or, Bungleton Green in the 21st Century.
In 1942, almost a year after America entered the Second World War, Jay Jackson—a former railroad worker and sign painter, now working as a cartoonist and illustrator for the legendary Black newspaper the Chicago Defender—did something unexpected.
He took the Defender’s stale and long-running gag strip Bungleton Green and remade it into a gripping, anti-racist science-fiction adventure comic.
Summer Fall from the New York Review Books is
a collection of Jay Jackson‘s version of Bungleton Green.
So this seems a perfect time to link to Steve Carper‘s revision of his three-piece article about cartoonist Jay Jackson with an emphasis on Jay’s tenure on the Bungleton Green comic strip.
Jay Jackson introduced the world to the first black superhero on January 6, 1945 in the most obvious place, “the oldest, longest continuously running black comic strip,” Bungleton Green, in the pages of the country’s leading black newspaper, the Chicago Defender. Bungleton Green, the name of the character as well as the strip, became the literal embodiment of the black ideal, a man who in all ways was equal, even superior, to the whites whose relentless oppression Jackson constantly fought.
That he did this during World War II is no coincidence; the time was ripe. Jackson felt that Americans needed to be reminded of the unequal status of black Americans fighting in and supporting a war effort purported for the freedom of all. The result was some of the strongest social commentary ever put into comic form, with excoriations of white supremacy, bigotry, and systemic racism that resonate with current events. Why this important first has been forgotten is a mystery, but celebrating it today is critical. The time is again ripe.