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.

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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.

Stub on the phone

Smooth Sailing

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Eager to get his friend involved in the movie business, Pedro’s idea is to have Kevin’s wife Jane talk him into it. Jane is leery of the possibility of losing her man to a famous Hollywood starlet, but seems to go along with the plan —  she and Kevin are eventually persuaded by the easy money.

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As the sequence gets off the ground, the action is very light, but there are some interesting details to be noticed. The “Water Lore” topper strips have some nice illustrations of various watercraft to accompany Collins’ observations, technical diagrams, and historical tid-bits. The March 7 topper references the artist’s home port of Holland, Michigan, which was located a short drive from the tiny village of Ada, where Kreigh lived with his family. Another notable from Ada was Amway founder Richard DeVos. DeVos went into business about the same time as Collins started cartooning, and one part of the Amway empire included an air charter service. Collins name-checked his friend in the March 14 comic.

It’s been smooth sailing through this sequence’s first few episodes, but how long can that last?