According to creator Don McGregor, his comic book featuring 1940's husband-and-wife team of ALEXANDER and PENELOPE RISK is"probably one of the first times I can actually come up with a short byte for a series. Alexander and Penelope Risk are a combination of Sherlock Holmes and The Thin Man, mixed with mythological horror and real horror."
The strip is set in New York City in April 1943. The Big Apple is blacked out, only the torch of the Statue of Liberty left ablaze, due to fear of bombing by enemy submarines (that pesky WWII, you know). Alexander Risk is a fortyish former academic and successful business man who has decided to devote his life to detection by becoming a private eye. He's a real string bean, tall man, 6'2", rather gaunt of face, an almost hawkish look about his eyes, a look that is emphasized by his dressing in Sherlock Holmesian attire. Though he wears a Deerstalker hat and smokes a pipe (which he can't seem to keep lit), he takes umbrage when anyone dares suggest he thinks he is Holmes. As Risk protests, "I am an afficianado of Conan Doyle and Holmes, but I have no delusions as to my identity. I might emulate the renowned detective, indeed, I treasure his ability to resolve the unresolvable...but it would be sheer arrogance to think myself his or Conan Doyle equal. Still and all, I follow in Holmes' manner...even if I CAN'T keep this damnagle pipe lit! But I do have a trained eye and an inquisitive nature, and I know the depths to which people can despair, all of which is invaluable in an investigative situation."
Putting up with Risk is his very understanding wife, Penelope, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Myrna Loy, both physically and temperamentally. She serves as Alexander's foil, Watson to his Holmes, Nora to his Nick, pinprick to his sometimes over-inflated deductions. But she's not content to play second banana. She's a tough cookie, who can dish it out, and even act ruthlessly, and yet not lose compassion.
Alexander and Penelope Risk first appeared in the Spring 1982 premiere issue of Fantasy Illustrated, by New Media Publishing. A prologue and the first three chapters of "The Hounds of Hell Theory" appeared in that issue, a total of 18 pages, written by McGregor, and penciled and inked by Tom Sutton. The story ended with a literal cliff-hanger, Risk clawing to the side of a East Hampton, Long Island cliff, as a homicidal maniac swings an ax down at his wrists!
The second installment was written and drawn, but since there was never a second issue of Fantasy Illustrated, the story went into limbo. And McGregor's been tryingto revive the characters ever since.
In the early '90s there was an attempt to rewrite Alexander Risk as a four issue mini-series for Epic, under their creator-owned banner. Dwayne Turner was supposed to draw it, but when Marvel dropped their creator-owned banner, Risk was once more back in limbo.
But McGregor remains adamant, and has faith in the series. "It's still strong, it's still passionate, I still believe in it as a story-teller, and I wish people would have a chance to see it." The latest buzz is that Don and Mike Mayhew, the artist he's been working with on the Zorro comics series for Topps, are working on bringing back the Risk series. The art on this page is by Mike, and is a promo piece for a new series.
Don McGregor's been buzzing around the comics scene for ages, and has often been involved in various crime and detective titles. As well as Alexander Risk,, he's the man behind another period eye, Nathaniel Dusk and the more contemporary Ted Denning & Bob Rainier, better known as Detectives, Inc. He's also a contributor to this site.
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