RUSTY RILEY VOL. 1: DAILIES 1948-1949 (Classic Comics Press, First Printing, 2014; Hardcover)
Collects the Rusty Riley daily strip, originally published on January 26, 1948- November 29, 1949.
Writers: Rod Reed and Frank Godwin
Artist: Frank Godwin
Rusty Riley was something that I had never even heard of until this book was released. A long-forgotten strip by a criminally forgotten artist, it is a quaint snapshot of a bygone era. It was nostalgic even in it's day, as rural life was on the decline during the post-World War II housing boom. Rural communities became suburbs as city cores were filled to overflowing. The story hearkens back to a simpler time of rural life and horse farms, where we are introduced to orphan Rusty Riley.
The beginning of this strip feels like you have walked in late to a film, with Rusty thrust immediately into an altercation with Junior Norton, which sets off a chain of events that end up having him adopted by Mr. Miles due to his natural ability with his horse, Blaze. That race horse almost becomes the focal point in the strip, with all of the happenings sort of centering around him. The arc which stuck with me the most is the one where Tex, Rusty, and Patty are trying to outrace a snowstorm. I really had to stop and think about how hard life was in an era before salt trucks and snow plows out in the country. They had to put chains on their tires and the roads were blocked by huge snow drifts which came across the wide open fields. It was literally life and death out there back then, whereas now the “struggle” is standing in line at Kroger during a snowstorm when everyone is loading up on snacks.
The final arc in the book has a radically different tone, being more of an adventure than the quiet, subdued vibe of the earlier arcs. Rusty ends up stumbling onto a smuggling ring and things get interesting fast. This ends the book on a high note and I hope to someday see a Volume 2 as well as a Sundays collection. The Sunday strips are not collected here because they are a different story as well as a different format than the daily strips.
Godwin is an artistic genius. His style reminds of old wood cut drawings, super detailed with line atop of line providing more shade and depth than color could ever hope to do. His style changes throughout this book, with him taking some shortcuts toward the end. The strip ran until 1959, and I hope to ___ (deity of your choice) that someone can convince Charles Pelto to give another volume a go. I would guess that the best way to convince him would be for you to buy a copy of this book. I've done my part. Don't let this lost classic remain in the hands of collectors, squirreled away and not seeing the light of day. The best part of these collections is that they bring the expensive, the obscure, and the forgotten back into the public eye and allow newer generations of fans to discover them.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Like most strip books, this is presented in landscape format. It allows the artwork to be presented at a larger size than it would be in a standard book.
My only gripe with this book is that the strip for 12/21/1948 was omitted, with the strip from 12/22/1948 appearing twice. It would be nice if they posted the missing strip on their website so that you could print out a tip-in sheet.
Linework restoration: Excellent.
Paper stock: Medium weight uncoated stock, zero sheen under any light source.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding, lays flat.
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Dustjacket has lamination on it, hardback has a standard paperwrap with the logo screen printed on the spine.