This one

Do not let the cosmos distract you from Vietnam.

Hello cosmos, I’m from Vietnam.

My brother’s Avengers run ended in the high hundred-teens, and I started buying issues in the 130s or 140s, so as I filled in the gap, issue by issue, and bought new ones, the Mantis story was a main focus for me.

Step back for the bigger picture. Steve Englehart started on the Avengers with the brief Avengers-Defenders War. I see his 70s run on the book in two phases, with the first one defined by Mantis, introduced in #113, her boyfriend the Swordsman, and how she complicates the romance between him and the Scarlet Witch. The main other content concerns further complicating the Vision’s origin. The villains are largely incidental. Even the sort-of interesting turn with Zodiac only functions to connect Mantis with her father. [Englehart’s second, perhaps better-written phase on the title would be best described as Oh My Stars and Garters, and is certainly worth a post of its own.]

Englehart was the main 1970s author to do what both Lee and Thomas had successfully done, to completely ignore the “illusion of change” instruction and instead to go ahead and change things. Not through planned structural events with more organized outcomes, but organically, writing as you go, changing relationships, changing characters, finishing out problems with closure, and changing circumstances. For him, the primary variable was relationships. It’s all a frame for emotional shenanigans: #1: the Vision’s wandering eye (sort of), and the Mantis dumping the Swordsman, with the surprisingly touching death of the latter; and #2: the Celestial Madonna whatchamacallit which as far as I’m concerned finally closes out the Kree-Skrull whatchamallit for good, but is really about Mantis deciding emotions are too important to play games with. In the Avengers stories, some of it’s goofy, some of it’s contrived or arbitrary, some of it’s plain bizarre, but he did keep his eye on that emotional ball. In this, he preceded Claremont significantly with his intense focus on the soap opera and on developing female characters’ power, and I think his stories had a better touch for concluding the episodes of the former, and for validating rather then caricaturing the latter. Mantis is clearly his favorite.

So why the general disdain for Mantis? For one thing, such a writing-process had little place at Marvel after 1978; you can’t put “finds her maturity and fucks a cosmic plant, then leaves,” on the package copy of a Mattel action figure. Even without the sex part, and this is important, you can’t base an action figure on an eventful story, specifically not on a concluded story.

For another, there might be some Author’s Sue going on with her physical bad-assery, especially in contrast with the Witch’s then-feeble hexing, and also at the expense of the Panther. Yet, maybe not, as there was precedent and examples from other characters to work with there too, implied in a brief friendly sparring match between the Panther and Iron Man when the former scores and wins with a precision strike. (This was echoed many years later in Suicide Squad with the Bronze Tiger and Stalniovolk: “There is no such thing as true invulnerability. Struck with enough speed and skill, even a steel man may be brought down.” With a rather pointed metaglance at a certain other DC character.)

I would not like to take a kick from this woman.

I would not like to take a kick from this woman.

Still … given that athletic-human characters like the Widow, Hawkeye, and similar were always part of the Avengers and reasonably pulled their weight, and given a careful re-reading, I don’t think Mantis was written with absurd effectiveness – she didn’t elude all damage or consistently outdo the other Avengers. More importantly, and this is a good thing, nothing happened to Mantis that happened to other female characters all the time. She never got her powers taken away, never maundered about her ability to handle herself, never whined when faced with someone tough. It’s telling that I even have to examine the Sue issue for her when all she did was pull her weight along with the boys. I think she might qualify in fact for the single most effective and unproblematic “strong woman” superhero of the day. I call attention especially to how Bob Brown depicted her physical build, which is formidably muscled. Contrast her arms with Wanda’s during this run.

Then there’s her spoken affectation, which I decided to monitor in re-reading. And you know what? She actually doesn’t say “this one” all that often. A few times, and I might add, in the company of several other odd-speaking teammates. It’s nowhere near as frequent as the constant mention would indicate. A bit of orientalism? you think? Doug Moench was busy trying to work this out with Shang-Chi, but “work in progress” is probably the most favorable way to describe that issue, then and now. But hang onto that thought too, because I think something else is going on here, something really important.

Vietnam was very much a living issue in the Bullpen. Starlin was a veteran, an aviation photographer, which as I understand it means some awful, bloody experiences. Englehart was a conscientious objector (a very specific term) who lost at least one close friend there. They were close friends and unequivocally opposed to this war.

You might be interested to know that the Vietnamese refer to it as the American War.

  • 1945-1949: The United Nations Security Council grants France continued sovereignty in the former colony of Vietnam; when the local popular party Viet Minh requests French recognition as a free republic, the French government responds with military occupation.
  • 1950-1954: The French forces combat and suppress the Viet Minh with significant U.S. support, but without success; they withdraw in 1954 and turn the matter to the U.N.; an election ostensibly grants power (with an alleged 95% approval) to the former French colonial government which is rejected immediately by the Viet Minh, resulting in a U.N.-decreed north-south partition.
  • 1955-1964: The period of “technical advisors” meaning various U.S. special forces and many attempted CIA operations to (somehow) overturn the popularity of the Viet Minh. This period corresponds roughly to the Saigon regime of Ngo Dinh Diem, which is concluded by a military murder-coup with more to follow.
  • 1964-1968: Johnson’s war, with no Congresssional approval or even procedure, still technically a U.N. police action albeit unilateral, including mass U.S. conscription and immediately high fatalities.
  • 1968-1974: Nixon’s war, including the invasion of Cambodia, covert B-52 bombings, and then the so-called decent interval; announcement of withdrawal in 1973 and final U.S. withdrawal in 1975.

This is that last bit, the forgotten phase of U.S. stand-down prior to final withdrawal. The decent interval refers to Nixon’s and Kissinger’s private agreement in 1972 that although the Hanoi government’s victory was assured, to keep U.S. troops there until the U.S. public would blame Saigon instead of them for the inevitable withdrawal. CIA officer Frank Snepp wrote a book by this title as well which I’ll be drawing upon.

Starlin, Englehart, and anyone else informed about the war saw through the ploy immediately, and arguably, the Watergate scandal transformed into an excuse for a covert referendum on this precise Vietnam policy. This story occurred right at the height of confusion between the U.S. agreement to withdraw – including ceding Saigon – and actually doing it. The corresponding details in the comics are blatant: in this case, the Kree pacifists as the Buddhist monks who’d been protesting the Saigon government for decades, the general reference to Saigon as a criminal, corrupted hellhole, and the Swordsman as a not-quite-literal stand-in for the haunted U.S. veteran with the sort-of shady Vietnamese girlfriend he’s brought home. And when in the course of investigating Mantis’ origin the Avengers actually get there, there is a fascinating interlude in which three long-standing communist villains – now official government heroes – deliver some rough justice to a local, and are manipulated into harassing our heroes by a vicious U.S. ex-G.I. villain lurking in Saigon. After figuring out the problem, the communist villain-heroes order them out of the country. This offers a good portrait of Iron Man in his on-again off-again militarist-or-not phase, contemporary with his on-again off-again nose, and also a clear picture of the communist characters as assholes. That’s an opportunity to point out that opposition to the Vietnam War did not simply indicate “commie sympathies.” (commies in this era of comics is a post of its own one day, of course)

Crucially, the entire context of this subplot is that of the Hanoi government as the winner, and, although the Dynamo and his buddies are clearly jerks, the Avengers cannot strut into the joint and starting acting like the arbiters of right and wrong. Because, you see, the Hanoi government did win. That business about how U.S. forces won every battle but lost the war is an 80s fabrication. It draws upon two 1960s myths which by the 70s were completely discredited.

Coloring orange vs. purple doesn't make it so.

Coloring orange vs. purple doesn’t make it so.

This is the first myth of the war: the very existence of any “north” and “south” Vietnam as national entities. They never existed. This construct was an artifact of the grossly rigged 1955 election which was rejected by everyone, and the puppet government installed in Saigon governed nothing at all. Its reach was defined strictly by U.S. enforcement and mainly achieved only an appalling forced-relocation program which in any non-U.S. context would be decried with horror and rage. There was no pro-U.S. South Vietnam, only an occupied city. The term “Viet Cong” is a U.S. State Department invention to try to spin the fact that everyone living in the designated region aside from the Saigon elites considered the National Liberation Front to be a local branch of the real [North] Vietnamese Army.

Keep telling yourself that, Yankee.

Keep telling yourself that, Yankee.

The second, subsidiary myth is that the neat little sectors I-IV mapped out in the Pentagon were ever in serious contention, in fact that they even existed as any sort of real-world entities, and that the “war” was about “holding onto them.” The real campaign, meaning the Vietnamese one, was not fought from north driving to south, but from the western mountains to the sea along the entire coastal stretch. The more this campaign progressed, the faster those designated sectors vanished, with even the idea that we “lost” them being a myth. Frank Snepp destroyed his CIA career in trying to bring this to light in the face of dedicated spin and the careers that relied upon it. This reality of Saigon’s isolation was laid bare in 1968, and the entirety of the events from 1954 through 1974 are only described as resistance and expulsion, plain and simple. The U.S. policy culture kept trying to pretend that this place was Korea and that a quickie “we won g’bye” + return to the pre-hostilities status quo was just around the corner. It wasn’t Korea.

Well, my father was in Vietnam, and he told me this, and he told me that. Yeah? How nice for you. (1) You aren’t your dad, and (2) my dad was U.S. Naval Historian in Saigon from sometime around 1969 through sometime around 1973. Like his whole generation he was a textbook of cognitive dissonance; he went to his grave simultaneously swearing “we could have won the war against the communists” and “communism had nothing to do with it.” But his job was to assess the whole military action in real terms, which I suspect your dad’s wasn’t. He spoke and read Vietnamese, which I suspect your dad didn’t. I’m the only son he talked with about this stuff, opening up the huge steamer truck with piles of records and photographs. Decades later I’d be reading about recently-declassified spy operations during the war and recognize the photos in the book, from that trunk. I’m the one who sat with him and those evil-looking, bitter spooks as they drank themselves stupid, listening to them talk about it. I shall not be lectured by anyone else’s child concerning this piece of history.

[I will address American narratives regarding U.S. military veterans in a different post, using a comic more directly related to that issue. Please hold your water.]

Herb Block ("herblock"), Washington Post, 1970

Herb Block (“herblock”), Washington Post, 1970

Here, I’m making a military point, completely opposing the common American propaganda that “we weren’t allowed to win” or that “we won all the battles but lost the war.” Nope. Doctrinally, we lost because there was nothing to do but leave; we simply had no viable objective aside from office-holders not wanting to be blamed for losing (a Cold War no-no) and not seeing a moment o’win to hang withdrawal on. The primary failing at the strategic level was that weird thing about “holding sectors” without the slightest regard for actual geography, and therefore engagements became, for the U.S., simply gang fights. After Tet, the Herblock cartoon anticipates the “decent interval” and nails it to the wall – 18-year-old kids were being drafted simply to die until the Nixon administration could hit upon the right spin for leaving. If you want to call “winning a battle” having some guys still alive after the other side achieves its tactical goal and leaves, then we won some battles, sure. But we didn’t win anything with those battles nor was such “victory” especially common … nor was it remotely on the policy radar of anyone in charge of anything.

Hey man, my dad died in Vietnam and I don’t appreciate … Yeah? I am in fact sorry about your dad, but you should direct your anger meaningfully. Of the myriad U.S. tactical failings, one is that the M-16 was a heinous piece of worthless crap, especially in a tropical, muddy war theater. If you want to honor your family member or friend who was killed there, then never mind talking to me, and ask why he was torn apart by AK-47 rounds while struggling to unjam his fucking gun.

Those myths were resurrected with a vengeance in 1980 and compounded with a number of others, in a whirl of propaganda from which the nation’s head is still spinng. All that context for the Mantis story is what Reagan-era Marvel could not possibly say out loud. That’s what the G.I. Joe cartoon watching kids and the Rambo II watching teens could not possibly be permitted to see. In the new officialized Marvel Universe, we could not lose the war.

Whereas a decade earlier, in Mantis’ Marvel, we unequivocally did. Mantis was never an American, nor written to imply any pro-U.S. policy in Vietnam. She was not in anyone’s back yard, nor a domino. Nor was she a waif grateful to the “good guys” for saving her in any way. She refused to need “saving.” She did not need moral redemption – and this is a former whore we are talking about. She did not need to “find” her superpower, nor did it overwhelm her, nor did its control elude her. She was emotionally callous at her introduction but learned, made mistakes, and grew, to find an honorable place for herself.

Vietnamese vs. walking U.S. WMD.

Vietnamese vs. U.S. WMD.

Look at that one-punch on Thor, and consider every imaginable cultural, political, and thematic meaning. That’s what Vietnamese means, in 1975.

Mantis traveled with Englehart through a variety of titles, names, and comics companies, eventually reappearing at Marvel and getting wrapped into much weirdness again in the past decade. My interest in that material is precisely nil. I’ll bet you my Marvel Value Stamp collection against yours that the word “Vietnam” did not appear with her.

Next: Moses and the Mosquito

About Ron Edwards

Game author, publisher, consultant, teacher

Posted on May 24, 2015, in Heroics, Politics dammit, The 70s me and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Some fascinating perspective on the Vietnam War from someone who fought on the other side:

    I particularly like this one: “We weren’t really digging those tiger traps for you, We were digging them *for the tigers.* There are tigers in those jungles and they’re god-damn terrifying.” But that’s mostly just amusing in retrospect. A lot of the points this guy makes are both sobering and sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The sad thing is that our military doctrine has never really gotten any better. There’s some sort of serious disconnect between the upper echelons of military-civilian leadership, where nobody can quite get their head around, “People don’t like being bombed and shot by dudes from the other side of the world who don’t know shit about their society, history, or culture.”

    Part of it is that our political class can’t say that openly, because it’s taboo for various reasons. But even if you can’t say it, you could at least THINK it and make policy based on that fact. Except apparently you can’t get very far in certain parts of government service if you’re able to form such a thought.

    You’d think after basically 50 years of making this pretty obvious intellectual error we’d learn, but no.

    Anyhow: Mantis.

    I’m so poisoned by Englehart’s shoddy 1980’s work on “Fantastic Four” and “West Coast Avengers” that I’ve never read his 70’s stuff, even though I know the Secret Empire and Celestial Madonna stuff are considered Marvel classics. (Although, that’s not saying much: the supposedly classic Kree-Skrull War was a huge disappointment, Neal Adams doing “Fantastic Voyage” aside.)

    One of the things about Mantis that’s odd is, as you say, her story ENDED. “So, uh, she marries a corpse animated by sentient mold, and goes off into space to conceive Super Jesus.” That’s… well, it wraps up in a way that can’t be topped by any later story. Once Isis conceives Horus, she sort of drops out of the plot.

    Furthermore, while you’re no longer interested in Mantis because she’s no longer used as a commentary on the Vietnam War, that points to another problem with the character: she’s a highly topical character who is compelling her original context, but less and less once that context is forgotten. (Also: Luke Cage; folkhero early Superman; Mister Fantastic as early 60’s fusion of science, humanism, American triumphalism, and studliness, a constellation we’ll thankfully never see again.)

    If you create a character perfectly suited to a particular time and place, as society shifts the character might be left behind. Teenage Spider-Man is timeless; Cable is not. There’s some special artistry to creating a character who taps into a particular part of the zeitgeist, yet is not completely defined by it. Kirby, Ditko, and Lee had a really good eye for that; so does Grant Morrison, I think. But many other creators don’t: whatever was going on with Man-Thing or Howard the Duck, it only worked with Gerber and then only for a particular period of time.


    • Reply re: military. To stay with concrete strategy for a moment, it fascinates me that both U.S. and Israeli military culture(s?) have a huge hard-on for the Blitzkrieg. They think of all those tanks and motorcycles whizzing past the Maginot Line, the blood rushes to their dicks, and it’s glazed, wide-open eyes from then on. Add carpet-bombing to that, another Nazi tactic, and there you go, U.S./Israeli to the letter. And yet … neither tactic accomplished a thing. The only territory the Reich barely held was part of France and part of Poland – everything else was afire in insurgency and already freeing itself from a bankrupted and energy-exhausted regime well before the U.S. and Soviets got there. (Myths upon myths … that that 1944 landing “freed enslaved Europe …,” when the German troops were already retreating from France and Italy).

      Reply re: Mantis. I hope you’ll forgve the personal observation; I’m mentioning it for contrast purposes, not as judgment. (1) We are almost complete opposites – me with my almost-entirely Bronze Age reader experience embedded in the politics of the moment, you with your much more recent in-industry exerience embedded in the continuity-focused ‘Verse, the more so given that you’ve effectively excluded the 70s Marvel from your canon. (2) Your post raises an issue I’ll be touching on in future posts, the difference between text discussion and industry policy-assessment. I think I’m reading in your comment the idea that “this thing worked well financially for the company” is part of a discussion of its value. Whereas from my perspective, so what if Mantis’ history and story-content was not an effective long-term investment? That’s no concern of mine. Being a reader of Marvel Comics does not make me an advocate for or in any way subject to its policy-planning or its shareholder priorities.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Regarding the Blitzkrieg, it’s a perfectly sound tactic, but it’s not a STRATEGY, and that’s the problem. And anyone capable of realizing the distinction is apparently disqualified from setting American foreign policy, and that’s been the case for about 50 years now.

        On Mantis I think your observations are a little off. I’m not talking about the character from a business perspective; I could fucking care less. I’m talking about her from a creator or fan standpoint. What story can you possibly tell with her, after the Celestial Madonna saga? (And sure, fans are dumb and want characters to keep going–but in this case Englehart himself fell to the temptation too, multiple times.)

        So you’ve got a character rooted in a very specific historical context, whose defining adventure is simultaneously very high-stakes and also somewhat silly. That’s not an easy thing to work with, if you sit down at the typewriter and say, “I wanna tell a kick-ass story about the real Mantis not the late-80’s NutraSweet version.”

        And for the record: the ‘Verse can go fuck itself.

        I’m not doing much this afternoon, so maybe I’ll cruise through the Avengers run. Just like no one should judge Kirby on his late 70’s “Black Panther,” I don’t want to judge Englehart on his awful “West Coast Avengers.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ron, did you read Garth Ennis’ stories about the Frank Castle (the Punisher) past in Vietnam, or his Unknown Soldier miniseries? I honestly don’t consider them his best work, but seeing that he seems the one comic book writer interested into writing about that war (and he is not even American) I was interested in your opinion about the way he depict it.

    Apart from that, the other thing that I thought reading this post is the depressing realization about how much of what you write about the Vietnam War would be applicable to IRAQ and Afghanistan, too.


    • I can’t say much about those specific titles. I did get a solid dose of a certain perspective on Vietnam from Ennis’ Preacher, when it spent a lot of time on the main character’s father’s back-story, which was the exact moment that my interest in that title evaporated. The account was derived almost completely from Hollywood and the “concerned” sphere of reflection, meaning utterly co-opted. One gets to say “oh golly what an awful war” with no genuine historical critique, and actually to revel in how fuckin’ cool it must have been, and how fuckin’ cool it must be to be a Real Man Forged in Fire back here among the ungrateful masses – pure John Milius, the poster child for the “God what I’ve give to have been there” dickless fools, who wish to be afflicted with their romantic version of PTSD more than anything in the world.


      • Oh, yes, that part was jarring…. full of cliché and the bit with his father’s lighter… I continued to follow the series because the good outweighed the bad, but that is one of the low points of Preacher.
        In a sense, seeing that Preacher was ALL about American mythology (the protagonist’s talked with the ghost of John Wayne and was literally a cow boy, and it had a western ending with Eastwood killing the big bad..), not American reality, it was sort of appropriate to show Vietnam that way. But while other parts of American mythology were deconstructied, openly mocked or treated with irony, that part seemed accepted as true, without any irony.
        It’s telling that when I thought of the Vietnam stories written by Ennis i totally forgot about that, but yes, the others are not much better.
        And it’s strange, because his “war stories” are usually much better, or at least, better researched. Probably another proof of how pervasive was the 80s rewriting of history

        About the ’80s Mantis… it’s not only Mantis, I don’t know what happened to him, but I don’t recall a single Englehart story after the 70s worth reading (It doesn’t mean that he did not write at least one, but I didn.t read it or I don’t recall it). But it’s a very common thing, very few American comic book writers don’t suffer a drastic drop in quality with age, and those that avoid it are usually the ones who did stay away from mainstream superhero comics…

        (of the guys who made Marvel great in the ’70s, the only one I recall being still readable in the 90s was Gerber…)

        Liked by 2 people

        • I think that may be true of most writers, not just comic writers. Skills develop and change; what we liked about them at one point in their careers is no longer present later. (And for that matter, we change too — our tastes as readers change, our perceptions of what’s going on in the text changes.)

          For example, I dearly love Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy — but for my money, the fourth and subsequent books she wrote in the Nineties and beyond are awful. They’re nothing like the original three; the person who wrote them has different skills, different concerns, different perspectives. The same applies, by and large, when Fritz Leiber went back after decades and wrote more Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, and Moorcock went back after decades to pen more Elric tales. Other than a few bits here and there, I thought it was pretty much all horrid — but I still love their early stories about those characters with a fierce passion.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Moreno, I thought Englehart’s run on the late 80’s “Silver Surfer” (issues 1-31) was pretty good. Marshall Rogers’s pencils are curiously “empty” and yet tell a story very cleanly, and Ron Lim does a good job in the second half of that run. We get some fun political intrigue stuff with the Skrulls and the Kree, as well as the Elders of the Universe.

          One of the curiosities of Late 80’s Marvel is the anthology title, “Marvel Comics Presents…,” which for the most part was never any good. Although! The first twelve issues feature a Steve Gerber Man-Thing story with truly creepy art and a plot inspired by all of the horrible stuff the CIA did in the 1980’s. There’s also a 25-part (!) Black Panther story by Rich Buckler & Gene Colan, which I’ve never read in its entirety, and later a story by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy using an off-brand Deathlok called Coldblood. The editor of the comic said he was deliberately reaching out to all of the creators that Jim Shooter had pissed off, so you start seeing a few big-name writers from the 70’s reappearing here.

          Liked by 1 person

        • @Steven S. Long : yes, people change, and the same author we liked, at a certain point we stop liking, because he is changed or we are changed (or both). This is normal.

          What I find rather jarring is how quickly this happen to American mainstream superheroes comic book writers! Most have a “window” of less than ten years! This doesn’t happen with most of people who create comics in other situations (other markets, other kind of comics, other publishers, etc.)

          Lacking concrete data about this, my supposition is that this industry burns talents. in a very short time a lot of authors lose a lot of their creativity and enthusiasm.


  4. Since my father spoke so little about the time he served (19, drafted, conscientious objector, medical transport) it’s always a trip to get more and more context about how fucked his situation really was.

    On note of the war, I need to go re-read the manga “Apocalypse Meow” (“Cat Shit One”) where they did intense history research but tell the stories with bunnies and cats. You might find it fun to check out – it’s only like 2-3 volumes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gordon Landis

    This is gonna be a hard post to write. The twenty-scad times I’ve tried to type a next sentence proves that. Vietnam, of course, looms large over my childhood – maybe larger than is reasonable, there being some distance between it and any close personal experience/effect. Or maybe I’m selling that short – I had friends, a cousin, various acquaintances with personal impact. Certainly nothing like Ron, though. Luckily for me (in terms of Ron’s give-a-shit), it neither contradicts Ron nor is that important to what I want to say anyway. It just seemed to need saying as context.

    San Jose (my home for most of the last – gack! – 24 years) has more Vietnamese residents than any other city outside Vietnam. I’ve known some of ’em, a few quite well. San Jose is also home to the “Museum of the Boat People & the Republic of Vietnam.” If someone were to say “yeah, ought to be the Museum of ARVN Apologists”, I don’t know how strongly I’d argue. And yet …

    Again, I don’t think this contradicts Ron, it’s just an angle I saw as missing. Probably understandably or even appropriately so, given his focus. But – shiznat, this is hard (thirty-scad tries!) Let me try this – my impressions of a narrative (MINE! I can’t pretend to speak for others or to get the “right” narrative) from those who emerged from that “criminal, corrupted hellhole”, at least as they passed it on to their sons and daughters (I’ve only heard scraps directly, nothing like Ron’s drinks with bitter spooks).

    “I joined the Viet Minh because I wanted a free Vietnam. I fought the French – they were the enemy, they were against freedom. Then, I became worried – it seemed Ho was also against freedom. But I couldn’t help the French! Then the Americans came, and they were for freedom, so I helped them. But then I saw my government was corrupt, an obstacle to freedom, so I supported a coup. Then opposed another [or reversed, and/or repeated – my knowledge isn’t up to figuring out those details]. I wondered – could the Vietnam I wanted ever be real? I finally, reluctantly realized the Americans couldn’t help me. They might not be entirely the enemy, at least not MY enemy, but neither could they help me. No one could help me. My Vietnam – the free Vietnam I wanted – could not be. I had lost – maybe no longer certain that was as bad a thing as I once did. I fled, sad and angry and disillusioned [and sometimes broken, and sometimes guilt-ridden, and sometimes irrationally determined to return and fight again].”

    I don’t know what to add – I just wanted to include whatever small insight I gleaned from the people I’ve met. Oh, and one thing more, remembering that I’ve never been a comics reader: through the 80’s, and the 90’s, and all the way to today, there are (it seems to me) PLENTY of stories that Mantis COULD have been in, connecting her to then-contemporary Vietnam, then-contemporary America, and Vietnamese-Americans generally. It’s sad that didn’t happen. The Mantis stories I would have (and would) like to see – I can’t help but wonder what any Vietnamese or Vietnamese-American comic creators might have done/could do with that material.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gordon, that’s REALLY interesting. Marvel did have a Vietnam-refugee, Karma, who was co-created by Chris Claremont & Frank Miller, and who had a really high profile introduction. I thought she was cool, but she got written out of the New Mutants pretty quickly and never really bounced back.


  6. <>

    I didn’t see a button to reply in the sub-thread above, so I figured I’d carry on here. 😉

    I think you’re absolutely right. The grind of meeting deadline, month after month, often on multiple books that differ in tone and style, has to wear you down. Speaking for myself, I always get my best work done in the morning, because as the day wears on, I start to “run out of creative.” It never entirely goes away, but it becomes harder to summon up, and the ideas never seem as good. That effect could easily apply over longer spans of time.

    Add to that the isolation of working by one’s self, in the pre-Internet, pre-free long distance calls age, and soon enough you decide you want to go do some other kind of work. And that may happen all the sooner if you have things like the Vietnam War preying on your mind.


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