It Rhymes with Lust

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Original cover to It Rhymes with Lust, one precursor of the graphic novel. Cover art by Matt Baker and Ray Osrin.

It Rhymes with Lust is a book, originally published in 1950, considered one of the most notable precursors of the graphic novel. Called a "picture novel" on the cover and published by the comic book and magazine company St. John Publications, it was written by Arnold Drake and Leslie Waller (together using the pseudonym "Drake Waller"), with black-and-white art by Matt Baker and inker Ray Osrin. In co-author Drake's opinion, "I don't think there is much question that It Rhymes with Lust was the first graphic novel".

According to Drake, he and Waller created the concept of "picture novels" in 1949 while in college in New York City, conceiving "a more developed comic book — a deliberate bridge between comic books and book books. ... What we planned was a series of picture novels that were, essentially, action, mystery, Western and romance movies on paper". Armed with a two-page sample of an example story, One Man Too Many!, Drake and Waller convinced Archer St. John of St. John Publications to launch a line of mass market paperbacks containing original comics work that would appeal to the general public.

It Rhymes with Lust is an adult-oriented story, influenced by film noir and pulp fiction, that depicts life in a steel town and stars a manipulative woman named Rust. Comics writer-artist Michael T. Gilbert wrote in liner notes for 2006 reprinting in The Comics Journal that it "reads like a B-movie potboiler, bubbling over with greed, sex, and political corruption". The cover tagline reads: "She was greedy, heartless and calculating. She knew what she wanted and was ready to sacrifice anything to get it".

St. John published a second book in the line, the mystery novel The Case of the Winking Buddha, by pulp novelist Manning Lee Stokes and illustrator Charles Raab. Neither book sold especially well, and the line was quietly cancelled.

It Rhymes with Lust was reprinted in its entirety in the 30th-anniversary issue (#277) of The Comics Journal. In March 2007 Dark Horse Comics published a softcover reprint with a new introduction by Drake.