I spoke too soon when I called the Mighty Thor the first superhero to get embroiled in the Vietnam War. How could I forget the one hero whose very origin goes back to the earliest days of the war? In the pages of Marvel's TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 from March 1963, millionaire industrialist Tony Stark gets himself injured by a booby-trap in the jungles of Vietnam, while demonstrating his high tech “transistor-powered” weapons to the U.S. military. He's then captured by Wong-Chu, the yellow-skinned “red guerrilla tyrant” of Vietnam, who forces Stark to build weapons for the Commie cause. Instead, Stark builds a suit of armor he uses to blast the Commie bastard back to the stone age.
And thus, Iron Man was born.
I don't want to seem like a pompous ass who's just trashing on all Vietnam War comics except mine, so here's one of my favorite Michael Golden covers from THE 'NAM. Marvel released this image as a post card that read, "Weather's great. Wish you were here."
More on THE 'NAM later.
"This is the BIG ONE! It's the soul-searing saga you thought you'd never see... the Howling Commandos in action today!"
So proclaimed the cover of 1967's SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS ANNUAL #3. In its bid to become “the most talked-about work of war-mag wonderment ever published,” this 50-page travesty features a cameo by President Lyndon Johnson (who talks like a bad version of a Mark Twain character), Viet Cong fighters who look like Mexican banditos (and like most other comic-book VC of the era, speak fluent English, their favorite phrases usually consisting of “Die, American swine!” and “Death to all Yankee imperialists!”), and a ridiculous plot to sabotage North Vietnam’s creation of a Hydrogen Bomb. Fury’s well-formulated plan consists of the Howlers disguising themselves as Vietnamese refugees (a ploy that’s perpetrated merely by donning different hats), infiltrating the city of Haiphong and detonating the bomb. “There she blows!” the Howlers joke, as their plane soars above the mushroom cloud. Stan Lee presents…Nick Fury executing thousands of civilians! Excelsior!
Marvel's Mighty Thor may have been the first superhero to lend a hand in the Vietnam War. In 1965's JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #117, Thor blundered into the war and helped a crazed, Commie commander see the error of his ways. "It was Communism that made me what I am—that shaped me into a brutal, unthinking instrument of destruction!" raved Hu Sak, as he aimed his pistol at a huge stockpile of bombs. "To Communism, then—may it vanish from the face of the earth and the memory of mankind!"
Unfortunately, that wasn't the last time Thor would visit Vietnam...
But more on that later.