Say the name aloud of our new ancestor, Julian Bond, and generations of black Americans will think of a clear, proud voice.
For some, they hear the sophisticated trumpet for justice as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the rabble-rousing, hell-raising civil rights organization that pushed Martin Luther King Jr. into militancy and, eventually, after Bond left it, catapulted blacks into the black power movement.
For another generation, the name recalls another voice: the baritone narrator of both parts of PBS’ Eyes on the Prize documentary series, then and now the definitive television narrative on the civil rights movement.
Few will recall, however, that his voice also extended to the world of 1967 independent comic books.
While issues of The Fantastic Four comic book were overcrowded with science fiction characters and Peter Parker was beginning to think seriously about Gwen Stacy in the Amazing Spider-Man, Bond, who had just gotten kicked out of the Georgia House of Representatives for his opposition to the Vietnam War, put his real-world thoughts down on picture-filled paper. The pictures were supplied by artist T.G. Lewis.
The comic magazine was called, simply, Vietnam. Its words and pictures merged when black anger and blood flowed freely in American cities like Newark, N.J., and Detroit. National black insurrection, if not revolution, would move from the fanciful to the edge of tangible reality.
Americans had gotten used to seeing blood: It came close up from dying American soldiers in Vietnam on their television newscasts every night, right before they could be rescued into the mostly bloodless dream states provided by NBC’s I Spy or Star Trek or ABC’s Batman. With rioting in the nation’s cities, the blood came too close for their denial or indifference—from the streets outside their windows.
The 20-page, black-and-white comic book (the cover seems lost, so 19 pages are available online) begins with a list of all the black American leaders—from King to Adam Clayton Powell Jr.—who opposed the war in Vietnam.
Then Bond summarizes what he feels is the average black man’s view in 1967: that the fight for democracy was here in America, not in Southeast Asia. “One out of every ten young men in America is a Negro,” Bond writes. “But two out of every five men killed in Vietnam is a Negro.”
Bond points out that while blacks were fighting in the Civil War for their right not to be enslaved, the French were fighting to colonize Vietnam.