Backstories, or lack thereof, for the characters of Rusty Riley, Rusty Ryan, and Billy West . . .

I haven’t seen all of Frank Godwin’s Rusty Riley comic strips, but I strongly suspect that little or nothing of his origins is given in the strip.

In the Rusty Ryan (not Riley) sample strips, if I recall correctly there was some mystery surrounding the whereabouts of his parents.  As I recall, the name “Ryan” appeared in his cap.  This was “obviously” was actually his first name (though that was not expressly stated), but I guess the authorities had nothing better by which to determine his name.

The Billy West strips (which were not really formally titled, as far as I know, but which involved the character Billy West) were a series of sample strips drawn by Godwin.  Billy was an apparent orphan, and Bruce Bergstrom told me that he was adopted by a group of soldiers.  He is seen in uniform in the strips I have seen.  Bruce said that people called him “Jeep,” because he often said, “Jeepers.”  In that story, one of the characters hypothesizes that Jeep’s parents are still alive.

But back on Rusty Riley, we know that when we find him, he lives at Cliffside Orphans’ Home.  We also learn fairly quickly that the events of the beginning of the strip do not take place in Kentucky, but in another state which appears to be considerable distance from Kentucky, and in any event Lexington is pretty far from the state border.  (Yet in a Sunday episode, Patty and Rusty are out on a ride, when they find themselves near Rusty’s orphanage and decide to visit Miss Walker!)

Well, this is not exactly a scientific analysis of the background of Rusty Riley, Rusty Ryan, and Billy West — but I think that is enough for now.

—Tom Sawyer

October 29, 2013

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