Like the long-distance runner that she is, Betsy Grant is persistent, and that persistence already is beginning to pay off in her effort to elevate her late husband’s artistic legacy.
Just this week, Grant and the two books of her husband’s cartoons that she has self-published during the past year — the latest, entitled “Stand-By One!” came out on Oct. 1 — was featured in a three-minute-long feature segment on Green Bay television station WFRV.
The WFRV appearance — which included interviews with Grant and several photographs of her husband’s work in the two books she has published — was the third on the television airways this fall for Grant. She has crisscrossed the state during the past several months, for book signings and appearances at libraries, historical societies and American Legion and VFW conventions — all in an effort to promote her husband’s Vietnam War-era cartoons, which he produced as a first-hand participant in that conflict as an officer in the U.S. Army.
Betsy Grant will conclude her busy November schedule today with a 1 p.m. appearance at the Wisconsin Dells historic site established 150 years ago by her great-grandfather, H.H. Bennett.
Grant will speak about her husband’s life and the themes that recur in his artwork, with a book signing to follow.
As Grant’s books have begun to find their audience, the cartoons about life in the military during wartime have found particular resonance with veterans of the Vietnam War, which began 50 years ago this year.
“One man’s wife bought him this book last year, and he kept looking through it and saying ‘I remember this, I remember this,’” Grant told WFRV last week. “And then he told (her) more about Vietnam than he ever had told his whole family.”
Even veterans of more recent wars — and veterans who have never set foot in war-time theaters — seem to get a kick out of the singular insights from military experiences that Vernon Grant’s work holds, according to Betsy.
When a younger veteran recently examined the book at one of Grant’s appearances, “at every page he was just laughing uproariously. It didn’t matter the era — the humor was still there.”
As Vernon Grant’s public profile statewide has grown thanks to Betsy’s efforts during the past few months, so has the profile of her husband’s contribution to the singular art form of war-time cartoons — most notably in the recently published “The Comic of Art of War: A Critical Study of Military Cartoons, 1805-2014, with a Guide to Artists” by New York state-based professor Christina M. Knopf.
The cartoonist and his work are mentioned more than a dozen times within the book’s pages, and book’s description on the author’s web page reads like a description of Vernon Grant’s work as found in the pages of the books his wife will be signing and selling today at the Bennett Studio.
“War and military life are examined through the inside jokes of the men and women who served. ‘The Comic Art of War’ analyzes themes of culture, hierarchy, enemies and allies, geography, sexuality, combat and civilian relations, and describes how comics function within a community,” it said.
In a chapter entitled “GI Joking,” the author describes Grant as “one cartooning army captain” who “found that soldiers enjoyed cartoons about war and created the blithe series ‘Grants Grunts’ on the absurdities and miseries of Vietnam.”
Reading those words, Betsy Grant clearly is pleased to see her efforts to promote her husband’s work bear fruit.
“It was almost like opening my own book, to be so excited to see him being recognized as a major Vietnam cartoonist and a major military art cartoonist,” she said. “To see him listed among all these other cartoonists is very exciting.”