Something surprising about every single piece of “Rusty Riley” daily original art — NO EXCEPTIONS! (Oh, okay . . . there are a lot of exceptions.)

I’ll mention what the “something strange” is in a moment.

Like I said, there are some exceptions, but people do not often (if ever) meet up with them.

And it’s something kind of surprising.  Like, if you’ve never seen a piece of Rusty Riley daily original art before, when you do see one unframed, you’ll look at it in disbelief, wondering, “How could this happen?”  And, if you bought it, you may wonder, “Why me!”

And the strange thing is this . . .

They (the daily original art for Rusty Riley) are all — okay, not “all” — trimmed very close to the top edge.  The following image shows one April 1948 Rusty Riley daily (on the top), one May 1949 daily (immediately beneath the 1948), and a 1955 (on the bottom).  You can see that the top two have a pleasing amount of top margin.  The bottom one, not so much.  And the bottom one is almost typical of the closely trimmed examples.  As a matter of fact, sometimes the trimming (which is not necessarily “straight”) drifts quite close to the image — maybe as close as about a sixteenth of an inch or so.

The top strip is especially interesting, because one of the known pictures of Godwin at his drafting-table shows that very strip on the drafting-table in front of him.  Cool!  Also evident is that on the example shown above, Godwin was still lettering the strip himself.

A simple comparison of the top strip above to the strip on the drafting-table shows that the strip on the table then had a much wider top margin than it now does.

When did the switchover from wide to narrow top-margins take place?  I don’t know, and I don’t know that it was a “switchover.”  I do have an example from April 1949 that has a rather narrow margin (not cut perfectly straight) — and that preceded the one from May 1949 with the adequate top margin.  So maybe there was not a real pattern, but I suspect that earlier strips are more likely to have good top-margins.

And now I want to issue a major qualifier.

As a matter of fact, many — perhaps most — of the daily original art has been trimmed somewhat close — but not extremely close.

And, actually, it’s not something that bothers me (much).  But I wonder why it happened.  It’s almost as though Godwin had a shipping container, and the full-sized versions would not fit.  It also occurred to me that perhaps the art needed to have a small top-margin to allow for proper placement in photographing the art.  Neither of those explanations seems good to me.

But it seems pretty clear that when Godwin was working on the art, it had the full margin.  That seems to be clear from photographs of Godwin at his drawing board.  Also, the unfinished daily art I have generally has a full top-margin.

—Tom Sawyer

November 7, 2013

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