Friday, February 22, 2019

Forgotten Books: LOS TEJANOS by Jack Jackson (1982)

Back in the early '70s, one of my favorite comics was Slow Death, featuring the work of guys like Richard Corben, Greg Irons, Dave Sheridan and someone called "Jaxon." Years later, as an Alamomaniac, I discovered Jaxon was actually Jack Jackson, a guy who also had great interest in Alamo and Texas history, and that Last Gasp had published some of his comics on the subject. I also learned that some of that work had been collected in the book Los Tejanos, but never got around to possessing it. Until now. 

Though I've read a lot of books on what led to the battle of the Alamo, the fight itself, and what came after, there was never much focus on Tejano participation. ("Tejanos," I should explain, refers to native born residents of the Mexican state of Tejas, Americanized as Texas.)

It's well known that a small group of Tejanos, led by a Juan Seguin, joined the rebels in opposing Santa Anna at the Alamo, and several of them died in the battle. It's also well known that Seguin, who had been dispatched to Goliad for aid from Fannin, was not present during the fight, and went on to become Mayor of San Antonio.

Los Tejanos tells that story, and a whole lot more. The Alamo falls on page 40 of this book, but the story rolls on for another 84 pages, and most of them are sad. From the time Seguin declared for the revolution until his death in 1890, he was caught between two cultures - reviled by Mexicans as a traitor and by Texas as a Mexican. He and his fellow Tejano rebels suffered all manner of injustices and indignities from both sides, and Jackson lays it all out in fine style.

Seguin was well-acquainted with Jim Bowie, who had moved to San Antonio de Bexar prior to the revolution and married into a prominent family, so Bowie appears several times in the early pages. Davy Crockett, though, is mentioned only in passing, and there's only one panel in which he may be pictured. 

Jackson's art is always interesting to look at. It bears the heavy influence of EC artists John Severin and Will Elder, with a touch of Jack Davis. His prose is equally interesting. The narration reads like a history book, while much of the dialogue is presented in modern language, often bordering on slang. This makes the characters - good and bad - easy to relate to and understand. 

Jackson returned to the Alamo story with a longer book in 2002, The Alamo: An Epic Told from Both Sides, which is equally fine. In the meantime he had also published other books which escaped my notice: Lost Cause (about John Wesley Hardin), Comanche Moon (about Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker) and Indian Lover (about Sam Houston). I'll now be seeking them, too. 

This being a graphic novel, I'm going to show you a lot pictures. I'd rather have posted full panels, but couldn't get them without mashing the book on my scanner, so I took pics with my phone and cropped them as needed. 

Juan with Jim Bowie

Big Jim in action

The only illo with coonskin caps in the Alamo. Is one of these guys Davy?

A skeptical William Barrett Travis

Tejanos defending the Alamo walls

Santa Anna, seated at left, after captured and presented to Sam Houston, right. 

Now we move on the Juan Seguin Bowie knife. The knife first came to attention in the 1930s, inscribed with the name "Juan N. Seguin," and its supposed maker, Daniel Searles, who is known to made other knives in the 1830s, possibly for Jim Bowie himself. 

No one knows whether Seguin actually owned this knife, or even if it existed during his lifetime, and Jackson acknowledges this. But the handle matches that of the weapon shown in the only known portrait-from-life of Bowie, and makes for a good story, so Jackson ran with it. 

Here's the painting, usually attributed to George Peter Alexander Healy. No one knows whether he's holding a sword or a knife, or if the weapon was Bowie's own or just a prop provided for the painting.

And here it is in Los Tejanos. Jackson also includes a scene in which Jim's brother Rezin presents the knife to Juan, while warning the reader it's only a legend. It sure looks cool, though.


Cap'n Bob said...

I'm surprised. I've has Los Tejanos for years and was sure you did, too.

Favorite panel: the guy volunteering Juan for the dangerous mission.

Evan Lewis said...

You have the Houston, Parker or Hardin books? Want to loan them to me?

Cap'n Bob said...

No and no. And I meant I've had Los Tejanos, above.