Arts & Equitainment: Rusty Riley

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Rusty Riley Title PageDo you have a pre-Kentucky Derby ritual? Maybe you read up on the racehorses, add another feather to your fascinator, or prepare the perfect mint julep recipe. Back in the 1950’s, racing fans could also catch a beautiful comic strip inspired by the local farms and racetracks of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.

The comic strip Rusty Riley, drawn by acclaimed book illustrator Frank Godwin, was published in several hundred newspapers from 1948 to 1959. The storyline follows the adventures of a redheaded orphan youth, Rusty Riley, who flees an orphanage with, what else, but a faithful fox terrier named Flip. Soon Rusty is hired as a stable boy and, later a jockey, for wealthy racehorse owner Mr. Miles.

While racing horses is Rusty’s goal, amid the world of horse racing he also finds himself breaking up crime and corruption in the industry. And, naturally, also falling in love with his boss’s daughter!

A handful of Godwin fans are now reviving interest in comic strip. Classic Comics Press has published a hardcover collection of the first two years of the three-panel daily strip. The much larger Sunday strip offered separate story lines to accommodate newspapers that carried one but not the other. You can pick up the book by clicking on the picture:

Rusty Riley Book

And if you want prepare for the 141st Kentucky Derby just like they did back in the 1950’s, The Lexington Herald is sharing a series of Sunday strips from November 1954 to February 1955. Here’s a peak at the first panels:

Rusty Riley Comic

Now jump over to: ‘Rusty Riley,’ forgotten Lexington-based horse industry comic strip, revived in book, to read the rest of the story and learn more about this racing hero!

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