Travel

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In each of Kreigh Collins’ three NEA comics, travel is a frequent theme.

Mitzi McCoy flew her private airplane into the northern Canadian wilds, and later to Chicago. She also spent time in Florida. Kevin originated in Ireland but traveled widely throughout Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East — he even visited the New World toward the end of his run (c. 1967). The Marlin family’s travels in “Up Anchor!” mirrored Collins’ own — besides sailing the Great Lakes and the Great Loop, the schooner Heather also called New England and Maine home for two seasons. A change of scenery provides a cartoonist an opportunity for varied tableaux, new storylines, and a chance to meet new characters.

Two years ago, I started this blog with the goal of raising awareness of my grandfather’s career (in advance of the publication of the collected “Mitzi McCoy” comics). While I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, I do know that my blog has done a fair bit of traveling too. According to its statistical data, it has been viewed by people in 55 countries across the world, amazing! I wish I could thank each visitor, I’m sure I’d also meet some characters.

The statistics are interesting, and I am pleased to note surprises. There have been slightly more viewers from France than from the United States, and there have been no visitors whatsoever from mainland China or Russia. Punching above their weight class are #4 Portugal and #6 Croatia (the 88th- and 129th-most populous countries in the world). The top twelve countries make up about 96% of my traffic, and while this is great, it’s more exciting to reach especially distant and smaller places. To my singular readers from Luxembourg, Uruguay, Greece, Guam, Romania, Slovenia, Qatar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Taiwan, Ukraine, European Union (is that even a country?), Singapore, and Greenland (population 56,412), thank you!

 

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The Tournament

Tournament preparations are completed; it is time for the show. The few rules are explained. The dramatic sequence of the Chicago Sunday Tribune’s new comic feature begins.

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With a lot less color and not as much fanfare, the action also unfolded in another recent subscriber to the NEA’s new comic. Kreigh Collins had a longstanding business relationship with a local paper, the Grand Rapids Press, for whom he had previously done illustrations. Like many cities of the era, Grand Rapids had several daily newspapers, but It took a while before any of them started running his comic. (A few months ahead of the strip’s transition to “Kevin,” the Press started running “Mitzi McCoy” in July of 1950).

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Now, with the Trib’s vivid reproduction.

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Kevin followed Stub’s plan to slide off his mount in order to try to lure De Falcon into combat on foot. The only problem — De Falcon is still astride his warhorse, Satan. However, playing possum proves effective, and Kevin avoids the Baron’s coup de grâce.

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Kevin’s own quick thinking leads to his desired outcome of mano a mano, where Stub declared, “On foot, ye’re his better.”

Stub is absolutely correct, as Kevin makes quick work of De Falcon. Claiming the Count’s horse, but sparing his life, Kevin realizes he has done well to allow him to live. He discovers the fallen man’s humanity, and is about to set out on another quest.


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

Training

From its onset, “Kevin the Bold” had much going for it. Kreigh Collins was bursting with enthusiasm for its subject matter, he had the experience and artistic chops to pull of such a period comic, and he had the backing of the Chicago Sunday Tribune to give his work a wider audience. Collins also had a compelling collection of original storylines to illustrate.

The result was some exceptional work. These next three comics neatly distill the essence of the comic strip and its protagonists. Kevin is honorable and humble, yet invincible; MacTavish Campbell MacGregor (“Stub”) is steadfast and loyal; and Moya is cheerful, smart, and beautiful. It’s important to note that as Mitzi McCoy’s ancestor, Moya more closely resembles the heroine of Collins’ earlier comic feature than Kevin and his squire resemble their forebearers, Tim and Stub (despite the older man’s familiar sobriquet). Sadly, Moya does not last long as a prominent character in “Kevin”.

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With the date of his fight against De Falcon looming, Kevin starts training, and he also begins to upgrade his gear. In addition to his Claymore, he now has chain mail. With Stub as his tactician, Kevin gets to work.

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Acknowledging his past heroism, one of Moya’s father’s subject presents Kevin with a horse more suitable for his tournament date. Appropriately, she is mare, leading to a false sense of confidence in Kevin’s opponent. Like Kevin, she is not to be underestimated, an error made by many of Kevin’s adversaries.

The comics also contrast the two sides in the upcoming battle. Despite the obvious differences, maybe Kevin and the Baron have more in common than they realize.

The Count de Falcon

There is trouble in town, as someone has rung the bell at the village tower. Kevin and Stub arrive and are surprised to find out who was calling for help. Also arriving on the scene is the squire for a formidable German, the Count de Falcon.

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The light-hearted atmosphere of the previous comics dissipates quickly as the tension builds, and matters escalate quickly. The Baron throws down the gauntlet, and formally challenges Kevin to a duel.

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Making matters worse, Stub realizes the terms of battle are not negotiable. As his trainer, the squire knows Kevin’s abilities well, but is worried about the advantages the Count will have. We shall see if Kevin’s strongest suit, his sense of honor, will somehow help him prevail.

 

 

First Impressions

Following the abrupt transformation of the comic strip “Mitzi McCoy” into “Kevin the Bold,” Kreigh Collins was ready with several dynamic storylines for his new hero, and his artwork was equally up to the task.

At the end of the new comic strip’s first chapter, Kevin defeated the Moorish pirates and saved the locals from enslavement. As a reward, Moya McCoy’s father presented Kevin with a historically significant claymore, as well as his distinguished title.

The second chapter of “Kevin the Bold” begins with a marvelous comic. Its splash panel shows a beautifully garbed Moya, as MacTavish Campbell MacGregor is introduced. Upon meeting Moya, “Stub” announces Kevin’s simple credo. Moya instantly takes to the prickly Scotsman and fires a snappy line at her new friend.

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As is often the case, the transitional comics between the main sequences are lighthearted, but action comes to the fore in the next comic, with another exciting splash panel. Stub has resumed Kevin’s training, with our protagonist getting acquainted with his fearsome new weapon. No doubt this training will come in handy at a later time.

The comic also shows the amazing reproductive abilities of Collins’ newest champion, the Chicago Tribune. The Trib typically ran its new feature near the front of its comic section, and the newspaper was able to showcase the Kreigh’s skills with its own superb coloring, including a very nice example of aerial perspective in the ninth panel.

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Significantly, this panel shows a distant bell tower, which calls Kevin to action.

 

 

Chasing Mitzi

When I first started collecting comics, I dreamed about putting together a book featuring “Kevin the Bold.” Being a graphic designer who worked in publishing, it didn’t seem too far-fetched. My Uncle Kevin had given me a large amount of my grandfather’s comics in 2011, and the question seemed to be what comics to use. I didn’t have the entire 18 year run, but I did have several years complete. The logical starting place for a serial like “Kevin” was its beginning, but my collection had some missing comics among the early ones. I didn’t get off to a flying start.

A year or so later, uncle Kevin sent me another massive package of Kreigh’s comics. Inside were hundreds of “Kevin the Bold”s, as well as the complete run of Collins’ earlier comic, “Mitzi McCoy.”  I’d heard about “Mitzi”, but had never seen any examples of the short-lived strip (it ran for less than two years). They comics were beautiful and fresh. Its run of 99 comics seemed like a manageable size to tackle in a first effort at publishing a book, so I switched gears.

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Mitzi’s debut comic.

Unsure how to proceed, I got to work thinking I’d figure it out as I went along. I started scanning my “Mitzi”s. Although it was a time consuming task with my ancient Microtek tabloid scanner, in retrospect, it was the easiest part of the process.

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Every time I switch it on, I pray that its lamp hasn’t burned out.

Nearly three years ago, while scouring the internet for information on “Mitzi,” I came across an essay with a ton of information on the strip, much of which was new to me. I began corresponding with the essay’s author, and soon enough we had a loose agreement for him to write the introduction to the book.

The next progress was reconnecting with a publisher  with whom I had discussed the possibility of doing a “Kevin” book. He showed interest in “Mitzi,” and the project gained momentum.

I started color correcting and retouching my comics in earnest, and I soon realized a major problem with my book was that for some of the comics, I only had one-third page versions. The bulk of my comics were half-pages (from the Indianapolis Times or the Pittsburgh Press), and others were tabloids or half-tabloids (New York Mirror).

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It’s so sad to see this comic cropped and squeezed into a one-third page format!

Two years ago I paid my first visit to the Grand Rapids Public Library. Its Local History department has a fantastic collection of Kreigh Collins’ illustrations and papers, with numerous original comic illustrations, including many original “Mitzi McCoy”s. Several of these originals were comics I had the inferior one-third page versions of, so I was getting closer to my goal of upgrading my lesser comics. Shortly afterward, I realized my prospective publisher had several more larger versions, and my list of inferior comics was down to six.

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Even though I live 800 miles away, the librarians are starting to recognize me (I’ve now made the trip three times).

Unfortunately, progress slowed during the next year and I wondered if I would ever find the elusive comics, or even get the book finished (and published). I’d been looking high and low, with occasional eBay purchases from sellers as far away as Switzerland.

However, my persistence paid off, and last month I found the last six comics I needed at a single source — a comic book shop 12 miles away from my house. The comics cost a bit more than I wanted to spend, as they were each part of intact New York Sunday Mirror comic sections. But being able to seal the deal made me willing to splurge.

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Eureka! (But they cost more than 10 cents each).

Amazingly, the shop employee that sold me the comics was as much of a site for sore eyes as the comics themselves. I wondered if these comics had been lurking in Moonachie, NJ all along, but Shannon told me they’d been acquired relatively recently, at last year’s Baltimore Comic-Con.

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Shannon wasn’t in costume when she made the sale, but she was sweet as she is pretty.

The lesson I learned was to always follow your dreams.

 

 

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.

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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Special No. 4

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Published by Southdown Press Pty. Ltd. (of West Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), my copy of Special No. 4 isn’t in the best shape — it’s pretty brittle. I’m not familiar with comic book grading scales, and this one might not fare so well. If it was an LP record it would be a cutout, with its corner hole punched like that. It features the transitionary comic between Mitzi McCoy and Kevin the Bold, and the first two sequences is Kevin. And that’s not all.

In order to squeeze in an ad, the sixth comic has been edited, omitting a few panels. (The original October 29, 1950 comic is shown for comparison). Another thing I’m unfamiliar with is the Australian classic Marmaduke Mouse. Perhaps that’s just as well.

Southdown Press was really going to bat for its other titles in Special No. 4. While Kevin’s first sequence has appeared earlier on this blog, this second one, featuring Count DeFalcon as the villain, hasn’t. A comic early in the sequence was edited to allow for another house ad. It’s a shame because the original December 24, 1950 comic is a beauty. One line of dialog from a lost panel was salvaged and added to a remaining panel, so it could’ve been worse.

Arriving at Castle McCoy, Kevin’s squire is introduced, and MacTavish Campbell MacGregor gets busy training Kevin. To atone for a feckless youth, Kevin has sworn to protect women and children, and apparently his responsibilities include the well-being of animals, too.

Later, Special No. 4 eliminates an entire Kevin the Bold episode, leaving out an important detail — where Kevin obtained some mail to wear in his showdown against Count DeFalcon. (One would hope Southdown Press had a good reason. I’ve included this missing episode for the sake of continuity). In advance of the duel, the squire’s character is nicely developed, and readers of Kreigh’s previous strip (Mitzi McCoy) will recognize him as Tim Graham’s boss, Stub Goodman.

Preparations have been finalized for the tournament field and the action gets underway. Riding a mare and wearing ancient mail, Kevin seems ill-prepared to face an opponent as strong as DeFalcon.

Kevin is able to outwit his adversary, and even spares his life. He has earned the respect of DeFalcon, and takes over the Count’s quest. The sequence is over, yet there is one spread left in Special No. 4. What was important enough to justify excising the January 21, 1951 comic?

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No Comment.

Like Special No. 6, the back cover features a one-color ad for some of the publisher’s other titles. It has a certain charm but fails to remove the bitter taste in my mouth left by Specks. Yeesh!

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Special No. 6

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Since writing previously about Australian Edition comic books, I have acquired a couple more. Tip-Top Comics No. 4 was nice because it had the transitional comic where “Mitzi McCoy” became “Kevin the Bold” and included the new strip’s first two sequences. No. 6 was pretty cool because it also had early Kevin comics. I knew these Tip-Top comics sometimes ran storylines out of sequence, yet I didn’t actually flip all the way through No. 6 — the comic was somewhat fragile and the print quality of these things isn’t all that great. My mistake!

Being especially interested in Kreigh Collins’ first NEA comic (Mitzi), I really wanted to get my hands on the earlier Tip-Top comics. No. 3’s cover, which I’d seen online, featured a late “Mitzi McCoy” storyline, so I figured Nos. 1 and 2 would have earlier Mitzis.

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I finally got around to paging through the No. 6. Since it contained the same early 1952 comics I’d been running for the past six weeks — the Death Trap and Moab — now seemed like a good time to run No. 6 on this blog. I didn’t want to damage the comic book by flattening it out completely on my scanner, so I took some photos of it outside with a sheet of plexiglass holding the spreads open. This produced mixed results — in addition to some reflection, the early February afternoon didn’t provide ideal lighting. But the shots are OK, and are interesting to compare to the Sunday comics versions I just featured.

I noticed Tip-Top eliminated several panels from the February 24 comic in order to squeeze in an ad, and I learned that the Great Dane in Brad Anderson’s gag cartoon wasn’t the first comics critter named Marmaduke. (For what it’s worth, Anderson hailed from a town next to the one in which I grew up). But wait — there’s more.

The comic on page 18 wrapped up the Kevin sequence, and its final transitional panels were deleted to Squeeze in another small ad hyping a “Red Ryder” comic book. “Red Ryder” is the former NEA comic strip whose departure for a rival syndicate opened the door for Collins’ “Mitzi McCoy” at NEA. Coincidentally, on the facing page is a Mitzi comic. I doubt anyone else would be as excited to have seen it as I was. Generally, storylines in Mitzi ran for two or three months, but this comic was a stand-alone episode. My assumption that it was a filler page between Kevin sequences proved to be wrong — eight more Mitzi comics followed!

In order to squeeze the entire “Yolo” sequence into the back of Special No. 6, one comic was eliminated, which is a shame for several reasons. We miss some of Jerry’s back story, we don’t see a nice rendering of “Moroccan Heat Wave” Yolo, and we are faced with some hack’s miserable lettering in a following comic’s introductory caption. (Even worse, it’s misleading — page 20 in the comic book).

I have inserted the missing comic (July 30, 1950) above. From here, the comics run without interruption or editing, which is a good thing, since the final three comics in this sequence are quite compelling.

Sometimes, Australian editions have filler comics, often really lousy stuff. Special No. 6 turned out to be a real treasure. Of its 28 pages, there is a cover (mine is in very nice condition), 17 pages of Kevin comics, nine pages of Mitzis, and a pretty cool monochromatic back cover, as well.

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The other thing I noticed was that the front cover image was redrawn, as there are subtle differences from the original comic panel that inspired it. Brett has been added to the frame (it looks like the reference for Brett is the March 16 comic), the attacker’s sword is in a different position, and Kevin’s left leg has straightened out (leaving him in an awkward defensive stance, which I’m sure Kreigh would have found most egregious of all). ktb-panel-for-cover-no-6