The first modern detective?
I'm not sure about that, but RIP KIRBY was certainly the most successful -- and certainly the longest-running -- attempt to bring a private eye to the comics page. Written and drawn by comics legend Alex Raymond, the same artist who had already proven himself with Secret Agent X-9, Jungle Jim and Flash Gordon, the strip ran for an amazing run of over fifty years, from 1946 to 1999.
Not quite as hardboiled as the Hammett-created X-9, Rip is more the cerebral type. But he was also sorta cool; albeit in a geeky sort of way. He's a renowned scientist and freelance criminalogist, a sort of cross between "Philo Vance and Philip Marlowe," according to The Encyclopedia of American Comics. He's an unflappable gent, bookish in appearance, complete with glasses and a pipe. He possesses a superior intellect and a brilliant wit, and enjoys classical music, chess and fine brandy.
But don't be fooled. He's not a complete prat. He's also an ex-Marine, a crack shot, and more than willing to slug it out with the bad guys -- or kick your ass -- if he has to.
Rip makes his home in a ritzy apartment in New York City, but his adventures take him all around the world, often accompanied by his faithful manservant, reformed burglar Desmond (seems Rip has a few bucks) and by his one true love, fashion model Honey Dorian. In fact, Honey job as a model gave Raymond a reason to bring a little post-war glamour to the proceeedings, dressing his female characters in ultra-chic clothes obviously inspired by Dior.
Of course, Rip has his share of enemies, too, and none is so charming as evil temptress Pagan Lee, who started out in the strip as a mere moll, but has managed to claw, scratch and kill her way up the ranks to the position of full-blown mobster. She's got this love/hate thing going with Rip. Dark-haired and seductive as hell, she's quite a contrast to blonde, pure-as-the-driven-snow Honey. Of course, doofus Rip thinks she's just a good gal gone bad.
Based on a suggestion by King Features editor Ward Greene that Raymond try a "detective-type" comic, the strip worked hard to reflect its times, detailing everything from current fashions to occasionally tackling more serious contemporary issues, including the trafficking of black market babies and the cold war proliferation of atomic and biological weapons, thus inspiring IDW, the reprint publishier, to boast that Rip was the "first modern detective."
The script chores were taken over by Fred Dickenson in 1952, and the art chores by John Prentice in 1956, after Raymond's premature death. The strip finally ended its long run in June 1999, although it's still apparently running in some places as reprints.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. And thanks to Thor Willy Bakke for the extra info.
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