Jackson, Jack Edward [Jaxon] (1941–2006)


By: Micaela Valadez

Type: Biography

Published: February 19, 2020


Jack Edward Jackson (also known by the pseudonym Jaxon), celebrated comic book artist, cartoonist, author, and illustrator, son of Jack Jackson and Cynthia Naomi (Pooley) Jackson, was born at Pandora, Wilson County, Texas, on May 15, 1941. During his childhood, Jackson was fascinated by the history of indigenous people in Texas. Despite this passion, after graduating from high school, he decided to pursue a degree in accounting at the University of Texas in Austin.

At the University of Texas in the early 1960s, Jackson joined the Texas Ranger, a humor magazine run by students at the university. In early 1962 the Ranger staff, including Jackson, was fired due to a censorship violation. Jackson subsequently regularly contributed a feature titled, "Austin's Monuments to Bad Taste,” to another publication, THE Austin Iconoclastic, which was published by friend and colleague Gilbert Shelton (who had previously edited the Texas Ranger). To remain anonymous, Jackson had adopted the penname Jaxon, a nickname given by Shelton when they were on the staff of the Texas Ranger.

In 1964 Jackson created what many comic aficionados consider to be one of the first underground comics—God Nose. According to Jackson, the comic represented his “own personal ‘dance of death’ between the old Puritanic value system and the new, emerging cosmic consciousness.” It featured God as a long-nosed and bearded old man, sporting glasses and a golden crown, who regularly had philosophical discussions with the people he ruled over about issues such as birth control, racism, and other topics entering the mainstream in the 1960s. At the time, Jackson held a job at the state comptroller’s office, and he later recalled how friends, who operated the government print shop in the basement of the Capitol, helped him print 1,000 copies of his comic. He began to sell God Nose on the streets of Austin and on the UT campus with the help of his friends. His God Nose comic also appeared in the college magazine Charlatan. Using the money he made from God Nose, he and his friend Dave Moriaty planned to purchase a motorcycle and sidecar to travel around Europe. However, they chose to do so in the middle of winter and were sidetracked multiple times by cold weather and icy roads. The two made it London, France, and eventually Spain.

Around 1966 Jackson found himself in San Francisco and the art director for Family Dog Productions where he drew and oversaw operations for the psychedelic posters at the Avalon Ballroom. Shortly after, underground comic colleagues Shelton, Moriaty, and Fred Todd joined Jackson in San Francisco, moved in together, bought an old printing press, and began to publish their own comics and posters. In 1969 the group officially named their enterprise Rip Off Press, one of the early independent publishers of underground comics (referred to as comix). Among the many comics the group published, the first was The New Adventures of Jesus (1969) by Frank Stack, a friend of Shelton and Jackson who edited the Texas Ranger at UT from 1958 to 1959.

In San Francisco, after Jackson was commissioned to illustrate a coloring book featuring Native Americans in San Francisco, his passion for Texas history re-emerged.

By the mid-1970s he moved back to Austin. While working as an accountant, he began to meticulously research and retell Texas history with attention to Latino and Native American figures that were regularly left out of the historical narrative. Recalling his childhood, when he was inspired by the Texas History Movies cartoon strip, Jackson expanded on the concept to present Texas history in the comic format. Comanche Moon, published in 1979, was a graphic biography of Quanah Parker and Jackson’s first historical novel. His second historical novel, Los Tejanos, was published in 1982 by Fantagraphics Books. Jackson’s Los Tejanos was inspired by his own questions about the mythical portrayal of the battle at the Alamo. He often wondered why Tejanos were never a part of the popular retelling of the historical battle and set off to research Tejanos like Juan N. Sequín, a figure who Jackson believed was erased from the state’s historical narrative. Unfortunately, Los Tejanos did not sell very well, due to the serious tone of his work as well as the method of its distribution; comics and graphic novels had no bookstore distribution, and Los Tejanos was only available in comic book stores and other underground venues. His modest royalties left Jackson with no choice but to sell his original prints to make extra income.

Jackson’s pen-and-ink illustrations were famously meticulous and designed by himself down to the shape of the panels and the hand-drawn font. He was also a perfectionist regarding his thorough research methods into the accuracy of his histories. In this style, Jackson published God’s Bosom and Other Stories (1995), Indian Lover: Sam Houston & the Cherokees (1999), and The Alamo: An Epic Told From Both Sides (2002). In 1998 his graphic novel Lost Cause: John Wesley Hardin, the Taylor Sutton Feud, and Reconstruction Texas was published but garnered a bad response from one Austin Chronicle reviewer, Michael Ventura, who called Jackson a racist. When Jackson wrote a rebuttal, the Chronicle refused to publish it. Jackson sent the response to cartoonist Mack White who retyped the rebuttal in an email-list where comic fans could read it; consequently The Comics Journal interviewed Jackson on the matter.

Among his other works, Jackson wrote a non-comic history entitled Los Mesteños: Spanish Ranching in Texas, 1721–1821 (1986) and even illustrated Threadgill’s: The Cookbook (1996). In 2004 the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture chose Jackson as their first featured artist. In addition, Jackson was made a Lifetime Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.

Jackson married Carol Elaine Purse on May 24, 1980. They divorced in 1980. He married Christina “Tina” Mary Herington on August 25, 1983; they had a son, Sam.

Throughout his life, Jackson worked practically unfazed by the degenerative muscular condition he had that affected his hands. He later suffered from arthritis and diabetes. Diagnosed with prostate cancer, Jack Edward Jackson was found dead from an apparent suicide on June 8, 2006, at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Stockdale, Texas, where his parents were buried. He was survived by his wife, his son, and his sister Joanne Parks. He was buried in Pleasant Valley Cemetery. Interestingly, his book The New Texas History Movies, an illustrated reinterpretation of the cartoon series that had inspired him as a child, was published posthumously in 2007. In 2011 Jackson was the judge’s choice for inclusion in the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Hall of Fame—an honor “bestowed upon cartoonists for a lifetime of meritorious work.”

Austin Chronicle, June 16, 2006; August 11, 2006; May 4, 2007. Austin American-Statesman, June 10, 2006. Jack Jackson, Jack Jackson’s American History: Los Tejanos and Lost Cause (Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2012). Jack Jackson Papers, 1942–1943, 1958–2004, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Jack Jackson Papers, Southwestern Writers Collection, The Witliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos. Patrick Rosenkranz, Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution, 1963–1975 (Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2008). 

Categories:
  • Journalism
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Historians
  • Nonfiction
  • Visual Arts
  • Cartooning
  • Graphic Arts
  • Illustration
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century
Places:
  • Austin
  • Central Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Micaela Valadez, “Jackson, Jack Edward [Jaxon],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/jackson-jack-edward-jaxon.

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February 19, 2020