Location

Portland State University

Start Date

4-5-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

4-5-2016 11:30 AM

Subjects

Comic books -- United States -- History and criticism, Political corruption -- Comic books, Graphic novels -- History and criticism

Description

In 1950, St. John Publications published what is arguably the first graphic novel. It Rhymes With Lust was illustrated by Matt Baker, one of the first and most prolific African Americans in the comics industry. It was written by Arnold Drake – a long-time comics creator – and Leslie Waller – a respected novelist. Despite the talent arrayed and the historical significance of its timing, the novel has been largely ignored by comics scholars, historians, fans, and collectors. This paper carefully lays out the historical context for the publication of this “picture novel,” reviewing the state of the comics industry, diversity among creators, and the significance of the romance genre. It then explores the key reasons for the near-complete neglect of the work. Baker’s race, particularly as an artist drawing white women in romance and noir comics, is a critical element. Also discussed are issues of genre hierarchy and perceptions of artistic merit within the comics community as well as the historical context of American society – particularly in the publishing industry – at the time of the novel’s publication.

Persistent Identifier

http://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/17162

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May 4th, 10:00 AM May 4th, 11:30 AM

How Lust Was Lost: Genre, Identity and the Neglect of a Pioneering Comics Publication

Portland State University

In 1950, St. John Publications published what is arguably the first graphic novel. It Rhymes With Lust was illustrated by Matt Baker, one of the first and most prolific African Americans in the comics industry. It was written by Arnold Drake – a long-time comics creator – and Leslie Waller – a respected novelist. Despite the talent arrayed and the historical significance of its timing, the novel has been largely ignored by comics scholars, historians, fans, and collectors. This paper carefully lays out the historical context for the publication of this “picture novel,” reviewing the state of the comics industry, diversity among creators, and the significance of the romance genre. It then explores the key reasons for the near-complete neglect of the work. Baker’s race, particularly as an artist drawing white women in romance and noir comics, is a critical element. Also discussed are issues of genre hierarchy and perceptions of artistic merit within the comics community as well as the historical context of American society – particularly in the publishing industry – at the time of the novel’s publication.