Beat The Devil

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Don Rico entered the comic-book field in 1939 and enjoyed a long career that branched out into scripting television programs and films, writing more than 60 paperback novels under a variety of pseudonyms, drawing storyboards for Hannah-Barbara and even teaching courses on comic books at UCLA and drawing technique at Cal State Northridge.

His earliest work for such Golden Age publishers as Fox and Lev Gleason were easily as insane as the more celebrated Fletcher Hanks, yet Rico’s name rarely pops up on Internet comics blogs or the even recent spate of deluxe reprint books.

The “problem” – if it can even be classified as such – is that Rico improved his scripting and illustrative skills to the point where his output was routinely slicker and more professional than Hanks, an advance achieved at the cost of losing the inspired lunacy that makes the creator of “Stardust” so appealing to modern readers.

Rico’s work – which included a solid run on the Golden Age Daredevil and the creation of Atlas’ stable of jungle girls (Leopard Girl, Jann Of The Jungle and Lorna The Jungle Girl) – also failed to rise to the level of an Otto Binder or a Jack Cole, leaving his oeuvre betwixt and between the punk-rock thrills of the medium’s primitive origins and the innovations spurred by true comic-book visionaries.

(Although, to be fair, few people to this day equal the likes of a Binder or a Cole …)

If Rico was bothered by this relative lack of notoriety, it never manifested itself in his decades-long career. Like many from his era, he probably didn’t give a second thought to any notions of comic book creators or their creations being remembered decades after their heydays.

In fact, when Rico returned to comics in the early 1960s to script a few stories for Stan Lee (including an Iron Man tale that introduced a future summer blockbuster movie star, The Black Widow), he used a pseudonym so his paperback publisher wouldn’t know the writer-artist was accepting lower-paying comic-book work.

At any rate, here’s a good example of a solid super-hero yarn scripted and scribbled by one of the more dependable comic-book talents of any era, Don Rico.

From Silver Streak Comics #14 (Lev Gleason, Sept. 1941), the Golden Age Daredevil takes on a sinister hypnotist in “Enter The Parson.”

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