Two problems with my statement that the “dot patterns” on some “Rusty Riley” dailies is not Zip-A-Tone . . .

In the preceding post, I indicated that just maybe the dot pattern on some Rusty Riley original art was Zip-A-Tone after all.  Of course, I am not necessarily speaking for the entire run of the strip.  I’m speaking in general, and probably with regard to 90 percent or more of the instances where a dot pattern is present.

Here, though, are two problems with the theory that the dots are not Zip-A-Tone.  I realize, by the way, that “Zip,” “Zip-A-Tone,” and similar terms often have been used by artists more or less generically.  But that, in my view, is the shop-talk of artists.  Collectors and dealers are supposedly interested in accurate assessments of items they own, or items which they are buying or selling.  And when art has significant glue stains (or other stains), it is nice to know precisely what caused them.

First Problem

This is not part of the problem, but my theory was based on a detailed description of Zip-A-Tone found in a blog about illustration, called Words and Pictures.  It is easily the best description I know of dealing with patterns that were often used in comic strips.  HOWEVER, it is possible that there were variations of Zip-A-Tone, which differed in (say) the manner of affixing the pattern.  Zip-A-Tone was supposed to be self-adhering.  The Rusty Riley patterns were glued on (supposedly–but see below).  But there may have been different species of the product (not just as to patterns or sizes of sheets).  Based on this, the product could have been Zip-A-Tone (or if from another manufacturer, could have used the same methodology).

Second Problem

Upon further thought, I am not positive that the sheets were glued on.  I still think it is likely, and I do know that the evidence of glue is quite damning.  For instance (assuming that glue was used):

1.  The brown color appears on at least one occasion in a place where there is no dot pattern (but near the dot pattern) — suggesting that glue had been applied where it was not needed.

2.  If you have seen places where “paste-ups” have been used — usually a small piece of replacement art, you will normally see a brown glue-stain when the piece is missing.   And many of the title-photostats on Sunday art are brown where they have been affixed to the art.

3.  In places I have seen where the dot-pattern film has become separated from the art, the surface just looks like it has glue on it.

But maybe they were not glued on.  Maybe they were indeed self-adhering.  And when you think about it, if a self-adhering product was available, and it was, why would the syndicate mess with glue?  Of course, glue had to be used in some places, as with a paste-up or (I would assume) affixing the “Rusty Riley” title-photostats to the Sunday art.  Frank Godwin himself would have used glue in making a paste-up, I would think.

Okay, then, but what are we talking about, then?

In reviewing some daily art with the dot patterns, and in re-examining the information on the Words and Pictures blog, I STILL don’t know how the patterns should be designated.

However, it is possible that the patterns were more akin to a product that the Words and Pictures blog designates as “Contak.”  That was a product with clear sheets with dots, and adhesive on one side (apparently wax).  You would apply it to the art, cut away the parts that covered areas that did not need the dots, then press the remaining material down for better adhesion.  Now, you didn’t need to be too precise on the sections you cut away, because — get this — the dot pattern was on the artist’s side, not the art-side, and the artist could scrape away the dots from areas they did not belong.

And that effect — areas covered with film, but with no dots — often occurs in Rusty Riley daily original art.  However, this concept of “dots on the artist’s side” doesn’t explain every phenomenon.  I have at least one strip that has clear film over “white” areas (no dots), film with dots over light blue areas, AND dots on the blue area, with no film on to of it!

If the brown “glue stains” are not glue, what are they?

Some of these may be dark-horse candidates:

1.  They could be discolored self-adhesive.  (Whatever the adhesive was in the Rusty Riley strips, I am pretty sure that wax was not involved.)

2.  They could represent a discoloring of the film itself, which transfers to the paper.  (By the way, I think sellers may have referred to discolored film, and this may be accurate — I do think that the “glue stains” and “discoloration of film” may be two separate problems.)

3.  Words and Pictures tells us that after using Contak, a fixing substance was normally applied to help resistance to scratching.

Oh well, I think the foregoing shows that the situation is a bit more complex than I have supposed.  I was about to write more, but I have grown a little weary of going into all the little nuances.

—Tom Sawyer

October 31, 2013

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