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Special No. 4

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Published by Southdown Press Pty. Ltd. (of West Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), my copy of Special No. 4 isn’t in the best shape — it’s pretty brittle. I’m not familiar with comic book grading scales, and this one might not fare so well. If it was an LP record it would be a cutout, with its corner hole punched like that. It features the transitionary comic between Mitzi McCoy and Kevin the Bold, and the first two sequences is Kevin. And that’s not all.

In order to squeeze in an ad, the sixth comic has been edited, omitting a few panels. (The original October 29, 1950 comic is shown for comparison). Another thing I’m unfamiliar with is the Australian classic Marmaduke Mouse. Perhaps that’s just as well.

Southdown Press was really going to bat for its other titles in Special No. 4. While Kevin’s first sequence has appeared earlier on this blog, this second one, featuring Count DeFalcon as the villain, hasn’t. A comic early in the sequence was edited to allow for another house ad. It’s a shame because the original December 24, 1950 comic is a beauty. One line of dialog from a lost panel was salvaged and added to a remaining panel, so it could’ve been worse.

Arriving at Castle McCoy, Kevin’s squire is introduced, and MacTavish Campbell MacGregor gets busy training Kevin. To atone for a feckless youth, Kevin has sworn to protect women and children, and apparently his responsibilities include the well-being of animals, too.

Later, Special No. 4 eliminates an entire Kevin the Bold episode, leaving out an important detail — where Kevin obtained some mail to wear in his showdown against Count DeFalcon. (One would hope Southdown Press had a good reason. I’ve included this missing episode for the sake of continuity). In advance of the duel, the squire’s character is nicely developed, and readers of Kreigh’s previous strip (Mitzi McCoy) will recognize him as Tim Graham’s boss, Stub Goodman.

Preparations have been finalized for the tournament field and the action gets underway. Riding a mare and wearing ancient mail, Kevin seems ill-prepared to face an opponent as strong as DeFalcon.

Kevin is able to outwit his adversary, and even spares his life. He has earned the respect of DeFalcon, and takes over the Count’s quest. The sequence is over, yet there is one spread left in Special No. 4. What was important enough to justify excising the January 21, 1951 comic?

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No Comment.

Like Special No. 6, the back cover features a one-color ad for some of the publisher’s other titles. It has a certain charm but fails to remove the bitter taste in my mouth left by Specks. Yeesh!

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Special No. 6

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Since writing previously about Australian Edition comic books, I have acquired a couple more. Tip-Top Comics No. 4 was nice because it had the transitional comic where “Mitzi McCoy” became “Kevin the Bold” and included the new strip’s first two sequences. No. 6 was pretty cool because it also had early Kevin comics. I knew these Tip-Top comics sometimes ran storylines out of sequence, yet I didn’t actually flip all the way through No. 6 — the comic was somewhat fragile and the print quality of these things isn’t all that great. My mistake!

Being especially interested in Kreigh Collins’ first NEA comic (Mitzi), I really wanted to get my hands on the earlier Tip-Top comics. No. 3’s cover, which I’d seen online, featured a late “Mitzi McCoy” storyline, so I figured Nos. 1 and 2 would have earlier Mitzis.

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I finally got around to paging through the No. 6. Since it contained the same early 1952 comics I’d been running for the past six weeks — the Death Trap and Moab — now seemed like a good time to run No. 6 on this blog. I didn’t want to damage the comic book by flattening it out completely on my scanner, so I took some photos of it outside with a sheet of plexiglass holding the spreads open. This produced mixed results — in addition to some reflection, the early February afternoon didn’t provide ideal lighting. But the shots are OK, and are interesting to compare to the Sunday comics versions I just featured.

I noticed Tip-Top eliminated several panels from the February 24 comic in order to squeeze in an ad, and I learned that the Great Dane in Brad Anderson’s gag cartoon wasn’t the first comics critter named Marmaduke. (For what it’s worth, Anderson hailed from a town next to the one in which I grew up). But wait — there’s more.

The comic on page 18 wrapped up the Kevin sequence, and its final transitional panels were deleted to Squeeze in another small ad hyping a “Red Ryder” comic book. “Red Ryder” is the former NEA comic strip whose departure for a rival syndicate opened the door for Collins’ “Mitzi McCoy” at NEA. Coincidentally, on the facing page is a Mitzi comic. I doubt anyone else would be as excited to have seen it as I was. Generally, storylines in Mitzi ran for two or three months, but this comic was a stand-alone episode. My assumption that it was a filler page between Kevin sequences proved to be wrong — eight more Mitzi comics followed!

In order to squeeze the entire “Yolo” sequence into the back of Special No. 6, one comic was eliminated, which is a shame for several reasons. We miss some of Jerry’s back story, we don’t see a nice rendering of “Moroccan Heat Wave” Yolo, and we are faced with some hack’s miserable lettering in a following comic’s introductory caption. (Even worse, it’s misleading — page 20 in the comic book).

I have inserted the missing comic (July 30, 1950) above. From here, the comics run without interruption or editing, which is a good thing, since the final three comics in this sequence are quite compelling.

Sometimes, Australian editions have filler comics, often really lousy stuff. Special No. 6 turned out to be a real treasure. Of its 28 pages, there is a cover (mine is in very nice condition), 17 pages of Kevin comics, nine pages of Mitzis, and a pretty cool monochromatic back cover, as well.

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The other thing I noticed was that the front cover image was redrawn, as there are subtle differences from the original comic panel that inspired it. Brett has been added to the frame (it looks like the reference for Brett is the March 16 comic), the attacker’s sword is in a different position, and Kevin’s left leg has straightened out (leaving him in an awkward defensive stance, which I’m sure Kreigh would have found most egregious of all). ktb-panel-for-cover-no-6

 

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A Greater Treasure

Kevin and Brett’s only advantage is the 24-hour head start they have over Moab and his desert raiders.

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Again, Moab surprises Kevin. Despite his tactical advantage, Moab lays down his sword and professes his admiration for the Irishman. Kevin’s feelings are mutual, but surely danger lurks somewhere?

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Valor is either contagious or Brett is a quick student. On the flip side of the same coin are a pair of Moab’s greedy men. As the battle between good and evil plays out, Moab again saves the day. He and Kevin will meet again.

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As Kevin and Brett continue on their way to a bank to deposit the “family jewels,” a new villain appears on the horizon — the pirate Zyclos.

 

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Fortune Teller

The story continues with more beautiful comics. The action picks up, and everyone takes note of Kevin’s entrance—Hassam, Moab—even Moab’s pretty niece.

Moab and his band of desert raiders certainly have good aim with their weapons (shown in a previous post), and the April 6 episode ends with another surprise for Kevin.

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Moab shows that he is indeed a man of honor, obeying his people’s “Desert Law.” Kreigh Collins’ portrayal of these honorable men seems refreshing in these days when all Muslims are often perceived to be evil. Perhaps Collins’ portrayal of Moab and his men was influenced by the time he spent in Morocco, as a young man (in 1928).

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With an understanding of Desert Law, Kevin and Brett immediately begin to figure out how to escape with their new-found treasure. They will have a bit of a head start, but are facing a formidable foe.

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Moab

While journeying past the Alps, and on their way to certain adventure — finding a lost treasure! — Kevin and Brett pause for an archery lesson. Who better to have as a teacher than Kevin? Surely he’s the finest archer in the land…

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An impromptu contest between Kevin and a local hotshot ends with the expected result. Speaking of expected results, what did Kreigh Collins have against raptors? (In an October 1949 “Mitzi McCoy” sequence, Tim Graham had made a pin cushion of an osprey. Although it’s a similar stunt, it’s nice to see the differences in perspectives between the two illustrations.)

Their land journey over, Kevin and Brett set sail for the exotic East — to Byzantium (which is sometimes referred to as Istanbul or Constantinople).

Note the cute advertisement for the (second) re-release of Walt Disney’s 1937 feature Snow White at the bottom of the page. And speaking of treasure, it turns out that our heroes aren’t the only ones digging around for it.

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Moab demonstrated that he had honorable principles as a youth, when he first saw the jewels being hidden; what about now, when he seeks them as an adult?

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Brett’s Backstory

Kevin has decided to take Brett as his ward, and they set off together. Brett’s tragic backstory is revealed in these handsomely-printed and concisely-scripted comics. The impressive variety of settings, exotic locales, archery and wildlife were all hallmarks of Collins’ style.

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In what must have been a rare case of transposed films, the Chicago Tribune’s March 9, 1952 comic printed badly. (It seems the magenta and cyan plates were switched — similar to a different instance, involving yellow and magenta). A tabloid version from the same day has its own reproduction issues, but gives an indication of how the colors were probably supposed to appear.

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While scrutinizing these comics more thoroughly, the third panel caught my eye, and not just for its printed variants.

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Maybe just for me, but they seemed evocative of a certain other Superhero-ward duad.

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Must be the capes.

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Death Trap

After spotting the inn, a weary Kevin approaches, looking for simple refuge. However, the innkeeper sees an easy mark. Kevin meets Brett for the first time, and immediately feels protective of the lad.

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Brett seems to appreciate the kindness Kevin has shown him, and soon repays his new friend with a daring act. Kevin learns that Brett is clever as well as brave, and a bond is forged.

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Inspiration for the February 10 comic came from a short story titled A Terribly Strange Bed by the English novelist Wilkie Collins (familial relationship to Kreigh Collins is unknown, but unlikely). Interestingly, Wilkie Collins credited a painter by the name of W. S. Herrick with the idea of the death-trap bed.

Horrors of another kind happened a couple years ago when I received a shipment of several “Kevin the Bold” comics I had purchased, among them the one featuring the “terribly strange bed.” Either a very disgruntled postal worker deliberately disregarded the instructions on the envelope or the package was completely mangled by a sorting machine. Either way, it’s a very sad result for what was a particularly nice copy of a beautifully-printed and dramatic comic strip.

 

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Family Jewels

In general, “Kevin the Bold” featured longer sequences than Kreigh Collins’ earlier strip, “Mitzi McCoy.” This allowed for more complicated storylines and better character development. An early 1952 storyline was an exception; it lasted only four weeks. However, it introduced a character who would appear in many of Kevin’s future adventures, Brett Hartz.

In another departure from formula, Brett was introduced more gradually than normal. He and his grandfather appeared in the final panels of the two comics at the end of the previous sequence. Normally, these transitions were more abrupt (and they are shown apart from the rest of their comics in order to avoid revealing the end of the dramatic Baron Von Blunt sequence).

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May 13, 1952

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May 20, 1952

Brett, an orphan, is being raised by his grandfather. Grandpa has taken precautions to safeguard the family riches — unfortunately, he has not been careful enough.

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The landlord’s less serious crime was eavesdropping, but the information he heard proved tempting enough for him to act far more fiendishly. If only there was a champion of children and the oppressed to come to Brett’s aid!

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Happy Birthday

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Kreigh Collins was born on New Year’s Day, 1908. As a baby he may have resembled the tyke on the Saturday Evening Post’s annual New Year’s cover, but he eventually grew up to be a large man — 6’3″ and 240 pounds.

Kreigh developed an interest in art and cartooning at an early age, and by the time he was about 11 years old, he was producing some rather fine work. His father served in the United States Army, and during the Great War, First Lieutenant Stephen Collins was stationed on the front lines in France. Germany was the enemy, and so it was that German soldiers played the fool in some of Kreigh’s early comics.

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These comics are in the Local History collection of the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Public Library. Despite the horrors of World War I — trench warfare and the use of poisonous gas — it’s refreshing to see a more gentle take on the portrayal of our adversary.

Another cartoon seems to have been inspired by current events — likely the 1919 anarchist bombings or the 1920 Wall Street bombing. Approximately a year older than when he created the earlier cartoons, Kreigh had now advanced to a multiple-panel format.

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Some later drawings look like character studies, and appear to show a couple of British gents and a portly businessman. Two are nicely developed, and it seems Kreigh thought so too, as these were signed.

Our final comic is a two-panel job showing a clueless man strolling down the street reading a newspaper’s sports section. By this time, the Collins family had settled in Grand Rapids after living in various locales across the U.S. since Kreigh’s birth. Who knows, maybe Michiganders always made fun of those rubes from Toledo? A nice detail is the shading used in the second panel showing the subterranean darkness, and it’s interesting that the comic would still work today if a cell phone replaced the man’s newspaper.

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Happy New Year from the Kreigh’s Comics blog, and a happy 109th birthday to Kreigh Taylor Collins.

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The Song of the Angels

These Bible Picture Stories appeared in childrens’ Sunday school publications, and it is interesting to me that this age-old story shows the shepherds complaining about an age-old problem (i.e., This town is so boring!). I’m sure the target audience could relate. However, things soon change…

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“The Story of Mary” continues for several more weeks, but this seems like an appropriate time to end this sequence.

Merry Christmas!