Leaves Are Falling, Wheels Are Spinning

Our recently-released Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny is a major milestone on the LOAC Road to 200, and as we have done each month during our drive toward that 200th release, we’ve created a theme that allows us to load a cross-section of our books into the LOAC Wheel of Fortune, give ‘er a spin, and spotlight one randomly-chosen past book from the line.

October is a time of endings and beginnings. Major league baseball wraps up with its yearly postseason blast even as the harvest season concludes in many parts of the country, closing farm stands and making local fresh produce a memory throughout the long cold-weather months. Still, Hallowe’en’s spooks and spirits usher in the late-year holiday season and both the NBA and NHL start their own regular seasons, so October signals renewal, at least in some respects.

With that thought in mind we looked at our list of cartoonists to find those who were born in the month of October, as well as those who passed away in this month. It was an eclectic list: Lyman Young, of Tim Tyler’s Luck fame, was an October baby, as were Alex (Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim, Rip Kirby) Raymond and Bil Keane, original ringleader of the Family Circus. October was the month when we lost Jack (King Aroo) Kent, Noel Sickles, Gumps creator Sid Smith, and  Jiggs and Maggie’s referee, George McManus. When we extracted their titles from the complete LOAC roster, we had this list, in the order of their release:

We then shuffled the list into a random order and loaded it into the trusty LOAC Wheel of Fortune:

With one quick spin, we had our October “focus book,” which is:

This is one time the result of a Wheel spin did not come as a complete surprise — Alex Raymond was represented with four Kirbys and four Flash Gordon/Jingle Jim volumes, meaning he had roughly half of all the entries in this month’s spin-population. But who’s to argue with a fresh change to look at gorgeous Raymond artwork?

The Rip Kirby story is widely known, but bears quickly summarizing: after returning from World War II, former Flash Gordon artist Raymond discovered he wasn’t being given back his old assignment — rather, he was encouraged to create an all-new feature for King Features Syndicate. The result was Rip Kirby. For six days a week (there was never a Rip Sunday page) Raymond treated newspaper readers to detective stories featuring an urbane, sophisticated leading man, his staunch man-Friday, the beautiful blonde good-girl who was devoted to him, and the brunette bad-girl-gone-straight who wanted him for herself. If series writers Ward Greene and Fred Dickenson weren’t exactly in Raymond Chandler’s league as mystery writers, Raymond was in a class by himself during this period. His delicate brushwork defined the photo-realistic cartooning style, while his focus on fashion and setting lent his characters depth and detail that made them seem more than mere lines on paper.

Rip Kirby Volume 4 contains Raymond’s final work on the series before his untimely death in September, 1956. Artist John Prentice stepped in and admirably filled Raymond’s shoes, maintaining Rip as a comics page mainstay for over four decades, but the series never felt as fresh and compelling as when Alex Raymond was bringing Rip’s adventures to life on the newspaper page.

It’s one of my great delights to own this Rip Kirby Raymond original, from February 26, 1953 — 

— And while it has a permanent place on my walls, the LOAC Wheel of Fortune is anything but permanent. We’ll soon see where it takes us when it spins again in November!

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