By Alex Raymond (Pacific Comics Club)
Does size really matter? That loaded question makes more sense in the context of this rare but wonderful package I dug out in response to hearing that IDW intend to collect the entire saga of Rip Kirby in collector’s editions.
This complete softcover adventure (alternatively entitled ‘Correspondence Crisis’) was selectively released in 1980 and occasionally turns up in shops and on the internet. You can’t miss it, as the book is 340x245mm (that’s nearly 15 inches by 10) and on its glossy white pages presents a superbly compelling exploit of one of America’s most famous fictional detectives, drawn by one of the world’s most brilliant and influential artists. A perfect taste of the heady 1950s style, this yarn will suck you into a captivating world of adventure and resurgent post-war glamour.
In the golden age of newspaper adventure strips (that’s the 1930s, right?) Alex Raymond made Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X-9 household names all over the world, but when his country called he dropped everything and went to war.
On his return, rather than rekindle old glories he created (from King Features Editor Ward Greene’s concept and scripts) a new kind of private detective. The result was a rather unique individual, a demobbed marine who was intellectual and sedentary by preference, and although physically powerful chose to use his mind rather than fists and guns.
He had a steady girlfriend called Judith “Honey” Dorian and a mousy but competent manservant named Desmond with hidden depths (he was a reformed burglar decades before Lady Penelope hired that guy Parker). Remington “Rip” Kirby debuted on March 4th 1946, to instant approbation and commercial success.
Greene wrote the strip until 1952 when he was replaced by journalist Fred Dickenson and Raymond illustrated it until Sept. 6, 1956, when, aged only 46, he died in a car crash. The hugely talented John Prentice assumed the art duties whilst Dickenson continued writing until 1986 when he left due to ill-health, from which time Prentice did that too. The feature finally ended on June 26th 1999 when Prentice retired.
Slick, polished and so very modern, this seductive pot-boiler sees the usually worldly-wise Desmond gulled by a con-artist who uses the hearts and flowers racket to fleece lonely men, but when his butler goes missing Rip is more than sharp enough to track him down…
Your chances of tracking down this gem are admittedly quite slim, but well worth the effort if you’re an art-lover, as Raymond’s drawing at this size is an unparalleled delight. Still and all, even in the relatively meagre dimensions modern strips are reprinted the Rip Kirby collections will be a treat you simply cannot afford to miss. Let’s hope we’re not waiting too long…
© 1950, 1980 King Features. All Rights Reserved. Book © 1980 Pacific C.C.