True Grit—the Coen brothers' latest film, out in theaters this week—draws on two sources: a 1969 John Wayne movie and a 1968 novel by Charles Portis. Along with 1966's Norwood, True Grit is Portis's best known work—but the author has also published a variety of short stories and a memoir, a "Combinations of Jacksons."
"Jacksons" was first published in the May 1999 issue of The Atlantic. It tells the story of Portis's childhood in Arkansas during World War II—and describes the author's first encounters with film and comic books:
The war was much on my mind in those days, and it was almost entirely the one being fought on movie screens and in the pulp pages of "funny books," known as comic books in other parts of the country. Both names were misleading for the kind I liked, the ones featuring costumed vigilantes who made violent swoops on spy rings and gang hideouts, with no Miranda palaver. Along with Superman and Batman, there were many others, now largely forgotten, such as Bulletman, Plastic Man, The Sandman, Doll Man (a fighting homunculus about six inches tall, in a red cape), The Human Torch, Daredevil, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel, Captain Midnight, and Captain America. Under any name the books were quite a bargain early on, at sixty-four pages in color for a dime. Or a kind of color. The palette was limited; Superman had blue hair. I never tired of the repetitive stories or the familiar scenes that were enacted over and over again.
Read the full story here.
The Atlantic also published Portis's story "I Don't Talk Service No More" in the May 1996 issue.