Saturday, February 7, 2015

Rip Kirby- Death on Four Wheels

Alex Raymond made a famous mark for himself when he created Flash Gordon in 1934.  His groundbreaking use of color and attention to detail are widely recognized as setting new standards in the comic art form.  He joined the Marines in February 1944 and eventually went out on the 1945 cruise of the escort carrier USS Gilbert Islands. 
Raymond in his USMC uniform showing the battle stars earned by the Gilbert Islands for action in the Pacific Theater.  
Raymond's fellow cartoonist, Stan Drake had a new sports car, a 1956 Corvette convertible. One day, Raymond paid Drake a visit as he was working on a Juliet Jones strip.  Raymond wanted to drive the Corvette, which boasted 450 horsepower and a four-second acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour, to compare it to one of his cars, a gullwing Mercedes. Drake readily agreed to allow Raymond to take a spin in his car.

September 6th, 1956 - a typical fall day in Connecticut - a steady rain was falling, and the top was up on the Corvette. At first, Drake took the wheel, traveling around Westport while Raymond admired the automobile. Finally, when they were on a road over by the highway, Raymond wanted to take the wheel.
Raymond in his green Bandini race car, 1954 (photo courtesy of Tom Roberts)
The two switched places, and Raymond began driving down South Morningside Drive to Clapboard Road. Once on Clapboard Road, Raymond began driving as if he were on Thompson Speedway, his favorite race course in northern Connecticut. As he sped down the steeply graded Clapboard, he failed to see a stop sign that was hidden by overgrown weeds. Racing through the intersection, Raymond and Drake were suddenly in a free fall: Clapboard dropped off precipitously after the stop sign, and the velocity of the car launched it into midair. By not stopping, they shot out about sixty feet into the air, and then came the fatal accident...... 

Raymond was killed instantly upon impact. The Corvette’s wraparound windshield had shattered, one large shard of it entering Raymond’s mouth and exiting the rear of his head.

Drake’s injuries were grave - he suffered various internal injuries and a broken shoulder. Both his ears had been ripped off his head and had to be reattached. His rehabilitation was protracted, and during this period he had to stop cartooning.

About five years after the accident, Drake drove by the spot where they crashed, and he stopped to take a look. He noted that the tree the Corvette hit had grown taller, and that fragments of the car’s plastic body remained embedded in it. 

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

In this vintage story Rip Kirby was off to the races - allowing  Raymond to draw a lot of cars. The female lead of the storyline, Jet Allyson is a rich girl, who loves nothing but car racing! Then comes the murder, things get better and better - a fair amount of tension over the identity of the murderer. The racing art’s phenomenal, and eventually Rip wins the big race.

Read here the vintage Rip Kirby adventure, "Death on Four Wheels" in B&W - it originally continued from  May-Sep, 1953.

Pagan's Plight (67 MB)
Death on Four Wheels
   (Size: 53.7 MB)