Comments on determining what “is” and what “isn’t” in the field of comic strips in general and Frank Godwin, “Connie,” and “Rusty Riley” in particular . . .

In certain cases, it is fascinating how “facts” become distorted.  That is something that happens in all fields, and sometimes the fact that it does happen almost defies explanation.  It comes about in part, I suppose, because of imperfections in the ways that people think, and differences in what they think is important, and in the flawed way in which many draw conclusions.

The distortions also come about because, if you are to make everything you say reliably accurate, you will not be able to say much! Also, sometimes there is far too much reliance on the notion that someone else will correct you if you are wrong.  I’m sure there are other reasons, as well.

I’ll mention an example from outside the world of comic strips.  I formerly knew quite a bit about the monthly periodical London Society, which was published in London during the Victorian era.  But wait a second . . . there were frequently (maybe always) two extra issues per year.

The periodical was edited by James Hogg.  But wait a second . . . there were other editors at other times.

One of the other editors was Florence Marryat, who edited it from around mid-1872 to around mid 1876.  But wait a second . . . there was a guest editor for the December 1873 issue.

Turning back to the world of Frank Godwin it is easily seen that the area is plagued by similar opportunities for conclusion-jumping and erroneous assumptions.

One assumption that I made until recently was that when Frank Godwin went to work for the Washington, D.C., Star — a newspaper his father worked for — his father was still working there.  It seemed so reasonable.  His dad was an editor there, and at a young age, Godwin went to work there.  It’s flawless!

But wait a second . . . from Allan Holtz’s blog, we recently learned (from Alex Jay, based on census data) that Frank Godwin’s dad had passed away by the time of the 1900 census, when Godwin was maybe ten years old.  I don’t think that has been verified four times over, but it is certainly the best information on that at the moment!

Here is what the Wikipedia article on Godwin says, citing another website:  “Born in Washington, D.C., Godwin was the son of the Washington Star’s city editor, and in 1905, at age 16, he began as an apprentice on his father’s paper.”  Technically right, maybe, but come on–we can’t really claim that with a straight face.

The Wikipedia article on Godwin mentions that Godwin “stepped in to replace illustrator Kemp Starrett on writer Paul Powell’s daily strip Roy Powers, Eagle Scout . . . which continued until 1942.”  Well, Godwin started drawing the strip in late 1938, but it appears that he stopped in late 1940 — in any event I am not sure why we care when the strip ended, unless the implication is that Godwin drew the strip straight through, which he did not. “Stepped in” makes its seem as though there was some kind of emergency which led to Godwin being called upon.

The foregoing is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

—Tom Sawyer

June 29, 1012

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