By 1948 Frank Godwin (b. 1889) had spent a good 40 years as a respected and requested illustrator for newspapers, magazines, books, and advertisers. Beginning in 1924 (Vignettes of Life) he became an impressive presence on newspaper comics pages, creating a famous twelve year run illustrating Connie (1929-1941).
After Connie he gave up the grind of a daily comic strip for the more relaxed pace of painting and illustration again. He did lay his ink pen onto the comics page on an irregular basis in the mid 1940s adapting a few books to a pseudo-comic strip format.
Apparently pleased with that relationship with King Features in 1948 Godwin signed with them to illustrate a daily comic strip (supposedly mostly written by Rod Reed).
Rusty Riley by Frank Godwin first graced America’s comic pages 75 years ago today, on January 26, 1948.
Rusty was an orphan, along the lines of Annie or the other Annie, except he didn’t move around as much. He went straight from the orphanage to a stable boy gig on a Kentucky horse farm, where his melodramatic adventures, like the murder mystery novels of Dick Francis, revolved around the world of racing. Later, he broadened his horizons and started having melodramatic adventures in other settings, but melodramatic adventures still made up the strip’s fare for its entire duration.
Following are the first two weeks.
After a bit of a stumble the comic strip and the cartoonist were off and running.
Before the year was half over a Sunday page was introduced on June 27, 1948.
These screenshots from newspapers.com hardly do Godwin’s art justice.
For a better look here’s a couple strips of original art from Heritage Auctions.
Unfortunately for lovers of comic art Frank Godwin died in August of 1959 and that was the end of Rusty.
The dailies ended on September 19, 1959, about six weeks after Godwin’s passing.
The Sundays went on for another month and a half, ending on November 1, 1959 with Bob Lubbers said to have finished the Sunday run.
The first few years of the strip have been collected in two volumes from Classic Comics Press.
Rusty Riley is © King Features Syndicate