Frank Godwin, under the weather in early 1958? Maybe!

Actually, I don’t have a clue as to whether the title above is even remotely applicable.  But I was wondering why, in the case of the two strips discussed in the preceding post, one seems so much more developed than the other.  Now, one of my pet peeves in life is people taking a certain set of facts and ascribing to those facts “reasons” or “explanations” which, on further thought, really have nothing to support them other than sheer speculation.

Let’s pretend that the sequence of those two strips was reversed, and that we knew nothing more about the content of the Rusty Riley strip as a whole.  As sure as shooting, someone would say that it was obvious that the differences in the strips were due to advancing age.  But of course we know that cannot be the case, since the more recent strip is more developed (most people would say “better”).

And yet, the earlier panel does seem to be more hastily drawn.  And here I will state an impression that I have.  I believe that certain stories in what one might call “the Rusty Riley epic” had more care lavished on them than others.  Obviously (I think) this was the case with the first story.  I think it was the case with one of the last stories (involving Jipper and Creasey), and it seems true of the final story (regarding the playhouse).  It was probably the case with many of the stories.

All right, then . . .

I want to say a little more about that March 25, 1958, strip.  I contended that the strip seemed a little too “simple” — maybe a bit rushed.  Below is Exhibit B:  an image of part of the last panel of that same strip (I reduced the stains).

Patty 10 17

Notice that Patty’s legs seem a little bit too imprecise.  Godwin did occasionally not continue his drawings all the way to the edge of the panel, but here it doesn’t really “work,” especially in view of the apparent extreme looseness of the drawing of her knees or legs.  In fact, the only thing that delineates Patty’s right leg (near the bottom of the panel, to the viewer’s left) is the dot-pattern from Zip-A-Tone (or the like).

My theory (which has about a 5% chance of being correct) is that Godwin didn’t feel all that well when he was working on this.  The lack of detail on Patty’s knees doesn’t seem to be symptomatic of mere haste.  It seems more likely that he was having trouble concentrating, due to illness.

Note:  I have already said that this theory only have a 5% chance of being correct.  And I have also said that I am not too thrilled when other people state uninformed guesses on such things.  But I DO think that this episode is somewhat out of the norm, and I do think that there is an explanation, even if it is never determined what it is.  (Many other strips in the story were beautifully done, by the way.)

—Tom Sawyer

November 17, 2013

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