Comments on Frank Godwin’s “Rusty Riley,” and on the differences between the original art for the December 5, 1948, Sunday episode, and the published third-page version of the same episode . . .

Life being what it is, it is relatively seldom (if ever) that anyone would have access to:

1.  Rusty Riley Sunday original art by Frank Godwin for a certain date, and . . .

2.  The half for that same Sunday, and . . .

3.  The third for that same Sunday, and . . .

4.  The tabloid for that same Sunday.

One might occasionally find two of the above, such as a half and a third for the same date, or a tabloid and a third for the same date.  But I do not believe that, for any one date, I have examples of all four of the items listed.  I am not even certain that I have ever even had three of the above for a single date–though it is possible.

In this post, I will discuss:

1.  Sunday art for a certain date, and

2.  A published third for that same date.

I don’t think that the pair is necessarily typical, but it is certainly interesting!

The piece of original art I want to talk about now is the art for Sunday, December 5, 1948 — from the first year of the Rusty Riley strip.  And I also want to talk about the one-third-page printed version for the same date.

Specifically, I want to talk about some of the differences between the two.

A lot of the Rusty Riley Sunday orignal art is stamped, at the top, “DROP TOP ROW FOR 1/3 PG,” which makes a lot of sense, if the top row can be dispensed with without ruining the story, and I assume that is the case for all of the Rusty Riley art that was stamped that way.

But the December 5, 1948, art did not bear that stamp, and plainly the top row was not dropped in the making of the third-page strip.  Instead, the art was subjected to a number of amazing modifications — not on the original art.  (I suppose that a photostat was cut up and affixed to art board, though it was not as simple as that.)

Here is a discussion of what appear to be the main changes.

First, of course, the big Rusty Riley title (a photostat or the like) was dropped for purposes of the third.  No problem there.  And a smaller logo was inset into the upper-left corner, on the published version.  Again, no real problem.

As to the rest of the third-page published version, the intent seems to have been to capture as much of the half-page as possible.

The original art has nine frames.  One of those was dropped completely, so that the third-page has eight frames. That isn’t surprising, since obviously something should probably be jettisoned, if possible, when you are converting a half-page to a third-page.

It general, the treatment of the December 5, 1948, strip involved “verticalizing” the frames.  For the most part, this meant adding to the frame at the top and bottom, and occasionally cropping the sides.

You may wonder whether this involved drawing “new material” that was not in the original drawing, and the answer is, as hard as it may be to believe:  yes!

The third-page has thirteen speech balloons.  Of those thirteen speech balloons, ten of them have been moved, or otherwise changed. Typically, they have been moved a substantial distance!

I’ll go frame-by-frame and mention other specific changes:

Frame 1:  Material was added to the top and bottom.  On the top, roughly twenty percent was added, and a small amount was added to the bottom.  A small cloud-formation is added, and the material at the bottom was all extended — a shoe was added that was not in the original.  A little was cropped from the right.  Rusty’s speech-balloon was apparently kept the same, but the other two were moved.

Frame 2:  The proportions were dramatically changed.  Material was added to the top (nothing new drawn), and the bottom was extended, with a noticeable new chunk added to the “bottom” of Rusty’s jacket.  The speech balloon was moved upward.

Frame 3:  A little was cropped from the right of the frame.  The frame was extended upward and downward.  A little of the drawing was changed because of the fact that both speech balloons were moved. The bottom of the panel was extended with a little bit of new drawing.

Frame 4:  The original frame was very slightly horizontal in format.  In the printed third-page, it is significantly vertical.  The drawing has been extended on the bottom and slightly changed elsewhere.  Both speech balloons have been moved upward significantly.

Frame 5:  This frame was dropped.

Frame 6:  Part of my printed version of this frame is torn away.  However, the drawing has been extended downward, and other material has been changed (added) because the speech balloons have been moved upward.

Well, there are three more frames, but at the moment I am not going to go into the modifications on those.

Of course, when I talk above about extending frames, and so on, I am talking about proportional modifications, because even with extensions, the frames on the printed version are much shorter than in the original art.

When you start extending the height of the original frames, it further reduces the size of Godwin’s art.  If this is confusing, the following example might make it more clear.  This example is completely made up, just for purposes of illustration — it has no direct relationship to the actual dimensions of the items above.

Okay, if the original frame is four inches tall, and it is reduced (for printing) to two inches tall, everything in the printed image is half the height it is in the original art.  If, however, you add two inches to the top of the original art, and two inches to the bottom, you now have an image that is eight inches tall.  When you reduce that down to two inches tall, the original image is now one-fourth the original size, not one half — because the small two-inch-tall image now includes a bunch of new stuff on the top and bottom.

I think on many of the later strips, the syndicate just dropped the top row.  I’m not sure when that started.  I’ll probably get into that in future posts.

—Tom Sawyer

July 11, 2012

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