The Vietnam War in Comics: OUR FIGHTING FORCES

Believe it or not, when THE OTHER SIDE is released later this year, it'll be the first Vietnam War comic that DC has published in decades. Their last full-fledged Vietnam War title was actually one of the first published by anyone. In 1966, Captain Hunter first "smashed through the blazing Viet Cong battleground” in the pages of OUR FIGHTING FORCES #99. A former Green Beret searching for his POW twin brother, Hunter was armed with a wicked right jab and an endless repertoire of witty battle cries, like “Good night, Charlie!” “It’s sleepy time, Charlie!” “Peek-a-boo, Charlie!” “Surprised, Charlie?” “Nothing like Karate to straighten things out, Charlie!” and “Going somewhere in a hurry, Charlie? The fun’s just beginning!”

No offense to writer Robert Kanigher, who was after all the godfather of DC war comics, but there's no denying that Captain Hunter's exploits were riddled with the type of racist stereotypes and ridiculous plots that became synonimous with so many of the early Vietnam War portrayals. The Viet Cong are portrayed as either slant-eyed sadists or yellow-skinned buffoons, much like their buck-toothed Japanese counterparts from World War II.

In addition to blatant exploitation, these issues also stink of just plain old stale writing. Issue #101 is the prime example, as evidenced by these descriptions of Captain Hunter’s mysterious female guide, Lu Lin: “Your face tells me as much as a jade carving!” “That Oriental kewpie doll isn’t risking a thing!” “What could I say to someone as cool as green jade?” “Despite the killing she had seen, Lu Lin’s eyes were cool as green jade.” “Then I heard a voice as cool as green jade…” “Can’t make out that Oriental kewpie doll…” “Only an Oriental kewpie doll, in whose veins blood ran cool as green jade wouldn’t blink an eyelash…” “Lu Lin appeared cool as green jade…”

When Captain Hunter failed to catch on with readers, his daring mission ended after only seven issues. As far as we know, he never found his brother, but at last sighting the lovely Lu Lin was still “cool as green jade.”


Jason at: 11:39 PM said...

From now on I'm going to refer to you as Jason "Cool as Green Jade" Aaron.

Jason at: 11:06 AM said...

On a more series note, the "stale writing" and "ridiculous plots" are exactly my problem with all of the older comics. I can understand reading them to get an idea of the history of comics, and understanding how we got where we are today. But other than that, they're just too painful to read due to the ridiculous plots and abysmal writing. It's good to know that The Other Side won't continue that tradition of bad writing.

Jason Aaron at: 11:41 AM said...

Sure, for the most part, the comics from the Silver Age are written in a more expository style, but I don't think they're all the victim of stale writing. There's nothing stale about Kirby at his high point. Or most of the EC stuff, especially Two Fisted Tales, one of the greatest war comics ever. And I still love reading Stever Gerber's work from the 70s.

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