So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Monday, December 29, 2014

It Rhymes with Lust

It Rhymes with Lust by Arnold Drake & Leslie Waller with Illustrations by Matt Baker
It Rhymes with Lust, written in 1949, lays claim to being the first graphic novel, combining a novel-length story with comic book art and speech balloon dialog. At the time the authors called it a picture novel as the term graphic novel didn't come into use until the 1970s. Reprinted in 2006 by Black Horse Books, this early graphic novel while primarily of interest for its historic significance, remains a beautifully drawn work that is filled with panels that create lasting impressions.
The book is about a power struggle in Copper City, a mining town run by mine owner Buck Masson until his death. In his absence, Buck's scheming second wife Rust Masson and political boss Marcus Jeffers are fighting for control. Rust asks her old lover Hal Weber, a disillusioned newspaperman who still has a powerful longing for her, to be editor of the local paper and help her fight Jeffers. While Hal still longs for Rust, he finds himself smitten with Audrey Masson, Buck's virtuous and beautiful daughter from his first wife. Can she convince him of Rust's treachery, win his heart, and save the town?
While the story is well-written, it suffers from age, and plot elements that were fresh 65 years ago can seem corny or formulaic. What makes this book a joy to read is the artwork of Matt Baker that has held up well over the years. Baker was one of the few African-American artists in the field at the time, and his female characters are not only well-drawn, but their stylish clothing is amazing.
The 2006 edition contains a 5-page Afterword by Arnold Drake that provides the historic setting for this groundbreaking novel. Also included are brief biographies of Matt Baker and the two authors.

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