The End?

Inspired by traditional Sunday papers’ funny pages, I usually post examples of Kreigh Collins’ colorful Sunday comics. In honor of the black and white versions that ran in Saturday editions, the current sequence has been posted on Saturdays.

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One of Kreigh’s local dailies began running black and white one-third page versions of “Mitzi McCoy” near the end of the strip’ run…

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…and Collins’ work continued to appear in the Grand Rapids Press on Saturdays after the comic transformed into “Kevin the Bold.”

—  — • — —

 

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Waking from another hibernation (this time, three months), The Menomonee Falls Gazette rallied to publish issue #230. At this point, Kevin ran on the front page of the second section, and whomever was laying out the pages forgot to update the Volume/Number/Date line from the previous issue (#229).

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Shark Donnelly has learned that Ben knows of his sordid past. Fearing the worst, Ben and Jonathan are summoned topside by the captain. Meanwhile, Clarissa tries to mend her broken heart by allowing Kevin to escort her on a hunting party.

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Kreigh Collins treats us to some hunting lore, but soon Kevin and Clarissa become separated from the group. Back aboard Heather, Donnelly has coerced the powerless DeFoe to do his bidding.

Once again letting suspense build unreasonably, the next issue of the Menomonee Falls Gazette arrived months after its predecessor. Misidentified as #234 on its cover (didn’t they fire the layout guy yet?), issue #232 was dated March 3, 1978.

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In this final edition of the comics tabloid, Kevin’s sequence was as yet unresolved. With the action so close to a climax, it’s a shame the Gazette’s loyal readers were left hanging. Or were they? Check back for two explosive revelations!

Shark Donnelly

In existence since late 1971, the weekly Menomonee Falls Gazette was showing signs of strain by 1977. After hibernating for a couple of months, issue #227 finally shipped. Now released every two weeks, the action on its pages picked up where it left off in March. ktb-040757-mfg227-01-150

Unmindful of recent events — the wedding’s cancellation and the Lord Mayor’s illness, Kevin arrives. At least Clarissa’s mood brightens at the sight of Kevin. Benjamin DeFoe and his compatriot (Jonathan Clay) are still in dire straits.

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Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Ben and Jonathan have new problems. Sent to the brig by another cruel master, DeFoe realizes something is amiss. Back in Glassen, Kevin is brought up to speed.

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Bejamin DeFoe, an erstwhile archer for the king, finally realizes where he’d seen Shark Donnelly previously, and now has another reason to despise him. Using “Frederick Stearns” as an alias and masquerading as a sailor, Stearns is Heather’s captain.

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I’m sure the resemblance between these two men (both skippers of boats named Heather) is purely coincidental.

Left at the Altar

From March 1978 issues of the Menomonee Falls Gazette, this Kevin the Bold sequence was originally published sixty years ago (1957). Printed from the original films, the reproductions were excellent, and Kreigh Collins’ strength as an illustrator was evident.

Despite the absence of romance in Kevin’s life, storylines involving lovers periodically ran, as did their drama. As with Mitzi McCoy, Collins enjoyed the freedom of having any character take the lead. Here, a new set of characters is introduced. Kevin doesn’t appear — he isn’t even mentioned.

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Benjamin DeFoe has been pressed into service, leaving his bride jilted at the altar — an interesting twist on the action seen in Mitzi McCoy’s debut comic.

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After a week’s absence, Kevin is briefly introduced. (Originally, it wasn’t clear to me where this action took place — I must have been distracted by the fantastic illustrations.) Meanwhile, Ben finds himself in an ugly situation aboard a beautiful ship — whose namesake Collins himself skippered.

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Heather, circa 1957

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Things are bleak. Ben plans a desperate escape, Clarissa’s heart is broken, and her father, the Lord Mayor, has taken ill. The lone sign of hope is the appearance of Kevin in the comic’s final panel.

The Menomonee Falls Gazette

The Menomonee Falls Gazette was a weekly tabloid that reprinted newspaper comic strips from the US and the UK. Each page typically featured a week’s worth of a daily strip or a full-page Sunday tabloid comic. Generally, these comics fell into the adventure or soap opera categories. Issue No. 1 was published on December 11, 1972. In all, there were 232 issues; the final issue was dated March 3, 1978. 

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How comics found there way into the Menomonee Falls Gazette is unclear to me, but it appears a case of opportunism brought Kevin the Bold to the Gazette. A week after his 66th birthday, Collins died (January 8, 1974). Six days later, issue No. 109 featured a Kevin the Bold splash panel on the front cover and an episode of the comic from early 1957 on the back. Regardless of how he got there, Kevin anchored the back cover position for the next six months.

Issues of the Menomonee Falls Gazette featured as many as 50 comic strips and these strips took turns gracing its cover. Kevin the Bold earned the spot at least three other times (Nos. 150, 182 and 215). Essentially, all issues of the Gazette can be found online, where they can be viewed or downloaded.

Kevin the Bold continued to run in the MNF for as long as the tabloid was published. The only exception was No. 214, when the comic didn’t appear. This seems to have been a oversight, as  No. 213 ran a comic dated December 30, 1956 and No. 215 ran the January 6, 1957 strip. At this point, the Gazette must’ve been on its last legs: another glitch happened when the February 10, 1957 episode was skipped — Issue No. 220 jumped ahead to the February 17 comic. 

During the four years Kevin ran in the Gazette, twelve of Kevin’s adventures were retold. The final sequence is incomplete, which is a shame — it ends with a bang. For loyal readers of the Menomonee Falls Gazette wondering whatever happened to Captain Ben Defoe and Shark Donnelly, that sequence will run in its entirety starting next week.

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

 

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.

 

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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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.