THE FIRST MODERN DETECTIVE

COMPLETE COMIC STRIPS 1959–1962

JOHN PRENTICE
VOLUME SIX 1959–1962

RIP KIRBY
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

FRED DICKENSON

RIP KIRBY
THE FIRST MODERN DETECTIVE
C O M P L E T E C O M I C S T R I P S 19 5 9 –19 6 2

RIP KIRBY VOLUME SIX
ARTWORK BY JOHN

PRENTICE STORIES BY FRED DICKENSON

The following people and institutions have been helpful in the preparation of this volume: Randall Scott and the Michigan State University Comic Art Collection (King Features collection), Ita Golzman, John Prentice III, Whitney Prentice, Priscilla Prentice, Cori Williamson, Neal Walker, Jon Ingersoll, Justin Eisinger, and Alonzo Simon.

ISBN: 978-1-61377-710-7 First Printing, August 2013 Distributed by Diamond Book Distributors 1-410-560-7100 Published by: IDW Publishing a Division of Idea and Design Works, LLC 5080 Santa Fe Street San Diego, CA 92109 www.idwpublishing.com
Ted Adams, Chief Executive Officer/Publisher Greg Goldstein, Chief Operating Officer/President Robbie Robbins, EVP/Sr. Graphic Artist Chris Ryall, Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief Matthew Ruzicka, CPA, Chief Financial Officer Alan Payne, VP of Sales Dirk Wood, VP of Marketing Lorelei Bunjes, VP of Digital Services

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Copyright © 2013 King Features Syndicate. TM Hearst Holdings, Inc. The Library of American Comics is a trademark of The Library of American Comics LLC. All rights reserved. Introduction © 2013 Brian Walker. With the exception of artwork used for review purposes, none of the contents of this publication may be reprinted without the permission of the publisher. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in Korea.

Smith

Jackson Glassey

LEFT: Undated self-caricature. OPPOSITE: John Prentice in the Navy, circa 1939-1940. BACK ENDPAPER: King Features promotional brochure, 1964.

INTRODUCTION BY BRIAN WALKER
“RIP KIRBY was very important to my father. He invested almost his entire working career in one strip.” — John Prentice III
The cartoonist John Prentice Jr. met his first wife in San Francisco while he was on shore leave from the Navy during World War II. Mary Margaret Rankin, known to her family and friends as Margie, was born on June 19, 1924 in a small town near Cheyenne Wells, Colorado. Her mother and father were farmers and also owned two teams of workhorses that they used for planting and harvesting crops. She had a brother, Albert, who was three years older and a sister, Gladys, who was three years younger. Margie decided to go to Denver in 1940, where she got a job as a nanny for a prominent family. After about a year she moved to San Francisco and found employment at a jewelry store. She learned the art of engraving and had beautiful handwriting. Eventually she bought two stores on Market Street and was successful selling jewelry, mostly to servicemen for their sweethearts. John Prentice Jr. was born on the family farm in Whitney, Texas on October 17, 1920. He had relatives who were willing to help pay for his college tuition as long as he pursued a career in medicine, law, or business, but John always wanted to be an artist. He decided to join the Navy in 1939, hoping he could earn enough money to go to art school, which he was not able to do on his meager military salary. John would often take his drawing supplies with him when he was on shore leave, looking for a well-heeled patron in a bar to sketch and send the portrait over to the table of his subject, who invariably bought him a drink. This allowed him to stretch his paycheck so that he could afford to go out at night. John and Margie met at a restaurant in San Francisco called the Club Maria where Margie’s mother worked as a waitress after joining her daughter in San Francisco. They married on July 5, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after John was discharged from the Navy. Margie sold her jewelry stores in San Francisco and used the proceeds to help support her husband while he went to the Pittsburgh Institute of Art.
Photograph courtesy John Prentice III

John also found occasional freelance work in Pittsburgh. He was once hired by the owner of a local Italian restaurant to paint elaborate frescoes depicting scenes from Italy in the dining room. Unfortunately, he hadn’t prepared the surfaces properly and used the wrong paint, so within a short time his masterpiece was peeling off the walls. He spent the rest of his time in Pittsburgh avoiding the restaurant owner. After ten months in art school, John was hired by a publishing company in nearby Hazelton, Pennsylvania and worked as an illustrator for Topper magazine. Mary became pregnant with the couple’s first child in October 1947 and they moved to Brooklyn, where John struggled to get his career restarted. He had so many holes in his shoes from pounding the pavements in Manhattan that Margie had to line them with cardboard. When John F. Prentice III was born in Methodist Hospital in New York on July 16, 1948, his father had just been paid for a freelance illustration job. He was barely able to cover the $500 hospital bill so he could take his newborn son home.

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The Prentices shared an apartment in Brooklyn with a family from Eastern Europe, but didn’t get along with their co-tenants due to the language barrier and the common bathroom and kitchen. John heard that military veterans were being offered reasonable rents, with an option to buy, in nearby Levittown and moved the family to the sprawling new housing development on Long Island. A year after John III was born Margie became pregnant with a second child but suffered a miscarriage. She was never able to have any more children. By the early 1950s John was selling his work regularly to magazine and comic book publishers, as well as to advertising clients. He could now afford to buy a nice, two-story colonial-style house on 10 First Street in Syosset, New York. John’s studio was in one of the second floor bedrooms. “My mother tried to keep me out of his hair so he could concentrate on his work,” John III recounted in an interview conducted exclusively for this book. “He was a good father and we had a lot of time together because he worked right upstairs in the house.” “One time I went up there and drank a bottle of India ink,” John III remembered. “I was two or three years old. My mother and father were very upset about it. The India ink, which was all over my face, didn’t come off very easily.” “My father always listened to his favorite talk radio shows while he worked,” John III continued. “If he got an assignment, he would come home excited. He was always concerned with deadlines. Sometimes he would work through the night or couldn’t go places with us because he had a deadline. It was a constant battle.” “He was very athletic,” John III said. “In high school he was a runner and a pole vaulter, a four-letter man. He liked to play golf and loved to read. One of his favorite things was to drive into town and read all of the magazines at the news store before buying a few. He would always take me with him. That was a big thing for him.” John also started meeting other artists and would invite them over to the house. Fellow cartoonists Leonard Starr and Howie Schneider were occasional guests and became lifelong friends. During the mid-1950s John and Margie began having marital problems. There were trial separations and reconciliations, but eventually John went to Florida to obtain a divorce without her knowledge. The papers were finalized on December 17, 1956. John married his second wife, Catherine Carty, on December 19, 1957. He felt that his son would be better off living with them and challenged his exwife for custody. John III described this as a “dark chapter” in his life. “My mother was a good mother. She didn’t do anything wrong, so I think the whole thing was unfortunate.” Margie eventually won the custody battle. In the winter of 1958 Margie set out for California with her ten-year-old son. “My mother owned the house in Syosset and she left everything behind,” John III explained. “She went on the road with me and we drove all the way from New York, through parts of Canada, to California.” They ended up in Los Angeles

and lived with Margie’s brother, who worked for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. In 1959 Margie and John III moved to San Francisco, where she had many friends from her time there during the war, and rented a basement apartment on Eureka Street. John III remembered living in three different locations, all within a square mile of each other. “There were outdoor places to go, like Golden Gate Park, but the houses were close together, not like Syosset. Some had rear yards, but the sidewalks were usually right outside the front door.” After a few years in California, John and Margie agreed to a truce and John III was able to reestablish contact with his father by phone and letter. “My father loved me a lot, even though we didn’t live in the same area,” he said. “He was not a good letter writer and neither am I, but we would talk on the phone as often as we could.” In the summer of 1963 John III went to see his father in New York. He recalled that, “I was very impressed when I went to visit him as a teenager because my father’s life as an artist was very interesting. He would go from his apartment, which was on 173 West 78th Street—a beautiful two-bedroom penthouse with a roof terrace overlooking the Hudson River—and would walk to his studio two blocks away, which he shared with Howie and Leonard. In the evenings Cathy and Dad’s friends would come by for a cocktail and enjoy each other’s company, talking about everything from art, current affairs, politics, sports, you name it. My life was totally different.” John and Cathy Prentice’s first child, Whitney, was born on October 25, 1958. The family moved to Mexico on April 8, 1960, where their daughter, Cathy Anna, was born on April 17, 1962. They returned to the United States on September 24, 1962. A third child, Priscilla Maggie, was born on January 21, 1970. Although he wasn’t able to communicate by telephone with his father while he was in Mexico, John III received some memorable gifts. “I was a big cowboy enthusiast when I was a young kid, so my father sent me a leather cowboy holster and other leather items he bought in the Mexican markets. I still have those today.”

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Al Williamson was John Prentice’s assistant during the time in Mexico when most of the strips in this book were produced. The following are excerpts from an interview that Al Williamson did with Tom Yeates, which was published in Third Rail magazine, Vol. 1, No.1, June 1981. I was working for John Prentice as an assistant. The reason I was called in to help him out was that John had decided to go to Mexico and Mac (Al McWilliams), John’s prior assistant, didn’t want to go. Mac had his own strip and his own work besides working for John. At the time, Larry Ivie had taken my work up to Prentice’s studio, and I guess

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TOP (LEFT TO RIGHT): Margie and John were married on July 5,1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; they had a civil ceremony because they did not have money for a formal wedding. John Prentice III and his mother Margie in Levittown shortly after his birth on July 16, 1948. John Prentice III on a horse with his father, John, in Texas around 1952. ABOVE: An undated 1950s magazine illustration. RIGHT: A portrait of Margie by John Prentice probably done sometime between 1946 and 1950.

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Images courtesy John Prentice III

BELOW: A color painting for the cover of a cowboy romance pulp magazine. Date and publication unknown. RIGHT: An illustration of soldiers fighting dated 1957. Publication unknown.

Larry suggested me. Now I didn’t know that, but later I got a call from John and was offered the job. I was impressed with John’s work a great deal. Anyway, it worked out. He was very patient with me. After about four or five months, I started doing stuff for him. And the deal was, would I be willing to go down to Mexico...and I said, ‘Si’! I actually inked the layouts! And then I would trace ’em…very nice, clean and tight…and then he would use my inks for ideas. John Prentice made the following comments about his former assistant in an interview with James Van Hise, which was published in The Art of Al Williamson (1983). We [John and Al] worked in New York where I shared a studio with Leonard Starr and we got ahead about two weeks. Then he and his wife and me and my wife moved to Mexico. We lived there about seventeen months. At first, we hadn’t really figured out how to work together, but what I thought was that he could lay the week out and we’d both work on the pencils. Then he could ink the backgrounds and I could ink the figures. But he was a little concerned about inking. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to ink. So we finally worked out a system where he would do the layouts and the pencils and we’d work together on the layouts and discuss them. Then he would lay the thing out on tracing paper and I would tighten up the pencils and ink it.
Artwork courtesy Whitney Prentice

LEFT: Illustration by John Prentice of a gunfight in the Wild West. Date and publication unknown. BELOW: This sexy illustration was done for Blue Book magazine and is dated 1957.

We were a little slow in the beginning but I think it was only two or three weeks or so before he began to get really good. I know in the beginning he was a little concerned that he couldn’t help me that much. You know when two guys start to work together it takes a little time to fall into the right pattern, but he was terrific. He’s the best guy I ever had by far. I’ve had other people helping me but nobody could top Al. We were good friends and got along well together. When we came back to New York, he worked for me for a while, after which he started doing some freelance stuff, and every now and then he’d do a week for me. But he was terrific and I really missed him when he left—an excellent guy to work with.

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In the early 1960s John and Cathy moved the family to Connecticut. After living in a rented house on Pond Road in Westport, they relocated to 78 Lyons Plain Road in Weston, where they resided for almost twenty years, just up the street from actress Bette Davis. John III continued to stay in touch with his father and visited him in Connecticut on numerous occasions. In the mid-1960s John III heard that Rip Kirby was going to be cancelled in the San Francisco newspaper. He launched a letter writing campaign with hundreds of pleas to the editor, but was unable to convince the paper to keep the strip. John III served in the Marine Corps from 1967 to 1969, was in active

LEFT: Prentice walking along a street in Mexico City, where he lived and worked with Al Williamson from April 8, 1960 to September 24, 1962. BELOW: Cathy Anna Prentice, who was born on April 17, 1962, with her Mexican nanny. Her brother Whitney is on the left-hand side of the photo. OPPOSITE TOP LEFT AND RIGHT: John Prentice in front of shops in Mexico City, and with a horse. OPPOSITE BOTTOM: John Prentice, Jr. with his son, John III, at his son’s home in Alamo, California, 1984.

combat in Vietnam—fighting in the battle of Khe Sahn during the Tet offensive —and was awarded the Purple Heart three times. After graduating from San Francisco State College he got a job with the San Francisco police department in February 1972. Assigned to the inspectors’ bureau, he also attended night classes at San Francisco Law School. He passed his bar exam in November 1979 and left the police department to practice law in February 1980. He has been married for thirty-seven years and still lives and practices law in the San Francisco area. In 1998 John III heard from his father that he had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is associated with exposure to asbestos. He visited him in Connecticut a few weeks before he died on May 23, 1999 and shared many memories. “It was sad to see him waste away like that.” Margie died on February 19, 2008 from a heart-related condition. She was living at the time in Concord, California, not far from her son’s home. In summing up his father’s career, John III said: “He was the kind of guy if you gave him a job to do, he had the determination to get it done. But in terms of being a businessman and going where the money was, or maximizing his potential, or anything along that line, he was not that kind of a person.” John III explained how his father managed to survive financially on Rip Kirby for forty-three years. “Initially the strip was making good money and my father was

getting these two-year contracts and getting more and more money. But then he had to start taking cuts and it got to the point when there wasn’t enough money for my father to get paid his salary, for King Features to get something sizable enough to make it worthwhile, and still share money with the owners of the strip [the Raymond family]. So, as I understand it, Alex Raymond’s widow said, ‘I don’t care if we get any money at all, just keep the strip going and we want John Prentice on the strip.’ The man in charge of King Features was so committed to my father because of his longevity and the quality of his work that they just started taking less and less money on the split. Dad appreciated the recognition he received from his colleagues, who awarded him the ‘Best Story Strip Cartoonist’ plaque on three occasions.” “He was great at communicating with people and that spilled over on to the drawing board,” John III reflected. “He also had a good sense of humor. Dad could tell a story and have everyone in the room rolling on the floor.” “Rip Kirby was a blessing and a curse,” John III added. “It was a blessing

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Brian Walker has written and edited more than thirty-five books on cartoon art and is the author of the definitive history, The Comics: The Complete Collection. He has served as curator for over seventy cartoon exhibitions, and is a founder and former director of the Museum of Cartoon Art, and part of the creative team that produces the comic strips Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois. He offers thanks to John Prentice III, Whitney Prentice, Priscilla Prentice, Cori Williamson, Mark Johnson, and Neal Walker for their assistance on this piece.

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Photograph courtesy John Prentice III

because it was wonderful for him to have the opportunity to do a continuity strip with that fine-line, pen-and-ink style and receive the recognition that he got. It’s pretty hard to do a daily strip on a regular basis. It was a curse, too, because he was tied to his drawing board and committed to that strip. There were a lot of other opportunities that he would have had if he had diversified as an illustrator or a painter or done something different.” “Rip Kirby was very important to my father. He invested almost his entire working career on one strip,” John III concluded. “His satisfaction was in knowing that he did his best every time he sat at his drawing board. I was always amazed at how he created Rip Kirby with nothing more than pencil, pen, ink, and paper.”

Mexico photographs courtesy Whitney Prentice

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THIS PAGE: Rip Kirby layout drawings by Al Williamson for strips dated September 22, 1961 (see p. 255); October 10, 1961 (see p. 260); November 28, 1961 (see p. 274); and January 13, 1962 (see p. 287).

THIS PAGE: Rip Kirby layout drawings by Al Williamson for strips dated December 5, 6, 9, and 11, 1961 (see pp. 276-278).

Artwork courtesy Cori Williamson

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OPPOSITE TOP LEFT: John Prentice at his drawing board in his Connecticut studio, 1960s. OPPOSITE TOP RIGHT: Prentice holding a portrait of Don Quixote that he painted in the 1960s.

OPPOSITE BOTTOM AND THIS PAGE: Polaroid photos of Prentice and friends posing for Rip Kirby reference, late 1960s/early 1970s. Cartoonist Leonard Starr is in the white coat and cartoonist Frank Bolle is in the black turtleneck and jacket; the woman is one of Prentice’s neighbors and the man in the chauffeur’s outfit at top right is unidentified. “During the times I've shared a studio with a couple of other artists,” John told Jud Hurd in 1969, “I've discovered that nobody makes a better model for a strip than another artist...they seem to be uninhibited. As for girl models, there are always acquaintances who are delighted to pose for you for nothing just for the excitement of appearing in your strip. Once in a while I'll use a man I know as a model and put him in the strip as a villain just for the fun of it. I find that I have to ham him up a bit and caricature him a little in order to come off properly in the strip. I don't draw him exactly as he looks.”

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Photographs courtesy Whitney Prentice

CHAPTER 1: The Murderous Matches

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june 8-10, 1959

The Murderous Matches

The Murderous Matches

june 11-13, 1959

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june 15-17, 1959

The Murderous Matches

The Murderous Matches

June 18-20, 1959

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june 22-24, 1959

The Murderous Matches

The Murderous Matches

june 25-27, 1959

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june 29 - july 1, 1959

The Murderous Matches