Enlarged post: Maurice Horn says (in “The World Encyclopedia of Comics”): “Slowly romance blooms between the two young people . . .”

This is an enlarged version of a post from January 27, 2o14, dealing with the developing romance between Rusty Riley and Patty Miles in the Rusty Riley comic strip.

The quotation in the above title — which I have discussed elsewhere on this blog — comes from Maurice Horn, writing in The World Encyclopedia of Comics. As I have mentioned before, Horn is the only person I know of who has accurately described the relationship between Rusty Riley and Patty Miles. As Horn said, “Slowly romance blooms between the two young people, but this aspect of the strip was cut short by the sudden disappearance of Rusty Riley in the summer of 1959 [. . .].” (By the way, it was actually more like autumn when the strip disappeared, since the last daily was September 19, 1959. The Sunday continued till early November.)

I am usually mildly bothered when anyone refers to Patty as Rusty’s “girlfriend.” But, one might ask, if she was not his girlfriend, what was the nature of the relationship between Rusty and Patty?

Well, to begin with, Patty was the daughter of Rusty’s boss. At least in the early stages of the strip, Rusty was pretty much characterized as a stable boy, and Mr. Miles (Patty’s dad) would have been his ultimate boss, though Tex was his principal supervisor. I don’t think Rusty’s duties were very onerous, and it was clear that Rusty’s schooling continued throughout the whole saga.

Patty was not included on all of Rusty’s adventures, and in more than one place, Patty does something to more or less get Rusty’s goat, I think in part because of Rusty attempting to exclude her.

Patty seems to have been a more loyal supporter of Rusty than maybe anyone else in the strip — at least, that is my impression. At the other end of the spectrum, it seems that Patty’s dad often (wrongly) suspected Rusty of some sort of misbehavior.

Also, I have the impression that Patty is the character most concerned about Rusty’s well-being.

Now, of great importance is the final panel of the one of the episodes, very early in the story. Rusty, Tex, Jimmy, and Flip are departing for Kentucky (the Rusty Riley strip as a whole actually begins in another state). And in that final frame, Patty is watching wistfully, with tears on her cheeks. Here is part of that strip, as extracted from a newspaper (April 30, 1948, about three months into the daily strip):

wistful patty

Here is a close-up of Patty’s face, from the same strip. Note the tears:

patty face

So, it appears that even from the beginning of the Rusty Riley saga, Patty felt some kind of closeness to Rusty. Also, when Rusty is packing, before that departure, one of the items he packs is a photograph of Patty, inscribed to him by Patty. We don’t know the circumstances under which he received the portrait, but the fact that he is making a point of taking it seems significant. This is from the April 29, 1948, strip (from a newspaper):

patty portrait

Well, the stage was being set for some kind of close friendship between the two — I think based largely on their mutual love of horses.

However, even given the foregoing, from the strips I have read, it doesn’t appear that anything like a romance got off the ground, for ages. But a little romance is hinted at, or foreshadowed, by the things mentioned above, and indeed by Rusty’s and Patty’s propinquity throughout the strip.

However, although Patty seems to approach the whole situation as an intelligent girl, who perhaps occasionally attempts to foster a relationship, Rusty tends to remain a little aloof. In one story, Patty persists in getting Rusty to dance with her. An example from that story (from the December 31, 1957, strip) is shown here:


That image is from a newspaper. I haven’t seen that whole story, and it almost seems as though Rusty has a reason for preserving the glass (maybe it had someone’s fingerprints on it, from the way he is carrying it). Nonetheless, there Patty kind of felt like a second banana, which seems to indicate something about their relationship.

Though the process was slow, and perhaps even arduous, the two did, over the course of time, begin to demonstrate a certain amount of affection for each other beyond a typical concern of one friend for another — and by the time of Frank Godwin’s death the relationship had, I think, entered the romance stage.

In a 1957 strip is shown an entertaining exchange depicted in the next image — and of course Rusty is still on the “clueless” side of life, or maybe he is in denial. One of the main characters in the story says to Patty, somewhat seriously, “. . . and you might marry a handsome redhead!” Patty asks Rusty about it, and he is ill-equipped to make any reasoned, coherent response.

patty might marry redhead

The following looks like evidence of the beginning of a romance. It is from the Rusty Riley daily for May 15, 1958. The image is from the original art:

P R Horses C_0002 St 6 5 15 blog72

Of course, that is just an isolated example, and by itself it does not demonstrate too much.

It is interesting that, in what may be Patty’s final appearance in the Rusty Riley strip, her main role is in showing concern for Rusty. People were concerned about the theft of a certain prize horse, and it was up to Patty to stand up for Rusty. The following panels are from the top tier of the Sunday strip for October 11, 1959:

Final Patty 4 17 14_0005 stage3a50

Yes, those are tears running down Patty’s cheeks. They are more visible here:

image_1 Patty final up wm 4 17 14 aa cropped

As I said, the foregoing two images are from the October 11, 1959, Sunday strip. Only one Sunday Rusty Riley by Godwin appeared after that, namely the one for October 18, 1959. The final two Sunday strips are widely reported to have been created by Bob Lubbers, one of the legends of comic art.

Godwin passed away the preceding August, but in accord with normal comic-strip practice, he had needed to “work ahead” by a number of weeks. Strips by Godwin for both the daily Rusty Riley and the Sunday Rusty Riley thus appeared for a while after his passing.

I think this concludes my current post on the relationship between Patty Miles and Rusty Riley. (I realize that this post is based on a less-than-complete knowledge of the Rusty Riley comic strip.) If Frank Godwin had lived much longer, perhaps more time would have been spent on that aspect of the strip.

—Tom Sawyer

January 27, 2014

Revision: 5-6-15

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