Vernon Grant began drawing birthday cards at age three. His wife Betsy has compiled some of his writings and cartoons in Adventures of Point-Man Palmer In Vietnam: Cartoons and Writings by Vernon Grant (Little Creek Press, 156 pp., $15.95,paper). Grant’s drawing of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Betsy Grant’s dedication set the tone for this biography and introduction to the cartooning of this “artist and soldier.”
Enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1958 launched Vernon Grant’s military and cartooning careers. He went through OCS at Fort Benning in 1960. “Vernon was the artist for the Classbook for this 50th Company Officer Course,” Betsy Grant writes. “Vernon was one of the 4.6% of the class graduates that were Black.”
Several small problems: The book’s timeline is not consistently chronological; it is not always clear whether quotes are Vernon’s or Betsy’s; the drawings are not dated; and some caption typography can be difficult to read.
In 1964, while a Communications Officer at Ft. Carson, Colorado, 1st Lt. Grant—who died in 2006—presented his Commanding General with a uniquely prepared request for more field radios. It was in the form of a comic strip. The general responded: “Please accept my thanks for the brochure which I have looked through several times with a chuckle.”
Grant had been encouraged in his artistry by his father. He was also inspired by comic books such as Little Lulu, Donald Duck , and Buck Rogers and by encouragement from fellow soldiers.
Cpt. Grant received his Army discharge in 1968 after his tour of duty in the Vietnam War. That’s when he began publishing his cartoons and graphic novels. “Stand By One,” published in 1969, presents combat life in panels in which Grant occasionally inserts himself in his depictions of a soldier’s routine in the field, off duty, and on stand down. That includes humorous scenes such as a lineman atop a pole observing a North Vietnamese Army patrol passing below and reporting, “Course I’m no Intelligence Expert, but if I was you I’d rate this ‘Current and Fairly Reliable!'”
This entertaining compilation features Grant’s tour de farce of Point-Man Palmer and Invisible Peppermint, the protagonist’s girlfriend and guardian angel. When they first set foot on the tarmac in Vietnam Palmer’s helmet proclaims ” SHORT! 364 DAYS 23 HOURS 59 MINUTES.” The adventures take this soldier and his unseen buxom girlfriend through the boonies until Palmer is captured. The surprise ending has Peppermint swimming in the Saigon River trying to save her soldier boyfriend.