A follow-up to the preceding post: “Plunky” as depicted by Frank Godwin, and “Plunky” as depicted by the unidentified artist — both in the same strip!

One of the interesting unfinished Rusty Riley strips in my possession is that dated 9-25, which would have been the September 25, 1959, strip, if it had been distributed by the syndicate. The final daily strip distributed by King Features was the one for Saturday, September 19, so the 9-25 strip would have been for the following Friday.

This strip was worked on by Frank Godwin and another artist. It is partly inked by Godwin and partly by the unidentified artist discussed in the preceding post.

For those who suppose that Godwin would draw a strip, then stand back from it and say, “That’s perfect! I can sign it now!” — this strip proves that this was not necessarily the case, for Godwin signed it before it was finished (in box, lower right-hand corner, not shown here).

The second and third panels were nicely finished by Godwin, and based on the style and coolness levels, I doubt that anyone else had anything to do with those. Not so as to the first panel, which was partly inked by Godwin and partly by the other artist. The young guy with the guitar, as revealed by this and other strips, is Plunky, a friend of Rusty’s and Patty’s. I’m pretty sure that parts of the dad (not shown here) in the first panel were inked by Godwin and parts by the other artist. And it’s pretty plain that Plunky in the first panel was inked by the other artist.

This is shown clearly by the following images.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 10.59.54 PM   Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.00.47 PM

One of the interesting, and rather strange, facts about the foregoing images is that, as indicated above, both of these drawings appeared in the same daily strip.

The background on the image on the top is rather spare, making me think that Godwin may have intended to add further background. I don’t want to be too critical of the art on the top, but it is plain that the basic handling on Godwin’s drawing (bottom drawing) is superior in a number of respects. For instance, the shadow areas of Plunky’s chin and neck have more subtleties than are found in the non-Godwin (top drawing). As another example, the inking on the Godwin shirt are more graceful than on the non-Godwin shirt.

In any event, one can appreciate that King Features Syndicate would not have been eager to continue the strip with art along the lines of that by the non-Godwin artist. It would have been a significant departure from Godwin’s art.

—Tom Sawyer

May 16, 2017

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One of the reasons why the “Rusty Riley” comic strip basically did not continue after Frank Godwin’s death . . .

After Frank Godwin’s death, Rusty Riley continued for a number of weeks (daily strip) or months (Sunday strip), but in the big picture, it basically wound up with Godwin’s passing.

When Frank Godwin passed away in early August 1959, no equally capable artist was standing in the wings, ready to take over the art duties, or so it would appear.  The final Rusty Riley syndicated daily-strip was the one for September 19, 1959, and the final Sunday strip appeared in early November 1959, so the strip went on for weeks after Godwin died (months in the case of the Sunday).

How could this be?  Easy!  Comic-strip artists normally worked a measurable period in advance. In Godwin’s case, at the end, this was about six weeks in the case of the dailies, and about eleven weeks in the case of the Sundays.  But Godwin did not quite complete the final Sunday story, and (putting things very simply, maybe overly simply) Bob Lubbers drew the final two weeks of the Sunday strip.

It has been indicated again and again that Rusty Riley was appearing in around 150 newspapers at the time Godwin passed away. It’s hard to know which papers this included. Papers with large circulations could bring in a lot of money to a comic-strip artist, and the contrary goes as to smaller-circulation papers. However, I think it is safe to say that Godwin did quite comfortably with the Rusty Riley strip.

But anyway, it seems that the 150 or so papers were nothing to sneeze at, yet King Features did not continue to syndicate the strip. When you think about it, there were not many people who could have carried the strip on with the same je ne sais quoi. One would pretty much have to look among illustrators who were not involved in comic strips, because the ones who were already doing comics probably would not have been interested in taking over the Rusty Riley strip.

Nonetheless, the evidence is that King Features Syndicate turned some unfinished daily strips over to an illustrator.  The first I heard of this was something that Allan Holtz told me in an email. I believe he said that he had actually seen the strips, and he told me the illustrator’s name. At this point, I am not certain who he mentioned, but I have the impression that it may have been Rico Tomaso. (Wikipedia gives Rico’s dates as 1898-1985.) Whoever it was, at some point I came to the conclusion that it would have been nice if that illustrator, whoever it was, had carried on the strip.

After I saw the actual strips — which pretty much have to be the same ones that Allan was talking about — I quickly changed my views, as the non-Godwin aspects of the art would have been unpleasing to those who relied upon Rusty Riley to provide a wonderful art-experience. This is what makes me think the artist was not Rico.

Below is an example of a panel from the strip that would have appeared September 26, 1959. Most people who are well-versed in Godwin art will immediately recognize that the work is fundamentally not by Godwin, though I think Godwin probably pencilled the work (including the lettering).

Some might say, “Gee, that doesn’t look half bad,”and indeed there are certain parts, at least in the size shown, that look pretty nice. Example: Plunky’s left arm, holding the suitcase.  I’m not sure whether much purpose would be served at the moment by a more detailed discussion of the art.

However, below is shown a portion of a Godwin Rusty Riley, on top of the art shown above. The differences should be immediately apparent.  The portrait of Rusty in the strip on the left is nothing like that of a “generic boy,” and (unlike the face in the other drawing) his face shows real expression. Even though Rusty’s head is bigger in the Godwin image, Godwin was perfectly capable of drawing similarly detailed heads in less space. (On the other hand, I think it can be said that Godwin sometimes, perhaps often, left out details on small drawings.)

Dave Karlen has said, “Godwin’s richly textured compositions, meticulous cross-hatching, and attention to detail made this purely an artist’s strip.” I don’t know whether I am completely in agreement with Dave on that, but it was principally the art that set Rusty Riley apart from every other comic strip. It is difficult to name other strips that could semi-objectively be considered as good, art-wise, as Rusty Riley. (I’m sure, however, that some people would think that Salinas’s Cisco Kid, or Frazetta’s Johnny Comet, or Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, or any of a number of others that could be mentioned, were or are as good.)

—Tom Sawyer

May 11, 2017

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Fifty-nine years ago today (March 31, 1958) . . .

Below is an image of a portion of the art for the Rusty Riley daily strip for March 31, 1958 — fifty-nine years ago today. The Rusty Riley strip stopped in late 1959, so this is relatively late in the series.

The images of Rusty and Patty, to the right, are beautifully done, but the three-quarter view of Quentin Miles (at far left) is what really draws attention here. Quentin Miles is Patty’s father. Overall, the image is close to 5 3/8 inches in height.Godwin 3 21 17 2 copy cropped

Below is a detail of the portrait of Quentin.

Godwin 3 21 17 7

Next, moving in closer.

Godwin 3 21 17 7 copya

The following segment of the image is about 1.5 inches high.  Note that Godwin has crammed an incredible amount of detail into this. Not only that, the intent is conveyed by the amalgamation of many different lines, including a wide variety of widths and shapes. There are different angles and different curvatures. There are a variety of densities, from black to dark gray.  I suppose this all says that one may sometimes learn a lot more from the original art than one can from a tiny printed version. (But I think I do not have the King Features printed version, but I seem to recall possessing it in an Australia comic book.) Presumably, some of the image is brushwork, and some pen-work.

Godwin 3 21 17 7 copy 2a

—Tom Sawyer

March 31, 2017

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Comments on “Molly and I or the Silver Ring,” by Frank R. Adams, illustrated by Frank Godwin . . .

If you look on the Unz.org website, you just might find images of a copy of Molly and I or the Silver Ring, by Frank R. Adams (with a 1915 copyright date), as illustrated by Frank Godwin. The copy on the Unz.org site is apparently from the library system of the University of California.

In my collection, I have two copies of the book.  One is kind of beat up, but the other is a beautiful copy. It was shrink-wrapped when I acquired it some years ago.  I have left the shrink-wrap on it, but there is no way that the book was issued in shrink-wrap. Its interior is likely the same as the Unz.org copy. There is also a copy on Google Books, and probably elsewhere, but the Google Books example does not include an image of the original cover.

The actual cover shown above is pretty much flawless, and the little specks are basically reflections on the shrink-wrap or defects in the shrink-wrap.

In an earlier post, I stated that I had a copy of Molly and I in dust jacket. I do have the original dust jackets on many of my Godwin books, but in this case I think I probably got Molly and I mixed-up with Trying It on the Dog.

I have seen in a couple of placed that a movie was made of Molly and I.  IMDb shows it to be a 1920 film, silent of course.

—Tom Sawyer

March 31, 2017

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More on Uncle Henry . . .

Some of the Uncle Henry articles (discussed in an earlier post not so long ago) were collected into a book published in 1922.  I’m not sure, but I think the portrait by Frank Godwin of Uncle Henry that appeared on the cover of Collier’s in that previous post may have been created for use in connection with the book. The title of the book is stated as Uncle Henry, and the title page does not state any author. Rather, it says ANONYMOUS. The publisher was Reynolds Publishing Company, Inc.

I have two copies of the book in dust jackets. I don’t remember ever seeing any copies in the DJ, other than the ones in my collection. I don’t think the book (without DJ) could be considered scarce, though.

Below is an image showing my two copies in DJs. Now one might assume that the two copies are identical. This however, would be an error. The main differences between the two is that the flaps on the DJ are blank in the copy on the left, and not blank in the copy on the right. The front flap quotes from the introduction by Irvin Cobb, and the back flap quotes Uncle Henry.

 

uncle-henry

Based on a superficial analysis, I suspect that the book on the left was issued earlier than the other, for two reasons. First, the coloration is a bit more nuanced in the copy on the left (the one on the right is kind of contrasty). Second, I feel that the publisher probably added the printed matter to the flaps after they thought about it a little (and they just might have been in a bit of a rush initially). It would seem, under the circumstances, logical to add text to the flaps, and there would seem to be no reason to omit the material that appears in the copy on the right.

I suspect that the lettering shown (for the title) was created by Godwin. My principal reason for saying this is that I have a copy of Maurice Switzer’s 1921 Trying It on the Dog in a dust jacket, and the lettering of the author’s name is in a very similar style. That book was illustrated by Godwin. The DJ on that one has an unsigned illustration (obviously by Godwin). I don’t think that illustration is repeated within the book. It was published by a different publisher (The Bobbs-Merrill Company). That style is kind of cool, informal, and non-modern, and fits in well with the material in the book.

The DJ on the left is protected by a mylar cover (rather reflective), and the white at the upper left is white paper.

If you look carefully at the base of the spine in the copy on the left, you will notice a water stain. Many years ago, I bought three or four certain books illustrated by Godwin, in DJs, from multiple dealers, maybe three or four different dealers.  (Sorry to be so hazy about the details.) If I were to line them up next to each other on a shelf, the stains could be made to line up quite nicely.  To me it is obvious that the books were all (slightly) damaged in the same incident!

—Tom Sawyer

January 2, 2017 (taken down right after posting)

Revised February 9, 2017

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Re “The Little Lame Prince”

In an earlier post, I discussed (a little) the fact that Frank Godwin produced  “cover-labels” for several rather small books in David McKay’s series of books known as “McKay’s Young People’s Classics.” (The cover-labels are the paper labels pasted to the fronts of many books back in the “olden days.”) I believe that Godwin produced illustrations for eight or nine (or so) of the covers in that series.

This is apart from several larger books published by McKay that also had cover labels by Godwin.  These larger works included Robin Hood, The Black Arrow, and The Blue Fairy Book. A version of The Black Arrow published in England had a different cover-label by Godwin. The cover-labels of the books mentioned in this paragraph were based on illustrations also found inside the book. I have copies of all of these as well.

Of course, cover-labels by Godwin also appeared on still other books.  Offhand, I think all such others were published by Winston.

In my collection, I think I have eight or so different examples of “McKay’s Young People’s Classics” with Godwin covers.

In another post, I discussed the cover for The Arabian Nights, from the same series, which was quite lovely.  The one for The Little Lame Prince is simpler and not really as attractive as the one for The Arabian Nights and certain others in the series.  (Still pretty attractive though!)

connie-1-12-17-3-copy-2aa

Obviously the above is only a portion of the image–probably about half of the image, since I cropped off a lot of the top and bottom (but not all that much of the sides).

—Tom Sawyer

January 18, 2017

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Happy New Year from “Connie,” 76 years ago–but not Frank Godwin’s Connie!

Below is shown the Connie bottom-strip for the Sunday episode for December 29, 1940. If you are somewhat familiar with Frank Godwin’s principal styles of Connie art, it is unlikely that you will think that this portrayal of Connie was actually drawn by Frank Godwin.

connie-1-12-17-2-copy-1-12-17

It is not at all badly drawn, but (for instance) the haziness of Connie’s far shoulder is very uncharacteristic of Godwin. And her hair is somewhat “off” from Godwin’s style.

In another segment of that Connie page, shown below, it is easily seen that the lettering is nothing like that of Godwin’s attractive style.  Likewise, it can be seen that the execution of the drawing is quite well done, and it even seems to have been executed in a Godwin-esque style of art, but it is different enough from Godwin’s typical work that one can say that Godwin did not draw it. I could not swear that Godwin did not do the pencils, but there is no real reason to suppose that he did. The foregoing comments also apply to the small portion of the story itself shown above.

connie-1-12-17-1-copy-1-12-17

The complex layout of the panels (or quasi-panels) is also rather Godwin-esque.

Additionally, as I noted in a different post, Godwin’s name does not appear in the logo (not completely shown above).

Nonetheless, the art is quite nice.   The clouds are very Godwin-like, as is the composition.  But Connie herself does not look much like a Godwin rendering, and the speech balloons are not Godwin-esque.

This line of dialog, spoken by Connie, seems quite strange to me: “WHILE YOU’RE AWAY I’LL GO LOOK AT THE BOATS–JUST FOR EXCITEMENT–TERRIFIC EXCITEMENT ISN’T IT?”

The use of the word “excitement” twice seems odd.

There are many ways that line of Connie’s could be improved.  Something like this might have worked better: “While you two are away, I’m going to take a look at those boats–they look exciting.” But even that seems weird, because, to make the subsequent adventure seem more interesting and unexpected, her real reason should be along the lines of “it’s something to do to kill the time,” or there might have been an indication that something was unusual and worth investigating.

In short: (a) art quite nice but very probably not Godwin; (b) lettering  (including spacing within the balloons) not that great; (c) dialog could probably have been better.

I discussed this episode in some detail in the post found at the following link: LINK.  Also, in the post found at this link: LINK.

–Tom Sawyer

January 12, 2017

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