Comments on “Rusty Riley” halves, versus thirds, versus tabloids, with particular reference to the August 1, 1948 episode . . .

Caveat!  While I believe that some of the concepts discussed in this post probably apply to many episodes of the Rusty Riley Sunday strip, the specifics of this post mainly relate to one single Sunday episode.  The Rusty Riley Sunday strip ran for more than eleven years, and different approaches were taken at different times, and I don’t know the starting and ending dates of the different approaches.  I have the original art for the September 8, 1957, strip, and to make the third for that episode, they simply dropped the top row.  I think that was done for years, and I don’t know when that approach was adopted.  Now, the post . . .

I like the Rusty Riley tabloid format quite a bit.  The overall vertical format, with the comic strip taking up the whole tabloid-sized page, seems more pleasing to the eye.  It is also more convenient to handle than a half-page comic strip.  This is true, whether the half-page is still part of a full page, or whether (as I imagine to be more often the case) the half-page has been cut from the full page.

But one might ask whether the tabloid is in some way inferior to the half-page.  I cannot say generally one way or another.  However, in this post I will examine one episode, that for August 1, 1948 — the sixth Sunday strip.  And I would have to say that the half-page is superior, but only by a small margin.

First, the tabloid does not have the title frame (of the half) showing Rusty, Flip, and a horse (probably Big Blaze).  Instead, the title on the tabloid is in a long, horizontal frame running across the top of the page.  The wording is: RUSTY RILEY by Frank Godwin.  (The half has the same wording in its title frame.)

Apart from the title frame, there are nine frames in the half.  There are eight frames in the tabloid.  The fifth frame is dropped from the tabloid.

As to the third, there are eight frames in the third (the title is included as a small part of the first frame).  However, the third includes the fifth frame of the half.  Instead of dropping the fifth frame, it drops the third frame.

The strip survives in the tabloid and third formats, but in each case, the dropping of the frame makes the strip choppy.  In other words, the strip was hurt by the elimination of the frames.

The tabloid omits a transition, where Tex tells Rusty he is “going to have a chat with Sid Shaw.”

The way I presently see things, the missing frame from the third was more important, and leaving it out had worse effect.  It contains the first part of a discussion between Rusty and Tex, and in the next frame it is less clear what they are talking about.

As to the other differences between the half and the third, they are overall similar to the modifications discussed in this post and this post.  In other words, the differences are significant.

It is becoming more and more clear to me that, for the true Frank Godwin aficionado, the third-page strips (during the era in question) and simply not a substitute for the halves or the tabloids.

The tabloids do, however, make a satisfactory substitute for the halves.

The following is from the tabloid.  The frame is identical to that in the half:

The following is from the third.  It is close to being “to scale,” in that it fairly well shows the relative size of the frame in comparison to the tabloid version.  Even though the frame is taller (by about three-eighths of an inch in the newspaper versions), it is also much narrower (by about three-fourths of an inch).

In fact, the frame has gone from an obviously horizontal format to a slightly vertical format!  Huge amounts of “new” material have been added to the third.  In fact, even though the “images” of the third are smaller, as is the wording, about 25 percent of the third’s image (material within the frame) is new material.  Looking at it another way, the image (including speech balloons) of the tabloid has been expanded with about 33 percent new material!  But then the third’s image has been shrunk down, and in the final printed version they may occupy about the same area.

Okay, I’ll put it another way.  In the tabloid version, not much of the barn is shown.  In the third version, the whole barn is shown, and some sky above it.  In the tabloid version, part of the silo is not shown.  In the third, the whole silo is shown, with plenty of sky above it.  In the tabloid version, the trees at the left are cut off by a speech balloon.  In the third version, the tops of the trees are shown, with plenty of sky above them.

I won’t at the moment discuss the details of the bottom of the frame, but the following is quite close to accurately portraying the portion of the bottom of the frame that was added to the “full” (and tabloid) version.  The added portion was not drawn by Godwin (I am essentially certain):

That image only portrays (a) the bottom of (b) one frame.  On the episode being discussed, I think material was added to the top and bottom of all frames that were included.  Also, I don’t think anything was cropped from the sides of the “half” version in order to make the third (in the present case).

By the way, If I had to rank them, without really setting forth any standards, just flying by the seat of my pants, I would perhaps grade them as follows, on a scale of 0 to 20:

Half:  20

Tabloid: 19

Third:  12

In other words, the halves are best, the tabs are close behind, and the thirds are significantly inferior.

This does not necessarily apply to all episodes.  I think that for the last few years of the strip, the syndicate (basically) simply dropped the top row when making a third.  This was overall a better solution, since it left the art unchanged, but then again the top row was dropped!  Also, I think that in later years the tabloids included all of the story frames of the half.  But:  I am not sure of any of the information in this paragraph — they are kind of impressions I have.

—Tom Sawyer

July 13, 2012

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