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.

Timeless

While “Kevin the Bold” had a long run, it didn’t last forever. Its debut was in October, 1950, with its demise coming 18 years later. One can be forgiven for thinking its life was longer, as the history covered in the strip spanned nearly two centuries.

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Published in September, 1954: the sequence with evil Sarov was set in the year 1491.

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16 months later, Kevin was set in the year 1515, along with King Henry VIII.

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The final “Kevin” was implicitly dated as being the year 1668; when the comic morphed into “Up Anchor!,” a contemporary strip set in 1968.

Much of the action was the product of writer Kreigh Collins’ fertile imagination, but peppered through “Kevin” were historical figures and incidents that figured into the comic’s plot lines.

Previously, we’ve met Leonardo da Vinci, and in the following sequence (set in 1588, or 73 years after the episode with King Henry and 80 years before the finale), a couple of English notables are introduced. It picks up where the action in this previous sequence left off, with Maria, Glen, and Inky en route on a trans-Atlantic voyage.

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Kevin

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This photo shows two characters named Kevin.

A good chunk of my comics collection was given to me by my Uncle Kevin, and it has long been our hope to see Kreigh Collins’ comics published in book form.

Just released and available on Amazon.com, Kevin the Bold: Sunday Adventures, is a 154-page collection including all the comics published from September 5, 1954 to June 2, 1957. In their entirety are 14 different sequences with over 140 comics.

Kevin the Bold: Sunday Adventures features Kevin’s exploits on land and sea, from England to Italy to Eastern Europe. Villains include the evil Russian ruler Sarrov, whose plan to “Create disturbances in all Europe… thus we will grow stronger as others grow weak” resonates today. Also featured are Collins’ gorgeous landscapes, seascapes, beautiful damsels in distress, and dramatic action sequences.

Plans are afoot for other books featuring Kreigh Collins’ comics, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Happy Easter

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Easter Bunny, c. 1915

Growing up in an itinerant family, Kreigh Collins attended numerous schools in his childhood. This led to a degree of spottiness as far as his education was concerned, yet his artistic abilities would flourish. An only child, his mother saved much of his childhood schoolwork, which is fortunate due to the family’s frequent moves. This trove is in a special collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library, where Collins spent hundreds of hours doing research.

Happy Easter! Look for a special announcement next week.

Ending with a bang

Sorry, but… April Fools! The two Menomonee Falls Gazette comics from last week were fakes — they don’t exist. Here are the color half-pages for the final comics in this sequence.

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A crooked archer, Shark Donnelly wasn’t much better at swimming — posing as a sailor was a poor career choice. The fate he suffers is grim (and reminiscent of Captain Zinbad’s demise in Kevin’s first sequence).

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All that’s left is Clarissa and Ben’s reunion. As the sequence ends, it transitions to the next storyline, again involving romance.

MFG Rarities

Most of the comic strips in my collection were given to me by Kreigh Collins’ son Kevin. My windfall covered about half of my grandfather’s NEA work, printed in one form or another. I received my first large batch from Uncle Kevin in 2008, with other packages arriving later. Between these deliveries, I purchased other comics to fill holes in my collection.

Initially, I bought anything I could afford that I didn’t already have. I soon learned to ignore one-third page comics and focus on half-pagers. Among the printed samples I received from Uncle Kevin were different types of black-and-white proofs, as well as other BW versions. I paid little attention to these; I was focused on the color halves from the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit News.

As I began working my way through my grandfather’s old tearsheets, I learned more about what I had, and a couple things I’d overlooked became more interesting. Included were a few late copies of the Menomonee Falls Gazette. Since I had half-page versions from the Trib of basically all of the comics that ran in the Gazette, I saw little value in these black-and-white tabloid versions. Only lately did I realize that a couple of the Gazettes I had must be extremely rare. Furthermore, they help complete the sequence featuring Benjamin Defoe, Clarissa and Shark Donnelly.

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Following its customary two-month hiatus, issue #233 was dated June 4, 1978. The Gazette still had two sections, but they were now only 12 pages long. Kevin again appeared on the front page of the second section. The strip’s action picked up with Kevin and Clarissa in danger of being jumped by the bad guys while Ben DeFoe makes a desperate lunge aboard Heather. Hit by Shark Donnelly’s shot, Ben fails to get belowdecks but still manages to sew chaos.

Arriving another two months later, the comic in issue #234 was spectacular. Featuring a suspense-building device first proposed (but not used) by Collins for an old Mitzi McCoy comic, Donnelly and DeFoe are shown desperately swimming away from the tinderbox that is the Heather.

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Now THAT’S more like it, a fitting end to this tabloid’s run. The crisp black lines of the Gazette highlight the drama of this final scene. Needless to say, this comic also looks spectacular as a color half-page.

The End?

Inspired by traditional Sunday papers’ funny pages, I usually post examples of Kreigh Collins’ colorful Sunday comics. In honor of the black and white versions that ran in Saturday editions, the current sequence has been posted on Saturdays.

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One of Kreigh’s local dailies began running black and white one-third page versions of “Mitzi McCoy” near the end of the strip’ run…

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…and Collins’ work continued to appear in the Grand Rapids Press on Saturdays after the comic transformed into “Kevin the Bold.”

—  — • — —

 

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Waking from another hibernation (this time, three months), The Menomonee Falls Gazette rallied to publish issue #230. At this point, Kevin ran on the front page of the second section, and whomever was laying out the pages forgot to update the Volume/Number/Date line from the previous issue (#229).

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Shark Donnelly has learned that Ben knows of his sordid past. Fearing the worst, Ben and Jonathan are summoned topside by the captain. Meanwhile, Clarissa tries to mend her broken heart by allowing Kevin to escort her on a hunting party.

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Kreigh Collins treats us to some hunting lore, but soon Kevin and Clarissa become separated from the group. Back aboard Heather, Donnelly has coerced the powerless DeFoe to do his bidding.

Once again letting suspense build unreasonably, the next issue of the Menomonee Falls Gazette arrived months after its predecessor. Misidentified as #234 on its cover (didn’t they fire the layout guy yet?), issue #232 was dated March 3, 1978.

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In this final edition of the comics tabloid, Kevin’s sequence was as yet unresolved. With the action so close to a climax, it’s a shame the Gazette’s loyal readers were left hanging. Or were they? Check back for two explosive revelations!

Shark Donnelly

In existence since late 1971, the weekly Menomonee Falls Gazette was showing signs of strain by 1977. After hibernating for a couple of months, issue #227 finally shipped. Now released every two weeks, the action on its pages picked up where it left off in March. ktb-040757-mfg227-01-150

Unmindful of recent events — the wedding’s cancellation and the Lord Mayor’s illness, Kevin arrives. At least Clarissa’s mood brightens at the sight of Kevin. Benjamin DeFoe and his compatriot (Jonathan Clay) are still in dire straits.

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Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Ben and Jonathan have new problems. Sent to the brig by another cruel master, DeFoe realizes something is amiss. Back in Glassen, Kevin is brought up to speed.

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Bejamin DeFoe, an erstwhile archer for the king, finally realizes where he’d seen Shark Donnelly previously, and now has another reason to despise him. Using “Frederick Stearns” as an alias and masquerading as a sailor, Stearns is Heather’s captain.

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I’m sure the resemblance between these two men (both skippers of boats named Heather) is purely coincidental.

Left at the Altar

From March 1978 issues of the Menomonee Falls Gazette, this Kevin the Bold sequence was originally published sixty years ago (1957). Printed from the original films, the reproductions were excellent, and Kreigh Collins’ strength as an illustrator was evident.

Despite the absence of romance in Kevin’s life, storylines involving lovers periodically ran, as did their drama. As with Mitzi McCoy, Collins enjoyed the freedom of having any character take the lead. Here, a new set of characters is introduced. Kevin doesn’t appear — he isn’t even mentioned.

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Benjamin DeFoe has been pressed into service, leaving his bride jilted at the altar — an interesting twist on the action seen in Mitzi McCoy’s debut comic.

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After a week’s absence, Kevin is briefly introduced. (Originally, it wasn’t clear to me where this action took place — I must have been distracted by the fantastic illustrations.) Meanwhile, Ben finds himself in an ugly situation aboard a beautiful ship — whose namesake Collins himself skippered.

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Heather, circa 1957

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Things are bleak. Ben plans a desperate escape, Clarissa’s heart is broken, and her father, the Lord Mayor, has taken ill. The lone sign of hope is the appearance of Kevin in the comic’s final panel.