Sunday, March 4, 2018

Review- RIP KIRBY VOL. 1: 1946-1948

RIP KIRBY VOL. 1: 1946-1948 (Library Of American Comics/ IDW, Fourth Printing, 2014; Hardcover)

Collects the Rip Kirby daily strips from March 4, 1946- December 4, 1948

Writer: Ward Greene

Artist: Alex Raymond

Newspaper strips are an acquired taste, but once you do acquire that taste you realize how much superior the storytelling capabilities of this tightly structured form are when compared to even my beloved comic books. The story never ends with newspaper strips. While newspaper strips have been reprinted since the early 1900s (those album-style reprint books were arguably the very first comic books), over the past decade we have seen a slew of high quality, high end reprint collections like this one.

Rip Kirby is the first “modern detective”, meaning that he was the first post-Pulp detective who eschewed all of the various trappings of that genre. Kirby isn't a playboy, instead having a steady gal whom he keeps at arm's length while tapdancing around the various damsels in distress that he encounters. While he occasionally uses a gun and does engage in fisticuffs, it is his intellect and sleuthing which are his strengths. Nor is he a hard drinker, smoking only his pipe. Sherlock Holmes meets pulp detectives with a post-World War II optimistic sheen.

Alex Raymond is a god. His artwork is more streamlined here than on Flash Gordon, the result of meeting the deadline demands of a daily strip rather than just doing a Sunday page. One of the things that I love about reading old comic books and newspaper strips is the artist catching the feeling of the era on paper. The fashions, cars, and architectural styles of the day are on full display in a way that even a historically accurate period piece cannot replicate. There are nuances which historians miss which were matter of fact daily life for those who actually lived through it.

Rip's valet, Desmond, plays an increasingly important role as the strip progresses. A man with a criminal past yet still prim and proper, Desmond saves the day more than once. Chapter 7, Bleak Prospects (October 13, 1947- June 12, 1948), is a tale of kidnapping, back in the days when the idle rich could buy kids on the black market and get away with it..or almost get away with it. Rip Kirby saves the day, but this particular story arc has the most twists and turns in the entire book.

This is some great stuff. This book has gone through at least four printings, and with good reason. If you are tired of linewide comic crossovers, endless reboots, and stunts and gimmicks but are not ready to give up on comics, try reading some of this stuff. It has never been easier or more affordable to snag this material.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This book is presented in horizontal/ landscape format.

Linework and Color restoration: The restoration is overall very good, but there are several strips in Chapter 8, Terror On The Thames, where the bottom of the strip has been clipped off. I imagine that there were wild variances in the presentation of strips as they were syndicated nationwide. Newspapers likely trimmed strips so that they could fit them in the allotted space. My guess is that it depends on the source for the collection that was used for this book. Either that or the LOAC trimmed them to fit the format of this book.

Uncropped original.

The strip as reprinted in this book.

Uncropped original.

The strip as reprinted in this book.

Paper stock: Super thick matte uncoated stock. Perfect for zero light glare under any source. I experiment with incandescent, CFL, LED, and natural sunlight. I only use incandescent in my bedroom reading lamp (no overhead lighting), but there is no glare with any of the aforementioned sources.

Binding: Sewn binding with a built in ribbon. Some folks like the ribbon, as it is an elegant nod. I can take it or leave it. The book block has room to flex within the casing, allowing the book to lay flat without assistance from you.

Due to the horizontal presentation and weight of the book block you can see a slight sag as gravity takes effect over the years. You might want to store this one spine down if such things bother you. As for myself, I will be dead and gone by the time that this is a real concern and my kids can worry about it when they sell my collection off after I die of old age.

Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: The casewrap has a texture to it that makes it feel like an old book. The logo is stamped on the front cover and the spine. The dustjacket has a matte coating.

1 comment:

  1. I think that many of the strips of the time were drawn so that they could be cropped to save space on newspaper pages, and in some cases, the cropped versions are the versions the publisher gets from the owners of the strips. I've seen this in the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck newspaper strips from approximately the same time period.