When it comes to curating her late husband’s artistic legacy, Betsy Grant seems to be just getting started.
Grant, the Dells native and current resident who last fall published a book of husband Vernon Grant’s cartoons and writings entitled “Adventures of Point-man Palmer in Vietnam,” has spent the better part of 2015 generating interest in the book, placing it in stores from central Wisconsin to the East Coast and laying the groundwork for her continued efforts to grow appreciation for her husband’s work.
Grant’s goal — much like the author herself — is direct: Make Vernon Grant “a household name” among those who drew cartoons chronicling the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.
If publicity is any indication, she is succeeding. Not only have her efforts yielded attention from mainstream news media here in Wisconsin and in Cambridge, Massachusetts — where she and Vernon resided until his death in 2006 — the comic book and academic worlds have taken notice as well.
Comic Book Creator magazine features a multi-page story about Vernon Grant –- authored by Betsy — in its Spring 2015 edition, with numerous photos, examples of his work and recounting of his contributions to the genre now known as the graphic novel — a genre that did not have a name when he published his first books of cartoons following his years serving in the U.S. Army, including in Vietnam.
The cartoonist's contribution to war-time cartooning also has received notice from the academic world as well. In her yet-to-be published book, "Comic Art of War," author Christina Knopf credits Vernon Grant with “the introduction of (the Japanese cartoon style known as) manga to the West. ”
Cord A. Scott, author of the 2014 book “Comics and Conflict,” didn't discover the cartoonist until after the book was published, but he has contact Betsy Grant about inclusion in future efforts regarding the subject.
Even though — and perhaps because — both authors discovered her husband’s artistry and its place in the comic book firmament independent of her efforts, Grant seems especially proud of these recent developments.
“I’m excited now because the academic world is becoming aware of him,” she said, noting with a gleam in her eye that at least one account of Vernon Grant’s contributions referred to him as “the graphic novel pioneer.”
In addition to placing the book in almost a dozen bookstores so far — including Barnes and Noble and amazon.com — Grant has conducted a number of book signings and presentations locally and in Cambridge, where she drew a small and interested crowd in mid-February in spite of the one of several record-setting snow storms this past winter.
Not surprisingly, Grant has discovered strong interest in her husband’s work among veterans who served in Vietnam, and she has begun including state American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars conventions on her list of places to appear. She sells the book at these gatherings and talks to veterans about her husband’s oft-times humorous take on America’s involvement in that conflict, which ended 40 years ago this spring.
“I had one Marine say to me, ‘we had some really bad times there but we also laughed a lot,’” she said. “There must have been some pretty hard times over there, but if (Vernon) came out of there and could find humor in all of these things that happened — it’s amazing that he could find the humor.”
As one amazon.com reviewer and veteran put it, Vernon Grant “seemed to be the kind of guy, even in the most dire circumstances, who could find humor, and that was the kind of person you wanted to serve with,” she said.
These and other reactions to Vernon Grant’s work have served to deepen what already was a great — and obvious appreciation — by Grant for her late husband and his efforts.
“I always admired his positive attitude and ability to laugh, but I think I admire it even more now,” she said, “after studying his humor and seeing it help a lot of people.”