“Connie”: Second banana?

It is hard to generalize, but I know that on occasion the Connie Sunday strip appeared on the final page of the Public Ledger Sunday comics section. I’ve never seen anything official on this, but it has always seemed reasonable to me that this would be the second most important strip in the section.

Below is an image showing another instance of the Connie Sunday strip on the final page. This example is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Of particular note here is the fact that, if you did not know better, you might assume that this was the front page of the comics section, based on the title of the newspaper. I have several entire comics sections from that era from that newspaper, and it is plain that Connie was on the last page. The smaller image shows the original pricing information from the same page, which perpetuates the false idea that this was the front page of the comics section.

Connie fine 7 24 15 adj 72

Connie fine 7 24 15_0001 cropped 72

This is a more or less typical segment of a Connie Sunday strip from that era.  This one isn’t exactly a gag strip. It is more of a detective strip. Connie foils a “Santa Claus” who had attempted to purloin some Christmas gifts.

—Tom Sawyer

July 24, 2015

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A rather different “look” for Connie — 1929 versus 1938 . . .

As is more or less typical of characters in the comic-strip world, Connie did not “look” the same during the entire run of the Connie Sunday strip. This is not at all surprising, in view of the fact that the strip ran for many years (1929–1941). I tend to picture Connie more as the adventurer and time traveller, but early in the Connie Sunday strip she was frequently more of a socialite. Here she is in the third Sunday strip (May 12, 1929). She is more “hairdo” than “derring-do.” She is seemingly a somewhat delicate creature.

In that third episode, she seemed a bit detached from reality, as well. She had purchased a factory, and she worked with some friends to give the factory a woman’s touch.

This was actually a departure from the second Sunday episode, in which Connie was an aviatrix.

Connie third one723_0002 blog

Connie third one723_0002 cropped blog

But what a difference a decade can make! Below is what I would call “adventurer Connie.” This is fairly typical of Connie’s appearance in the time travel stories and other adventure stories. (This is not from a time-travel story. It is from a jungle adventure.) A native has saved Connie from a leopard attack. The image is from the August 28, 1938, episode.

Connie1full72315 cropped blog

—Tom Sawyer

July 23, 2015

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I only waited 12 years — that’s no big deal — comments on Frank Godwin’s “Paulette” comic strip (“Connie,” in the French language) . . .

(Brief update:  Back on June 29, I said I would be making an exciting announcement in 13 days.  Well, it has now been about 16 days, and I have not made the announcement.  I need to defer that announcement, for perhaps another week or so.)

When I was young, and expected something in the mail, the time passed rather slowly. Now, I could digress here and talk about that, but I want to get to the point reasonably fast.

As I grew older, I grew more patient, or perhaps an ennui set in. I have so many Godwin items (including many duplicates and near-duplicates, of so many things) that unless something I have acquired is really, truly outstanding, I am not very impatient to unwrap it.

Early today I finally opened a package that arrived more than 12 years ago. The postmark shows “2002 12 24,” meaning December 24, 2002. It was shipped from Canada, and the declaration shows $900 (which nowadays is about $700 US). And that is probably about what I paid for the item(s).

What is the item? Well, it is a run of the Paulette strip.  On a quick glance, it looks as though the run is from May 1930 through November 1935. It’s not necessarily a complete run for that period. But I imagine that there are about 250 strips, so if I paid $700 for that many, that would only be less that $3 per strip — probably a pretty good deal.

I have not seen all that many Paulette strips offered for sale, other than  the ones I bought (though the man I bought them from did offer me an additional large batch, and it’s probable that he sold those to someone else).

I’ll start out by saying: When I purchased the items, I knew that I ALREADY owned examples of probably ALL, or very nearly all, of those strips. So that explains why I was able to wait so long! So, I am kidding around when I pretend that I was all that patient. When I first acquired my almost-complete run of the entire Paulette strip, 1930-1941, it really was a big event in my collecting life.

I have been thinking a lot about the Connie Sunday strip lately, and the Paulette strips are a very good version of the Connie Sunday pages. The strips are in French, and they are basically tabloid-size, and the colors are a little on the vivid side. Still, they can make a really good substitute for the Connie Sunday strips. However, since I do not read French, that poses a problem. (But my daughter reads French, so I’m sure she would translate for me if I ask her.) Now that I think about it, though, I suppose that if I were French, or if I were a French-speaking Canadian, or if I were from Belgium — I might actually prefer the Paulette strips. Those are the three principal countries I think of regarding the French language, but I see from Wikipedia that French is the official language in 13 countries, and an official language in 16 others.

I can say this: not all translated Godwin strips are in the same “coolness” category as the Paulette strips.

(I hope to continue this post in the near future.)

—Tom Sawyer

July 15, 2015

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Another look at Frank Godwin’s inking — using a 1945 “Liberty” illustration as an example . . .

If you look at reproductions of Frank Godwin’s pen-and-ink drawings, you can discern several different styles. One might be his “James Montgomery Flagg” style, which has its own characteristics.  One might be his “early Connie daily” style, which (though not at all limited to early Connie dailies) might be described as apparently casual and rather sparse. Then there is his “Blue Fairy Book” style, where the drawings are meticulously detailed throughout. Then there other styles as well, or sub-categories of styles, or mixtures of styles.

Many of Godwin’s Rusty Riley dailies were done in a sort of middle-of-the-road style — not too spare, not too detailed, just orthodox Frank Godwin.

So, all in all, it is hard to make generalizations about Godwin’s pen-and-ink work. But it is interesting and instructive to look at various examples of his work and think about the methods he used.

I have I think four original illustrations that Godwin produced for Liberty magazine. Below is a portion of one from 1945 (to judge by the rubber-stamp impression on it), showing the left-hand part of the illustration (a Bible scene). This example further indicates some of the things I mentioned in the preceding post. There are a wide variety of strokes, applied with great precision, to achieve certain specific effects and textures.

Lib left 72

I have posted this rather small, to show an overall idea of the range of values, from black, to white. (You can probably view a larger version by clicking on it once.)

Below is a more detailed version of a portion of the drawing, from the top edge. This is a night scene, and I take this to be sky, or other dark background. It almost looks like random scribbling, which, of course, it is not. Notice that the overall density becomes lighter to the right, by means of fewer strokes. In the smaller version, above, you can see that the background becomes lighter still as you look further to the right, in the more complete view. (This brighter background is caused by the light of four or so torches that are being carried by people in the illustration.)

Lib detail 2

Below is one more detailed section, from the lower-left. The shows the high level of detail imparted by Godwin, principally in the man’s nose, mouth, and chin area. The features are portrayed via a great number of strokes of varying length, width, curvature, and placement. It shows the type of skill that is amazing. Also visible in the following detail are other types of strokes used to achieve other effects, such as the thick, dark strokes at the left, which provide a kind of counterpoint to the nearby area of white at the top of the man’s head.

Lib detail 1

—Tom Sawyer

July 3, 2015

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Looking at Frank Godwin’s inking . . .

One of the truly amazing things about Frank Godwin and his art is his ability to use inks effectively. In the course of his career, Godwin produced an enormous quantity of art. I would think that a reasonable estimate of the total number of portrayals of people in his drawings (one drawing could have a dozen or more) would easily be in the tens of thousands. This being the case, drawing a person must have been second nature to him.

And, of course, other physical objects  (houses, clouds, horses, dogs, snow, and a thousand other things) presented no difficulty for him.

Just where Godwin picked up his many inking techniques is not really known. One of his principal influences was James Montgomery Flagg, and sometimes it is difficult to tell a Flagg drawing from a Godwin drawing, and vice versa.

But I suspect that Godwin had entire arsenal of techniques that Flagg did not have. And overall, typical Flagg drawings seem looser than typical Godwin drawings. A lot of Godwin’s work on the Connie strip was pretty loose, but when Flagg was drawing loosely, the result was not always all that satisfactory. Sometime I may go into this in more detail, but Flagg’s work on the Book of the Month strips kind of comes to mind.

Godwin’s drawings, I am sure, were often produced almost as though he were sculpting.  If he needed to remove some metaphorical clay in order to create a certain shadow, he knew exactly what kinds of strokes to make that would achieve a shadow of a desired size and density (or of appropriate varying density).

The following image (from the original art for the December 28, 1955, Rusty Riley daily) demonstrates what I have been saying. This shows Tex’s friend Luke, with a blanket on his lap. In some ways this is very routine for Godwin. It is an excellent composition, but composition was one of the things Godwin was particularly skilled at, and you will rarely, if ever, see a Godwin drawing that is not beautifully composed.

Notable here is a fairly standard technique of showing the more important features in more detail than the less important. This more or less simulates our way of looking at things, since we are really only focus on one main thing at a time. (I think that too is pretty standard. Andrew Loomis teaches on this technique (without mentioning Godwin) in his main book on illustration.)

Of course, there are several “things” in this drawing, each of which is seen as a separate phenomenon. And in fact, I think there are about a dozen places where one’s eyes can come to rest when looking at this panel. Some people will just glance across the whole, then read the speech balloons. But if you want to, you can have your eyes linger on several details of Rusty’s appearance, and the only place you will be disappointed is when you look at his hat.

The table and lamp, and the picture on the wall, are all blocked-in roughly, but that’s okay, because we don’t want to know about them.

But the focus of this panel is plainly Luke. And, interestingly, the segments of the “Luke portion” that received the most loving care are Luke’s blanket and Luke’s chair.

(Continued below the image.)

snow rusty satu cropped 1 100

Now in the following image, we see a closer view of the chair and blanket. Here we begin to see better the skill that Godwin applied to this image. The image rages from areas of no detail at all (the lampshade, the opening of the doorway), to areas of high detail, found in the chair and blanket, yet the shadow under the arm of the chair to the right is handled very casually, because it is only needed to supply an impression — no one is looking closely at that (except us).

(Continued below the image.)

snow rusty satu sat some crop

In the following image, one can easily discern the fact that many different types of strokes (probably both pen and brush) were used to create the overall effect. I would say that there are 15 or 20 different strokes used, when you categorize them as to width, curvature, density, and pattern. We see zigzags, and curves, and parallel lines, and crosshatching. Godwin threw everything at this drawing.

snow rusty satu det 2One might justifiably wonder: why did Godwin put so much care and effort into this drawing?  Well, I will say this.  Daily newspaper comic strips, at their best, displayed an incredible amount of detail. So, it is not as though the detail would all go to waste. Secondly, although this work was somewhat laborious, for Godwin it was fairly straightforward — put in the time, and arrive at a great drawing. This is apart from his perfectionism and pride, which undoubtedly were the real reasons.

—Tom Sawyer

June 29, 2017

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Thirteen days . . .

Thirteen days till my exciting announcement.


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Revised post: More on Frank Godwin’s methods — the penciling and inking process . . .

Note: This is a revised version of a post that I originally posted in February 2014. Also, the image shown is much better than the earlier one.

By the way, I expect to have a certain exciting announcement (well, exciting to me, anyway) within the next two weeks or so.

—Tom Sawyer (6-29-15)

Two edifying images — which further supports the apparent relationship between the penciled drawings and inked drawings discussed in the an earlier post — is the following image, from the second panel of the unfinished September 21, 1959, strip.

The final syndicated Rusty Riley daily was the one for September 19, 1959. Since the strip under discussion was dated 9-21, which was the following Monday, the 9-21 strip would have been the first strip of the next story.

The panel shows an image of Rusty — partially inked. From the top of Rusty’s neck, downward (and a little bit upward, as well), the picture is un-inked pencil. A little pencil is visible in the inked area (not necessarily visible in this image). Here again, as in the penciled image of Patty Miles shown in the earlier post, it seems that the pencil drawing probably gives a very good idea of what the final inking would have looked like.

Indeed, in the drawing below, the pencil and ink are so consistent in style, that the pencil almost appears to be a part of the ink drawing — except for the fact that the penciling is gray, and not black.

pencils2714a 150

Here is a detail of a portion of the image, and you can see a mixture of inked and un-inked parts. It’s interesting to see the “textures” of the pencil lines. I suspect that Godwin intended to do further inking on Rusty’s head:

pencils2714a near

I believe that pencil preliminary drawings (what one might call underdrawings) such as the foregoing (and the one discussed in the earlier post) were the norm for Godwin. However, although I have not made a systematic study of the subject, it is my impression that in the Rusty Riley strips, there is seldom any obvious evidence of preliminary drawings. Presumably Godwin or the syndicate carefully erased almost all the remaining signs of pencil. (However, remnants of preliminary pencil-lettering and guidelines for lettering have occasionally been observed.)

One of the interesting things about the unfinished strips is that the inking did not proceed in a “chronological” fashion. In the September 21 strip, the first panel is not inked at all. The second panel is inked a little. The third panel (partially visible here) is fully inked. I have a later strip that appears to be fully inked, or nearly so (but without speech balloons and lettering).

And, interestingly, although the first panel (shown in the earlier post) is fully pencilled (or nearly so), the image of Patty in the panel shown here has barely been started.

—Tom Sawyer

February 9, 2014

Revised June 29, 2015

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