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. … Continue reading Rip Kirby, The Affairs of Crusher Twickham (November 1953-April 1954)

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

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

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

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

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. … Continue reading Rip Kirby, Pagan’s Plight (May-September 1952)

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

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

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

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

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

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. … Continue reading Rip Kirby, Return of the Mangler (June-September 1950)

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

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

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

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

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

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. … Continue reading Rip Kirby, The Bandar Rubies (December 1948-January 1949)

Rip Kirby, Terror on the Thames (June-December 1948)

This storyline, even longer than the last, again has Honey getting a smaller role than almost anyone else. She’s back, at least, even if it is just for the setup mostly. Since Rip’s been gone on his latest adventure, Honey has been apparently promoted at the modeling agency and is now organizing fashion shows in addition to modeling in them. A modeling auteur, as it were. One of her models goes missing and Rip ends up investigating. But Greene and Raymond also take the time to show what’s actually happening with the model during her disappearance. It’s a nice narrative … Continue reading Rip Kirby, Terror on the Thames (June-December 1948)

Rip Kirby, Bleak Prospects (October 1947-June 1948)

For whatever reason, Greene and Raymond push Honey off panel for this entire storyline—and it’s a long one, running almost eight months. Pagan returns, bringing with her a friend who ends up as Rip’s client. There are two parts to the storyline. First, finding the villain, a woman who pretends to foster child but really sells them. Then finding the child of Pagan’s friend, who’s already been sold. Greene and Raymond delicately weave all the details—during the first part, the child’s new “parents” are in the supporting cast so the reader always has more information than the characters. It’s a … Continue reading Rip Kirby, Bleak Prospects (October 1947-June 1948)

Rip Kirby, The Dolls’ House (May-October 1947)

This storyline is slightly goofy. First, Honey runs off to show up Rip (she’s mad he was giving Pagan Lee attention). So he and Desmond (Desmond’s his butler, a reformed burglar) have to find her. In the meantime, Honey’s met this evil old woman on an ocean liner and it turns out she’s going to be the storyline’s main villain. But then Greene and Raymond introduce this Hawaiian ex-Marine buddy of Rip’s—the story takes place in Hawaii—who runs around looking like Tarzan most of the time. It’s like Raymond really wanted to do a jungle adventure comic and he just … Continue reading Rip Kirby, The Dolls’ House (May-October 1947)

Rip Kirby, Past Imperfect (January-May 1947)

About half this storyline is spent with Pagan Lee as the protagonist. Rip and Honey are too busy vacationing (though there’s some more implications of their intimate relationship). Pagan’s past is catching up with her, with a card shark tries to shake her down. It’s an interesting structure, with Greene and Raymond spending a lot of time introducing the card shark and detailing his efforts before meeting Pagan. It barely feels like Rip Kirby in those strips. Rip eventually shows up to sort the whole thing out and the story races to the finish. I think, once Rip appears, the … Continue reading Rip Kirby, Past Imperfect (January-May 1947)

Rip Kirby, Fatal Forgeries (November 1946-January 1947)

Instead of an involved, complicated story, this time Greene and Raymond go for something far simpler. There’s a blackmailer using kids to get celebrity autographs to fuel his forgery endeavor. Rip accidentally gets involved and has to sort it out. There’s a murder, some intrigue and Honey and Pagan fighting for Rip’s affections. Unfortunately, when presented with a simple “case” for Rip, Greene and Raymond unnecessarily aggrandize it. It’s not a simple case of blackmail, there’s the youth gang; it’s not some smart blackmailer, it’s another guy with a silly nickname and a secret base. When Pagan turns out to … Continue reading Rip Kirby, Fatal Forgeries (November 1946-January 1947)

Rip Kirby, Enter: The Mangler (June-November 1946)

Greene and Raymond give Rip his first real nemesis here—the Mangler. Though we hear he’s called the Mangler for how he murders people, we never see it. The Mangler’s far more interested in elevating himself from crime boss to terrorist as he steals a biological warfare formula from Rip and proceeds to auction it to the highest bidding country. The storyline is split into two parts—Rip getting kidnapped and tortured for the formula, only for the bad guys to realize threatening Honey will get him to cave. He does, which leads to the second part of the story, the hunt … Continue reading Rip Kirby, Enter: The Mangler (June-November 1946)

Rip Kirby, The Hicks Formula (April-June 1946)

For the second storyline, Greene and Raymond send Rip and company off to college. Honey doesn’t get a lot smarter this time around, but she definitely gets somewhat smarter and it helps a lot. While she’s not really Rip’s sidekick, just an odd addition to the cast (she has her own reasons for visiting the college, while he’s investigating something), she’s pleasant to have around. There are a lot more female characters (in small parts) who are reasonably vapid, but even without them, Greene’s making Honey a much stronger character. Raymond’s art is, big shock, excellent. What is somewhat surprising … Continue reading Rip Kirby, The Hicks Formula (April-June 1946)

Rip Kirby, The Chip Faraday Murder (March-April 1946)

It’s a little surprising how every panel of Rip Kirby is perfect. Okay, not every panel. There are two panels—each the last panel of a strip, where Alex Raymond apparently photo-references a close up for this one character and it’s too static. I’m guessing it’s referenced because of that static, something no one else has in the forty-three other strips making up this storyline. The mystery itself is pretty contrived, as a newspaper sequential has to be. But Rip Kirby reads really well, like it’s meant to be read in a sitting, not day to day in the newspaper. Writer … Continue reading Rip Kirby, The Chip Faraday Murder (March-April 1946)