Friday, April 13, 2007

Sleestak's Review: When slapping girls is outlawed, only outlaws will slap girls

Page from It Rhymes with Lust
(Reprinted by Dark Horse, 2007. Original content St. Johns Publications, 1950)


It Rhymes With Lust could arguably be called the first graphic novel of the modern comic book era. There were other novels consisting of only art but they were published many years prior to St. Johns' short-lived venture into the genre. I picked it up last week at my local comic book store. Unfortunately for printer Dark Horse, the proprietor did not even know he had one in the store and was surprised when I brought it up to the cash register.

The book was a fun read but not a great one, though it is important historically for the comic genre. The motivations of the main antagonist, Rust Masson, being boiled down to just sheer craziness on her part left the story feeling a bit threadbare. Keeping with the noir style of the era all the characters are corrupt to some extent, some more than others, and it was fun reading to see what would happen to them as crime fiction can sometimes be unpredictable in fascinating ways. There are a few interesting relationships in the book, all of them creepy. The crusading newspaper man has an affair with both Rust and her step-daughter and the homicidal thug in the employ of the family really wants to hook up with Rust or if that fails, any other female he can brutalize into submission.

In my opinion the creators did not really take advantage of the opportunity given them in using the comic genre to its full potential. While it is true they were testing a new format they did not much try to break out what anyone could find in the standard crime comic books available on any news stand of the time. The end of the story is familiar and typical of comic books of the 1950s and therein may lie the trouble with the story. In the pre-Comics Code market of the era the authors may not have realized they could do more, have perceived they had little choice or unconsciously reigned themselves in with how certain scenes were written and portrayed.

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3 comments:

  1. The art look a bit John Byrnesian.

    And that lettering is awful. Just bad all around.

    Still, historically.. I may look into this one.

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  2. I really thought that bottom panel was John Byrnes, complete with the slapper's dykey 80's haircut.

    (The horrible haistyles JB gave females in the early 80's FF- shudder.)

    I'm serious, that's 1950? Wild..thanks.

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  3. For some reason I read this review and immediately went out and bought this comic. It reads like a particularly formulaic crime novel of its day, but somehow I found that peek into the past was worth the cost of admission. Well, maybe 1/2 the cost of admission. This comic was a bit on the pricey side, but you just can't put a price on comics' history. Unless you mean $50.00 for a DC Archive Edition.

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