PART 2: Frank Godwin’s “Rusty Riley,” Sunday versus daily: A few more comments . . .

I feel as though I have seen in several places the idea that, well, the Sunday Rusty Riley strips needed one level of detail, because they would ultimately be shown in color, and the color would do much of the work.  On the other hand, the daily strips, being without color, needed the detail.  (And one of the people who commented regarding this earlier post said pretty much that.)

I’m not saying that is necessarily wrong.  And actually, for a fairly long time, I kind of believed that myself.  But at the moment I do not have a lot of faith in that explanation.

For one thing, I came to the conclusion that the coloring-in of the black-and-white image does not really compensate for any lack of “ink detail.”  Putting it another way, when Godwin’s Rusty Riley Sundays have more fully-developed line work, they look better than when the line-work is more simple.  And that realization had me seriously questioning whether the coloring was much of a help in detailing-out a drawing.

But anyway, about ten days ago I was looking through a bunch of Rusty Riley Sundays (as extracted from newspapers), and I kind of remembered a theory that I think I first developed (in some form) many years ago.  I haven’t really put this theory to the test, but I’ll probably think about it further in future weeks.  But it was probably because of this theory that I started this series of posts about the differences between the Sunday strip and the daily strip.

First, I think it’s clear that the Sunday Rusty Riley strips are indeed very different from the daily strips in various respects.  As I indicated above, I think one will occasionally hear things like, “The Sunday strips were less developed, because they would be colored.  The daily strips were more developed, because they did not have the benefit of ‘shading.'”

And, yes, there is a certain amount of apparent or surface validity to this.  If you look at the first months of the daily strip, you will see detail that probably transcended anything that ever appeared (over a sustained period) in the Sunday strip.  But the “whys” may be very unclear.

This does not really impact my thesis on the detail of the Sundays versus that of the dailies.  Sure, the early dailies were super-detailed, and the early Sundays were not super-detailed.  But on the whole, neither were the later dailies!  And my comment on the Sunday strips being “indeed very different from the daily strips” deals mainly with things apart from the level of detail.

Dave Karlen provided some nuance to the foregoing when he wrote, “However, it does depend on the year, with his earlier Sundays being more complex, but overall Godwin did some fantastic work on his daily strips.”

Anyway, here is my theory, at least in part.  I don’t think I’ll develop it much at the moment, for various reasons.

I think Frank Godwin figured that the Sunday Rusty Riley strip would give him more room to develop detailed, or complex, panoramas and tableaus.  I also think that in the early part of the Sunday strip, he tended to provide somewhat more line-work, and that his compositions overall were more complex.  And indeed, I do think (as I mentioned above) that the more line work he provided, the better the images worked, even though they were in color.

But I think he may have looked at some of the results — the final printed versions in the newspapers — and he may have had misgivings.  His handling of the Sunday pages over time (again, not just as to detail) may have had to do with him “dealing” with the color, rather than “exploiting” the color.

—Tom Sawyer

November 8, 2013


In an earlier post, I mentioned that certain things were handled differently in the Sunday Rusty Riley strips when compared to the daily strips.  I stated, as an example, the handling of clothing, as when Frank Godwin sometimes provided intricate pen-work in men’s clothing.

Later I noticed that in the daily strips, people’s pants were sometimes “inked-in.”  I figured that might be unique to the daily strips.  And so I looked at a number of strips — not many, though — and I saw at least one other example of pants that were inked-in fairly completely.  And I did not notice this in the Sundays I looked at.

Consider the following panel that shows Patty running.  Her pants are pretty fully inked.  It isn’t what I would consider detail for present purposes, nor is it especially intricate line-work.  But it is definitely something that Godwin handled differently.  That is, it appears that Godwin frequently inked-in people’s pants in the dailies, and that he rarely did this in the Sundays.

You might say, hey, the filled-in stuff constitutes details!  And that supports the contention that the dailies were more detailed.  I don’t think so.  In fact, the less-filled-in clothing of the Sundays can have more detail than clothing that is filled-in.

The panel shows a “later” version of Patty.  She definitely has dark hair, maybe black.  And of course her attire is a more casual “late 1950s” — as opposed to early versions of Patty.

Again, in my view, this panel is lacking in detail.  Yet Patty’s pants are pretty well inked-in.  And I think this parallels the complex pattern in mens jackets sometimes found in daily strips.  This treatment of pants is probably rarely, if ever, found in Sunday Rusty Riley comic strips.

IMG_4941 patty running

—Tom Sawyer

November 8, 2013 — but changed quite a bit on November 10, 2013.

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