By RazzaTazz 8 Comments
So I have started to read the series called "the 'Nam" (I am actually kind of addicted to it) which details the life of ordinary soldiers in the Vietnam War. For the first few issues at least this is shown through the eyes of Ed Marks, an enlisted soldier. The series is not meant as a glorification of war rather as a stark look at the experiences there. The life shown there is almost sometimes shown in minute detail, focusing on such things as the quality of boots or a few days of leave, while also dealing with the things that would scar a person for life - napalm strikes on villages, or locals sympathetic to the Americans being left to die on stakes as an example of whose side to be on. As I mentioned previously, these realistic and gritty looks at war are the greatest form of an anti-war message. In this case it helps that the writer is himself a Vietnam War veteran and one that can convey his message. Previously I have discussed whether there is an ultimate media form for specific genres of fiction, and it is possible that comics are indeed the best form in the modern day for the anti-war narrative in the spirit of Remarque. Whereas Remarque's work existed in a time largely before movies, the message had to be conveyed by words. When it comes to war though, I do not think that words can always convey the bigger picture. This might make movies or television an ideal form, but in these cases studios are supposed to be wed to the bottom dollar, that being a marketable product that people will watch. Thus even with otherwise realistic movies or shows such as Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, there are still moments where the characters get into a big climactic battle. For anyone who has never read All Quiet on the Western Front or watched the movie, there never is a big climactic battle, the real battle is whether the soldiers can escape the war with their bodies and souls intact. The is also where the gravitas of the 'Nam rests, in that war doesn't have some apex moment for the soldiers other than getting on the plane home.
The pacing of the series and the manner in which it drives home its message is one in which the images only aid to convey this message and despite the ability to display the "cooler" aspects of war, they do not revert to that, as this is a face war that does not really exist. In my mind that I have not come across any form of media that can surpass this depiction of war in the past 40 years (and really have to go back to Remarque for the same quality) it makes me think the best format for the anti-war message might be in comics, albeit ones where the writer knows the experience firsthand.