On the east side of Midtown Manhattan is a bar/restaurant called The Overlook (225 E. 44, to be exact). If you go to the back and peer at the walls, faded drawings appear. Two walls are covered by cartoonists’ sketches, many in color. The murals are a treasure of big names, like Sergio Aragones, Gil Kane, and Dik Browne. (It’s said that a James Thurber drawing was included once.)
The first time I went, it was fun to poke around and see who I recognized. Everyone has their favorites. One of mine is a drawing of “Rip Kirby” by John Prentice.
Rip was a dapper detective created by Alex Raymond, of “Flash Gordon” fame. Raymond’s interest in fashion and drapery was obvious, even in his science fiction work, but it was put to better use in Rip’s 20th century world.
As well as tailored suits and cool hats, Rip wore glasses. As a bespectacled boy, I looked for heroes I could identify with in comics and movies and on TV. When I found Rip Kirby, Raymond was no longer drawing it, however -- John Prentice had taken it on. Not that I knew or cared -- I thought it was great.
Prentice was a talented and worthy successor. Prentice delineated handsome and beautiful people with a crisp black line. Rip was grim and his butler Desmond was funny. (What hero’s butler isn’t funny?) Prentice drew fine detail and rich shadows (even Rip’s frames cast shadows).
I’m happy that many of his strips have been reprinted in collections of crisp reprints by IDW Publishing. I don’t know how much longer the mural at The Overlook Bar will last…