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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #150

Welcome to the 150th daily installment of 365 Reasons to Love Comics, a column about creators, characters, titles, stories, and odds and ends that make comics great. The archive can be found here.

Today continues War Comics Week as we talk about a great series that stood out immensely, considering its era.


150. The ‘Nam

Nam 1.jpg

Yep, it’s Marvel’s turn.

The ‘Nam was a bold experiment in comics. There are a few reasons for this. One, it started around the time when war comics and all other non-superhero titles were dying out. Two, it took place in the “real world,” Marvel’s characters only existed in comics read by the soldiers. Three, it took place more or less in real time, taking a monthly trip through the American involvement in the Vietnam War.

According to this cool interview I found with creator/writer Doug Murray, who was a ‘Nam vet himself, the title actual got its start in Savage Tales, where a few short stories by Murray and artist Michael Golden impressed editors Larry Hama (known for his war book GI Joe and his cameos on MASH) and Jim Shooter enough to launch a series. Murray was challenged with keeping the book comics code approved, but I think he did a good job. After Golden moved on, a rotating team of artists came onto the book, including Sam Glanzman, who had drawn the Haunted Tank for quite a few years.

Nam 2.jpgNam 3.jpgNam 4.jpg

Because it was written by a veteran (and later in the run, another vet, Don Lomax took over. Chuck Dixon wrote some issues in there, too, but I don’t think he was involved in the war), the book was terrifically realistic. It followed the lives of several people throughout the course of the war. Some made it through, some got killed, some got injured. There were stories focused around actual events, such as the Tet Offensive and My Lai Massacre, stories about drug use, Agent Orange, prisoners of war, fragging (killing one’s own officer), racism, homefront hatred, and more.

The comic also took an occasional anthologizing look at other characters, including a memorable story (#27) that detailed a friendship between two pals, one of whom didn’t make it home. It has an incredibly haunting final page:

Nam 6.JPGNam 5.jpg

Really, I’d say the series was very educational. As I said above, the stories did delve into actual events. Also, any army terminology with which readers may not have been familiar was explained in the letters page with a cool glossary. The letters page was fantastic; there was quite a correspondance from veterans both old and young.

Sales started to sag over the course of the series, however, and the book suddenly found itself shoved into Marvel continuity, with the Punisher making several pre-origin appearances. The real time aspect disappeared as story arcs broke the one-month-at-a-time rule. After an incredibly healthy 84 issue run, the series came to an end.

I thought The ‘Nam was an incredibly well-balanced and realistic portrayal of American soldiers and a life at war. The series gave us some fantastic stories, and I advise you to pick up some of the issues out of your local back issue bin. It’s one of the best war comics ever put out.


Tom Fitzpatrick

May 30, 2007 at 6:28 pm

I remember this series when it came out. One comic shop retailer told me around that time that it was supposed to be a 8 year mini-series (96 issues).

For a book that was supposed to be based on real-life events, the fact that Frank Castle (the Punisher) was inter-woven into the series was a profound disappointment.

I believe another series that came out about this time was called the Vietnam Journal. Which was supposed to be a bit more realistic.

Okay, I always thought the little pic of a hero’s face in the corner of a cover meant a tie-in or a guest-appearance or something. WTH is Spidey appearing on the cover of the Nam?

It’s means it’s a direct market version. See the UPC boxes on some of the other covers? Someone else could explain in in way more detail, but those barcodes were only used in newstand distribution, so direct market versions would just stick random art in there to fill space.

i have a few copies of vietnam journal and it was basically the same thing without the comics code. if i remember right it had swearing, gore, nudity and was published by apple comics.

i haven’t re-read either the nam or vietnam journal books recently but i thought the nam was much better.

For Scott.
Conner is correct.
In the eighties, the Spidey in the bottom corner was pretty standard on direct editions only. It had nothing to do with guest appearances at all. Marvel artists were notorious for writing and drawing things in the corner boxes for years however (a good bit of googling can find some rather offensive work by John Byrne in some of the box space on his original art) They knew that the boxes would be covered by UPC codes or clip art.

I think it wasn’t until the late 80’s/early 90’s that you started seeing guys like Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and Erik Larsen drawing extra cover related goodies in the boxes.

The early issues were great, but I felt after Murray left the book that nobody else really knew what to do with it. Does anyone know why he left a title that was so obviously close to his heart?

The Mad Monkey

May 31, 2007 at 12:20 am

I stopped reading The ‘Nam after Mike Golden left. It just didn’t have the same feel to it. I knew the end was near when Marvel tried to up the sales by adding The Punisher. As Tom Fitzpatrick (1st post) said, “a profound disappointment”.

Don Lomax did a very wonderful job with Vietnam Journal. It never really garnered the popularity of The ‘Nam, but, when I ran my comic shop (lo those many years ago), I always kept it in stock…even if it didn’t sell.
Sadly, that was my first real experience that most comic buyers want glitz and glamour rather than quality and substance.

Sadly, that was my first real experience that most comic buyers want glitz and glamour rather than quality and substance.

I’m fairly certain that’s the case with not only comic buyers but with the majority of the population on this planet. Well, those that can afford glitz and glamour or quality anfd substance at least, the rest are busy surviving.
*sigh again*

Andrew Collins

May 31, 2007 at 5:00 am

My only exposure to the ‘Nam comic came when I was 11 and my mom ordered me a “gift pack” of comics out of the Sears catalog that was basically just a bundle of randomally chosen Marvel comics. Issue #23, the one with the blonde on the cover pictured above, was included. I just remember thinking “What the heck is this? This isn’t a superhero comic! What a waste.” It actually turned out to not be that bad an issue, but it didn’t make me want to go back and read anymore of the series.

The Kirbydotter

May 31, 2007 at 7:54 am

I remember buying a few od the early issues.
It had some interesting elements (realistic lingo and terminology was a plus for one), the fact that creators were veterans (mostly) meant you could trust them for credibility.

I never found Doug Murray to be an effective plotter and scripter. He often fails to get me hooked into his stories. I was surprised that is was so even in NAM, where he should have been the best man for the job since he had all the experience and background to make it work. I love his work as a comic book/pulp journalist/essayist, he is probably the best in the medium in this aspect.

Micheal Golden was the reason I picked up the title in the first place. I knew he was a veteran and thought that it would be a love project for him. He probably did a great job, but the poor printing quality smudged his work and made me very frustrated to see great art spoiled that way.

This should have been a great comic, one of the top title of the war genre of comics, but it wasn’t.

The same can also be said of another Marvel title that came out not long after NAM titled SEMPER FI. Again, great artists like the young Kuberts brothers and veteran master John Severin, but not very well written stories.

Two titles I really wanted to like but couldn’t.

The Mad Monkey

May 31, 2007 at 10:22 am

Yes, most of the world wants the bling before anything else. All I’m talking about is what my customers (at the time) wanted, no matter how hard I tried to steer them towards something of real value and not speculation. My comment was merely an observation of what the comic buying atmosphere was like at the time. But, from what I’ve seen, not much has changed since then.


May 31, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Did Marvel ever release trades of The ‘Nam?

I remember picking up the first few issues as a kid because I was also reading the Marvel GI Joe series at the time (indeed, that was probably the biggest “war comic” at the time). I remember that many of the Joe characters like Snake Eyes were given Vietnam backgrounds/experience.

There is one trade of the ‘Nam. I recently found it at my LCS, for cover price $5.95. What a steal! I never read it when it was first released. One look at the Michael Golden artwork and I had to buy it. Unlike many artists Golden seems to be aware of the material the art would be printed on. In places his work reminds me of Harvey Kurtzman’s on much older war books for EC.

The trade collects just the first 4 issues. Also included is an intro by Doug Murray and a glossary of military jargon.

I read Savage Tales during its brief run and remember The Nam from its appearances there but never read the comic. I always thought it was an odd duck on the shelves even then and in retrospect, it seems even more bizarre that Marvel would have given it the go ahead. I kind of regret not reading it when I had the chance.

‘The Nam’ was,for me,the best thing Marvel ever did.I grew up on the classics.Spidey,the Hulk & Fantastic Four but in those days,all we ever got over here in the UK was reprinted US uncoloured stuff.
I never took all that well to superheroes but remember the feeling of following up on each adventure as the edition was published each month.
When the ‘Vietnam era’ started & the movies,books & other media were launched,I revisited my love for Marvel & ‘The Nam’ was the best Id read.
Its realism astounded me (given its compliance to the ‘comics code’)& it remains readable to this day.

Shame that other stuff like ‘The Nam’ hasnt been tried out about other conflicts…

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