My “real opinion” of the “castle and raft” art by Frank Godwin for “Rusty Riley” . . .

I have discussed the Rusty Riley “castle and raft” strips before on this blog.  In that post, I explained why I thought that a certain strip (original art) from that series had sold for a relatively high price.  In that post, I discussed some of the details of one or two strips in the series, which I thought were very nice, but not the greatest, Rusty Riley strips.  I think one of the problems is that, in certain cases, although the artwork is rather intricate overall, the characters in certain cases are delineated rather sketchily.  That bothers me a little bit.

“Sketchy delineation?  Maybe that is only when the characters are small.”  Maybe, but then that might be part of the problem.

The characters here are not shown in great detail.  This is a portion of the original art for a strip from the story under discussion (December 29, 1956).  The characters and not shown here in great detail, perhaps because the character images are rather small.

This is a portion of the original art for a strip from the “Rusty Riley” story under discussion (December 29, 1956). The characters are not shown here in great detail, perhaps because the character images are rather small.

Much of the art from the series is great, though.

I have one myself in my collection!

I just think it’s better to consider the art largely apart from the story, and not assume that the art has to be great simply because it is part of a certain story — although one really needs to give the story some weight when evaluating the art.

I am just trying to look at the strips somewhat objectively (though the subject almost doesn’t allow that) and somewhat coldly.  Here is a summary of some of my opinions relating to that sequence.  I am aware of 20 or so items of original art for the Rusty Riley daily comic-strip for the period October 30, 1956, through January 18, 1957, and these are mainly what the following comments are based upon.  I have also seen the newspaper versions of some of the dailies from the story.

1.  First, I have the feeling that the story involves mainly Rusty and Buck, and one other major character (the man on the raft).  That is not a good formula for much of a Rusty Riley story.  (Yes, I know there are other characters.)

2.  It is also not such a good formula for great comic strip art — maybe for one or two episodes, but day after day, for months?

3.  An eBay seller once said that the “castle and raft” story was “long considered to be Godwin’s best artwork in comics.”  I’m not sure what the genesis of that concept is.  That’s the only place I’ve ever heard that.

The story does have some fantastic art.  The best examples I know of from the series are probably (1) a night scene on the raft, and (2) one with a ghost-like image in the third panel.

But I think that series points up some of the problems with focusing on certain specific stories when collecting or evaluating Rusty Riley original art.

And, unfortunately, there are long runs of daily Rusty Riley strips with which almost nobody is familiar, because the newspaper versions themselves (and related original art) are in many cases very difficult to locate.

—Tom Sawyer

November 1, 2013

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