More thoughts on Frank Godwin’s “Rusty Ryan” sample art . . .

Actually, I am not the biggest fan of the Rusty Ryan strips as Godwin collectibles. They are nice, yes, but I think it is good to keep them in perspective.

As I recall, I first heard of the Rusty Ryan sample strips from another collector, who I believe told me that Bruce Bergstrom was selling them, as a group.  (That was possibly eight or ten years ago.) There were thirty strips!  Anyway, I contacted Bruce about them.  I was one of Bruce’s eBay customers, and I suppose that he knew I had a real interest in them. But one of the main things that slowed me down was that none of them were signed by Godwin.

I assume that there was a good reason for that, but I do not know what that reason was.  That would have been easily understandable to me if the strip were intended to be reproduced under someone else’s name.  After all, that was basically what happened with the Roy Powers, Eagle Scout strip, which was drawn by a number of artists (and written by, uh, I don’t know whom), but which appeared under the name Paul Powell.

Note on 10-15-13:  As I recall, some of the art was signed by Kemp Starrett, who was one of the artists.

Again, it is not a problem with the authenticity of the Rusty Ryan strips, but to me it is a problem with their desirability. If a collector is showing one of those items to someone else, the collector almost has to make excuses for it.  “Yeah, you know, it’s unsigned, but . . . .”  And I don’t know what the collector is going to insert into that blank.  He can’t say, “but that’s just as good as if it were signed,” because everybody knows that it isn’t just as good. (And, yes, I realize that a signature of an artist doesn’t necessarily prove beyond doubt that something was drawn by the artist.)

I do not have problems with all unsigned Frank Godwin art.  Many of Godwin’s published illustrations were not signed, and I have several Godwin originals that are unsigned.  But, at the time I contacted Bruce, I had problems with the lack of signatures on those particular items.

Nonetheless, I was quite interested in certain specific examples of the Rusty Ryan art, but I have never acquired any.

And that brings up one of the key points about the strips.  From a collector’s standpoint, they differ in their desirability.  Opinions are probably going to vary among collectors, as to which ones are better and which are more ordinary, but I really think that most Rusty Riley collectors would be in general agreement on those issues.

To me, plainly the most desirable of all would be the first one, strip A-1.  That presented some great backstory, and mentioned Cliffside Home (in Rusty Riley it was Cliffside Orphans’ Home).  That episode also mentioned Miss Walker, and it included other information as well. So, it is the first Rusty Ryan strip, and it has some important content.

On the downside, the art is kind of mundane (for Godwin), and the portrayal of Rusty Ryan is rather uninteresting.  In two of the frames he is basically shown from the back, and in the remaining frame his is shown in a bland profile.  Also, the story starts out a little slowly — completely unlike the Rusty Riley strip.

When compared to the first Rusty Riley strip, well, there is no comparison, by which I mean that the first Rusty Riley strip (original art) would be far more desirable than the first Rusty Ryan art.  The art in the first Rusty Riley is in a very different (and, to me, superior) style, compared to the first Rusty Ryan.  (I do not know whether the original art for the very first Rusty Riley strip still exists, but the original art for at least a few of the very early strips exists.)

Anyway, the foregoing to some degree explains why I have never made a serious effort to obtain any of the Rusty Ryan art.  I am pretty certain I probably did make an offer to Bruce Bergstrom to purchase several of them.  When the original of the first Rusty Ryan strip went on auction, I either placed a bid on strip A-1, or else the bidding just went beyond what I was willing to pay — I forget which.  But other than that, I have largely stayed out of any attempts to purchase any.

I am not ruling it out completely, but at the moment it isn’t really on my agenda.

There are at present a couple of Rusty Ryan strips on eBay, priced at $450 each. Both appear to be very nice Rusty Ryan examples.  (10-15-13:  I believe only one is on eBay at this time.)

—Tom Sawyer

April 25, 2012

10-15-13:  I did some little revisions on this.  The main ones are italicized.


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