But I really can't say for sure.
Q) You wrote a lot of cartoon episodes throughout the 70's and 80's including Scooby Doo, He-Man, Transformers even Monchhichis. Did you have a particular favorite type of cartoon that you like to write?
Don Glut: To be honest, I didn't really have a favorite. They were just jobs to me, written to please the network censors and the toy company sponsors. I never much enjoyed writing TV animation, because we really weren't allowed to write our best. There were just too many restrictions. At least that's my opinion. A lot of animation writers I've spoken too really consider the scripts they wrote for TV fine pieces of work. That's their opinion. I take pride in very, very few of the TV cartoon scripts that I wrote, one of them being the "Rumble in Old Detroit" episode I wrote for Robocop, which was produced by Marvel Productions … another, my "Duck in the Iron Mask" for Ducktales. I had a lot more creative freedom on both of those shows.
Q) At the time of the show, how knowledgeable were you of the, then, current Spider-Man comics? A few characters that went on to be a large part of the Spider-Man canon were introduced around the time the show was airing, such as the alien "black costume", and the Hobgoblin. Were you keeping up with comic book at the time…or since? If so, did you ever consider using those characters on Amazing Friends
Don Glut: Yes, I was familiar with those new characters back then. (I stopped reading the comics shortly after they went to the slick-paper format.) No, I don't think I ever considered using either of those characters for the TV show. I never really cared for either, really, so using them probably never entered my mind.
Q) In hindsight, I think my two personal biggest disappointments about the shows are that you only wrote one script for the third season of Amazing Friends ("Origin of the Spider-Friends") AND that you missed out entirely on the Hulk cartoon, which was in desperate need of more connection to the Marvel Universe. How familiar were you with the Hulk's villains? Are there any particular ones you would have favored?
Don Glut: At the time, I was following all of the various Hulk comics. I'm a big-time Frankenstein buff and the Hulk reminded me of the Frankenstein Monster. I think the main reason I didn't get on the Hulk cartoon series or do more Spider-Friends episodes was because I'd gotten hung up time-wise doing that origin of Spider-Man script, mainly because the network censors didn't want to have a death (Uncle Ben's) on a Saturday-morning kids show, and Stan remained adamant that 
without Ben's death there could be
no origin story.  That dragged on for a very long time. Meanwhile, Dennis - for reasons only known to him - kept me in a kind of limbo, unable to accept other Marvel Productions assignments, until the origin's death issue was resolved. I think he wanted me "ready to roll" as soon as we got network approval on the origin. I lost a lot of work at Marvel, which was about the time of my divorce and when I desperately needed the income. So all the scripts for Hulk and additional Spider-Friends scripts went to other writers … while I sat around waiting for the network to okay (or kill) the Spidey origin story and Dennis to give me the go-ahead. Had I been able to get a script assignment on the HULK show, I'd probably have used the Rhino, Abomination or Absorbing Man, maybe the Leader or even Marvel's version of the Frankenstein Monster. But I'd also have liked to take the Hulk to Kazar's Savage Land and fight some dinosaurs … or (and I think I seriously thought about this at the time) one of those early 1960s Atlas giant monsters, particularly my favorite, Gorgilla … but maybe even that hairy creature originally called the Hulk.
Q) Were you involved at all in Marvel Productions' attempts to get other Marvel Comics based series off the ground at the time such as the proposed Iron Man, Ant-Man, Daredevil and Secret Wars series?
Don Glut: No. In fact, this is the first I've heard of such proposals. Stan did, around that time, assign me to come up with an origin and back-up story for
a female character he called THE MONSTRESS, but the idea never went beyond what I wrote and maybe a few drawings.
Q) Was Stan Lee or anyone else at Marvel Productions aware of your amateur films featuring Marvel characters, including the very first live-action production of Spider-Man? 
Don Glut: I don't know or remember. I did, however, show Stan my Spider-Man costume when I met him for the first time in New York around 1966. That was a few years before I would make my Spider-Man amateur movie. I'd had the naďve idea that I could get - for free - the rights to film a Spider-Man TV pilot. Stan graciously explained to me how that was impossible. Never did I realize, at that time, that someday I'd be working for Stan writing the character's animated adventures.
Q) How much of an active role did Stan have with you and the other writers in the early Marvel Productions series? Did he ever offer suggestions or ideas for any of the episodes? 
Don Glut: I remember Stan's direct involvement being minimal.  It was really Dennis' ballgame and he threw a lot of weight, because of his experience in writing Saturday morning cartoons and also because (I think) he won an Emmy or some other prestigious award for some kids' show he'd produced. I think Stan was more of a figurehead at Marvel Productions, at least in those days. I came up with an idea to make him a character - who I called "Stan on the Street" - who would appear in every animated episode with Stan doing his own voice. But Dennis nixed that idea because of union rules and other problems.

Q) You once mentioned to me that the story editor, Dennis Marks, explained to you that humor was to be prevalent in Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Spider-Man was to be Bing Crosby and Iceman was to be Bob Hope, in homage to the Road pictures. I know the "friends" concept was created because Super Friends had been a success. But, besides the animal sidekicks, humor wasn't at the forefront in that cartoon. Do you have any idea why Dennis wanted humor to be the basis on Amazing Friends
Don Glut: You are correct about the Crosby-Hope connection. Dennis told me flat out that Amazing Friends was "a comedy show" and we were playing the show for laughs. Why? Dennis liked comedy, but not necessarily "serious" super-heroes. Comedy was Dennis' background.
Q) Both you and Dennis Marks had mentioned to me that you later had trouble getting work in cartoons because of your age. How do you think Hollywood has allowed this logic to come about?
Don Glut: They say age 33 or so is the point where Hollywood doesn't want you anymore. For that reason, some writers actually use "fronts" like they did during the early 1950s, but for a different reason. I believe the studios want everyone working for them - from the producers down to the person running the Xerox machines - to project youth, vigor and good looks, regardless of their qualifications. Walk into any mainstream movie or TV studio or production company building and you'll find it filled with good-looking, youngish people. You don't see a lot of "characters," people who are really overweight, with major acne, etc. It's largely a cosmetic industry where how you look is often more important than what you can do or did in the past. It's a sorry situation. A lot of really talented and reliable people can't get work anymore because of their age.
Q) What have you been working on since your cartoon work? 
Don Glut: For the most part, and aside from some music (I'm still a musician and song writer), I've basically been restricting my workload to making low-budget campy, sexy horror movies through my company Frontline Entertainment and writing more supplements in my Dinosaurs: The Encyclopedia series of semi-technical reference books. But I have a lot more fun making the movies than writing these books. We've done six feature-length films now and I'm anxious to do number seven. Our last was a vampire and mummy picture called BLOOD SCARAB, the first of our movies to get a (limited) theatrical release. Our biggest problem, however, is getting the money to finance these films. (Any potential investors out there, please contact me!)
Q) For a fun sign-off, I want you to totally disregard money and tell me what you would have loved to do for a living when you were age 10, 20, 40 and now. 
Don Glut:
That's your easiest question of all: 
10 - cowboy, spaceman or paleontologist 
20 - rock star 
40 - movie director/writer/producer 
Now? Still at the 40 level - and hope to be there until I expire, sometime between the words "Action!" and "Cut!"

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