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Conflict then; trauma now: Reading Vietnam across the decades in American comics

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This article will consider the shift in representations of the Vietnam War in American comics, concentrating specifically on the shift from gung-ho violence and patriotism to nuanced personal narratives of trauma and the psychological impact of conflict. I will compare and contrast three comics series: The ‘Nam, a Marvel series that ran from 1986 to 1993; The Punisher Invades the ‘Nam, a cross-over series that comprises two arcs over five issues in 1990 and 1992; and Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Punisher: Born ([2003] 2007), an origin story that positions trauma as a survival tool within theatre. Vietnam as a conflict event and a cultural touchstone has affected the way we view violence in the twenty-first century. I discuss how comics has measured and represented the shift in positioning of violence and conflict from earlier wars through Vietnam to the present day. I close by asking to what extent our tools and tropes for representation of violence have changed and ask if there remain some last strands of continuity from pre-Vietnam violence texts.
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Keywords: The ‘Nam; Vietnam; comics studies; conflict; superheroes; trauma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Sheffield Hallam University

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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