It Rhymes With Lust
By Arnold Drake, Leslie Waller, and Matt Baker
Rust is the answer to that most obvious of questions. Rust Masson. The moral, if there’s any to be had, is, simply put: don’t go around messing with women named whose names rhyme with lust. It’s a lesson that takes newspaperman Hal Weber 120-odd pages to sufficiently discover, but by the close of this early graphic novel prototype (a ‘picture novel,’ if the cover is to be believed), the point seems to have been fairly well driven home.
Dark Horse, bless their hearts, have gone and resurrected this nearly 60-year-old masterpiece of melodrama, whose intense, if oft over-the-top borderline gothic romantic plotline seems as much an inspiration for a contemporary romance novels as it is for the graphic novel.
The book opens as Weber is summoned to Copper City, upon the death of millionaire mine owner, Arthur “Buck” Masson, by his old flame, who, as it turns out, is Buck’s recent widow. Rust sets Webber up as the editor of the staunchly anti-Masson paper, The Copper City Express, further cementing her control of the town. Over the course of the book, murder, sex, intrigue, betrayal, and men in aprons all become par for the course.
Arnold Drake and Leslie Walker’s hyperbolic plot twists, couple with Matt Baker’s accomplished, if, in hindsight Mary Worth-esque artwork will likely prove a bit tough sell for the majority of modern day readers. Like so many projects initially conceived ahead of their time, It Rhymes With Lust now seems more than a bit clichéd, and even for those who can appreciate it on the ground of historical value, the book’s plotline still runs a strong risk of coming off as slow, after decades worth of increasingly graphic work in the genre have made strong moves to out-grit their previous incarnations.
Taken in a contemporary context, It Rhymes With Lust doesn’t seem to have held up very well, but let’s face it, the book was intended as pulp, and as such wasn’t built to last. It’s both as pulp and a picture perfect representation of an important moment in American storytelling that this reissue truly has value.
Dark Horse made the very conscious decision to restore the book as it was, rather than as some hardbound historical edition, meant for library shelves. The exterior of the book, aside from the publisher’s logo, the higher-grade paper, and the more contemporary price tag, could pass for the real thing. Passed between a few sets of hands, and carried around in a couple of back pockets, and this reissue of It Rhymes With Lust will sit comfortably amongst copies of its tattered pulp contemporaries, which is truly the way the book ought to be enjoyed.
The inside is also pretty faithful, though the additions of an afterward by Drake, exploring the history of the graphic novel, and a few pages worth of creator bios are welcome. Another few pages really driving home the ways in which It Rhymes with Lust fit into that history would have been a nice addition, as well.
It Rhymes With Lust should be taken as a celebration of the height of low art, and a fitting memorial to Drake, who sadly passed away, early this month.