Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Good Stuff from the Dollar Bin: El Diablo.

Let's see... now that I know how to do this... whatever shall I dooooo? A treatise on Grant Morrison's newest image? Barbeque some sacred cow? I know! How about a little post apropos of not really much at all on a series which was G-O-O-D mmm mm! Good with a capital good that you'll probably find for 20c a pop in bargain bins and parrot cages across the world.

I'm talking about Gerard Jones and Mike Parobeck's 'El Diablo'.

Set the Wayback Machine for 1989 and let's go!

Okay, the scene is 1989 and there's me just freshly out of high school in me local comixs emporium with a couple a' bucks burning a hole in me pocket. And here's a fresh new #1 from DC... hrm... let's see...

For those not around then, 1989 was a dark time, Watchmen and Dark Knight had come and gone and everyone had completely missed the point. Instead of complex storylines and mythic archetypes, everything was 'grim and gritty'. Ew. Into this den of supervillain rapists and second banana heroes shot in the face came 'El Diablo'. It sold next to nothing and vanished after 16 issues with nary a ripple, but even today, I can read those sixteen issues and think, "By the Gods, this is some GOOD COMICS!" It was then, and remains now, one of my favourite series ever and I love to share it with people. Which is why, me compadres, I come now to share it with yez all.

'El Diablo' was written by Gerard Jones who has, aside from his creator owned series 'The Trouble with Girls', produced very little work which I would regard as better than competant, and illustrated by the late, lamented Mike Parobeck, whose wonderfully clean and insightful art became more 'bigfoot' and cartoony as it went along unfortunately. It was an 'in name only' revival of an old DC Western character done seemingly purely to keep the copyright. They did another, almost as completely unrelated Vertigo series of the same name about a year or so back.

In this series, our hero, El Diablo, is a masked crimefighter based in the fictional Southern Texas town of Dos Rios. He's a low-tech crimethumper with no gadgets, superpowers or secret hidden lair, volcano or otherwise, a decent right hook and a dedication to his community. In his secret identity, he is councilman Rafael Sandoval, a local up and coming politician brought in by savvy Mayor Tommy Longstreet to woo the Latino vote.

One of the many wonderful things about this series was how complex the characters' motivations were, while remaining strong, and avoiding the cheap, cop-out of knee-jerk cynicism and brooding moral relativism which seemed to be the watchwords of the day... but who was watching the watchwords anyway? hrm? But I digress...

Each character is well-delinated and they all do what they do for a reason. There are certainly some straight up bad characters in this series, but very few are cardboard cutouts and there is a distinct lack of top-hatted moustache twirlers.

Each story, ranging from 'The Storm' about a series of child murders which divides the community and sparks racial violence, to 'The River', in which our hero goes undercover to bust a smuggler ferrying people across the border from Mexico, take into account the wider implications of each situation.

In 'The Storm', for instance, particular attention is paid to the local sheriff, whose failure to catch the murderer builds the pressure from within, where he finds himself questioning his own competence, motivations and agendas, and without, where his failure is seized upon as a political football by local activists on all sides.

The series was tragically cut short far, far too soon, but alas, it came about in exactly the wrong time. It featured no mutants, no oversized, bloodstained weapons of mutilation, no improbable physiques simultaneously straining the bounds of spandex, anatomy, physics and good taste.

There were no chromium multiple hologram double bag collector's item first issues with a free scratch and sniff trading card. Just good stories, well told, with intriguing, three dimensional characters you could actually give a toss about.

Frankly, I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did.

22 Comments:

Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I think I have made a terrible, terrible mistake.

4/06/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Seriously, though, what I remember about El Diablo was the great Parobeck artwork.

He was really, really good.

Beyond that, I dunno...it seemed awfully "niche-y" to me.

And remember when they tried to give it some publicity by having the Justice League invite him to join in an issue of Justice League America?

I really did not like that issue of Justice League America.

I also always sorta got a sense of entitlement from this series. Sorta like one of Jones' other series, Green Lantern: Mosaic.

Like, "You're a jerk, because you aren't reading this title!"

It is sort of the feeling I get today from Arana at Marvel.

4/06/2005 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

"Like, "You're a jerk, because you aren't reading this title!"

It is sort of the feeling I get today from Arana at Marvel."

Do you actually feel like a jerk? Because if you did, that would be lame. I mean, you should have felt that way when you weren't reading the Goon, but ignoring Arana's nothing to feel bad about.

4/06/2005 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

No, but I am getting a serious guilt trip vibe from Marvel over Arana's poor sales.

"Look, we are giving you a Hispanic character! You have to read it!!! What? Is it GOOD? Uh...well, not really, but we are giving you a Hispanic character!!! You HAVE to read it!!"

4/06/2005 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I really, really dug "Mosaic" at the time.

Of course, I was about 15, but it worked for me. I don't know if I still have it or not. I'll have to try to dig it out and give it another look.

4/06/2005 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger chasdom said...

There is a definite case for there being TWO Gerald Joneses, one who put out utter hackwork and the other who put out some really thoughtful heartfelt comics. The split was probably about 80/20. I think late in his mainstream career he figured out that it didn't make any difference - either way he sold the same amount of copies and got paid the same. Thus, all those dreadful JLE/JLI issues after Giffen left.

On the other hand, I thought Jones on Martian Manhunter: American Secrets was excellent, and Parobeck on JSA is an all-time favorite of mine. So I may have to check out this El Diablo thingee, especially since it is so prevalent in quarter bins.

4/06/2005 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Gerard Jones was good until JLE became JLI, when it quickly turned to crap. But he's written some good comics, including the best portrayal of Elongated Man ever.

I'd never even heard of, much less read any El Diablo, but it's Jones and Parobeck and they make beautiful comics together (Elongated Man mini-series, anyone)? If I stumble upon it I'll check it out.

4/06/2005 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Mosaic, Paul, was a good book, but, like El Diablo, had a lot of "why aren't you READING this, you morons!!" vibe to it, which I do not like.

That being said, it WAS a good book, better than El Diablo in my book.

4/06/2005 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I agree, Chasdom, about Jones.

His Elongated Man was strong, as was his Martian Manhunter mini-series (which, if anyone recalls, was one of two mini-series that was came out because DC let the fans vote on what two characters they wanted to see a mini-series starring. Anyone remember the other one?).

What always put me off about his post-Giffen run (besides the poor writing, natch) was the clear disdain in his writing FOR Giffen's writing. If you recall, he worked as Giffen's scripter for over a year before he took over the book by himself...so when he took over, and he spent most of the time distancing himself from Giffen (by deriding the Giffen league), it just seemed so ODD to me. If he hated it so much, why did he work on the book so long?

4/06/2005 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Gerard Jones was good until JLE became JLI, when it quickly turned to crap. But he's written some good comics, including the best portrayal of Elongated Man ever."

See, you really sound like you're full of crap here, Bill, because EVERYone knows the best portrayal of Elongated Man is the grief-stricken lunatic from Identity Crisis.

DUH!

And man, Parobeck was suuuuuch a good artist.

4/06/2005 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Ahh, let's just have Sue come back as a ghost and team up with Ralph to solve crazy mysteries, Scooby Doo fashion, along with their haunted suit of armor friend from JLE.

I really miss Parobeck. JLA with Kaminski and Batman Adventures with Puckett were some bloody good comics.

4/06/2005 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Er, JSA, rather.

4/06/2005 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Think nothing of the typo, Bill, look at how I butchered MY post...."was one of two mini-series that was came out"

Was came out?!?

I am clearly insane.

4/06/2005 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Regarding JSA, the most annoying problem with that series was the fact that it was cancelled not because of SALES, but because DC did not like the book, feeling it skewed too old.

What a load of malarky.

4/06/2005 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I own Men of Tomorrow, but haven't read it yet. Apparently Jones is a better book writer than comic book writer.

I like this post, since I do a lot of it. Telling us about weird stuff of yesteryear that we might have missed. I'll have to look for El Diablo. What the hell - it'll probably cost eight bucks to pick up all the issues.

4/06/2005 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Pól Rua said...

Seriously, though, what I remember about El Diablo was the great Parobeck artwork.
He was really, really good.


Parobeck's art on El Diablo was always much better for mine than his later stuff. It just seemed much tighter then.

Beyond that, I dunno...it seemed awfully "niche-y" to me.
I also always sorta got a sense of entitlement from this series. Sorta like one of Jones' other series, Green Lantern: Mosaic.
Like, "You're a jerk, because you aren't reading this title!"
It is sort of the feeling I get today from Arana at Marvel.


Really? I never got that. I always thought it was just a straight-up no frills crimefighting series.
Well, I have to say, plenty of cool people didn't read El Diablo. It wasn't exactly high concept, it didn't have a lot of fancy bells and whistles. Just good stories, told well.

Pól.

Wee Extry Bit:
And remember when they tried to give it some publicity by having the Justice League invite him to join in an issue of Justice League America?
I really did not like that issue of Justice League America.


Regarding that issue, if I recall correctly (not always a safe assumption) it came out after the series ended, and so, probably wasn't a sales gimmick per se.

4/07/2005 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger chasdom said...

"...one of two mini-series that was came out because DC let the fans vote on what two characters they wanted to see a mini-series starring. Anyone remember the other one?"

Yep, Neil Gaiman's Death. From some sort of summer convention polling they did, I believe.

Bill: Wrong Len. Strazewski, not Kaminski.

Len Kaminski was a hack writer who mainly did fill-ins for Marvel during the glut years, in addition being regular writer on such C-list titles as Slapstick and Morbius.

Brian: Apparently Jones was ahead of his time. Deriding Giffen's League has become something of a cottage industry now...

4/07/2005 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Jones' Men of Tomorrow is an excellent read.

4/07/2005 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Strazewski? Really? Huh, so it was.

But Kaminski did write the only issues of Iron Man I found remotely readable...

4/07/2005 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Which one was the guy who co-created Prime with Jones?

Six Degrees of Gerry Jones...

4/07/2005 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was growing up in Southern Arizona and had just started buying comics in 1989. El Diablo was completely awesome, and the problems it showed were very real to me (on the 9th grade level, of course). I was probably the only person on the planet who was deeply disappointed when it was canned. Even today I often think that a regular supers setting in the Southwest that dealt with border issues of politics, drugs and money would be really nice. If you thought "Traffic" was a good movie but needed more death robots...

7/26/2005 09:10:00 PM  
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