Comments on Frank Godwin and the “Roy Powers, Eagle Scout” comic strip — with some thoughts on “Connie” and “Rusty Riley” . . .

NOTE

In the preceding post, I indicated that the Ledger Syndicate Catalogue No. 9 “obviously” preceded the Roy Powers, Eagle Scout strip.  I got to thinking, though, that to many people this might not be all that obvious.  So, although I have more or less tried to have a significant focus of this blog be on Frank Godwin’s Rusty Riley comic strip, I have decided to resuscitate a post that I last revised on May 11, 2012, which deals mainly with Frank Godwin’s role in the Roy Powers, Eagle Scout comic strip — which, like Connie, was distributed by the Ledger Syndicate.

I did just read the entire post, and I was pretty interested in my comments about the relative merits of Connie, Rusty Riley, and Roy Powers, Eagle Scout.

The rest of the post may be a little dry — I suppose it is mainly for reference purposes.  But it does state with a high degree of certainty the dates for which Frank Godwin drew the Roy Rowers, Eagle Scout comic strip.

The last date at the bottom of the post is March 2, 2012, and the publication “time” information I have access to shows March 2, 2012 at 13:57.  But — it appears I made other small changes on other occasions, as recently as May 11, 2012. 

Everything after this sentence is the post as it stood on May 11, 2012 — I just changed a date that apparently was wrong. 

Note:  I wrote the basics of the following post (now somewhat edited) a few years ago, and although the opinions stated in it were my opinions then, I might have to rethink some of the comments in the first three paragraphs.  I am sure that when I wrote those comments, though, I was more conversant with the relative merits of the three strips mentioned.  That makes me think that my opinions then were more valid than they might be now.  At the moment, though, for some inexplicable reason, I tend to rank Connie first, then Rusty Riley, and then Roy Powers, Eagle Scout.

I think part of the reason for ranking Connie first is the subject matter — mainly the science fiction stories (and other “adventure” components).  Also, Rusty Riley ran for nearly twelve years (1948-1959), while Godwin’s work on Roy Powers lasted (as far as I know) a little less than three years (1938-1940).  So, Godwin drew about four times as many Rusty Riley dailies as Roy Powers dailies.  And he also drew over five hundred Rusty Riley Sundays.  So, if one were selective, one could probably point to a greater quantity of excellent Rusty Riley strips than the total of Godwin’s Roy Powers strips.

Another factor is the general appeal of the three strips.  The Connie strips (at least the science fiction ones, and other adventure ones) kind of grab the reader by his or her lapels and drag the reader into the stories.  They evoke the sense of wonder that science fiction is noted for, and they tend to leave me with the notion that, “Hey, these things could happen.”  The Rusty Riley strips involve people who are almost like family — overall very likable people — Rusty, Patty, Mr. Miles, Tex, Buckshot, and Helen.  (It’s almost like watching Fury on Saturday mornings, which I did as a kid.)  As for the Roy Powers strip, I can’t help thinking that is a somewhat specialized strip, maybe intellectually of a little less appeal than the others — and I am saying that as a former Eagle Scout myself.

Anyway, the following starts out with some of my views from a few years ago, which might be more valid than my present views . . .

Based on the strips I have seen, if there was one strip which displayed Frank Godwin’s sheer brilliance with pen and ink, it was the Roy Powers, Eagle Scout strip. To be sure, Rusty Riley had a great many fine strips, and Connie, too, had many moments of genius, but strip for strip — for consistent, day-after-day, year-after year excellence — the Roy Powers strip stands alone. While not purporting to offer anything like real proof of this, which after all is going to be a matter of taste and opinion in any event, I’ll mention a few points.

Many of us have seen a lot of early Connie daily strips, since more than one reprint compilation has appeared. Many of those strips, perhaps the great majority, are cleverly drawn, are appealing, engaging, and attractive — but brilliant? I don’t really think so. (They were perhaps near perfect for the purposes for which they were intended, in the same sense that Percy Crosby’s Skippy drawings were perfect in their own way, or H.T. Webster’s drawings for The Timid Soul.) And when we talk about brilliant pen and ink artists, we don’t mention Crosby or Webster, we mention (mainly non-comic-strip) people like Joseph Clement Coll or Howard Pyle.

Likewise, although Godwin plainly pulled out all of the stops on many of the Rusty Riley strips (for example, the early strips), it has always seemed to me that the attributes of the art varied somewhat during the strip’s long run. Perhaps it was more of a variation in style. It was definitely nothing like a decline in Godwin’s capabilities, for even the final daily Rusty Riley story included many extremely fine drawings.

I’m fortunate in having a run of Roy Powers strips for the period from May 10, 1937, through November 26, 1940. I do not know when the strip as a whole ended, but the May 10, 1936 1937, strip was the first strip. For the time span just mentioned, it is essentially certain that Godwin drew all of the strips during the following period:

February 14, 1938, through November 9, 1940

This represents the sequences lettered E, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, R, S, T, U, W, and X. As far as I know, there were no I, Q, and V series. The strips run reasonably smoothly, with each sequence more or less picking up where the previous one leaves off, in spite of the gaps in lettering, so I would be surprised if there were any strips with those missing letters (unless they are found out of sequence, among later strips).

I believe it is possible that Godwin had some role in a number of the earlier strips (pre-February 14, 1938), but I am not at all certain of that. The B and D series both have strips that at least make one look twice at them, but overall I don’t think Godwin drew any of them.

The vast majority of the Roy Powers strips (based on those I have seen), by the way, were unsigned. A “PP” monogram appeared on some of the strips (standing for Paul Powell, whose name appears in a byline, in type, from the inception of the strip). Other than that, the only signature I have noted on any of the strips is “Starrett,” referring to Kemp Starrett. (Only a small number bear this signature.)

The first sequence that Godwin drew was the E series, which began on February 14, 1938, and ran through April 9, 1938. It consisted of 48 strips. The last sequence he drew was the X series, also of 48 strips, which began on September 16, 1940, and ran through November 9, 1940. Between those two series were fifteen other series, mentioned above, which ranged from 24 strips to 90 strips. Several of the series were fairly long. One was 66 strips, another was 84 strips, and another was 78 strips.

The Roy Powers strips I have that are not by Frank Godwin are the A strips (30 strips, 5-10-37 to 6-19-37); B strips (48 strips, 6-21-37 to 8-14-37); C strips (114 strips, 8-16-37 to 12-25-37); D strips (42 strips, 12-27-37 to 2-12-38), and the Y strips.  The Y series began on November 11, 1940, and of those I have only the first 14 strips. They are beautifully done, but obviously are not by Godwin.

It is possible that Godwin rejoined the strip at some later date, but I have no knowledge of the strip after late 1940.

—Tom Sawyer

February 10, 2012

Slightly revised, March 2, 2012

[CKR6]

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