Uncle Sam says...

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The Vietnam War in Comics: OUR FIGHTING FORCES

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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.”

The Vietnam War in Comics: BLAZING COMBAT

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As part of my research for writing THE OTHER SIDE, I've been reading tons of Vietnam War comic books, both old and new, good and bad. One of the first and the best was Warren's short-lived BLAZING COMBAT magazine. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War segments of this anthology proved too inflammatory for audiences in 1966, and the series lasted just four issues. Most all of the stories were written by the late, great Archie Goodwin and drawn by such luminaries as Gene Colan, Russ Heath, Alex Toth and John Severin. These days, the original issues of BLAZING COMBAT command high prices, but back in 1993, Apple Comics reprinted the stories in two volumes, and those are a lot easier to come by. The above image is the cover to BLAZING COMBAT #3, painted by Frank Frazetta.

THE OTHER SIDE Soundtrack

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http://www.hotfreelayouts.com/music.php

THE OTHER SIDE Interviews

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Back in February, when THE OTHER SIDE was first announced, I did an interview with the guys at Comic Book Resources that turned out great:

Descent Into Hell: Aaron Talks THE OTHER SIDE


And more recently, Cameron was interviewed by a Canadian college newspaper and talked about the trip he took to Vietnam last year:

The Ryerson Online

Cameron also had some nice things to say about the book over on the Barbelith forums:

Barbelith.com

The above image is an unused page from issue #1. If this is the type of stuff that's hitting the cutting room floor, then you can just imagine what the finished product looks like. Cameron is really working his ass off on every panel of this book, and it definitely shows. I can't wait for everybody to see it.

NYCC Vertigo Panel Podcast

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THE OTHER SIDE was first announced back in February at the New York Comic-Con. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it, but artist Cameron Stewart was on hand and did a great job of talking up the book. You can download a Podcast of the entire Vertigo panel from DC:

NYCC Vertigo Panel mp3

THE OTHER SIDE Press Release

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At present, I'm a fledging comic book writer with eight published pages to my name (see WOLVERINE #175, if you're really bored). But later this year, my first major league project will finally hit the shelves, courtesy of Vertigo Comics.

Here's the official press release:


VERTIGO TO PUBLISH ORIGINAL MINI-SERIES THE OTHER SIDE BY NEWCOMER JASON AARON, SUMMER 2006
February 24th, 2006 - First time comic book writer, Jason Aaron, confronts the emotional and political aspects of the Vietnam war in THE OTHER SIDE. The project was announced by Karen Berger, the Vice President and Executive Editor of Vertigo during the New York Comic Convention on Friday, February 24, 2006. This mini-series will be published by Vertigo, the For Mature Readers imprint of DC Comics, in the summer of 2006.

"THE OTHER SIDE was one of the most visceral scripts I've ever read. Writer Jason Aaron's portrayal of both sides of the Vietnam conflict is so achingly real and the relevancy is obvious and immediate," said acquiring editor Will Dennis. "And for my money, this is the best work that Cameron Stewart has ever done, period. A perfect Vertigo project."

THE OTHER SIDE will be written by Aaron and drawn by Cameron Stewart (Manhattan Guardian, CATWOMAN); it is Aaron's first project with DC Comics and Vertigo. THE OTHER SIDE follows two men on opposite sides of the Vietnam war who must trudge through the ghosts of soldiers that fell before them, before their fateful meeting during the siege of Khe Sanh.

"Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart deliver a timeless and visceral work in THE OTHER SIDE," said Vertigo VP Executive editor Karen Berger. "It provides a brutal and breathtaking look at war and its impact on the hearts and souls of the fighting men on both sides of conflict. Once you read it, you'll never forget it."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Aaron has worked as a video clerk, BBQ waiter, film critic and porn distributor. His only previous comic book work came in the pages of WOLVERINE, as a winner of the Marvel Comics Talent Search in 2002. In addition to his work with Vertigo, Jason plans to write a biography of his late cousin Gustav Hasford, the Vietnam vet whose novel, THE SHORT-TIMERS, was the basis for Stanley Kubrick's film FULL METAL JACKET. Born in Jasper, Alabama, Jason currently lives in Kansas City with his wife and two sons.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Cameron Stewart is best known for his critically-acclaimed run as illustrator of DC Comics' CATWOMAN, with writer Ed Brubaker, on which he developed his dense, cinematic narrative style. He followed CATWOMAN with a series of collaborations with writer Grant Morrison, including THE INVISIBLES, SEAGUY, and SEVEN SOLDIERS: THE MANHATTAN GUARDIAN. He has also contributed to a wide variety of titles including SUPERMAN, BATMAN, DEADENDERS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, SWAMP THING, HELLBLAZER, HELLBOY, BPRD, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, HUMAN TARGET, and TOMORROW STORIES. He currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada, where he is a founding member of illustrator's collective The Royal Academy of Illustration and Design.

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