The Count de Falcon

There is trouble in town, as someone has rung the bell at the village tower. Kevin and Stub arrive and are surprised to find out who was calling for help. Also arriving on the scene is the squire for a formidable German, the Count de Falcon.

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The light-hearted atmosphere of the previous comics dissipates quickly as the tension builds, and matters escalate quickly. The Baron throws down the gauntlet, and formally challenges Kevin to a duel.

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Making matters worse, Stub realizes the terms of battle are not negotiable. As his trainer, the squire knows Kevin’s abilities well, but is worried about the advantages the Count will have. We shall see if Kevin’s strongest suit, his sense of honor, will somehow help him prevail.

 

 

First Impressions

Following the abrupt transformation of the comic strip “Mitzi McCoy” into “Kevin the Bold,” Kreigh Collins was ready with several dynamic storylines for his new hero, and his artwork was equally up to the task.

At the end of the new comic strip’s first chapter, Kevin defeated the Moorish pirates and saved the locals from enslavement. As a reward, Moya McCoy’s father presented Kevin with a historically significant claymore, as well as his distinguished title.

The second chapter of “Kevin the Bold” begins with a marvelous comic. Its splash panel shows a beautifully garbed Moya, as MacTavish Campbell MacGregor is introduced. Upon meeting Moya, “Stub” announces Kevin’s simple credo. Moya instantly takes to the prickly Scotsman and fires a snappy line at her new friend.

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As is often the case, the transitional comics between the main sequences are lighthearted, but action comes to the fore in the next comic, with another exciting splash panel. Stub has resumed Kevin’s training, with our protagonist getting acquainted with his fearsome new weapon. No doubt this training will come in handy at a later time.

The comic also shows the amazing reproductive abilities of Collins’ newest champion, the Chicago Tribune. The Trib typically ran its new feature near the front of its comic section, and the newspaper was able to showcase the Kreigh’s skills with its own superb coloring, including a very nice example of aerial perspective in the ninth panel.

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Significantly, this panel shows a distant bell tower, which calls Kevin to action.

 

 

Serie magasinet 13

[Update: in my haste to figure out anything about the following comic, I originally misidentified it as Danish. It is, in fact, Swedish. My apologies! If you have any information on this comic book series, please feel free to leave a comment; the comments link is rather buried at the bottom of the post. Thank you].

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I do not speak Swedish, but I wish I did. This comic book caught my eye with the mention of “MItzi McCoy” among its coverlines. Knowledge of Swedish would come in handy in comparing the dialog of the Mitzi comics it contained to the original English, as it originally appeared in late 1940s.

I had been aware of Kreigh Collins’ comics being reprinted for Australian markets, and also for Argentina. I’d even come across some Norwegian and Swedish comics. Usually these reprints all featured “Kevin the Bold.” But this one was a surprise, bringing Mitzi back nearly 30 years after the original Sunday comics ran.

Serie magasinet 13 runs 68 pages, with plenty of preliminary action before what is for me, the main event. Inside there are a couple sequences of “Dredger,” and one each of “Harry Chase,” “Kerry Drake,” and something called “Larm I Distrikt 94.” Forgive me, I no nothing about these comics. I suspect at least one is of Scandinavian origin, as a female character is shown without the clothing typical of mainstream American comics.

Starting on page 31 is the second sequence from “Mitzi McCoy”’. Its six comics were originally published from January to March in 1949. They show all of the strip’s main characters, and feature Stub Goodman’s Irish Wolfhound, Tiny, in his fist heroic role.

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The comics are reproduced pretty much as they originally appeared as tabloids in the Sunday papers, with their throwaway panels omitted. The only real alteration I could spot is the artificial creation of the opening sequence’s splash panel (only the bottom half appeared in the original). Curious as to what “Valpen” meant, I learned it meant “the puppy.”

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I was disappointed to see there was no translation evident of “Plutten,” Tiny’s name in the Swedish version of the comic (written on his doghouse).

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The comics were reproduced from original proofs supplied by the NEA — it’s great to see Collins’ crisp black and white line work. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of these proofs at this time is unknown. Meanwhile, I’m trying to track down information on other Serie comic books.

Chasing Mitzi

When I first started collecting comics, I dreamed about putting together a book featuring “Kevin the Bold.” Being a graphic designer who worked in publishing, it didn’t seem too far-fetched. My Uncle Kevin had given me a large amount of my grandfather’s comics in 2011, and the question seemed to be what comics to use. I didn’t have the entire 18 year run, but I did have several years complete. The logical starting place for a serial like “Kevin” was its beginning, but my collection had some missing comics among the early ones. I didn’t get off to a flying start.

A year or so later, uncle Kevin sent me another massive package of Kreigh’s comics. Inside were hundreds of “Kevin the Bold”s, as well as the complete run of Collins’ earlier comic, “Mitzi McCoy.”  I’d heard about “Mitzi”, but had never seen any examples of the short-lived strip (it ran for less than two years). They comics were beautiful and fresh. Its run of 99 comics seemed like a manageable size to tackle in a first effort at publishing a book, so I switched gears.

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Mitzi’s debut comic.

Unsure how to proceed, I got to work thinking I’d figure it out as I went along. I started scanning my “Mitzi”s. Although it was a time consuming task with my ancient Microtek tabloid scanner, in retrospect, it was the easiest part of the process.

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Every time I switch it on, I pray that its lamp hasn’t burned out.

Nearly three years ago, while scouring the internet for information on “Mitzi,” I came across an essay with a ton of information on the strip, much of which was new to me. I began corresponding with the essay’s author, and soon enough we had a loose agreement for him to write the introduction to the book.

The next progress was reconnecting with a publisher  with whom I had discussed the possibility of doing a “Kevin” book. He showed interest in “Mitzi,” and the project gained momentum.

I started color correcting and retouching my comics in earnest, and I soon realized a major problem with my book was that for some of the comics, I only had one-third page versions. The bulk of my comics were half-pages (from the Indianapolis Times or the Pittsburgh Press), and others were tabloids or half-tabloids (New York Mirror).

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It’s so sad to see this comic cropped and squeezed into a one-third page format!

Two years ago I paid my first visit to the Grand Rapids Public Library. Its Local History department has a fantastic collection of Kreigh Collins’ illustrations and papers, with numerous original comic illustrations, including many original “Mitzi McCoy”s. Several of these originals were comics I had the inferior one-third page versions of, so I was getting closer to my goal of upgrading my lesser comics. Shortly afterward, I realized my prospective publisher had several more larger versions, and my list of inferior comics was down to six.

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Even though I live 800 miles away, the librarians are starting to recognize me (I’ve now made the trip three times).

Unfortunately, progress slowed during the next year and I wondered if I would ever find the elusive comics, or even get the book finished (and published). I’d been looking high and low, with occasional eBay purchases from sellers as far away as Switzerland.

However, my persistence paid off, and last month I found the last six comics I needed at a single source — a comic book shop 12 miles away from my house. The comics cost a bit more than I wanted to spend, as they were each part of intact New York Sunday Mirror comic sections. But being able to seal the deal made me willing to splurge.

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Eureka! (But they cost more than 10 cents each).

Amazingly, the shop employee that sold me the comics was as much of a site for sore eyes as the comics themselves. I wondered if these comics had been lurking in Moonachie, NJ all along, but Shannon told me they’d been acquired relatively recently, at last year’s Baltimore Comic-Con.

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Shannon wasn’t in costume when she made the sale, but she was sweet as she is pretty.

The lesson I learned was to always follow your dreams.

 

 

Christmas in July, Part 3

My guess is that the tales featured in the three-week “Legends of Christmas” comic strip were stories Kreigh Collins had come across during his extensive historical research. The first week’s comic were unusual, and did not really hang together, but they certainly presented a view of Christmas that is completely absent today.

The longer story of Peter that ran over the strip’s final two weeks has better continuity, but is still quite unusual. While it may be a story Collins came across in his research, I wonder how much of it was his own. Like Peter, Kreigh was an only child; both were extremely devoted to their mother. Kreigh’s father worked as a construction engineer, and while he often moved his family with him as his work took to various parts of the United States, at other times he was away from home an extended period (like Peter’s father).

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I have never seen printed examples of this comic. While the quality of these comics is not so great, at least they all have been preserved digitally. Season’s greetings — only 113 shopping days ’til Christmas!

Christmas in July, part 2

The second week of Kreigh Collins’ daily “Legends of Christmas” comic featured an easier-to-follow legend. It starred Peter, a young boy trying to care for his ailing mother while his father was away.

Speaking of legends, joining the bastions of journalism that appeared last week (The Manhattan Mercury, Hazleton Standard-Speaker and Terre Haute Star) is the one and only Kingston Daily Freeman.

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The medicine Peter brought his mother worked wonders — she looks radiant!

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Kreigh Collins’ comics were familiar to readers of Sunday funnies, and periodically there were discussions with his bosses at the Newspaper Enterprise Association about changing “Mitzi McCoy” or “Kevin the Bold” into a daily. Although these plans never came to fruition, in 1965 Collins illustrated a short-lived seasonal daily for the NEA called “Legends of Christmas.”

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Running in various small-market papers that were typical for the NEA, the “Legends of Christmas” comics are rather curious, and despite their yuletide theme, there was room to squeeze in a little anti-Soviet Cold War-era commentary (December 8). Take thatBrezhnev!

A tip of the cap to Alec Stevens of Calvary Comics for sending these comics my way!

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Where’s Mitzi?

“Mitzi McCoy” was Kreigh Collins’ first syndicated (Newspaper Enterprise Association) comic strip, and in its November 7, 1948 debut, Mitzi bolted from her wedding after realizing her fiancé was a gold-digging jerk.

The comics that followed showed the transformation of Collins’ skills from that of a renowned illustrator to those of a successful cartoonist. Each panel of these early comics are jammed full of detail, and the original artwork is astonishing to behold. About half of the “Mitzi McCoy” originals are in the Local History collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

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These early Mitzi originals also show evidence of revisions to the artwork and dialogue. In addition to illustrating and scripting the comic, Collins did the lettering. Kreigh had similar responsibilities for his mid-1940s “Bible Stories Comics” (put out by the Methodist Publishing House) but the NEA required a more structured approach, and had more specific procedures to be followed. There were some growing pains, but the artwork is absolutely amazing.

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While comics fans might have been wondering where Ms. McCoy had gone in 1948, “Where’s Mitzi?” could also be a question posed more recently. Late last year, an announcement was made on the upcoming publication of a book collecting the comic strip’s entire run.

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While production of the book has been delayed, rest assured that the book is still in the works. Once it is published, Mitzi’s whereabouts will be more easily tracked.

A Harsh Mistress

With a sudden storm having wrecked their sailboat, Kevin and Bunny desperately cling to its swamped hull.

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With word of her husband’s rescue coming via radio and newspaper, Jane betrays a bit of jealousy toward her husband’s co-star. However, her fears are assauged with the arrival of a telegram, which reveals Bunny’s true colors.

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On reflection, it’s interesting to note the “modern” touches of these late-period comics of Collins (e.g., the pasted up photostat of the Western Union Telegram); I guess everything is relative, even the groovy dialog.

The sequence immediately following this one ran previously on this blog, and can be viewed here.

The Line Squall

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As he’s escorted around Hollywood by his co-star and director, Kevin learns how the movie game is played. As the action in the comic intensifies, the mood of the topper strip “Water Lore” darkens.

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Jane trusts her husband Kevin enough to ignore the rumors propagated by the Hollywood hype machine — or is she just putting on a brave face? Meanwhile, Kevin and Bunny are lost at sea without ship-to-shore communication. Rescue efforts get under way, and Pedro manages to press the spineless movie star Cecil Dunn into service.

Of note: movie director Rex Fox bears a certain resemblance to one of Collins’ old “Mitzi McCoy” characters, publisher Stub Goodman. Stub was based on the character Frank from the 1947 novel by Thomas W. Duncan, “Gus the Great.” Like Stub, Frank was a newspaperman, and a very richly developed character. Midway through the book, he retires to California (and to my disappointment, isn’t heard from again). It’s nice to see one possible outcome was Frank’s reinvention as a Hollywood director.

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