The Stoning of Stephen

In September, 1942, Kreigh Collins got a letter with some positive feedback on a job he did for one of his long-time clients, the Nashville-based Methodist Publishing House (MPH). In addition, the letter asked Kreigh to tackle a new project — illustrating a comic based on stories from the Bible.

An outline was included, and the editor’s instructions were purposefully vague (in order to give Collins plenty of leeway). A full page was requested, with six panels, featuring “as much action as a Superman comic.” The entire story was to be told in the characters’ speech balloons, with no explanatory captions.

A New York City publisher had started producing Bible comics, and they had approached the MPH to see if they would be interested in running them. If not, the New Yorkers planned to approach the Methodist Church directly. Not wanting to lose out on this business opportunity, the MPH turned to their favorite artist, Collins, and encouraged him to get right to work.

Three days later, in a letter accompanying his first sketch, Kreigh pointed out the difficulties of not using expository captions. Collins modified the outline in order to better set the scene, and added dialogue where appropriate. It also became apparent that the outline covered too much material for one comic. However, the suits at the MPH were pleased with the results, and after hiring a writer, the series began to take shape. The comic would appear in the weekly publication “Boys Today” and Collins would earn $75 per episode.

First dubbed “Pioneers of the Bible,” the series’ official title became “Stories from the Bible.” Work began in earnest for Collins in March, 1943, and by May he had finished the first nine comics. The editors were very pleased and felt the work far surpassed the perceived competition from New York. By July, the series had begun to generate fan mail.

The opening sequence was called “The Adventures of Paul the Apostle,” and the first comic told the story of the stoning of Stephen.

1943-bps-01-sketch-72

An early “sketch” clearly shows that it was a work in progress, despite the startling level of finish. The series title was tentative, as were the dimensions the comic would have. This illustration was dated February 10–12, 1943.

 

 

1943-bps-01-finish-72

“Adventures of Paul the Apostle, Number 1” Final version

Next week, a seasonally-appropriate sequence will begin, “The Story of Mary.”

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