Turnabout

Unfortunately for Kevin, the Grand Vizier is not only cruel, but also creative. As Kevin faces an excruciating painful death, he still refuses to talk.

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Early-1950s examples of Kevin the Bold episodes from the Chicago Tribune have wonderful color reproduction and especially vivid colors, and make for fantastic-looking comics. However, there seems to be another factor influencing the appearance of these beauties, which is only readily apparent upon seeing the original comic artwork.

The Grand Rapids Public Library has a substantial number of Collins’ original comics illustrations, but there are relatively few examples of Kevin in their collection. They have about 41 of the 99 original Mitzi McCoy comics, at least 73 of 174 Up Anchor! comics, but only about 19 of the approximately 944 Kevin the Bold originals. However, one of the episodes that is there is the July 15, 1951 episode, shown above (and below).

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Looking at the original artwork, notice that some of the lines were drawn in a lighter color—I’d guess Collins watered down his India ink slightly. This causes the illustrations to have a softer appearance, and gives them a quality of atmospheric perspective (most notable in the first panel). The Grand Rapids Public Library’s collection of Kreigh Collins’ works is accessible to the public. If you’re in West Michigan, I strongly recommend a visit to the Library’s Local History Department.

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While things looked especially grim for Kevin, the Grand Vizier made the classic bad guy mistake of planning an overly elaborate and exotic death for his nemesis. As Kevin bolts and leaps to his freedom, the region is freed of a sadistic tyrant.

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As Stub and Patch devise a way to return and save Kevin, the sequence ends with a chance encounter off the coast of Morocco—another beautiful, cinematic episode.


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

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Run Sadea! Run!

Kevin seems to have met his match as far as loyalty is concerned, as he and Sadea formulate an escape plan. One can imagine the pangs of jealousy Moya McCoy would feel if she could only see Kevin now.

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My collection of comics grew incrementally, over a period of years. The following comic was an early acquisition; at the time, it was the only one from this sequence that I owned. It was very compelling, yet mysterious. Its tenth panel contained a 1951 NEA copyright, but it lacked an inked-in date anywhere else. This was common for “Kevin the Bold” episodes of the era, but unlike most Chicago Tribune examples, this one wasn’t situated at the top of the comics page. This meant there was no typeset date to prevent any confusion (and there were no clues on the reverse side, either). It wasn’t until years later when I obtained the other comics from the sequence that and I was able to place it in time.

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As the plot twists, and the momentum shifts, Kevin’s prospects fade. Despite the reliable Patch joining forces with Sadea, things look grim.


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

Acts of Valor

At the palace, Sadea awaits her fate, while Kevin and Stub sweat their own, aboard the commandeered caravel.

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Once again, the timing of Patch’s heroism is perfect. But how had he survived?

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After a full day’s sail, Kevin, Stub, and Patch reach Morocco. While Sadea shows her determination against the Grand Vizier, Kevin shows his own, as he sets off. After all, he had promised the Count de Falcon that he would rescue Sadea, his missing sister.

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Splendor, action, humor, and terror—the June 10, 1951 comic is another showstopper. Each panel is absolutely wondrous.

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With a birds-eye view of the courtyard (reminiscent of an old “Mitzi McCoy” setup), Kevin’s quick thinking allows him to subdue two palace assassins, and he introduces himself to the lovely Sadea. So far, so good, but the two are not yet out of the woods.


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

Villainy

As a villain, Red Heels has the usual traits—he is coldhearted and ruthless. Like the baddies in Kevin’s inaugural sequence, he is another bloodthirsty Arab pirate. But he’s no stereotype. What makes Red Heels stand out is his effeminacy. Small in stature (in panel 1, he seems to be wearing heels), he also sports oversized headwear which has the dual purpose of making him appear larger and supplying shock value. Despite these illusions, he comes up short compared to other villains…

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The outstretched hand of the drowning man (fourth panel) was a device that Collins had used before. It appeared in throwaway panels in Kevin’s earlier encounter with the Arab pirates and in another sequence from 1952. Nonetheless, its poignancy remained as shorthand for a gruesome death. All of the men injured in the battle—on both sides—were destined to suffer the same fate, including Koko’s master, Patch.

 

Back in Morocco, things take a turn for Sadea.

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Learning of Frau de Boer’s life, Sadea begins to reveal her own story. No doubt many readers approved of her costuming and poses.

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The embodiment of evil with a countenance to match, the Grand Vizier beseeches Sadea to do his bidding once again. Emboldened by Frau de Boer’s tale, she successfully resists his attempt at hypnosis, imperiling her own future.


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

La Ragazza Stregata

The story continues with an amazing mélange of sensuality, occult, horror, and humor — despite the terrifying spectacle of the Moorish pirates. Aboard the caravel, Koko and Kevin both tease poor Stub, but it’s all in good fun, as the crew bonds tightly.

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Kreigh Collins’ dialog is hysterical, and the episode is packed with nautical terminology likely not seen in any other comic. With a reference to the galley “sweeping” toward the Genoese ship, a casual reader would generally understand what was happening, but would lose the nuance of the phrase. Unlike a traditional rowboat, which a single person moves by “sculling” with two oars, the pirates’ galley is propelled by numerous oarsmen, each pulling a single oar, or “sweeping” (like eight-man racing boats seen competing in regattas).

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These guys “swept” past virtually all of their competition last year. (Don’t tell my son, the oarsman at the far left, that I used a picture of his crew on my blog!)

Crews that sweep have a coxswain — they are in charge of the boat, and determine its stroke rate (the cox is seated at the back of the boat, above). Similarly, the Sea Hawk utilized a drummer to pound out a beat for its rowers to follow. Like a cox for a crew shell, the drummer was critical to keeping the Sea Hawk’s rowers in sync, and thus moving most quickly. Knowing this, and being an archery master, Kevin takes aim.

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Patch is all too familiar with the Sea Hawk, and its captain, Red Heels. Despite Kevin’s incredible shot, and a timely gust of wind, the pirates board the caravel and a fierce battle ensues.

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While Patch gallantly saves Kevin, and Koko rescues Stub, it should come as no surprise that it is Kevin who proves to be bravest of all.


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

Bewitched

KTB 031851 HA 150 qccThe March 18, 1951“Kevin the Bold” comic is packed with backstory. Kreigh Collins was known to haunt libraries while researching his subjects, but in this case, much of the context was observed firsthand. As a young man, Collins had spent time drawing and painting in northwest Africa. In the spring of 1928, he had crossed the Atlantic aboard a freighter with an early mentor, noted painter Mathias Alten. The first stop was Morocco; their departure for France was a couple weeks off. No doubt this experience came in handy when Collins scripted and drew the episodes for the next eighteen weeks.

Kevin hears the strange tale told by an English sailor, Patch, about an entranced blonde woman who whips Moorish pirates into a frenzy with her words and antics. Also introduced is Koko, Patch’s adorable and mischievous simian companion.

Thinking the strange enchantress could be the woman DeFalcon seeks, Kevin introduces Patch to the convalescing Count.

KTB 032551 HA CST 150 qcc.jpgSkeptical DeFalcon doesn’t understand, but Kevin wants to hear more. He does, as the April 1 comic’s events are as vivid as its Chicago Sunday Tribune printing.

KTB 040151 HA 150 qcc.jpgAs Kevin prepares to set off on his next fantastic adventure, he witnesses another fierce scene — a piqued Moya McCoy, jealously storming off astride his own horse. Despite the embarrassment he felt over her scene, Lord McCoy comforts his distraught daughter, Moya. As Kevin and Stub recognize one of their ship’s crewmates, danger is sighted ahead.

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

The Search for Sadea

Not long after launching “Mitzi McCoy,” Kreigh Collins began to tire of the strip’s setup, a contemporary comic with a female lead. With his background in historical subjects and costume illustration, he longed to do a “cloak and sword” feature more in line with his interests. So when “Mitzi” abruptly morphed into “Kevin the Bold,” Collins was more than ready with ideas for Kevin’s initial adventures. The following sequence, Kevin’s third, is absolutely loaded: beautiful illustrations, fascinating characters, stunning locations, and action. There is drama, humor, and blossoming romance. It also defines Kevin’s raison d’être.

In the climax of the previous sequence, Kevin faced (and defeated) the formidable Count De Falcon — in mortal combat. By tournament rules, Kevin won the Count’s horse, sword, and armor. Revealing his character, Kevin spared his opponent’s life, and let him keep his sword and armor. And not only that…

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Kevin’s beef with De Falcon arose from the belief that the Count had mistreated his horse. After discovering this to be untrue, and learning what brought De Falcon to Ireland in the first place, Kevin discovers his next challenge.

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After learning more about the mysterious, brave man who had first saved her family, and then treated his vanquished foe so kindly, Moya begins to fall for Kevin. Because of his credo, she learns that she must wait. Surely she won’t mind that the woman Kevin is determined to rescue is a beautiful blonde…


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

Anno III, N. 1

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My other recently-acquired copy of Il Nerbiniano is an older one: year III, number 1, published in January, 1975. While Kevin shared the cover with a strip called “Cino e Franco,” one of Kreigh Collins’ most arresting panels was repurposed for the cover. Notably, the comic in which it originated (October 28, 1951) does not appear inside.

Anno III, N. 1 used heavier cover stock than my other copy. This one was bound in a landscape format, and all of the material inside is formatted that way too. Overall, this earlier copy is of a higher quality than Anno VIII, N. 1. The inside covers were printed in two colors, black and cyan, and the interior text pages appeared in alternating 4-C and black-and-white signatures, each four pages long. The inside front cover lists an editor-in-chief, six staffers and a cover artist, and includes an editor’s letter (La Poltrona del Direttore, or, The Director’s Chair). The table of contents nicely features a piece of Collins’ artwork as a spot illustration.

 

 

Having started this blog as a tribute to my grandfather, perhaps the most fascinating aspect is how much I learn about ancillary material while doing necessary research. While I know quite a bit about my grandfather’s comics, I am by no means a comics historian. I learned that the comic featured in the opening section, “Jungle Jim,” was created as a topper by Alex Raymond for his comic “Flash Gordon.” The comics reprinted here are lovely, dating to 1939.

“Kevin the Bold” appears on page 5, and two tabloid comics are split across four pages as in my other copy of Il Nerbiniano, but with no need to rotate the book while reading. The interior text pages’ stock is heavier than in my other copy, and instead of a coated paper with what almost appears to be xerographic printing, this issue uses a nice uncoated stock. The reproduction quality is excellent.

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This time, the comics’ original publication dates (and NEA copyright credit) remain in the artwork. While I always thought of this sequence as “The Search for Sadea,” I now prefer the Italian title, “Sadea, la Ragazza Stregata” (“Sadea, the Bewitched Girl”).

In all of my grandfather’s comics, the Sadea sequence is perhaps my favorite. It features thrilling action, a hauntingly beautiful (kidnapped) young woman, magnificent ships, horses and battle scenes. Not to mention Koko, the mischievous sea monkey (not that kind!), and frightening villains, all beautifully illustrated and with a captivating plot line.

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After four stunning pages, Il Nerbiniano continues with more four-color “Cino e Franco” comics. After further research, I learned that this comic is the Italian version of Lyman Young’s long-running “Tim Tyler’s Luck.” (I also learned that Lyman’s younger brother Chic Young was the man who created “Blondie”). This is followed by eight black and white pages of a comic called “Nell Impero Degli Incas” (“In the Empire of the Incas”), and four more color pages of “Cino e Franco.” Then, four more exquisitely-reproduced “Kevin the Bold” pages — the comics from April 22 & 29, 1951.

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Because this sequence has had no exposure for the past 67 years (in color, anyway), next week I will begin featuring it on this blog it in its entirety. But first, one last look at Il Nerbiniano — what a charming back cover!

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

Il Nerbiniano

Recently, I received a surprise in the mail — a large padded envelope. I tore it open before realizing who’d sent it, or where it had come from. Inside were two copies of the Italian comics publication Il Nerbiniano, sent to me by an overseas blogger with whom I’d recently connected with via email. We’d made plans to trade a couple issues of Il Nerbiniano for a book on “Kevin the Bold,” but it had slipped my mind. (I hastily placed an order).

I first became aware of Il Nerbiniano earlier this year. After some research, I began to get a handle on what it was, sort of an Italian Menomonee Falls Gazette. Because everything I saw online about it was written in Italian, it made sleuthing more difficult (so much for that one semester of the language at SUNY-Buffalo 30-some years ago!). Published in Florence, Il Nerbiniano existed from about 1973 until 1980. The editions varied in length but were usually ran 32–36 pages. Initially, there were six issues produced yearly, but by 1980 it seems to have become a quarterly.

The covers had a heavier paper stock, and the text pages were generally black and white, with occasional two- or four-color pages. Its trim size was quite large, about 9-3/4″ x 13-1/2″, nearly tabloid-sized.

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I grabbed the one with the more striking cover. I had seen an Australian comic book from the 1950s that utilized the same panel as its cover, but the art was heavily modified. Il Nerbiniano was truer to the original.

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This edition was the first issue from year eight. The table of contents listed page numbers for its features, but the book’s pages weren’t numbered. The front of the book consisted of a seven-page feature/interview with noted Disney artist Floyd Gottfredson, and was illustrated with some very nice artwork. The next page had a beautiful full-page Hal Foster illustration. Opposite this was what I was looking for — but what was going on?

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Flipped 90° so it appeared with a landscape orientation was half of a “Kevin the Bold” tabloid comic, translated into Italian. It was the bottom portion of the comic that concluded the strip’s initial sequence. Here it served as a transition to the following sequence, highlighted by Kevin’s tournament showdown with Count de Falcon.

The balloons were redrawn, and the dialog changed, ever so slightly. Details in the original were smoothed over because of the truncated appearance of the comic, and to blur the ethnicity of the protagonist.

Ma prima, ditemi qual’e’il vostro cognome translates to “But first, tell me what your surname is,” while the original states “Kevin, you are no mere shepherd. What’s your full name, lad?” More tellingly, Ho Capito! Hai un segreto che non vuoi svelare. Allora per noi sarrai per sempre Kevin il Temerario! (“I get it! You have a secret that you do not want to reveal. Then for us you will always be Kevin the Bold!”) originally ran as, “Keep your secret, lad! But the Irishman who wields this sword shall be known as Kevin the Bold!”

By splitting the tabloid comics in half and running them on two separate pages, they are printed about 12-3/4″ wide, larger than the original Sunday versions. However, because they are both oriented so that the tops of the comics align with the gutter, reading them requires a bit of book spinning. The next two pages consist of the first episode in the Count de Falcon sequence. It originally ran on December 17, 1950.

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The December 25, 1950 episode follows on the next two pages.

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Page 14 consists of the top half of the December 31, 1950 comic, but readers are left hanging because a three pages of “Flash Gordon” material begins on the next page. Recapping, that’s two full “Kevin” tabloids and two partials.

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“Collectors Corner” followed the “Flash Gordon” comics, and in turn was followed by four pages of Neil O’Keeffe and Max Trell’s “Dick’s Adventures” (running in two colors, black plus magenta). Three pages were devoted to an interview with some Italian comics collectors, and the remaining six pages consisted of five weeks of “Lone Ranger” dailies. I didn’t see any sign of the comics’ original publication dates.

The inside back cover featured “Tim Tyler’s Luck,” a half-page 1928 comic by Lyman Young, and the back cover listed a bunch of comics for sale (4.000 lira apiece).

I’ve heard of half-page comics turned into tabloids, but vice-versa? Interesting. By running landscape-oriented versions, they appear twice as large as they would otherwise, but only half as many comics fit in the six pages allotted to Kevin. Either way, there wouldn’t be enough room for the entire sequence, so it’s nice to see them enlarged like this, it must be a sign that Il Nerbiniano’s editors appreciated the quality and detail of Kreigh Collins’ comics. Perhaps this sequence continued in the next issue of Il Nebiniano?


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

Prophecy Fulfilled

Even though the subject matter of these “Bible Picture Stories” does not fully engage me, I find everything else very interesting. “Jesus in Jerusalem No. 13” has expressive character illustrations, relatable colloquial language, and the final two panels are wonderful. The style is quite similar to the prototype comic Kreigh Collins developed for the NEA, which evolved into “Mitzi McCoy.” (No big surprise, as it was illustrated at about the same point in time as these Bible comics).

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To my eye, No. 14 doesn’t have quite the appeal of the previous comic, but the mood comes across very effectively, as Jesus’ fate hangs in the balance. No. 15 is another marvel. (“Insurrection!” and an raised eyebrow “AWK” — I love it!) It also features a nice variety of perspectives and facial expressions.

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