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1938-08 Amazing Stories  Jay Jackson 6-7

This is one of a series on black f&sf artists.


For more on Jay Jackson, see Jay Jackson's Bungleton Green: The First Black Superhero

The pulp era of science fiction, starting with Hugo Gernsback's launch of Amazing Stories in 1926, is wildly mythologized today. The names of the magazines alone - Amazing, Astounding, Startling, Thrilling Wonder, Astonishing, Fantastic, and the definitional Super Science Stories - speak of an era when "Gosh Wow" gathered an audience of young, devoted, and - to outsiders - near illiterate readers who seemed to choose their magazines based on the luridity of the covers and the freakishness of the aliens depicted on them.

Time relativistically squeezes decades into moments the farther we look into the past. The bounty of titles gathered in histories of the field would have puzzled contemporary buyers trying to find a science fiction magazine on a newsstand on any given day. In June 1938, a newsstand might at best have three titles on hand.

Only one sf pulp offered the assurance of monthly publication in 1938, Astounding Science-Fiction, which 27-year-old John Campbell had taken over as editor just a few months earlier. The Depression crushed sales of all non-essentials and that included fluff like pulp magazines. Astounding ceased publication for six months in 1933 before pulp publishing powerhouse Street & Smith rescued it. Better stories and better distribution helped push sales up to the 50,000 range. For comparison, their far more popular pulp The Shadow sold 300,000. Gernsback's empire died twice within a decade. He got pushed out of Amazing in 1929 and started a new group of magazines, all with Wonder somewhere in their titles. Those magazines succumbed to low sales and he sold them to Beacon Magazines in 1936, who installed 21-year-old Mort Weisinger as editor. They appeared bimonthly and were second in circulation to Astounding.

Amazing Stories survived Gernsback only to hit the same sales sinkhole. It dropped to a bimonthly schedule and lack of presence dropped sales similarly by half. Teck Publications' editorial offices were in New York but operated out of Chicago. When circulation hit a deathlike 15,000 Teck looked for a Chicago firm to sell Amazing to.  Well, not so much sell as toss it in as a freebie when they sold the far more successful Radio News, another publication that had originally been a Gernsback venture.

The new owner was Ziff-Davis, Inc. The company published the incredibly successful Popular Aviation and Popular Photography magazines and wanted to expand into a parallel market. Radio News eventually became Popular Electronics. It also wanted the new magazines to be editorially run in Chicago rather than New York. The Chicagoan ball of fire known as Ray Palmer became editor. Palmer was 27, just like Campbell, and started writing sf professionally in his teens, just like Campbell, but had exactly the opposite view of the market as Campbell. Campbell thought the best stuff would sell best and was often right. Palmer thought that the lowest common denominator stuff would sell best and often outsold Campbell.

Amazing had been edited by the 86-year-old T. O'Conor Sloane, a legend and a pioneer in electronics, but one who had lost touch with the teenage fanbase. Palmer threw out everything and turned to mostly local writers to create a brand new magazine out of nothing. Ziff-Davis' regular magazine art director, Herman R. Bollin, assumed the title at Amazing as well. Bollin had done pulp cover art in his salad years but left those long behind. His eye-grabbing covers on Popular Aviation somehow made airplanes seem to pop out in a third dimension and would make him famous. He would never draw a line for Amazing, or at least has no credits in the ISFDB, but he knew the local artist scene. None of the four artists in that first issue, Harold Welch, J. C. Sewell, Harold W. McCauley and Jay Jackson, had a single previous credit in science fiction, yet had to churn out eight appropriate illustrations essentially overnight. Bollin choose well: McCauley had a long career in sf and Jackson and Sewell would stick around for the next five years. Welch only appeared in two more issues and probably pitched in as a personal favor: he was the Art Director of Poster Products, Inc. in Chicago.

William Ziff was a pioneer in his own way. At the age of 22, in 1920, he started an advertising agency in Chicago that acted as the middleman to place national advertising from companies like Proctor and Gamble into what were then called Afro-American newspapers. Black professionals had of necessity created a complete parallel world that existed virtually unnoticed by whites. Newspapers were by far the dominant medium in the first half of the 20th century, but they ignored black audiences when not demonizing them. Wherever they could scrape up the funds and find advertisers, black entrepreneurs founded papers to serve their communities. Their heyday began with the founding of the Baltimore Afro-American in 1892 and and blossomed in papers serving virtually every major city by World War I. The Chicago Defender, founded in 1905, became regarded as the leading black newspaper in the country. Naturally Ziff had close ties to his hometown paper and that meant so did Bollin.

White-run newspapers had enormous incentive to spend large amounts of money on comic strips, the most popular section in newspapers, and color presses for the big, fat, ad-heavy and very profitable Sunday papers. Black newspapers didn’t: they already had all the circulation that readers could afford. Their editorial cartoonists had more cachet, as loud voices denouncing prejudice. Still, comics were expected in a newspaper and bits of fun were always welcome in any community.

Leslie Rogers was hired as Defender staff cartoonist in 1919, and was succeeded by Harry Brown in 1928. Then age 28 and a freelance for almost a decade, Jay Paul Jackson got hired as an assistant around 1933 and in 1936 took over cartooning. He did the editorial cartoons, continued the venerable Bungleton Green comic strip started by Rogers (the first black comic strip), and dabbled with a half dozen or so short-lived other titles. None of them grabbed him: by 1938 his own assistant drew Bungleton Green when it appeared at all. Nevertheless, Bollin undoubtedly knew Jay Jackson from the pages of the Defender and knew he had open time.

Jackson was a widower and father who remarried in 1935. The Defender didn't pay enough to sustain his family during the Depression. He took outside freelance jobs of dubious quality. In 1935 he also became the artist for the Fan Tan company and created Fan Tan Anne, who touted to black audiences in the Baltimore Afro-American and the Philadelphia Tribune the miraculous results of Fan Tan. Fan Tan bleach crème was a skin lightener. Science fiction pulp art must have seemed a step up.

Jay Paul Jackson photo, c1950?

Jay Paul Jackson

Bollin created a template that gave Amazing a new and improved visual identity. Under Sloane stories began with a bare page of text, with an illustration buried inside. Bollin integrated the art and the title together in a two-page spread, one full-page of art and one supporting the now hand-drawn title. Pulps were seven inches by ten inches. At that size, illustrations could be as dramatic as movie posters.

Jackson was given the plum spot of opening the new Amazing, illustrating Robert Moore Williams' story "The Man Who Ruled the World." Readers saw a futuristic airship swooping across the break from page 10 to page 11, blasting a city to rubble. They must have frantically turned the page to learn that in 2038 this 600-foot-long ship, powered by rows of multi-bladed propellers, was the property of evil Genghis Khan II. Jackson got the second story as well, topping himself with a close-up and therefore more personal image of the crew of a spaceship about to enter a "boiling zone" in Ross Rocklynne's "Escape Through Space." Only his third illustration, a stiff tableau of Major Wright of the Ether Patrol facing off against Barly Moque, Eando Binder's "The Space Pirate," is easy to flip past without stopping.

Amazing Stories October 1938 “The Man Who Ruled the World,” by Robert Moore Williams

Amazing Stories, Jun 1938

Amazing Stories October 1938 “The Space Pirate,” by Eando Binder

Amazing Stories, Jun 1938

Amazing Stories October 1938 Ross Rocklynne’s “The Escape Through Space”

Amazing Stories, Jun 1938

The Ether Patrol must have sounded like a perverted Boy Scout troop to someone outside of the world of pulp sf. Skimming the boiling zone next to the Sun in a 2422 model Hispano-Suiza couldn't have made much more sense than conquering the Earth by means of intra-atomic power. (Under the melodrama and Yellow Peril nonsense, however, modern eyes will pop at Rocklynne's casual assumption that in the 2030s the Earth would conserve gas and oil in favor of wind, hydro, tidal, and solar power, used to regulate the weather.)

Bollin liked what he saw. Jackson did six drawings for four stories in the next Amazing, August 1938, the best being the technophiliac's dream of a telescope for Robert Bloch's "The Secret of the Observatory," shown at the top of this page. Other midwestern pulps recognized his talent as well. Jackson finished 1938 by doing drawings for two issues of Weird Tales, published out of Indianapolis, and several interior drawings and one cover, a collaboration with Harold DeLay, for the Chicago-based Golden Fleece.

1938-12 Golden Fleece  Jay Jackson cover

Golden Fleece, December 1938

Palmer's resuscitation of the musty Amazing proved to be exactly what the readership wanted. "Sales rocketed," says sf magazine historian Mike Ashley. Amazing quickly returned to a monthly schedule and Palmer launched a second pulp, Fantastic Adventures, in May 1939 to have a home for more fantasy-oriented stories. Bollin had found other Chicago-based artists to take over for Jackson but this new, increased need for artists who could be good, fast and dependable caused him to ask Jackson to return. Jackson appeared in the second issue of Fantastic Adventures, July 1939, and then again and again. He seemed more comfortable doing realistic art, and his work there closely resembled his work for Golden Fleece.

1938-10 Golden Fleece Jay Jackson illus

Golden Fleece, October 1938

1939-09 Fantastic Adventures  Jay Jackso

Fantastic Adventures, September 1939

Bollin kept feeding Jackson more and more assignments. He reappeared in Amazing in June 1940, and had art in almost every issue in 1941, often appearing in both magazines the same month. Readers must have noticed. Palmer did a series of mini-autobiographies in Fantastic Adventures, called Introducing the Author, a twin to Amazing's Meet the Author. Despite the misnomer, Jackson got his turn in the October 1941 Fantastic Adventures, a rare tribute to an artist. (Only Jerome Krupa and two cartoonists ever made either page before Jackson.) More importantly, this somewhat impressionistic life story is the best source for any information about Jackson's early years.

Fantastic Adventures, Oct. 1941, Jay Jackson bio p. 139
Fantastic Adventures, Oct. 1941, Jay Jackson bio p. 142

Fantastic Adventures, October 1941

BIG Frank Jackson spread a wide and pearly grin. His broad hairy chest expanded another four or five inches and he stuck hard calloused thumbs under his armpits. He strode the splintered creaky boards across the kitchen to the clock hanging on the shamelessly nude cracked plaster wall over the water pail.

The clock had stopped at five minutes to twelve, but “What the hell! ” he said, “who cares whether the kid was born on the tenth or eleventh of September. It’s here! it’s a boy, and everything is fine. Hot damn! ” The object of the old man’s affection was me—and although I don’t remember it, I’ve been told that I was lying in bed broadcasting my arrival to a sleepy, disinterested world in accents loud and clear.

My dad was pleased because the big bird with the long bill had short changed him with girls on three previous occasions, but this time, at long last, had come a man child to carry on the family name! And what a name—and what a boy!

This tender little scene took place in Oberlin, Ohio, some score and two thirds years ago... but time marches on, as we’ve heard tell, and the scene changes (for which you will no doubt be thankful). We find the hero (that’s me) of this here yarn swinging a spike maul on a railroad track near Columbus, Ohio. The weather is hot—so is the boss, because yours truly wasn’t so hot as a spike maul tosser, being only thirteen years old and a little light in the places and things necessary for heaving an eleven pound hammer ten hours a day.

So, down comes the curtain again, to rise on a steel mill scene in Pittsburgh, Pa. We find our slightly brawnier party of the first part with a pair of steel tongs in his leather-encased hands, grabbing at a hunk of white hot steel as it jumps out of the rollers. If he misses it, it won’t miss him, and will cut through his legs like a hot knife through butter.

The next thrilling chapter follows in the gymnasium of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. This time my hands wear a pair of sweat and blood smeared mitts and above me stands a chunky little guy called Shorty Morrison. The referee calls a halt on this very touching murder —and it was strictly touching, too—Shorty touched me with everything but the ring posts. That wasn’t my first fight, but (thank God) it was practically my last.

An English teacher told me I should be an advertising writer because on one historic afternoon, I described a fried egg in all its taste tantalizing glory—in such a realistic way that she swore she could smell it. One of my art teachers suggested that I quit school and keep the night job I had driving a mail truck, because I might be an artist some day, and I might not—but I could always drive a truck.

Well, I didn’t take either teacher’s advice... being only nineteen years old and knowing (I thought) what everything was all about, I said “I do” to the girl of my dreams and started in the sign business. Business was good—in fact it was super, and I had sign painted the whole countryside before a severe case of lead poisoning put me out of the sign business and on the train to Chicago, where effortlessly I became first poster artist and then shop foreman for a chain of theaters.

Everything was swell until the old man with the scythe caught up with my life and struck swiftly, viciously—my father, my first child—my wife... leaving me with an infant daughter and not the vaguest idea how to fold a diaper. I was twenty-two.

The next scene comes on like an Orson Welles film set—crazy pictures at crazy angles... loneliness, bitterness, sullenness, strange hotels and soulless rooms, moonshine whiskey, bathtub gin, despair.... Life had done me dirt and I resented it... so I drew and wrote about people on the down beat —my inborn humor turned sour and came out on paper with a sardonic grin. I tossed them in a trunk and forgot them. As the years crawled by, bitterness and frustration hung around me like a shadow... but I was lucky too, for those were the years when hand painted posters we used in front of theaters and speakeasies went in for murals... more work than I could handle was tossed my way.

Then, after those years of wild prosperity came 1933. No job. I gave up my apartment and moved into a fine hotel... kept my big flashy convertible gleaming... changed suits every day—it seems crazy now, but at that time, it helped to keep my courage up.

Working on Old Mexico murals for the Century of Progress, I dug into my trunk and submitted a number of illustrated verses to a Pittsburgh newspaper on which I had worked while still in school. The drawings caught on, and I soon had a staff job on a Chicago magazine and national weekly newspaper, also a three year contract from a New York publisher to fill up a half page each week in his magazine section.

Then (in the Chicago office) I met the little lady who was destined to be my girl Friday, my good right arm and the rarely silent power behind the throne.

So, everything is all right now... I have my studio in our little suburban home, where my wife pinch hits at modeling for me, in between her own enthusiasm for dress design and the business of raising my daughter who graduated from the eighth grade this past June. I want to tell you how much I enjoy working for this fine magazine, and how much I appreciate your grand letters—even the ones telling me how lousy I am —because they all keep me trying harder to make each drawing better than the last, and some day, I hope to please all of you.

In all that vivid depiction of a freelancer’s life, one omission glares. Jackson says not one word about reading science fiction. Apparently his pulp art was just another gig which he treated with professional competence and no personal involvement. Nor did he attempt to honor science fictional tropes. I’ve collected every bit of his science fiction interior art here and 90% of it could be swapped over into other non-sf pulp magazines without a line being changed. He never drew a bug-eyed monster or a robot and after that first issue of Amazing no rocketships.

As far as I can tell, no compilation records all of Jackson's science fiction illustrations. I was pleasantly surprised to find I could track down every one. (Golden Fleece art is not included.) Here for the first time ever is the complete pulp work of Jay Jackson.

The window is sized to properly reproduce the two-page spreads. To see the occasional smaller work in the correct manner click on the window for a full view. The Esc key will return you to the window.


Story Title, Length, Author, [real name if pseudonym used],Magazine and Cover Date, Illustration Page(s)

"The Man Who Ruled the World" • novelette by Robert Moore Williams, Amazing Stories, June 1938, 10-11.

"Escape Through Space" • short story by Ross Rocklynne, Amazing Stories, June 1938, 30-1.

"The Space Pirate" • novelette by Eando Binder [Otto Binder], Amazing Stories, June 1938,  108-9,121.

"Secret of the Observatory" • novelette by Robert Bloch, Amazing Stories, August 1938, 6-7,29.

"The Blinding Ray" • novelette by A. R. Steber [Raymond A. Palmer], Amazing Stories, August 1938, 46-7,63.

"The Meteor Monsters" • novelette by Arthur R. Tofte, Amazing Stories, August 1938, 74-5,85.

"Germs of Death" • short story by A. H. Vance, Amazing Stories, August 1938, 98-9.

"Kidnappers of Space" • novelette by Thorp McClusky, Amazing Stories, August 1938, 110-11.

"The Isle of Abominations" • short story by Kadra Maysi, Weird Tales, October 1938, 426-7.

"Jekal's Lesson" • short story by David Bernard, Weird Tales, October 1938, 443.

"The Gland Superman" • novelette by Ed Earl Repp, Amazing Stories, October 1938, 8-9,27.

"Coasts of Chance—Evening at the Black Bull" • novelette by H. Bedford-Jones, Golden Fleece, 44-5.

"Bunyips in the Mulga" • novelette by Anthony M. Rud, Golden Fleece, November 1938, 2.

"Master Blythe Gets His Cannon" • short story by William Ormond McClelland, Golden Fleece, November 1938, 89.

"Golden Hour of Guchee" • short story by Walter Claremartin, Golden Fleece, November 1938, 101.

"Hangman's Coin" • short story by Thorp McCluskey [sic], Golden Fleece, November 1938, 106.

"Peace on the Sea" • short story by John Murray Reynolds, Golden Fleece, January 1939, 100.

"The Hairless Ones Come" •  short story by L. Sprague de Camp, Golden Fleece, January 1939, 108.

"Coward's Reward" • (1939) • short story by James Harry Martin, Golden Fleece, January 1939, 116.

"The Monster from Nowhere" • short story by Nelson S. Bond, Fantastic Adventures, July 1939, 46.

"Horror Out of Carthage" • novelette by Edmond Hamilton, Fantastic Adventures, September 1939, 6-7,17.

"The Gift of Magic" • novelette by Miles Shelton [Don Wilcox], Fantastic Adventures, January 1940, 76-7.

"Volcano Slaves of Mu" • short fiction by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr., Fantastic Adventures, March 1940, 54-5.

"The Wizard of Baseball" • short story by Milton Kaletsky, Fantastic Adventures, May 1940, 68-9.

"Planet of Black Terror" • novelette by Ed Earl Repp, Fantastic Adventures, June 1940, 110-11.

"War of Human Cats" • novelette by Festus Pragnell, Fantastic Adventures, August 1940, 90-1.

"Skidmore's Strange Experiment" • short story by David Wright O'Brien, Amazing Stories, January 1941, 124-5.

"The Last Analysis" • short story by John York Cabot [David Wright O'Brien], Amazing Stories, February 1941, 57.

"The Winking Lights of Mars" • short story by Gordon A. Giles [Otto Binder], Amazing Stories, February 1941, 120-1.

"Phoney Meteor" • novelette by John Beynon [John Wyndham], Amazing Stories, March 1941, 96-7.

"Secret of the Stone Doll" • short fiction by Don Wilcox, Fantastic Adventures, March 1941, 128-9.

"Priestess of the Sleeping Death" • novelette by Neil R. Jones, Amazing Stories, April 1941, 88-9.

"Rocky Gordon's Billion-Dollar Trap" • short story by Robert Moore Williams, Amazing Stories, May 1941, 180-1.

"The Masterful Mind of Mortimer Meek" • novella by William P. McGivern, Fantastic Adventures, May 1941, 60-1.

"Homer Higginbottom, Rain Maker" • novelette by Milton Kaletsky, Amazing Stories, June 1941, 114-5.

"10 Seconds from Nowhere" • short story by David Wright O'Brien, Amazing Stories, July 1941, 96-7.

"Doorway of Vanishing Men" • short story by William P. McGivern, Fantastic Adventures, July 1941, 126-7.

"Mr. Muddle Does As He Pleases" • novelette by William P. McGivern & David Wright O'Brien, Amazing Stories, August 1941, 64-5.

"The Throne of Valhalla" • novelette by Arthur T. Harris, Amazing Stories, August 1941, 92-3.

"The Man from the Future" • short story by Don Wilcox, Fantastic Adventures, November 1941, 100-1.

"The Short-Wave Superman" • short story by Robert Leslie Bellem, Amazing Stories, November 1941, 98-9.

"Rewbarb's Remarkable Radio" • short story by William P. McGivern, Fantastic Adventures, December 1941, 102-3.

"People of the Pyramids" • novelette by P. F. Costello [William P. McGivern], Fantastic Adventures, December 1941, 116-7.

"The Odds on Sergeant Shane" • short story by John York Cabot [David Wright O'Brien], Amazing Stories, December 1941, 98-9.

"Planet of Lost Men" • short story by P. F. Costello [William P. McGivern], Amazing Stories, December 1941, 110-1.

"Mystery of the Blue God" • novella by Harry Bates, Amazing Stories, January 1942, 54-5.

"Rehearsal for Danger" • short story by P. F. Costello [William P. McGivern], Amazing Stories, January 1942, 204-5.

"Spook for Yourself" • short story by David Wright O'Brien, Fantastic Adventures, January 1942, 8-9.

"The Cosmic Punch of Lefty O'Rourke" • short story by P. F. Costello [William P. McGivern], Amazing Stories, February 1942, 162-3.

"The Fiend of New London" • novelette by Don Wilcox, Amazing Stories, February 1942, 194-5.

"The Living Manikins" • novelette by David Wright O'Brien, Fantastic Adventures, February 1942, 66-7.

"The Outsiders" • novelette by Duncan Farnsworth [David Wright O'Brien], Fantastic Adventures, February 1942, 88-9.

"Hok Visits the Land of Legends" • novella by Manly Wade Wellman, Fantastic Adventures, April 1942, 155.

"Lord of the Crystal Bow" • novella by Duncan Farnsworth [David Wright O'Brien], Amazing Stories, May 1942, 8-9,32.

"Caveman Meets Blonde" • short story by Russell Storm [Robert Moore Williams], Amazing Stories, May 1942, 152.

"Mrs. Corter Makes Up Her Mind" • short story by August Derleth, Fantastic Adventures, May 1942, 217.

"Henry Horn's Blitz Bomb" • short story by Dwight V. Swain, Amazing Stories, June 1942, 112-3.

"The Quest in Time" • novella by Edmond Hamilton, Fantastic Adventures, June 1942, 150-1,171.

"Squadron of the Damned" • novella by David Wright O'Brien, Amazing Stories, July 1942, 114-5.

"The Sheriff of Thorium Gulch" • novelette by Miles J. Breuer, M.D., Amazing Stories, July 1942, 44-5.

"Nazi Diamond" • short story by Richard O. Lewis, Amazing Stories, November 1942, 204-5.

"The Stygian Terror" • short story by Stanton A. Coblentz, Fantastic Adventures, November 1942, 156-7.

"Lefty Feep and the Sleepy-Time Gal" • novelette by Robert Bloch, Fantastic Adventures, December 1942, 146-7.
"Marlow's Malicious Mirror" • short story by John York Cabot [David Wright O'Brien], Fantastic Adventures, December 1942, 188-9,200.

"Planet of the Gods" • novelette by Robert Moore Williams, Amazing Stories, December 1942, 150-1,169.

"Drummers of Daugavo" • novella by Dwight V. Swain, Fantastic Adventures, March 1943, 8-9.

"The Other Abner Small" • short story by Clee Garson [David Wright O'Brien], Fantastic Adventures, March 1943, 96-7.

"Jones Gets the Willies" • short story by Elroy Arno [Leroy Yerxa], Fantastic Adventures, March 1943, 160-1,169.

"Victory from the Void" • novella by William P. McGivern and David Wright O'Brien, Amazing Stories, March 1943, 158-9,190.

"Invasion of the Raindrops" • novelette by Edwin Benson, Fantastic Adventures, January 1945, 26-7.

Jackson's involvement in pulp art stops abruptly in early 1943, with only one later exception. (An emergency fill-in as a favor, perhaps?) An examination of the pages of the Chicago Defender provides the explanation. On November 28, 1942 the Bungleton Green strip got a dramatic overhaul, emerging larger and showier, as well as completely reimagined. No longer a four-panel gag strip about a literalized "little man" of the people (Bung stood about four feet high), the new strip was the equivalent of a half page Sunday strip, with about 12 panels. Bung himself was now a community leader, opening the Rumpus Room, a dance hall and games room for the neighborhood children in desperate need of a wholesome place to kill time while their parents were away at war or in defense plants. This was a very real concern during WWII, a short period of swiftly rising delinquency rates, a problem utterly forgotten today in the golden haze applied to the war period.

1942-11-28 Chicago Defender Bungleton Gr

Chicago Defender, November 28, 1942

The first panel contains a fabulous easter egg. A poster in the window announces that today's movie would be Speed Jaxon in Ethiopia. That Jackson invented a black-themed movie for a black audience is audacious enough for a time in which such movies were almost impossible to find. The even bigger thrill for those who noticed the background poster came when they cast their eyes down page sixteen of the Defender to find that Jackson also introduced a second Sunday-style comic strip that day, called, of course, Speed Jaxon. Who is tasked by the British Secret Service to deliver a message to Haile Selassie of Ehtiopia. If Bungleton Green presented the good that the common man could do, Speed Jaxon was a pure exercise in comic strip heroism, a scholar and athlete who is as big and good with his fists as Joe Louis.

1942-11-28 Chicago Defender Speed Jaxon

Chicago Defender, November 28, 1942

For whatever reason, Jackson used the pen name of Pol Curi for the strip. He didn't try to hide his style, though, and the Jaxon/Jackson similarity provided another clue.

The Defender's editorial cartoons, now usually superpatriotic paeans to American war strength and goodness, also were by Jackson, but he balanced those out with a one-panel strip of cocked-eye cynicism about the war years called SO WHAT? Presuming that he got paid more the more he drew, Jackson's steady income from four weekly gigs appears to have given him the security to drop the pulp art and, also presumably, move on from reading the often awful stories he had to illustrate. (Or not. He may have gotten a real kick out of them. But he never came close to pulp or genre work again.)

1942-11-21 Chicago Defender Editorial ca

Chicago Defender, November 21, 1942

1942-12-04 Chicago Defender So What 15.J

Chicago Defender, December 4, 1942

Reality, as always, failed to live up to these predominantly rosy images. The patriotic cartoons also needed to be balanced with the occasional anti-lynching one. As the war ground on, Jackson became increasingly incensed at the hypocrisy of black Americans being sent to fight a war against a racist enemy while being subjected to ruthless racial prejudice by the armed forces and held back by ever more vicious prejudice at home.

Whatever the quality of stories Ray Palmer saw fit to print, Jackson studied them and learned a few tricks about sliding contemporary messaging into a work by distancing it from the here-and-now. Bungleton Green became a science-fiction strip in 1943, with Bung traveling back in time to George Washington's day to remind readers that America was founded on a base of slavery and then forward to an American color-blind utopia of the 21st century, all the while eviscerating 20th century mores. That's a fabulous story that needs a long article of its own to begin to do it justice. I've written it as Jay Jackson's Bungleton Green: The First Black Superhero, a tale as fabulous and unexpected as any printed in Amazing.

Before you click over, be sure to to go through the thumbnails above and enjoy the work Jackson did in f&sf's little corner of the universe.

January 26, 2019

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