Thursday, July 21, 2016

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : EL DIABLO

I can't stop looking at those condiment bottles.


DC blazed a peculiar trail with El Diablo, the first Hispanic superhero to helm his own title at either of the big two publishers, as well as the first superheroic city council member, to my awareness. This was big news to a pal of mine back in Tucson who boasted an hispanic heritage and entered politics almost immediately after college. Role models work!
Pee?

El Diablo -- secretly Rafael Sandoval -- was also the first superhero, as far as I'm aware, to wear a vest and bolo tie with a black shirt. Which, again, if you know anything about Tucson politics makes him even more of a role model. Too bad he didn't grow an enormous mustache, he could've been the crime-fighting Raul Grijalva.

A street-level hero with tight ties to his small-town Texas community of Dos Rios, El Diablo boasted no super-powers BUT he did claim a compelling relationship with his supporting cast. In a general sense, he bore a resemblance to Eisner's The Spirit. Co-creator Gerard Jones' writing captured that same tongue-in-cheek flair, even if Mike Parobeck's enjoyably straightforward cartooning lacked the inventiveness of the Spirit, excepting a heavy use of shadows.

The code-switching was
a little patronizing, I'll
say that much
Like other street-level heroes before him, Diablo's primary concerns were the drug trade and corrupt local developers, the twin threats facing anyone in a domino mask who can't fly. And sometimes those who can. A four-part child trafficking ring storyline takes over a little too early on in the character's career -- if your fifth issue is the second part of a four part story, how's your casual pickups gonna fare? Well, I suppose this was back in the days when DC stuck by an idea long enough to give it a fighting chance -- there's a pair of gang storylines that Jones (lilywhite by his own admission) manages to avoid making too terribly cliched for the most part, a race-war storyline that was almost mandatory given the environment, and a lot of the action takes place in town halls, activist churches and courts of law.

Given the shortcomings of only knowing about American Hispanic culture from source material rather than experience, Jones and Parobeck (with John Nyberg on stylish inks) still manage to craft humane stories about a realistic cast. If you're looking for something to laugh at, though, there is always his terrible vest and the time they brought back the Vigilante as a pot-bellied gunfighter/hamburger chain tycoon.

Whither El Diablo now? Well, he was passed over for a namesake with more panache. Prior to Sandoval, the name El Diablo at DC had belonged to a western hero and, after Sandoval, it went to some snarling demon monster thing running around Suicide Squad and about whom I don't recall much else about.

So what holds Rafael Sandoval from coming back? Nothing, really, except the environment at his parent company. It would also be refreshing to see a creative team with personal experience in the small-town Hispanic-American community run with the baton from this point going forward, if even just for long enough to ground El Diablo's world in that vital sense of community. It doesn't necessarily have to be a superheroic Hoppers but, then again, why shouldn't it be?

4 comments:

Thomas Bottoms said...

I bought this as a kid. I really liked the uniqueness of it. I'll need to pull these out.

Brad S. said...

Just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog! Keep it up !

Unknown said...

If Wild Dog can be shoehorned into Arrow, El Diablo's DC return isn't as farfetched as one might think. This is the company that gives Vartox first-Supergirl-villain-of-the-week status.

The Dagda said...

Same here

Popular Posts