Happy New Year

Growing up, I thought including a holiday recap letter with one’s Christmas card was a new phenomena. I also found most of these holiday messages a bit tedious and self-serving. It turns out that year-end letters weren’t a new concept, but an old tradition, and like many things, the old versions seem better than those from the present.

Kreigh Collins generally wrote his family’s holiday letters, and one could generally tell if he had also typed them up by noting any misspellings (Kreigh was a notoriously poor speller). Throughout his career, his wife Therese (Teddy) served as his secretary and editor, as well as his model and muse. The Collins family’s holiday letters had the added bonus of Kreigh’s illustrations, and included some interesting details in the life of the well-travelled family from Ada, Michigan.

The examples I have start in 1964, and the earliest one is my favorite, as yours truly received top billing.

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The letters also betray a bit of Kreigh’s growing weariness, as his career wound down as the 1970s approached. “Kevin the Bold” never did appear on TV—instead the strip transitioned into “Up Anchor!”—and the family’s sailboat and home away from home, Heather, was sold.

A couple of the letters are missing from my collection (1967, 1970, 1971), and the final one (1972) was written by Teddy. The letter itself was jettisoned, as the Christmas card incorporated the holiday message, and the whole process became simplified.

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For 2018, to both my far-flung readers and those closer to home, I am wishing good health and all the best in the new year. Personally, I hope the new year results in the publication of my “Mitzi McCoy” book, so long in the works (I began scanning the comics nearly five years ago). For any potential readers, I appreciate your patience.

May your dreams also come true this year.

Sincerely, “Muscles”

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For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, please visit his page on Facebook.

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

Kreigh Collins’ version of the Christmas Story, illustrated in comics form, was hailed upon its release. Locally, it was featured as part of a Christmas exhibit at the Ryerson Library in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the event made the December 13, 1949 edition of the Grand Rapids Press. Today, the bulk of Kreigh Collins’ papers and comics illustrations are found in a collection at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Local History Department, housed in the Ryerson building.

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The final instalment of the series is another beautiful reproduction of Collins’ work by the Chicago Tribune. After seeing the initial results of the Trib’s pressmen, the artist showed his appreciation in a letter to A. M. Kennedy, the comics editor for the esteemed paper. No doubt Collins was sincere, but perhaps he was hoping a little praise would help his chances of seeing his regular comic, “Mitzi McCoy,” also grace its pages.

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While “Mitzi” never did make it into the Trib, the Kreigh Collins was successful in crafting a comic (“Kevin the Bold”) that did appeal to A. M. Kennedy and would appear in the Chicago paper within a year.

Merry Christmas!

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For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, please visit his page on Facebook.

Fan Mail

Kreigh Collins’ “Christmas Story” initially impressed newspaper editors during its sales phase, and once it was published it impressed the general public. The fourth instalment is another wonderful piece of storytelling, and this time, Stub and Dick Dixon appear more often than in the previous three episodes.

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As was the case during his career as a cartoonist, Kreigh Collins received plenty of mail from readers — positive, negative, and punctilious. One piece of feedback he received caught his attention. In this case, the letter was forwarded to Kreigh from the Chicago Tribune’s office. A reader from Minneapolis offered cautious praise for the first instalment, but took issue with a detail in Collins’ illustration — the saddle of the courier in the first comic’s panel (shown below).

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The reader noted that “according to reliable historians saddles had not been invented until six centuries later.” No doubt Collins bristled, given the countless hours he spent on research, and the fact that he was desperate to impress the executives at the Trib, as he pushed for them to pick up “Mitzi McCoy,” and continue running his work. Kreigh’s response was a classic. He praised the reader while not admitting a mistake, and in a cc to the Trib’s managing editor, tosses off a hillarious encapsulation of himself.

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It’s typical of his wit, and is an expression that I look forward to repeating one day.


For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, please visit his page on Facebook.

In Advent

In the autumn of 1949, things were looking rosy for the Kreigh Collins and the NEA. Newspapers that already carried “MItzi McCoy” were praising the upcoming nativity sequence. Fred Ferguson, of the New York Sunday Mirror gushed,  “The MITZI McCOY Christmas Story presentation is certainly a magnificent job. Gosh, but that boy can draw. The stuff is beautiful all the way through and here’s hoping that the sales response justifies all of Collins’ painstaking efforts. The story is also darn well done.”

The NEA’s salesmen were busy knocking on the doors of prospective targets — newspapers that didn’t yet carry “MItzi McCoy” and who might pick up “The Christmas Story” or start running “Mitzi” itself. The first sale was made when the Memphis Commercial-Appeal broke the ice. Several other newspapers would follow, including the Chicago Tribune.

The NEA made a run at a couple of newspapers close to Collins’ homestead in Ada, Michigan — The Grand Rapids Press and the Detroit News. While both papers’ general managers expressed interest in the series, they passed. (The following year, the Press started running “Mitzi” and the News began featuring Collins’ “Kevin the Bold” in 1951).

These days, Christmas preparations seem to come too early, with stores getting decked out for the yuletide season before Thanksgiving has passed. Things were less commercialized in the late 1940s, and the appearance in Advent of a Christmas feature was surely welcome, especially for children, for whom Christmas was the highlight of their year.

Without further ado, here is the third insalment, from 68 years ago today.

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For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, please visit his page on Facebook.

The Christmas Story in Pictures

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Last week, I forgot to post an accompanying Tribune promotional ad (above) heralding the appearance of its new comic. Not easily overlooked, it is page-high and spans several columns. Somehow I managed. As far as the bit about “internationally famous artist celebrated for his interpretations of Bible stories and personalities,” examples can be found in previous posts on this blog. While “Internationally famous” may have been a bit of a stretch (by the end of 1949, “Mitzi McCoy” had at least appeared in several Canadian papers, in pre-Castro Havana, Cuba’s El Sol, and a Parisian Paper), there is no disputing the acclaim mentioned about Collins’ religious work — Nashville, Tennessee’s Methodist Publishing House published Collins’ “Bible Stories Comics” for seven years in the mid-1940s.

Below, the second week’s promotional push: a spot ad and another 24″-tall multiple-column ad. A detail that I especially like is my grandmother’s handwritten dates on the clippings. While my grandfather died young, at 66, his wife Theresa (who was Kreigh’s senior) lived to be nearly 102. Among other roles, “Teddy” served as Kreigh’s secretary, muse, model, and collaborator, and she delighted everyone she met.

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And finally, here is “tomorrow’s” comic, originally in print 68 years ago today.

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For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, please visit his page on Facebook.