Noted comic book writer Arnold Drake died last week at the age of 83. Among his many accomplishments in that particular field were the stories he wrote for “Batman” in that hero’s early days; he was also the creator of the supernatural hero “Deadman” and the action team called “The Doom Patrol.”

   Of the many comic book sites where the news of his passing was announced, Mark Evanier’s blog, with his personal insight into Mr. Drake’s career, may be the single best place on the net to learn more.

   It was author Edward D. Hoch, however, who first spotted Arnold Drake’s name as being included in Allen J. Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV. In an email sent first to Marvin Lachman, however, he wondered if it was indeed the same Arnold Drake. It was, as it turns out, the same man.

   The entry is small, but it’s there. Here it is, as slightly revised over the last couple of days. After an afternoon of discussion, there has been an addition made, but we’ll get to that in a minute:

DRAKE, ARNOLD (Jack) 1924-2007. Joint pseudonym with Leslie Waller, 1923- , q.v.: Drake Waller, q.v.
       The Steel Noose (Ace, 1954, pbo) [New York City, NY]


   You may not be able to read the small print on the cover. It says along the top: “Blackmail – and a love-starved blonde!” The leading character is a hardboiled gossip columnist named Boyd McGee. (That there was only the one novel meant that McGee could never be upgraded to a series character.)

   An new addition to Mr. Drake’s entry in CFIV was mentioned earlier. In 1950 Arnold Drake and Leslie Waller teamed up to produce what is generally considered to be the first “graphic novel,” a digest-sized paperback entitled It Rhymes with Lust. The interior black-and-white art was by the highly collected GGA artist, Matt Baker. (For the uninitiated, GGA = Good Girl Art.)

Lust FC

   Is It Rhymes with Lust a crime novel? When I found my copy and skimmed through it, I described it to Al Hubin thusly: “The lady on the cover wants to run a copper town (her name is Rust) and she hires thugs and at least one killer (with a machine gun) to keep the miners in line; and there’s graft involved, and the cops.”

   Machine guns and graft do not necessarily make a novel a work of crime fiction, of course. In this case they are incidental to the plot, and not the heart of the story itself. The back cover will make this clearer, I believe:

Lust BC

   Marginal works like this are already included, but indicated by a dash, and in the Addenda #12 to the Revised Edition of CFIV, that’s how it’s now given:

WALLER, DRAKE Joint pseudonym of Leslie Waller, 1923- , q.v., and Arnold (Jack) Drake, 1924-2007, q.v.
      -It Rhymes with Lust. St. John pb, 1950 (Graphic novel.)

   It’s a minor footnote in the field of crime fiction, but as was indicated earlier, it made history in the world of comic books as the very first graphic novel. If you check the shelves at your favorite chain bookstore, you will see how large a statement that is.