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.

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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.

Fan Mail

Over the course of his 24-year career illustrating comics for NEA, Kreigh Collins received quite a bit of fan mail. No doubt it was flattering for Collins to read, but the real benefit was more tangible. Fan mail indicated engaged readers, and led to better treatment from the newspapers running the comics—more desirable placement in the comics section, and less chance of running in the unflattering one-third page version. When letters arrived at the NEA offices, staffers wrote back, thanking them, but suggesting they send praise directly to their local paper.

During the “Mitzi McCoy” era, Stub Goodman’s dog Tiny was the inspiration for much of the positive reader response. Tiny was an enormous Irish Wolfhound, and became the favorite of many, especially members of the Irish Wolfhound Club of America. Initially, these letters were encouraged—Lynn thought he could mobilize an enthusiastic base in a letter-writing campaign to help boost “Mitzi” ’s profile. Soon, however, it was decided the amount of energy spent catering to the wolfhound aficionados outweighed any benefit they provided.

 

After the successful debut of “Kevin the Bold,” one letter writer wondered (correctly) if the the comic strip was created by the same Kreigh Collins he had known who did illustration work for Chicago ad agencies in the early 1930s. (After all, my grandfather wasn’t the only one with that unusual name).

What other letters often had in common, besides praise, was a request. Would Mr. Collins please sent an autographed photo? Could he please send a drawing of Tiny/Mitzi/Kevin? Or would he be able to send a piece of original artwork?

Collins was happy to oblige. In his era, original comic art didn’t hold the cachet it does today. By the time his original illustrations were returned to him, those episodes were ancient history, and Collins would be busy refining layouts for upcoming comics and developing scripts for future ones. Besides mailing art to far flung fans, Kreigh also gave them to friends closer to home. Though it isn’t in fantastic condition, my favorite “Kevin the Bold” original is the one my Grandpa Collins gave to my Grandpa Palmer (my mother grew up in Grand Rapids, about ten miles from my father, who hailed from Ada, Michigan).

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Personalized by the artist, top left.

Many letters complimenting Collins’ fine illustrations came due to his dogged research efforts, whether of 16th-century Austrian armorer Konrad Seusenhofer (“my family were armorers for generations going back as far as 1250… would you be so kind to give me the source of the information…”), 16th century sailing ships (“Above all I have enjoyed the lavish details that you put into your caravels…”), or period-appropriate clothing (“the thing I am so very fond of are the gorgeous clothes”).

Features Director Ernest Lynn used the fan mail as a sales tool. A letter sent to Miami Herald brass collected several glowing quotes and a referenced the Chicago Tribune’s use of “Kevin the Bold” in an attempt to persuade them to feature the comic.

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Letters from hobbyists and art students are one thing, but recognition from peers is something else. Another 1952 letter came from comic book artist Edmond Good. I was unfamiliar with his name, but after seeing his telltale signature, I looked him up.

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A new sequence of comics begins nest week, in honor of the season.


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

Kevin’s Realization

Gigi, scheming how to steal Kevin’s treasure, plies him for information. As Kevin starts to explain, he is rudely interrupted.

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Kevin toys with an enraged Bull Blackie, but things soon turn desperate.

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From a distance, O’Neil watches as matters escalate, and he sees the horrible spectacle of two men falling to a likely death. Unknown to O’Neil, Kevin survives. As Kevin crawls from the surf, he beholds a beautiful vision. Hopefully, this image stays with him; as far as I know, this is Kevin’s last glimpse of Moya McCoy. (Having not read all of the approximately 740 comics that follow, I certainly hope this isn’t the case).

Up in the bell tower, Gigi gets a shock of her own.

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The astute Toto explains things to an embittered Gigi. Determined to lay waste to Kevin’s budding romantic relationship with her rival, Gigi smears Kevin’s reputation. While Moya is nonplussed, Kevin is taken aback, afraid that she will misunderstand his intentions. When O’Neil briefs Moya on what he has seen, things get even bleaker.

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Toto arrives and sets the record straight, but Kevin has already departed, seeking the fortune he believes he needs to woo Moya.

To follow Kevin’s next adventure, as he heads east to the Baltic, pick up a copy of “Kevin The Bold: Sunday Adventures, September 5, 1954 to June 2, 1957,” available on amazon.com. The book features the fourteen sequences that immediately followed this one. Black and white syndicate proofs are the source for 98% of the book’s comics. Highly recommended!

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

Love’s Fool(s)

The outcome of Kevin’s battle against Grudja is unclear, but Gigi believes she will pick the winner, regardless.

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As it turns out, Kevin has won, with Grudja’s actions leading to his own demise. While this war is over, the jousting between Gigi and Moya continues. Moreover, further confrontation between Grudja’s men and the McCoy clansmen is averted by Toto, in a funny denouement.

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Everyone but Kevin seems aware of Gigi’s machinations, and they are all on the side of kind-hearted Mistress McCoy. Brett tries to take control of the situation, coercing Toto to help him with his plan. Little does he realize, he is giving aid to the enemy.

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In the July 25th comic, Brett reveals part of Kevin’s origin story. The second and sixth panels show the orphaned Kevin as a boy, with a younger MacTavish Campbell MacGregor, and as a young man, showing valor in battle. Gigi, eavesdropping, is undeterred when Toto describes her perfectly, and in unflattering terms.

The marvelously-scripted sequence continues, and while it seems Kevin’s troubles are over, more peril awaits.

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Coming ten days before Valentine’s Day, the action in the August 1, 1954 comic suits the season grandly. Unfortunately, only Kevin fails to see Gigi’s contriving ways.


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

Jinni in a Bottle

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Cowardly Grudja is only willing to battle noble Kevin with the unfair advantage of his new “shooting shield.” At the same time, battle lines are being drawn between the manipulative blonde Gigi, who brashly proclaims that Kevin is hers for the taking. Gigi may be correct in calling Moya a lady, but perhaps she underestimates the fight and determination of her raven-haired counterpart.

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Tension rises in the run-up to the upcoming battle(s). While Kevin trains for his fight with Grudja, Moya is sharpening up, too. Grudja himself shows signs of unease, taking out his wrath on the poor beggar Toto, who has suddenly appeared in Ireland.

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Loyal to the knight who had previously showed him kindness, Toto plays a trick on Grudja’s soldiers. This gives Toto an opportunity to play mind games with the malleable brutes, in an attempt at unsettling them. It also gives Kreigh Collins a chance to use another alternative spelling (Jinni vs. Genie) and to illustrate Toto’s magic trick. Prior to settling on “artist” as a career choice, Collins had been keenly interested in magic. In 1937, he had written and illustrated a book on the subject, “Tricks Toys and Tim, A Book on Model-Making and Magic.” Flap copy for the unique book, published by D. Appleton-Century, reads:

Here is an unusual and fascinating how-to-do-it book, containing original and unhackneyed material. The unique presentation, the clear and understandable directions for making things, and the delightful bits of humor which run through its pages make this a most practical and readable book.

To some extent, these same words can be applied to the comics of Kreigh Collins.

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The July 4, 1954 comic makes clear the differences between Grudja and Kevin (and between Gigi and Moya). The battle begins, but its outcome is clouded. Will good triumph over evil?


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

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.

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.