Frank Godwin’s preliminary drawings (or underdrawings) toward the end of the daily “Rusty Riley” comic strip, September 1959 — a look at a drawing of Patty Miles . . .

I don’t think it is particularly easy to say, “This is the way Frank Godwin worked” — for several reasons.  For one thing, he probably worked in different ways at different times, and on different types of jobs — and he might have mixed different approaches within a single drawing.  So, the following may not be of universal application — even for Godwin’s work on Rusty Riley.

In this post I want to focus on one aspect of Frank Godwin’s methods:  penciling, especially toward the end of the Rusty Riley era.  I guess it is fairly well-known that in the strips of this period — and this is probably still largely true today — there were two principal aspects of the creation of comic-strip art (apart from the writing):  the penciling and the inking.  In the case of Rusty Riley, both of these tasks were undertaken by Godwin himself.  (The only exception I know of is the final two Rusty Riley Sunday strips.)

The best evidence I know of regarding this subject are several late dailies that I have in my collection.  They are dailies that were not finished, and were not distributed by the syndicate.  In other words, if Godwin had lived, these dailies would have been part of his next series of strips.  I have five (of the six that I know of).

Several things are interesting about these strips.  First, it appears that Godwin worked on the strips not one at a time, but as a group.  Thus, the September 21, 1959, strip was only about half finished, while certain later strips were almost completely finished.

Below is a portrayal of Patty from the first panel of the September 21 strip.  Obviously, this is uninked.  This is not what one would call super-detailed.  It is fairly detailed, though.  It seems that the drawing provided a reasonably precise outline for the final drawing.  It also seems that the pencil lines suggested almost exactly where the final ink-lines were to go.  This shows the left-hand side of the first panel.


The portrayal of Patty in the pencil-drawing above is clearly in keeping with the usual “look” of Patty during the last two years or so of the Rusty Riley strip.  Below is an image of Patty from the August 26, 1959, strip, which is less than a month earlier, and the “concept” of Patty is plainly quite similar — a very good example of what Patty looked like at the time.  This image quite possibly shows basically how Godwin would have inked the foregoing pencil drawing, if he had gotten to it.  However, it is evident that the shading of Patty’s face would have been different.  The shading in the pencil drawing above is mainly at the side of her head, while the shading in the image below is largely on the front of her face.


—Tom Sawyer

February 8, 2014

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