More comments on the first Sunday episode of Frank Godwin’s “Rusty Riley” (June 27, 1948) — “halves” versus “thirds” . . .

Preliminary Note:  Confused about “halves” and “thirds” (and “tabloids”)?  Check out this post:  Formats.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently purchased an example of the first Sunday Rusty Riley (June 27, 1948) as it appeared in the newspapers in the “third” (third of a page) format.  I said then that I was pretty sure I already had one of the first Sundays, and that turned out to be correct.  Not only that, but my “earlier” example was in the half-page format.

I found it quite interesting to compare the two.  There are many differences between them — differences which I consider big and important — and none of them make the strip better in the third format.  The differences are quite similar in type to those discussed in an earlier post.

The half has ten panels, not including the title panel.  The third has nine panels (one was dropped).  All nine of the remaining panels are different from the corresponding half-page panels.  It appears that all nine have been extended upward and downward, sometimes meaning that a quite noticeable amount of new material was drawn in.

A common-sense view might be that there is essentially no chance at all that Frank Godwin himself made the modifications.  About the only way it could be otherwise is if the original art was composed as in the third-page, and that modifications were made to create the half — an explanation which in light of “known facts” does not hold any water.

The main conclusion I draw is that the compositions of the Sunday thirds — some, not all — do not really represent Godwin’s compositions.  Moreover, the images and lettering are smaller, even though the panels are taller!

Much of the foregoing is made more clear by the following two images.  The first is from the third-page version.

The next one, below, is from the half-page version.

The two are very roughly “to scale”–that is, their relative sizes are shown.  In the top one, the image of the horse, Hillbilly, is smaller, even though the panel is taller.  Quite a bit of extra stuff has been drawn-in on the top one, including (at the bottom of the panel) a large amount of rail, and Tex’s pants.  Also, a huge amount of new material appears above the level of Rusty’s head.  In the half-page version, the panel barely includes all of Rusty’s head.

Also, in the top example, the position and shape of the speech balloon has been changed, and quite a bit of the drawing in front of Hillbilly has been chopped off.

Again, I don’t know how many of the thirds experienced such changes.

I’m not sure how I feel about the changes.  Ideally, one would want to have access to halves, since they tend to be superior in just about every way.  On the other hand, the third was a pretty standard way of distributing strips.  As discussed in another post, it seems that at some point, a decision was made to have the top row be “drop-able,” for purposes of the thirds.

I have not made enough of a study of all this to be able to discuss it in much depth.  I think, though, that the tabloids may have included all of the material in the halves, but of course arranged in a format that was overall vertical, instead of horizontal — at least during the final years of the strip.

—Tom Sawyer

June 11, 2012

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