That new Suicide Squad flick features El Diablo, but as with many hero codenames, he’s not the only one.  And, if you were a comic reader in the immediate post-Crisis years of DC, he’s probably not the one you remember…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of El Diablo #1 awaits!

ElDiablo1CoverEL DIABLO #1
Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciler: Mike Parobeck
Inker: John Nyberg
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Willie Schubert
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in El Diablo: In 1986, DC Comics rebooted their universe with ‘Crisis On Infinite Earths.’  It wasn’t the first time that the DC Universe had undergone such a schism, but it was the first time it was done intentionally and all at once, with all your favorite characters relaunching in new and different forms.  In addition, their flagship title, Action Comics, became a weekly anthology series that explored the depth and breadth of this new universe, including new versions of the Secret Six, the Blackhawks and more.   As part of that series, editor Brian Augustyn greenlit a new version of DC cowboy character El Diablo, only not in the old west and with a whole new gimmick.  Before it could launch, though, Action Comics Weekly switched formats again, but the new take on El Diablo was deemed worthy of its own series, and thus do we find ourselves in Dos Rios, Texas at the stroke of midnight, with a desperate mother seeking help for her wayward son…


A tearful Mrs. Montez explains that she believes her son is not just using drugs, but dealing them as well, and begs for El Diablo’s help is finding her boy and straightening out his wicked ways…


Though his name seems imposing, El Diablo agrees to help, setting out into the night with a determined gait, but no real idea how he might be able to achieve his goal.  Cut to the next day, where we find out how intends to pull it off…


Using his bonafides as public defender Rafe Sandoval, El Diablo enters Frank Montez’ cell on a mission of motherly goodwill.  Sadly, Frank doesn’t seem interested in any favors from a strange lawyer…


When Frank proves entirely unwilling, Sandoval instead finds out where he was arrested in the first place, and when night falls, El Diablo makes his appearance once again…


The late Mike Parobeck is, to my mind, one of the most underrated artists of the era, with his clean lines and diverse-but-wonderfully-expressive faces.  His work on The Fly made it some of the best of the Impact Comics experiment, and his work on the 1990s Justice Society Of America title are what made me a fan of Jay Garrick and his JSA pals.  These nighttime panels are some of my favorite of his all-too-small body of work, using shadows to great advantage.  El Diablo enters the park, ready to confront the men who have been selling poison to the kids of Dos Rios…


There are those who speak of how great it is that Batman has no super-powers, but El Diablo is a much better example of that premise, engaging the dealers in combat with nothing more than his boxing skills.  Unfortunately, he is outnumbered, and his quarry escapes into the shadows, leaving El Diablo humbled.  But his physical beating is followed by a metaphorical one the next day where, as City Councilman Rafe Sandoval, he sticks his foot in his mouth about the unethical practices of a local importer…


Meanwhile, outside the tony shindig, a young man named Georgie falls prey to the drug-dealers tainted product, and his irrational drug-fueled rage leads to tragedy.


One quick-change later, El Diablo arrives to confront the boy, finding that he’s too late for at least one bystander, ending up at the end of Georgie’s gun himself…


Keeping a cool head (barely), El Diablo brings Georgie down, and races after his associate in the hopes of saving another life from the drug dealers.  In the process, he also channels a little bit of the Batman in dealing with the panicked teen…


I really like this idea, portraying a young hero trying to get his bearings and become the dark avenger of blah blah blah fishcakes that he wants to be, only to get flummoxed when his tuxedo gets ruined.  Moreover, the fact that Rafe is only involved to try and help out a member of his community felt fresh in 1989, and is still an uncommon story thread today.  El Diablo returns to his friend Chuy’s restaurant, trying to find out more about what young Georgie could have taken, only to encounter a couple of other teens, both of whom are stunned to find the urban legend is real…


The next morning, at the Dos Rios city council meeting, Sandoval tried to use his day job to assist in dealing with the influx of illegal substances, only to find his colleagues more focused on protecting the upper-crust parts of town…


It’s still refreshing to see a hero who uses his secret identity to fight for truth and justice as well as his masked mystery tricks, and Sandoval goes a step further, using his seat on the council to gain access to all the reports regarding the park and surrounding school area…


Before he can finish with the research, El Diablo gets a call from Chuy, telling him he has some information and requesting that he come to the tacqueria that night.  Trusting that his friend is on the up and up, El Diablo arrives, but finds things unusually quiet…


Cue Admiral Ackbar!

I’ll let you in on a secret: They don’t kill him or anything, which you could probably easily find out by googling that the book ran another fifteen issues, and Rafael transitioned into several appearances in Gerard Jones’ later Justice League stories.  Still, this is a successful first issue in both the classic “introduce a world and it’s characters” tradition and in a more modern “create an ambiance and stuff” sense, and Parobeck’s art is truly wonderful throughout.

So, what does this all have to do with Chato Santana, the third El Diablo with the fire and the glayven, as seen in theatres?  Nothing.  That El Diablo is directly related to the original Western version (who, as you remember, was intentionally not part of this character’s back story), but nonetheless, El Diablo #1 is a truly well-done comic with perfect art and a unique story, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s sort of a shame DC has never collected this book, as it’s still a very modern, very complex superhero tale, even 25 years later.

EL DIABLO #1 (August 1989)


A wonderful launching point for an intriguing new hero, trying to fight against corruption in and out of costume, with darn-near-perfect art.

User Rating: 4.6 ( 1 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. “There are those who speak of how great it is that Batman has no super-powers, but El Diablo is a much better example of that premise, engaging the dealers in combat with nothing more than his boxing skills.”

    Which logically should lead said hero into being shot into Swiss cheese very early into his career. I mean,Willing Suspension of Disbelief is a big part of any super hero story, of course, but I think I have an easier time swallowing vigilante stuff when something like Ninja Stealth Skills and gadgets are part of the package, rather than just ‘Punches!’

    Also, no Latino would call themselves ‘Eskeleto’. The correct name would be ‘Esqueleto’, which Mr. Jones might have got to known had he bothered to spend five whole minutes with a Spanish dictionary, I guess.

    Mike Parobeck truly was one the greatest underrated artists, wasn’t he?

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