Comments on the many faces of Patty Miles in Frank Godwin’s daily “Rusty Riley” comic strip . . .

Update 10-14-13:

This was originally posted on April 8, 2012.  In my collecting of Rusty Riley material, for a long time I placed emphasis on strips that include the character of Patty Miles.  Patty is plainly the second most important character in the comic strip, and by a fairly wide margin.

If you look at the little extracts below (taken from examples of original art), it is immediately apparent that Godwin’s skill in drawing did not diminish in the least from the late 1940s through the late 1950s.  (That isn’t too clear from the 1959 strip shown, but it is obvious from other drawings made at about the same time.)

Quite a number of characters in Frank Godwin’s comic strips looked different in different episodes.  I suppose that there was consistency at least within stories, but sometimes the differences among various examples of the strip were quite marked.  In the case of Patty Miles, one of the main characters in Frank Godwin’s Rusty Riley comic strip, the differences in the course of the daily strip’s nearly twelve-year run were occasionally striking.

I gather that Godwin exercised care to have Patty’s wardrobe evolve through the years.  In the earliest strips, Patty seemed much more like “the rich girl,” with her elegant riding-attire — on a different social plane from Rusty, and more refined that Rusty.  In time, though, they became more like equals. (Of course, Patty was never snobbish!)

The differences in Patty’s appearance are not explained solely by a different “look” for the character. The differences in Patty’s appearance were also aligned with different drawing-styles on Godwin’s part.

Below are images of small excerpts from the original art of a number of Rusty Riley strips (in my collection). They perhaps better demonstrate what I am talking about. (The examples shown do not by any means show all of the different versions of Patty.) The relative sizes of the “real life” comic-strip images may to some degree be judged by the relative sizes of the wording in the speech balloons (in one case, a thought balloon) shown. (The original art bears copyright notices of King Features Syndicate, for the corresponding years shown.)

Example 1: 1949 (Note:  The image includes an excellent portrayal of a young-looking Rusty, to Patty’s left.)

Example 2:  1955

Example 3:  1955

Example 4:  1956

Example 5:  1957

Example 6:  1958:

Example 7:  1959 (Note:  The image below — from the September 15, 1959 strip — is from almost the final daily strip.  There were only four more syndicated Rusty Riley dailies after that.)  

In the first three images shown above, Patty seems to have blond hair.  Examples 4 and 5 seem to be leaning toward darker hair, but it could be blond.  Her hair is definitely quite dark in the last two.  Of course, there are other differences, as well.

To my eye, in the earliest Rusty Riley comic strips (which I have printed versions of, as extracted from newspapers), Patty looks different than she does in the above images — and her hair was dark.  Those strips preceded Example 1.

It is possible that some of the differences may have been the result of Godwin relying on different models.  Even though I have said that the differences were “occasionally striking,” still I think that all of the depictions are in the same ballpark, and actually the clearest differences are in Patty’s clothing — which I am not really addressing in detail in this post. (Again, in this post, I am talking only about daily strips.)

—Tom Sawyer

April 8, 2012

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