Saturday, November 20, 2010

the 'Nam vol.1 pt.4: final TCJ quotes

And some final quotes:

Murray points out that because The 'Nam was doing so well (selling roughly 250,000 copies/month and in Marvel's top 5 selling books) a decision was made to make the book a direct only title, but geared toward a slightly younger demographic. The price point went up (and it did become non-returnable since it was no longer provided to newsstands) and the circulation dropped to around 100,000. At the point of the interview it was hovering between 85-100,000 according to Murray.

Dagilis continues to ask about how some of the more graphic content got into earlier issues (of particular interest is, I think, #5, which has a very suggestive cover showcasing massacred Vietnamese in a shadowy foreground as Marks and his company stare at the atrocity) and Murray says

The thing is that we got away with some of that stuff because we were able to do a smokescreen. We did a cover we knew they wouldn't accept, and things like the flies [buzzing around the dead bodies] you can get away with because none of the guys looking it over in the Code . . . keep in mind that the Code doesn't look at the book individually. There's a person at Marvel whose job it is to look over books and say, "Hey, the Code won't take this," and make us change it beforehand. So basically what you do is you make some trades; you can trade a "hell" for a "damn;" you can trade a puddle of blood for something else, and that's pretty much what we did when we had Hama in charge, because Hama was able to ramrod that stuff through. but it takes an editor with a lot of balls to do that sort of thing and they are in relatively short supply at Marvel.

And, with regards to royalties:

I get some royalties, but Marvel takes the position that foreign publications don't count under the royalty agreement, and in fact, the 'Nam paperbacks which you've seen [there were eventually 3 volumes, each reprinting 4 issues each] are now going into a third printing, but I don't see any money from that unless they sell above the royalty numbers, but they're printing fewer than the royalty number so there's no way I'll see any money from that. The work-for-hire agreements are set up that way, there aren't enough legal precedents to change them at the moment.

Note: emphasis is mine in the above quote

And finally, Murray mentioned that there was a communication problem between editors at the Big Two and creators who were not top-tier, which came in reference to the fact that Murray and his then-editor (I don't think he's named) had a falling out over the fact that the editor wanted to "Rambo-ize" the characters even more and Murray had a serious problem with that characterization. The editor and Murray did not speak for a number of months, there were a couple of fill-in issues done by another writer, and then Murray returned to the book. But, with regards to editorial communication, he said

It doesn't matter, it's a question of ... Marvel and DC both have - all the editors of both companies are difficult to communicate with from any level. If I was to send a story to, let's say, Denny O'Neil at DC, I would not get a call back, I would have to call him back . . . Even if it's a regularly scheduled book, if there's a problem the editor won't call you back with the problem, you have to call them back.

But, Murray notes this isn't unique to the comics publisher as he states

I've run into the same thing in the magazine industry doing film articles, I've seen the same things in publishing houses.

I'll finish up with my final thoughts on these first ten issues of the 'Nam in response to the book of the month club discussion the Comic Geek Speak guys did on this trade.


1 comment:

Marc said...

Hi Chris,

I'm currently working on a research article about Vietnam Journal and The 'Nam, and I've just come across your excellent series of posts about Doug Murray and the first 'Nam trade. This is absolutely great stuff, and a revelation to me as I hadn't heard of the controversy in TCJ before. I will have to track down the "Vietnam in Comics" issue asap -- would you mind telling me what issue it was, and if there are any other issues from around the same time that shed light on critical and fan reactions to either Vietnam Journal or The 'Nam?

What I think is really interesting about this controversy is that just a few years later, Lomax himself would become the writer of The 'Nam and oversee that book to its inclusion over the course of a year. It's this convergence of two very different styles of telling stories about Vietnam that fascinates me most, and I would be interested to explore to what extent each one influenced the other during Lomax's brief 'Nam run.

If you could shed more light on any of these issues for me, I would really appreciate it if you could send me an email at, or even just respond to my comment here. Again, great work with these posts!