Rip Kirby

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

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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 not a lot for Raymond to do. There are no interesting settings, there are no elaborate action scenes. In fact, the one lengthy sequence is so unmemorable I should’ve taken notes .

Still, he does have to draw an attractive woman in her fifties, which is a change.

CREDITS

Writer, Fred Dickenson; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 much since it’s all in flashback but Raymond still finds some exquisite panels for the suspense parts of the story. It might feature his best foreshadowing on the strip so far, just because the mystery isn’t spoiled early.

It’s a great story. I wish I wasn’t surprised.

CREDITS

Writer, Fred Dickenson; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 a week before there’s confirmation. It’s too long a wait.

The racing art’s phenomenal, though Rip wins the big race, which seems rather unlikely.

Another disappointment is how Dickenson writes the women dumb and shallow. And Rip’s sexist for the first time ever.

But it’s not bad.

CREDITS

Writer, Fred Dickenson; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 to mention an old Spanish fort, early twentieth century costuming and a parrot, give Raymond a lot to illustrate. Even during the extended action finale, it’s a joy to regard. While it doesn’t break the strip’s general genre, it frequently dabbles in other ones.

CREDITS

Writer, Fred Dickenson; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 how interesting it can be to have a deeper protagonist (at least for a while). Desmond has to ask for help and to explain himself. He’s far more compelling.

Raymond’s art picks up once Rip arrives. There’re lots of beautiful, innovative panels.

It’s an excellent storyline.

CREDITS

Writers, Ward Greene and Fred Dickenson; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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, he’s not in it very much. The majority of the story belongs to the Mangler, who threatens his way into a crooked casino. No violence needed, just threatening and maybe some yelling.

The writing’s just terrible.

It continues the depressingly weak run in Kirby lately.

D 

CREDITS

Writers, Ward Greene and Fred Dickenson; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 impulsively kills anyone in her way. She’s not a good villain.

There’s some great art and some not so great choices (Raymond draws two very different characters identically). The problem’s the story. Honey’s characterization is weak (another sign of Greene’s possible departure) and Rip’s frequently out of character.

CREDITS

Writers, Ward Greene and Fred Dickenson; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 are psychotic murderers. This kind of story—the sheik kidnapping the American girl and her finally giving in to his charms—is very old, even with Greene and Raymond did it here. But it was always from the woman’s point of view.

Not here.

It’s quite weak.

CREDITS

Writer, Ward Greene; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 locales (not even a New York establishing shot) but his talking heads scenes—and they are many—are beautiful. Most of the long story takes place in conversation, with the resolution bringing a lot of tense action.

It’s too bad Honey’s absent again, but the story’s good.

CREDITS

Writer, Ward Greene; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 not enough time to really explore the character. She provides a fine Selina to Rip’s Bruce, actually.

Lots of shirtless Rip here (including some unnecessary tighty whitey shots).

The only real problem is Rip isn’t an active player in the narrative until the finish.

CREDITS

Writer, Ward Greene; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 hard to remember him doing anything (though he’s around a lot). The first half has one primary supporting cast member, the second half a different one. The guy in the first half disappears without a trace.

While the narrative’s somewhat smoother narrative, it isn’t as engaging as usual.

CREDITS

Writer, Ward Greene; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 repeat one of their earlier scenes—with Rip flying over Honey (on a ship) to her rescue ahead of time.

Once things are moving, it’s fine. The art helps get one past the rough spots.

It’s too bad Honey’s just a damsel in distress again though.

CREDITS

Writer, Ward Greene; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 knows his way around. Apparently, too much time butling has made him soft.

There’s also a strange art error here. Three characters are leaving a house in one strip then Raymond draws them leaving through a hotel lobby in the next strip.

It’s okay enough, just too short.

CREDITS

Writer, Ward Greene; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.

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

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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 sense he doesn’t follow his cases once the arrest is made. Though I think he’d have to testify at a lot….

While there’s some great art and Rip does hang around for the whole story, it’s not particularly strong. Greene and Raymond don’t come up with anything compelling.

CREDITS

Writer, Ward Greene; artist, Alex Raymond; publisher, King Features.