Texas in My Rearview Mirror

My latest piece is up at http://www.tcj.com/texas-in-my-rearview-mirror/ (Faithful readers will recognize it as an expansion of something I wrote here a couple months ago.)

It begins like this:
Jack Jackson, aka “Jaxon, was a first-generation underground cartoonist. (In fact, with “God Nose,” which he self-published in 1964, he may have been the first UG cartoonist.) He was a fifth-generation Texan, born May 15, 1941, in Pandora (est. pop. 125). He died from a self-inflicted gunshot, on June 8, 2006, atop his parents’ grave in Stockdale (est. pop. 1519). He had diabetes, prostate cancer, and a neural disease which had left his hands too shaky to draw.

I just finished…

…”Los Tejanos,” a graphic — in the pictorial sense — history of mid-19th century Texas, by the first-gen UG cartoonist Jack Jackson (“Jaxon”). It’s focus is the unconscionable — and unsurprising — treatment of native Hispanics by newer-to-the-territory Anglos, at the time of secession from Mexico. I didn’t know jack-shit about any of this, and Jaxon knew more than practically anybody. (His bibliography lists and critiques a couple dozen books, and his work’s been praised from academically credentialed historians to Larry McMurtry.) If you don’t want to burden yourself reading any of these volumes “LT” is a good way to familiarize with the subject. I am sure you can learn more about events and individuals from conventional narrative histories, but Jaxon’s text is informative and his visuals convey knowledge in a powerful and effective manner.

Jaxon seems to have made great effort to get details right: dress; buildings; furnishing; terrain; even physiognomy as an expression of character. I felt myself absorbing a greater sense of place and time by letting my eyes linger on his panels then if they were skimming down paragraphs of verbal description. It was like watching a Western with the ability to control the pace of the flickers on the screen. It gave the mind more space to roam. And when I thought of what Texans had put this country through over the last half-century and who it still had loose on the national stage, it left me shivering.