Rusty Riley (March 29, 1959)
|Author(s)||Frank Godwin, Rod Reed|
|Current status / schedule||Concluded|
|Launch date||January 26, 1948|
|Syndicate(s)||King Features Syndicate|
The line work in Rusty Riley shows an obvious influence of James Montgomery Flagg and Charles Dana Gibson, although Godwin used a variety of styles in his book and magazine illustrations. Contemporaries such as Hal Foster, Milton Caniff and Alex Raymond continue to be reprinted with regularity, while Godwin's two strips are difficult to find. He receives more attention in Europe, specifically France, though even there it is quite sparse.
Characters and story
With art by Godwin and scripts by Rod Reed, the first Rusty Riley daily appeared on January 26, 1948. The storyline follows the adventures of a redheaded orphan youth, Rusty Riley, who flees the orphanage with his faithful fox terrier, Flip. In the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, he is hired as a stable boy by wealthy racehorse owner Mr. Miles, owner of Milestone Farm. Encountering crooks and corruption as he grows up in the world of horse racing and horse breeders, Rusty's goal is to establish himself as a jockey. Rusty's girlfriend is Patty Miles, the daughter of his boss.
Godwin made research trips to Lexington, Kentucky, when he began drawing the strip, but complaints about the appearance of horses and farms led to a return visit, as described by comics historian Dave Karlen:
- Instead of ignoring these complaints, as some cartoonists might have done, Godwin made another trip to Lexington to visit his critics. For more than a week, he toured the central Kentucky horse farms, took pictures and made numerous sketches of the horses, fences, gates, barns, farm homes, horse cemeteries, country lanes, trees, and other references necessary to make his strip correct. He talked with the thoroughbred horsemen, standard-bred horsemen, saddle horsemen, racetrack officials and newspapermen to get all the information he needed. He also took many pictures in and around the Keeneland and Lexington Trotting Tracks, which were a couple of the sites he later used frequently in his comic strip. Godwin was now ready to make his strip better than ever.
The Sunday strip began five months later, on June 27, with Godwin illustrating scripts written by his brother, Harold Godwin.
The strip was running in more than 150 newspapers when Godwin died of a heart attack in 1959 at his home in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
The final strips were drawn by Bob Lubbers, who recalled, "In 1959 Frank Godwin, the artist who did Rusty Riley, died. Sylvan Byck at King Features asked if I'd do the last two weeks in Godwin's style to end the series. I admired his book illustrations and was honored to have the privilege to do it."
In 1952-53 Dell Comics reprinted four Rusty Riley stories in its Four Color Comics series.
In 2013, Classic Comics Press started a hardcover reprint series, with a reprint of dailies from 1948-49.