We have one more Cambridge veteran represented by a small collection here in the Cambridge Room to tell you about before Veterans Day. Vernon Grant was born in Cambridge on February 14, 1935. His family lived for many years at 131 Putnam Avenue in Cambridgeport. He graduated from Rindge Technical School in 1952. He studied art at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston for one year before joining the U.S. Army. He served in the Army from 1958 to 1968, including two tours in Vietnam.
Grant did a great deal of illustration work for newspapers and the military publication Stars and Stripes, in addition to self-published work. Stationed in Japan for part of his military career, it was there that he was exposed to and developed a great appreciation for Japanese comics. After he was discharged from the Army he returned to Japan and studied at Sophia University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Betsy. He and Betsy moved back to Cambridge in 1973, where he authored and illustrated a number of graphic novels, including a series that forms a small collection in the Cambridge Room. This series is titled The Love Rangers, and the Cambridge Room has copies of four of the seven issues, including “The Plowshare Conspiracy” and “Behold…A Robot!” Grant died in Cambridge in 2006.
In a 2013 article about an exhibit focused on Grant that took place at the Kilbourn Public Library in Wisconsin, Betsy Grant said that The Love Rangers demonstrates the extent to which Grant was influenced by Japanese art styles and themes, such as manga. While this type of influence is common in American comics and cartooning today, Grant was considerably ahead of his time when he first began working. She also asserted that the head of the Love Rangers squad, Lt. Teebee, bears a close resemblance to Vernon Grant. (Betsy Grant maintains a site devoted to her late husband’s art, if you’re interested in learning and seeing more.)
While this is a wonderful little collection on its own, reading through the issues one finds a surprising demonstration of the value of the services we provide here in the Cambridge Room, when in number 3, “Behold…A Robot!” one of the characters discovers the power of family history and historical records. Given a journal the titular robot created from a bonsai tree that records her family’s experiences, low-ranking team member Noriko learns for the first time about her past, after which, according to the text, “Knowledge, Revelation, Curtains of the Past Are Opened! The Mysterious Mind Blocks Are Swept Aside. Feelings and Emotions, Long Suppressed, Erupt!” She is never the same again and ready to take on a more heroic role in the narrative. While not everyone’s experience in the Cambridge Room will be this dramatic, we are happy to help people connect to their past and know that it can cast one’s present experiences in a very different light.