A brief critique of the Wikipedia article on Frank Godwin’s “Rusty Riley” . . .

Wikipedia is truly a remarkable resource.  I refer to it a lot.  However, for the Frank Godwin fan, Wikipedia has certain drawbacks, and at this time I thought I would make a few comments about the Wikipedia article on Rusty Riley.  Of course, certain problems with the Rusty Riley article are the result of similar problems with writings upon which the Wikipedia article draws.

I am just going to mention a few things — not everything I had problems with.  I have placed the Wikipedia quotations in boldface.

Paragraph 2, sentence 1:  “. . . line work in Rusty Riley shows an obvious influence of James Montgomery Flagg and Charles Dana Gibson.” Well, as to much of Godwin’s pre-Rusty Riley work the Flagg influence is “obvious,” and in Syd Hydeman’s book How to Illustrate for Money, Syd basically says that Godwin had to consciously work to not have his art be too similar to Flagg’s, or something along those lines.  But any influence by Charles Dana Gibson is completely non-obvious (to me, at least). In many cases, you can (at least from a distance, on a quick glance) mistake a Flagg drawing for a Godwin drawing, or vice versa.  That would seldom, if ever, happen with a Gibson drawing (as to either Flagg or Godwin).  Of course, there are many Godwin drawings you would never begin to mistake for Flagg drawings.  Examples would be the illustrations for The Blue Fairy Book. In any event, by the time Rusty Riley rolled around, the similarity between Godwin’s style and Flagg’s is severely attenuated, almost to the point of not being discernible.

Paragraph 2, last sentence:  “. . . more attention in Europe . . .”  That I strenuously doubt, especially as to Rusty Riley.  “. . . specifically France . . .”  I’m not at all sure about that.  I seem to see more interest originating in Italy.

Paragraph 3:  This summary of the Rusty Riley strip’s premise seems, to my way of thinking, a bit weak.  It almost makes it seems as though Rusty leaves the orphanage in search of adventure, in the course of which he comes upon Milestone Farm, in Kentucky.  In actuality, Rusty is a boy intensely interested in horses, who visits Milestone Farm every day, to see Big Blaze.  He feels compelled to leave the orphanage with Flip (basically because of a dog-license problem), and Patty Miles helps him.  The strip makes it clear that Milestone Farm, at the beginning of the strip, is not even in Kentucky. As to whether Patty is Rusty’s “girlfriend,” I don’t know that I would put it that way.  In fact, Maurice Horn dealt with this much better when he said, “Slowly romance blooms between the two young people, but this aspect of the strip was cut short by the sudden disappearance of Rusty Riley in the summer [it was more like autumn] of 1959 [. . .].”

—Tom Sawyer

March 26, 2012

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