Balance

If one was to include the pre-Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) weekly “Bible Stories Comics,” Kreigh Collins’ comics career lasted nearly three decades.  “Up Anchor” was his final comic, and it ran for nearly three and a half years.

As summer ended in 1959, Collins and his family packed up his sailboat and headed south. They ended up spending a year on the boat, traveling down the Mississippi, and wintering in Florida. He continued with his work while aboard Heather, producing artwork for the comic as his family’s journey progressed.

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With help from the NEA, Collins was happy to do promotion for his work, and given his unique situation as a sailing snowbird, this was sometimes front-page news. In an interview with the Panama City News-Herald that appeared in the daily’s November 1, 1959 edition, Collins explained how he was able to do it: “Maintaining a comic strip is a high-pressure sort of thing. You’re dealing with it every day, meeting deadlines, writing scripts, doing the artwork, and so on. To stay normal, you just about have to have your mental balance.” The article continued, Collins maintains his balance by writing children’s books, adventure stories, and travel articles. He also considers his 45-foot yacht a mental life saver. 

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A syndicate proof of the comic that appeared in Panama City News-Herald, above 

 

 

After “Kevin the Bold” had run its course, Collins launched his next comic, “Up Anchor!,” in 1968. He used many of his family’s experiences aboard Heather as fodder for his scripts, but much of the material came from his imagination. While there was talk in 1966 of spinning off “Kevin” into a television show, movies weren’t really in the conversation. Nonetheless, Hollywood did come into focus in one of the final sequences of “Up Anchor!”

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The original illustrations for the comics that will follow in the next several weeks are all in the collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

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Targeting a younger demographic

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The light-hearted sequence with young Will Shakespeare continues, and so do the cribbed lines. Looking them up is a nice way to be introduced to some of Shakespeare’s body of work, and I imagine Kreigh Collins and his editor had fun working them into the dialog. Who knew? (not me), there’s some good stuff in there. O tiger’s heart wrapt in a woman’s hide, and prepare to die… this stuff would keep me coming back for more if I was a reader of mid-’60s Sunday comics… which I guess I was, sort of (well, big brother Brett anyway).

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Standing in front of our ’64 Ford Fairlane 500, from left to right, Edward Bear, Brian, and Brett (holding the Detroit News’ comics section).

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The sequence is nearing its curtain, but there is still time for more fun with Shakespeare’s lines (Kill me tomorrow…).

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Overall, the sequence is more whimsical than any other I can think of, as far as “Kevin the Bold” is concerned. Its mood is more reminiscent of “Mitzi McCoy,” and it serves as a nice change of pace from Kevin’s usual antics dealing with despots, pirates and thugs. It is followed by another sequence in which Brett plays a prominent role, likely these were an attempt to engage younger readers.

Stealing from the Best

Kevin comes to Will and Brett’s aid by dispersing the unruly crowd from the Unicorn.

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As the sequence unfolds, and the references to Shakespeare’s work appear, let me count the ways (oops, that’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Begins with a street brawl, check. Teenagers in love, rival houses, corny dialog (sorry), check, check, check. Oh wait, here comes a balcony scene. (I’m going to need that ladder to keep cherry picking like this).

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Liberties were clearly taken with a couple of Shakespeare’s lines in the January 17 comic, and if the final double-decked panel isn’t a visual representation of a tempest, than I’ll be a monkey’s grandson.

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Did I miss any? If so, I’d love to see any references a better-trained eye can spot.

Brett’s Friends

A new sequence deserves a knock-out opener, and Kreigh Collins delivers.  KTB 122064 BWT 150 qcc

Perhaps Kevin’s penchant for saving dameselles in distress comes from him always keeping his eye on the “scenery.” The character upon whom Kevin was molded (to a degree), Tim Graham, from “Mitzi McCoy,” had a similar predilection. In this case, Kevin has unknowingly rescued the pretty friend of his ward, Brett.

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While Kevin spent the summer in the West Indies, Brett had stayed behind in London. Upon his arrival, Kevin meets another friend of Brett’s, a boy named Will Shakespeare (an example of the sort of historical figure that can be found in “Kevin the Bold.”) With the date established as 1588, Shakespeare would have reached the age of 14. Brett is likely a couple years younger, while Julie appears to be a young lady, about 18 years old.

Will and Brett are rehearsing a play at the Unicorn Theater, and it turns out that Julie’s step-father (Jake Waggar) owns the rival theater, the Lantern. As far as step-fathers go, Jake falls into the “evil” category, and he stoops low in his competition with the Unicorn.

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Along with the appearance of historical figures in his comics, Kreigh Collins could also be counted on for some related education. Collins was known for the depth or research he put into his subjects, all in the name of historical accuracy.

With Will Shakespeare a part of this storyline, one can expect numerous references to the famous author’s oeuvre. And with my personal knowledge of Shakespeare somewhat lacking, I bet my grandfather would get a kick out of the research I need to do in order to write these posts. I will mention references where I see them, but I would appreciate it if any reader would point out any that I have missed in the comments.