Monday, June 8, 2009

1986 - The 'Nam

The ‘Nam #1-12
December 1986 - November 1987
Writer: Doug Murray
Artists: Michael Golden/Armando Gil/John Beatty/John Severin/Wayne Vansant

After a successful Vietnam War series in the pages of Savage Tales magazine, called "5th to the 1st", Jim Shooter gave Doug Murray’s pitch for a new, ongoing Vietnam War series the green light.

Murray, a Vietnam War veteran himself, takes you deep into the jungles of Vietnam within the pages of The ‘Nam. He effectively uses the point of view of a green army recruit, Ed Marks, to establish the environment and atmosphere, and to create a connection with Marks and the people in his platoon.

This series won acclaim from both outside and within the comic book industry. It was nominated for the Best New Series category of the 1987 Jack Kirby Awards. It also won awards from various veteran's organizations.

I was originally drawn to this series because of Michael Golden's artwork as he had drawn some X-Men related stories. Golden drew upon legendary artists, like Harvey Kurtzman and Will Eisner. The art was surprisingly more cartoonish than I had expected and didn’t pick up any issues after reading the first issue. However, while having had difficulty appreciating this series as a kid, I found this series to be a most rewarding and compelling read.

The letter columns are also interesting as actual Vietnam vets wrote in to congratulate Murray on putting out the comic and keeping it authentic.

In an interview with’s Brian Jacks, Doug Murray stated:

“One of the things I knew about Vietnam by the 80s was that a lot of Vets, and I include myself in the group, just were uncomfortable talking about experiences in Vietnam. Especially people who were parents, they didn’t talk about it to their kids. I wanted a way to at least tell a part of the story to the kids and maybe get other people to talk about it as well.”

Issue #7 is particularly poignant in giving us an insight into the Viet Cong and the heavy conflict and turmoil Vietnam has been subjected to by external influences. This issue is also a nice change of pace from the American point of view.

The series survived longer than most expected. Its longevity was probably due to the success of the Vietnam movies, like Platoon and Hamburger Hill, as well as TV spin-offs like Tour of Duty and China Beach.

However, despite the fact that this series had nothing to do with the Marvel Universe, the Powers That Be, watching sales of this title dwindle, decided to infuse it with a Marvel Universe flavor and brought in Frank Castle, the Punisher. Unfortunately, after five years on the series, Doug Murray left the book frustrated with absurd editorial policies that demanded he include superheroes in the book.

Within the first year story-arc, Ed Marks leaves Vietnam to return to the United States to continue his education. However, Murray wanted Ed Marks to return to Vietnam as a journalist, but never got the chance to write that.

Follow this link if you’re interested in signing a petition to get Marvel to launch a new ‘Nam series with Doug Murray:

A series of trade paperbacks reprinting issues #1-12 was published in 1999, but have since fallen out of print.

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