Secret Agent Corrigan, The Mystery Sub (June-August 1969)

And now it’s perfectly clear Goodwin’s seen You Only Live Twice. This story recasts Phil as James Bond—with Goodwin borrowing not just the big volcanic secret headquarters ending from You Only Live Twice, but details from various other Bond movies like Thunderball. Williamson clearly had a great time illustrating the story—he’s got secret bases, naval fleets, sharks—but the story is painfully mediocre. Goodwin’s starting to reuse character traits too. Here, the seemingly villainous woman comes around, convinced by Phil’s goodness. I think she’s maybe the third since their run started. And the villain? Good grief, he’s a craggy sea captain. Surrounded by…

Secret Agent Corrigan, The Black Sheep (March-June 1969)

Well… all the gains Goodwin’s made on Corrigan’s writing get flushed this story. Some of it may be Williamson’s fault, but not exactly. He does a great job; it’s just too bad he’s illustrating the dumbest content on the strip since he and Goodwin started. Mrs. Murkley—not a character who needed to return—is back and she’s beating in heads with her cane as she breaks out of prison. She actually stops to think about how all she needs is her cane and she’d be able to knock sense into her accomplices. It reminds me of the “Batman” TV show. This evil old…

Secret Agent Corrigan, The Hands of Madame Lei (January-March 1969)

Now, I imagine Goodwin knew the FBI was nothing like he portrays it in Corrigan. This story is more like any film noir detective story with the cop being hunted by an unknown villain and having to deal with it. Of course, it’s not an unknown villain… it’s those wily Chinese again. Goodwin likes the Chinese as villains here. Anyway, it’s not just the Chinese… there’s a Bond villain. He wears sunglasses and a black turtleneck and can break men’s spines with his karate chop. His name is Joe Ice and that name alone makes most of this story cringe-worthy. He’s not…

Secret Agent Corrigan, The Future Queen of Alpsberg (October 1968-January 1969)

It’s like whatever great advances Goodwin makes with Corrigan’s writing he almost immediately sets back. Well, not completely, but still noticeably. This story features Phil heading off to a fictional European country—with fairy tale castles—to sort out a prime minister’s plot against the future queen. The setting gives Williamson a lot of great opportunity and it’s cool to see an action scene in the castle, but there’s something missing. A lot of the Corrigan plots seem engineered to give Williamson an interesting landscape to draw. While the art’s great, it doesn’t do much for the narrative. Though Goodwin does introduce a couple…

Secret Agent Corrigan, The Amateur (July-October 1968)

There’s no globe-trotting this story, just Phil hanging out in New York and investigating a spy ring. There’s so little back story we never even find out what foreign power is buying government secrets; we don’t even find out why the federal employee selling the documents is risking execution for treason. But none of that brevity matters because it’s not just Williamson illustrating New York, it’s Williamson illustrating a packed New York. There are veritable street scenes in the strip, with Phil walking through groups of people and landmarks in the background. Even when it’s not landmarks, Williamson’s city scenes are magnificent.…

Secret Agent Corrigan, Welcome to Eagle Bend (May-July 1968)

While it’s nice to know Goodwin’s seen Bad Day at Black Rock and maybe Man in the Shadow (or some variation of crime boss running small town with townspeople’s de facto permission), it sort of makes this Corrigan storyline boring. The only interesting thing about it—once it becomes clear we aren’t going to find out about a former FBI agent turned rural newspaperman—is how the crime boss’s estranged girlfriend all of a sudden decides she wants to be a good guy. Her character has a clear arc. She starts the story trying to get back at him for neglecting her and ends…

Secret Agent Corrigan, The Stone Expedition (February-May 1968)

Phil’s off to the Arabian desert this story, which does give Williamson a chance to draw some fantastic scenery and action scenes. Goodwin plots a lot of action into the same relatively short period, but it works out since Phil’s character development has taken another break. Goodwin gets in an opening action scene with Phil in the States, discovering the arms smuggling going on in the fictional Middle Eastern country (they have oil, of course). Then he fends off some assassins once he gets there, has a chase sequence, a fist fight, a gun fight and then another gun fight. Goodwin also…

Secret Agent Corrigan, Far Orient Import-Export (December 1967-February 1968)

Thank goodness China went communist because what Asians would Americans have had to demonize once World War II was over…. The villain this issue is a Chinese spy (he looks like a fat Fu Manchu), but also appears to employ a Japanese karate expert. Goodwin never struck me as a dumb writer; he must have known he was being completely inaccurate. Details aside, Goodwin has a strong (if melodramatic) plot going. The story’s simple—a woman’s husband is held prisoner until she betrays the U.S. government, Phil finds out about it and helps her. There’s not much action until the finale. It’s mostly…

Secret Agent Corrigan, Mother Murkley and Sons (September-December 1967)

I think this story has to be my favorite Corrigan so far. Not only does it have a good length (Goodwin usually cuts out just when the second part of a longer story could start), but it also features Phil’s wife, Wilda. Okay, I’m not a fan of her name—in fact, when she’s taken hostage, I couldn’t believe anyone with such a silly name hadn’t ended up in the strip because she was a former spy and could handle herself. She cannot. So Phil has to save her. In saving her, Goodwin establishes Phil as a real character. He’s got Phil off…

Secret Agent Corrigan, Bum Ticker (July-September 1967)

Phil Corrigan finally gets some personality this story. Not a lot of it, but some. Goodwin and Williamson are far more concerned with making Corrigan thrilling than they are developing the protagonist. Of course, since Phil’s just a good egg, I suppose they can’t develop him too much. This story concerns a dying mobster, his daughter and his two former associates who want to keep him quiet. The mobster wants to give his daughter a chance to go back to the States, no longer stuck in exile. It’s up to Phil to protect and he does a reasonably good job of it.…

Secret Agent Corrigan, Slave Labor (April-July 1967)

Corrigan’s off to the sunny Caribbean this storyline, where he discovers the bad guys aren’t helping fugitives escape the States but rather stealing their money and making them do hard labor. That situation, the criminals doing harder labor than they’d ever do in a real prison, isn’t one Goodwin explores. Actually, Goodwin doesn’t explore much with Corrigan, but his lack of ambition isn’t a bad thing. It’s a diverting spy slash thriller comic strip. Even when Goodwin’s got overly expositional panels (to bridge), it’s always fast paced. One problem though… I don’t believe an FBI agent is going to give a bunch…

Secret Agent Corrigan, Operation: Marina Vladcheck (January-April 1967)

Archie Goodwin does this fantastic job setting up the story—a defected Soviet scientist is being pursued by the bad guys because they want to ransom her. Meanwhile, she doesn’t like being stuck in protected custody and dreams of getting free for even a night. It’s a great setup and the character is really compelling. Then Goodwin reveals the bad guys are using a circus as a front and they’re traveling around the country grabbing people up. A circus. While Goodwin does keep enough of a pace one doesn’t exactly dwell on the circus detail, but it’s definitely present and definitely absurd. Even…

Rip Kirby, The Affairs of Crusher Twickham (November 1953-April 1954)

It’s a genial adventure for Rip and company (well, not so much “and company,” just Desmond—Honey’s barely around again) as Desmond’s old friend tries to become a gentleman to woo a lady. Turns out the lady works in a club and her boss sees dollar signs. It’s a pleasant little mystery, maybe because there’s very little at stake. A lot of the story follows Desmond and, once again, it shows how much it helps having a protagonist with some history. Rip’s too bland. When he does arrive to help Desmond out, he’s still not the principal focus of the storyline. Unfortunately, there’s…

Rip Kirby, Whom Gods Destroy (September-November 1953)

What a nice little storyline. It’s Rip’s first adventure saving someone from death row; I didn’t realize until it started he’d never had such a case. It’s a simple mystery where he discovers the truth behind the murder—with some, uncredited, nods to both Sherlock Holmes and Dupin. Because it’s so short, and so concentrated on the mystery, Honey’s absence isn’t even an issue. And Desmond gets more to do than in much longer stories. There’s West Indies intrigue (and some odd politics to it… Rip’s sexism doesn’t return, but he does show himself to be culturally sensitive). The tropical flavor doesn’t do…

Rip Kirby, Death on Four Wheels (May-September 1953)

And it’s Rip off to the races. I think this storyline is just Raymond’s way to get to draw a lot of cars. Any good will Dickenson’s earned is tested at this point, as the female lead of the storyline’s name is Jet Allyson. She’s a silly rich girl who loves racing—Jet, because she drives fast! She’s got to be the weakest character ever in a Rip Kirby strip. Eventually, after there’s a murder, things get better. Dickenson and Raymond keep a fair amount of tension over the identity of the murderer. Though when Raymond gives it away in a strip, it’s…

Rip Kirby, Danger in Key Diablo (February-May 1953)

Rip continues its upswing—maybe scripture Dickenson got more comfortable—with this storyline. Honey’s a central character again (for the first time in what seems like a year), though she’s just the damsel in distress. She’s got a strange modeling job in Florida on a private island. It turns out to be a scam and it’s eventually Rip to the rescue. Even though it’s far from her strongest characterization—and Dickenson makes Rip the one who’s moony, instead of the traditional vice versa—it’s nice to have her back. She’s genial and familiar, if occasionally stupid just to let the plot progress. The tropical setting, not…

Rip Kirby, The Cold Deck Switch (September 1952-February 1953)

Honey doesn’t appear at all this storyline—and Desmond starts the investigation—but it’s the strongest Kirby’s been in a while. Strangely, it features Raymond’s worst panel on the strip so far. Rip’s on the phone and his arm looks about four sizes too big for his body. What starts as a fairly mellow society mystery (is a girl cheating at bridge) turns into a murder. It’s rather fine stuff. Desmond’s a great lead because he brings a lot of comic humor to it and, when Rip finally does show up, it’s about investigating. There’s no action finale this time. The storyline further shows…

Rip Kirby, Pagan’s Plight (May-September 1952)

I think Raymond must have changed his model for Pagan Lee. Her face is completely different now. This storyline has me hoping Dickenson has taken over and it’s not Ward Greene at all because I liked a lot of Greene’s stuff and this story’s awful. Honey’s in it for a second; her character’s become completely useless. Pagan, the Mangler and Fingers Moray all show up—the three recurring characters—and Raymond and company contrive a way to get them all together. Where do they meet up? Vegas, of course. But it’s called Buckaroo in Rip Kirby land, which makes absolutely no sense. Speaking of…

Rip Kirby, The Lambert Affair (January-May 1952)

Here’s a problem with old newspaper strips. When new writers come on, they aren’t credited. Fred Dickenson might have taken over scripting from Ward Greene for this story, but I’m not sure. It definitely feels a little different. There are a lot more thought balloons. It’s another story where Rip and company don’t matter much. In fact, he might make things worse the one time he does something. A gangster’s daughter is framed for murder, Rip tries to discover the truth (after the gangster takes the rap for her). The story’s only as good as its villain, a psychopathic young woman who…

Rip Kirby, The Tigress of El Kazar (September 1951-January 1952)

Greene and Raymond have established a new formula. Honey waves goodbye to Rip, he rushes off to mystery, the reader gets to find out the solution to the mystery before he does (in a flashback or an aside) and then the story gets very action-oriented. This time, Rip and Des are searching for a missing photojournalist. It turns out she’s been kidnapped by a rich Muslim king who’s intent on marrying her. The attempted rape scene’s pretty mellow (the king’s waiting for the wedding night apparently). The politics of it are… horrific. I guess interesting in a historical sense. All the Muslims…

Rip Kirby, I’m OK–You’re Great (April-September 1951)

Honey appears in the first strip of this storyline to give Rip an in on a case involving her friend. It’s definitely at least the third time Honey’s brought him a case in that manner… but the first where it’s basically her only part in the story. Desmond takes a near absent role this time too. Maybe it’s because the storyline itself is so convoluted. For the most part, the revelations and events are contrived, but it’s a big story—it’s so big, Raymond does three recap strips. He usually does one. This storyline’s art is particularly strong. Raymond doesn’t have any exotic…

Rip Kirby, The Little Man Who Wasn’t (December 1950-April 1951)

Rip takes what seems like a simple embezzlement case and—shockingly—it turns out to be more. A mild-mannered bank employee runs off with almost a million dollars and it’s up to Kirby to find him before the mobsters (looking for an easy score) locate him. Most of the storyline is action, which is too bad, since Greene and Raymond introduce one of their more interesting characters of late in it. The Widow is one of the mobsters after the money. She’s got a rival mobster and certainly seems the more humane of the two but when the story gets so action-oriented… there’s just…

Rip Kirby, The Caged Songbird (September-December 1950)

It’s a domestic adventure for Rip this time. The most scenic Raymond gets is the lions outside the New York Public Library. This storyline opens with a strip announcing the story’s premise and the cast. It’s a definite change in format. The mystery’s also different. It’s more of a thriller, with Rip racing against time to save someone. There’s the initial mystery, sure, but the change isn’t limited to an introduction. What’s strangest about the story is the changing cast. Honey only shows up in the first couple strips, just to say hello. Desmond takes a role in the case, but it’s…

Rip Kirby, Return of the Mangler (June-September 1950)

The Mangler finally makes his comeback and it’s in maybe the worst story Greene and Raymond have done on Rip Kirby. Oh, Raymond’s art is still great—there’s some beautiful composition, particularly during the first quarter of the story—but the story’s so contrived. There’s this big setup to get the Mangler to Italy to meet up with Honey (and Rip), but there’s no reason he had to come back to the states. Except maybe to team up with his Nazi sidekick… except the Nazi sidekick’s pointless for the storyline. It’s the first time Greene and Raymond haven’t made it feel organic. Worse, they…

Rip Kirby, The Play’s the Thing (March-June 1950)

This storyline, which is really short, finally puts the spotlight on Desmond. Rip’s butler and assistant is off to… well, it’s never accurately describe, but a small town in hopes of finding romance. All is not what it seems and eventually Des finds himself in a bit of trouble. Well, wait, actually he doesn’t. Once Des does get into trouble, the focus goes to Rip so the reader has no idea how Des is responding to the situation. It’s a stretch already, with Des getting taken in by a “lonely hearts” blackmailer. Des used to be a thief of some kind and…

Rip Kirby, Peril in the Snow (December 1949-March 1950)

It’s a good thing Rip has Honey around or he’d never get new cases. This story is the second or third time he only gets involved in a case because of Honey (and her friends). He gripes about it but it turns out he’s needed. This story also features the return of villain Fingers Moray, though I can’t exactly remember what he was doing the last time he made an appearance. Maybe he was blackmailing Pagan. Rip is surprised to see him as he’s just beat a murder charge. I was a little surprised by Rip’s lack of interest, but it’d make…

Rip Kirby, My Little Runaway (September-December 1949)

This story guest-stars Rip. With him in it so little, I guess Honey’s five or six strips probably amount to a cameo. They’re just the entry into the actual story, which is a soapy bit about a long-lost mother and daughter being reunited. The secret relationship is obvious even before the glasses come off the mother, revealing she looks just like the daughter (or is it the other way). But what the story does have—besides a basic, affable sense to it—is inky Raymond night scenes. More night scenes than any other Rip Kirby so far and they are glorious. Raymond’s black night,…

Rip Kirby, Pagan’s Cheerful Summer (May-September 1949)

This storyline shows exactly what I like so much about Rip Kirby—Greene and Raymond come up with interesting settings. Though maybe Rip doesn’t have enough New York adventures, at least they move him around (somewhat plausibly even) to different locales. Pagan is doing summer stock and discovers the troupe leader isn’t just a dirty old man but a blackmailer too. Pagan’s underworld history has a tie with her new landlord and it adds a couple more supporting characters to the cast. Greene’s characterizations are all strong (I can’t think of another story so far where everyone except one villain is pleasant). Rip…

Rip Kirby, Like Flies to Honey (January-May 1949)

Well, I got my wish and Honey’s back in Rip Kirby front and center. A young playboy has proposed to her and his family goes to Rip to break it up. Rip refuses, wanting to give Honey space to make her own decision (while internally conflict, of course). They all end up at the family’s plantation in the South where the evil brother and mother conspire to break up the sort of happy couple. Things should finish, after all the drama (a lot of localized action too), with Honey safely in Rip’s arms. Only she’s too conflicted over the events of the…

Rip Kirby, The Bandar Rubies (December 1948-January 1949)

Heading home to New York from London, Rip and Desmond leave Honey—this issue might reveal the rather simple explanation for her absence… Greene and Raymond need to have Rip be flirtatious to move their plots. With Honey around, they can’t do it as cleanly. What’s so odd about her forced absences is how much the character seems to grow in them. Anyway, this storyline is a short one, with Rip and Desmond on a ship and having to investigate a probable jewel thief. It’s so short, I don’t think Greene ever introduces one of the main supporting characters by name. It’s reveal…