Godwin, Frank

Frank Godwin (1889-1959) should be regarded as one of the greatest comic strip aryists of all time, next to Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Milton Caniff and very few others. His "Rusty Riley" is an often overlooked masterpiece from The Gold Age of comics.Born in Washington DC in 1889, Godwin was the son of the city editor of The Washington Star. Self-taught, he began his career as an apprentice on that newspaper. A stint at the Art Students League brought him in contact with James Montgomery Flagg and, by 1908, his work began to appear in humor magazines of the day. While obviously influenced by Flagg, Godwin managed to create a style that was recognizably his and that stood out from both his idol and the mass of clones that were cropping up everywhere. His ability to create tones, especially facial characteristics, with his pen and brush were equal to and in some ways better than Gibson and, obviously superior to Flagg."Connie", which ran from 1927 to 1944, was an anomaly among newspaper strips. Initially the heroine could have been any of a dozen young girls living at home and deriving a daily dose of light comedy from her interactions with suitors and swains. Maurice Horn, in The World Encyclopedia of Comics, says: "Then came the Depression and Connie turned out to be a girl with a social conscience; she helped her mother with her charity work and often visited the men on the bread lines (one of the very few instances where the Depression was graphically depicted in a comic strip). ... In 1934 Connie went to work, first as a reporter, then as the operator of a detective agency (a kind of female Sam Spade)."By 1948 Frank Godwin was ready to tackle the newspaper strip market with Rusty Riley. King Features distributed this story of an orphaned runaway boy, his dog, and the wealthy patron who befriends him. And the art! Oh the art! Done primarily with a brush, and with 40 years of experience behind him, Godwin's art overcame the tepid scripts he was given and populated the space with lush foliage, recognizable characters, realistic animals and a strong sense of place and time. Rusty Riley was canceled in 1959 and Godwin died just a few weeks later. He was one of the last survivors of that turn-of-the-century breed of artists who could perform miracles with a brush and ink. As they grew older and died, so did the market for their skills. There is a small cadre of modern artists who were inspired by that era and look to the same sources for inspiration, but I don't see a new generation preparing to take their place. Godwin's place in illustration is well secured, but his place as one of the premier penmen of the century has yet to be declared. Anybody want to second the motion? (Above is excerpts from a biography written by comic expert Bud Plant)