New Toy

Even fierce Grudja fears Kevin, but beware, the Norse invader has a new toy. Meanwhile, Kevin, Moya, and her clansmen are under siege.

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Grudja’s counsel has advised him to face Kevin one on one, in public combat. Thus, the Norseman reacts angrily when he learns of Bull Blackie’s actions in pursuit of Kevin. The traitorous Black Irishman has a personal vendetta against the McCoys, but Grudja has other plans to quell these nettlesome Irish resisters.

The May 23 comic is notable for its dramatic twists, varied visual perspectives, Kevin’s very boldness, and to a lesser extent, dated language.

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Making the classic bad guy mistake of letting his prey get away while planning his more appropriate demise, Grudja lets Kevin off the hook. Soon enough, Kevin finds himself in the center of another conflict, as the tenor of the extended sequence shifts.

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A particular aspect of Kreigh Collins’ comics that especially appeals to me is the wonderful throwaway panels that appear whenever the comic ran in a half-page or half-tabloid format. One-third page comics are undoubtably atrocities, suffering from severe cropping, yet even full-page tabloid comics lacked Kreigh’s charming throwaways.

The throwaways’ use was flexible: they could function as visual footnotes, with further explanation of plot device; they could show additional views of a comic’s scenery; or they presented another opportunity to show a pretty girl. In some cases the information in the “visual footnotes” could be recycled — with an adjustment for inflation, if necessary. (Note the difference in a suit of armor’s value between 1954 and 1962!)

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(You remember the story behind that armor of Kevin’s, don’t you?)

 


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

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Grudja

KTB 041154 panel 150 QCCKevin is excited to return to Ireland, and especially so to return to Castle McCoy. After a long absence, he misses much about his homeland. Longing to settle down, imagining a peaceful life as a farmer, Kevin’s high hopes for a joyful reunion are quickly dashed. Evil Grudja is menacing Ireland, and at his side is none other than Bull Blackie, the villain in the inaugural sequence of “Kevin the Bold.”

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With Bull Blackie on her trail, Moya escapes, her beauty belying her ferocity. To her horror, Moya is shocked to realize the man she has knocked cold is her champion, Kevin. However, Moya is not the only one who will be startled by the reappearance of the legendary knight.

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Despite the effects of his nasty knock on the head, Kevin’s primal instincts kick in. So do those of Kevin’s creator, as the sequence continues with more beautifully drawn comics and a plot line with multiple dramatic arcs.

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

Toto

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On April 4, 1954, a new adventure began for Kevin. It featured characters old and new, with battles between Kevin and Norse sea raiders, and between two beautiful women vying for Kevin’s attention. Besides serving as historical fiction and name dropping people and events of the times, the sequence featured examples of one of Kreigh Collins’ hallmarks: illustrated and labelled examples of 15th-century tools and technology. It also revealed more of Kevin’s shrouded back story.

En route to Cagnes on the French Riviera, Kevin encounters Toto in northern Italy. Their meeting is brief, but before parting, the clownish trickster tells Kevin’s fortune. He sees danger ahead, which should come as no surprise to either Kevin or the seasoned Sunday comics reader.

Two points if anyone has heard of Till Eulenspiegel or François Villon.

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The “Australian Edition” comic book featuring this sequence used the splash panel from the April 11 strip for its cover, and as usual, redrew it to better serve the new format.

Upon being reunited with his ward, Kevin learns that Brett also seems able to predict the future. Little does Brett realize how necessary Kevin’s weapons will become.


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

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.

Throwaways Revisited

Ten months after first appearing in Sunday comics sections across North America, “Kevin the Bold” underwent a minor revision. Kreigh Collins began creating special versions for the Chicago Sunday Tribune, as a result of a suggestion made by A. M. Kennedy, the Trib’s Sunday editor. When he received this letter, Collins would have been inking the comics that would run three months later, in October. These are the comics that were featured over the last several weeks.

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A couple of years earlier, the salesforce from the NEA (Collins’ syndicate) had approached the Trib and tried to sell them on the idea of picking up Collins’ first comic feature, “Mitzi McCoy.” Frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations, Kreigh had taken to corresponding directly with the Trib’s brass, and even paid them a visit. Collins had previously lived in Chicago, and was happy to make the 200-mile drive to the big city from his home in West Michigan. His efforts resulted in the Tribune running Collins’ five-week Christmas feature in their Saturday edition, the first NEA strip to grace the Tribune’s pages, and a relationship was forged.

What seemed superfluous to Kennedy were the comic’s throwaway panels. After receiving Kennedy’s letter, Collins mentioned it to his Ernest Lynn, his boss at the NEA. Lynn explained to Kennedy that these small panels were a necessity due to the NEA’s comics formats, but he agreed that Collins could produce special versions for the Trib on occasion.

 

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These unique versions ran eight times, initially on October 28, 1951. With fewer panels, “Kevin” would more closely resemble the Trib’s other comics.

Below are the Chicago Tribune’s comics with their corresponding NEA proofs. The comics work nicely either way. Eliminating the throwaway and enlarging another panel produced handsome results for the Trib, but the original versions’ throwaways are charming as well, allowing for an injection of humor, mood, or feminine beauty. The December 2, 1951 comic simply added a gutter to divide one of its panels into a format from which the NEA could produce its tabloid version.

The modified panels were successful, but it became apparent that they weren’t needed in all cases. Lynn pointed this out in a letter he sent Kreigh a couple weeks later, specifically mentioning the November 4, 1951 comic, shown below.

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By my count, there were eight comics with the throwaway panels eliminated; the final one was published on January 27, 1952. I don’t have examples showing the throwaways for two of the dates — November 11 and 18, 1952 — those BW proofs are missing. Worse yet is the fate suffered by the proof of the January 13, 1952 comic.

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In this case, the collaborating “artist” was either my brother or myself, or one of my cousins. As kids, when we’d go visit Gramma Teddy, she had a wonderful collection of comics for us to read out in Grandpa’s old studio — we must have also thought of them as coloring book fodder. Oh well, at least the October 28, 1951 comic remained unscathed! It’s an absolute masterpiece.

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Cliffhanger

In another dramatic episode, Kevin faces von Blunt on foot. Calm as ever, and despite the Baron’s duplicity, Kevin continues to fight honorably. The comic ends with a genuine cliffhanger, and for me, this wasn’t the only mystery it held.

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My comics collection came about largely through packages periodically sent by my uncle (also named Kevin). At this point, I have copies in some form or another of the first 15 years of my grandfather’s comics. Initially, I didn’t have many of the earliest “Kevin”s, but I did have this compelling cliffhanger.

At the time, I wasn’t even sure which newspaper it came from; now it is obvious that its origin was the Chicago Sunday Tribune. What added to its mystery was its lack of a date, and the reverse side of the comic didn’t yield any clues, either. The NEA copyright line identifies it as from 1952, but in lieu of a publication date, its panels were sequentially numbered (to my knowledge, the only time it occurred with Kreigh’s comics, and in my opinion, completely unnecessary).

Every year or so (as my uncle cleared out the old family homestead), a new comics bonanza would arrive. Eventually, the gaps were filled (until October 21, 1962, anyway), and it became apparent that this comic was dated January 6, 1952. Meanwhile, the fates of Kevin and Baron von Blunt also became known.

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Von Blunt’s remains were identified by the spectators, but there was no sign of Kevin, and he was feared (and to the reader, appeared) dead. Kevin’s apparent demise has left both Stub and Princess Lea heartbroken, and as the comic transitioned to a new chapter, a new character was introduced.

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Suddenly, sadness became elation, as it was discovered that Glaustark’s savior, Kevin, lived. Kevin’s adventures would also continue. The tale of Brett Hartz and his grandfather previously appeared on this blog, and can be seen here.


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

Honor vs. Treachery

The December 16, 1951 comic is another beauty. Wonderfully drawn and superbly reproduced, Kevin and Stub are quite relaxed despite the impending danger. In fact, Stub seems more interested in Kevin’s love life than his imminent battle with Baron von Blunt.

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Whereas Kevin stands for honor, von Blunt represents treachery. Knocked from his mount by foul play, Kevin must face the Baron on foot. However, his hours of training with Stub will prove to have paid off.

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The trick of the thrown claymore was demonstrated a year earlier, in one of the earliest “Kevin the Bold” episodes. Despite its success, Kevin still faced the daunting task of facing von Blunt, this time armed with a dagger. He has kept his cool, and perhaps the Baron has underestimated Kevin yet again.

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Stay tuned — next week features the battle’s dramatic conclusion.


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

Strangers in the Night

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Brought together by chance, Kevin hears a firsthand account of the plight of the Glaustarkians from a beautiful young woman he initially believes to be a peasant. A nightwatchman soon confirms what Kevin had heard from the peasant, and Kevin realizes what must be done.

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The December 9, 1951 comic is another gem. Its nine panels are filled with beautifully-illustrated horses and settings, witty dialog, and charming examples of the principal characters’ qualities. When Kevin strikes the gong, he startles his horse Satan, and appears to crack the gong itself. Stub fearlessly confronts von Blunt in one panel and nearly swoons at the end, when he discovers Princess Lea’s scented handkerchief.

In case you were wondering if the help wanted ad Kreigh Collins had placed in the Grand Rapids Herald produced any results, sure enough — it worked. A local gentleman named Frank Tatroe filled the bill. If you compare the second photo below with the penultimate panel of the December 9 comic, you can see for yourself.

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

The Slide

Early “Kevin the Bold” sequences could stretch over a significant chunk of the calendar. This one, featuring Baron von Blunt, ran for 18 weeks. The Search for Sadea, whose principals appeared in last week’s post, had 22 episodes, and lasted nearly half a year). Such long storylines allowed character development in the strip, and its stories and stunning illustrations proved to very popular with readers. The November 4, 1951 comic is exquisite.

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Kevin and his men face a huge obstacle in trying to deliver weapons along a dangerous mountain path, but they aren’t the only ones trapped between a rock and a hard place.

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As usual, Kevin’s outrageous plan has worked. Astride his horse Satan (won from Count DeFalcon in a jousting tournament), Kevin successfully led the horses down the cliff. Unfortunately, they are not yet home free.

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A close brush with von Blunt has steeled Kevin’s resolve to deliver the people of Glaustark from under the Baron’s thumb. Hoping to clear his mind, Kevin sets out on an evening walk. Meanwhile, Princess Lea also heads out for the moonlight. Perhaps the night air will benefit both of them.


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

Princess Lea Pursued

In preparation for his confrontation with Baron Von Blunt, Kevin musters some forces and makes plans to arm them. His past good deeds help as he calls in a favor. Meanwhile, his antagonist continues his brutal ways.

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About that armor refurbished by Seusenhofer… it looks familiar…

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Rebuffed by beautiful Princess Lea again, Baron Von Blunt seethes with anger. Vowing to destroy Glaustark, the stage is set for conflict. In an extraordinary final splash panel, Kevin arrives at last. As usual, Stub and Kevin are confident. First, Kevin and his men face an arduous journey just to reach Von Blunt. Then, will they be strong enough to overcome the Baron?


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