TALES OF THE GREEN BERETSOriginal Medium: Prose fiction
Published by: New American Library
First Appeared: 1965
Creator: Robin Moore
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In 1965, while America was riding high on enthusiasm for the Vietnam War, the publishing industry, recalling the success of contemporary war fiction 20-odd years earlier, put out reams of stories extolling the virtues of our brave troops overseas. One of the more successful of that year's
crop was author Robin Moore's Tales of the Green Berets. Within a year, it had been adapted into both a movie and a comic strip.
In real life, the Green Berets were an elite band of fighting men (tho usually not that elite), chosen from only the most capable applicants and given special training. They were celebrated in song (such as Sgt. Barry Sadler's Ballad of the Green Berets), story (such as this one) and, of course, the news.
In the comic strip, which debuted on Monday, September 20, 1966, it was pretty much the same. Its fare was the war story, but with extra-competent heroes. The distributor was The Chicago Tribune Syndicate, which had long since made its mark on the comics world with the likes of Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie. But the main reason the comic attracted the industry's attention was the artist — comic book veteran Joe Kubert (Sgt. Rock, Viking Prince and much more), making his first foray into newspaper comics (and only one, not counting Big Ben Bolt and Winnie Winkle, projects of his cartooning school). The scripting was credited to Robin Moore himself, but was actually ghosted by Jerry Capp, brother of Al Capp (Li'l Abner). (Capp's other brother, Elliot Caplin, whose real credits include The Heart of Juliet Jones, is sometimes credited erroneously.)
The comic strip version of Green Berets had a spin-off of its own — Dell Comics adapted it into comic book form for five issues, January 1967 through October 1969. There, the artist was Sam Glanzman (USS Stevens; Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle; and a 1940s obsuro named Fly-Man). (Curiously, the Dell version left the S off of the end of the title.) Also, reprints of the strip were rushed into print in paperback book form in 1966, and reprinted again 20 years later, in five volumes, by Blackthorne Publishing (Kerry Drake, Nervous Rex).
But back in the newspapers, things weren't going so well. Kubert, who had wanted it to develop into something along the lines of Terry & the Pirates and was disappointed when it never rose above jingoistic militarism, left and was replaced by John Celardo (Tarzan, Buz Sawyer). Worse, from a circulation point of view, the mood of the country changed, and people were no longer going for Vietnam War stories like they used to. The strip ended after a couple of years.
Today, thanks mainly to Kubert, Tales of the Green Berets remains a period piece, of interest to comics aficionados and war history buffs. But as popular entertainment, time has long since passed it by.