Water Lore

“Water Lore” was the topper strip Kreigh Collins created for his third NEA comic, “Up Anchor!” The comic generally ran as a one-third page, so the topper was rarely seen in print. Until recently, I had only seen “Water Lore” when I’d come across Collins’ original illustrations for the comic, or in the handful of “Up Anchor!” syndicate proofs in my collection.

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The May 17, 1970 episode is one of many pieces of Collins’ original art found in the collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

I recently acquired some half-page examples of “Up Anchor!” and have now seen its topper in print, and in color.

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The “Evening Chronicle” from Allentown, Pennsylvania was one of the few newspapers to run “Up Anchor!” as a half page comic.

Collins had long hated the one-third page format in which most newspapers were running “Kevin the Bold,” and when the suits at the NEA convinced Collins to retire “Kevin” and replace it with something more contemporary, he utilized the topper so his panels wouldn’t get cropped and shrunken. In cases where it ran as a four-tiered tabloid comic, the second topper panel would be eliminated.

The “Water Lore” toppers occasionally had dates inscribed in them, indicating they may have been intended as stand-alone single panel comics. Collins often illustrated and wrote articles for consumer sailing magazines, perhaps they were the intended market.

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More commonly, they were undated.

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

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Hercules

In what could be the worst bachelor party ever, Kevin and Luoth spend the eve of the wedding working hard on a risky and dangerous task.

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Following his night of hard labor, Kevin is spent. The panels in the middle tier of the episode above are hysterical—with the first two contrasting the eager bride and the reluctant groom, and the third panel existing somewhere between the screwball and the absurd (and practically begging to be taken out of context). Meanwhile, Kevin faces his moment of truth.

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Mascarading as Hercules, Kevin passes one test, but unexpectedly faces another.

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Luoth understands that if Barda breaks the engagement, it is mutually beneficial to Kevin and himself. Luoth is willing to take a great risk in order to restore his standing with Barda. Finally, a sudden thunderstorm and some quick thinking allows Kevin to escape his fate as a married man.


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

The Obelisk

I wish I had some color half-pages from this sequence to intersperse with the black and white art, but the printer proofs really accentuate Collins’ wonderful line work. And As you can see, the third-page versions that ran in many newspapers during this era of Kevin left much to be desired. With these shrunken comics, each panel was cropped, and the lovely “throwaway” was eliminated.

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For the time being, Barda is able to calm her erstwhile boyfriend’s anger, but her situation proves too sticky for any further help from her father. Though Kevin will have his hands full dealing with the jealous, jilted Luoth, he is as calm and confident as ever.

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Someone please hide those scissors!

Quick thinking and a sudden, unlikely alliance buys Kevin time as he tries to dig his way out of trouble.

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

The Trap

Barda has a new muse, and she gives her new toy both freedom and fair warning.

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Determined not to make the same mistake twice, Kevin is cautious.

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The comic used to patch the hole in this proof reveals the main problem with one-third-page versions—a significant chunk of the opening panel (to the right of Kevin) has been cropped out.

The names of Kreigh Collins’ ancillary characters were generally symbolic. As the child of a druid-inspired cult’s spiritual leader, Barda (“daughter of the earth”) is an appropriate name for a young poetess. Although she seems to relish dominating her love interests, she is not to be confused with Big Barta (a DC comics character with similar proclivities that debuted a decade later).

In the December 11 episode, our poetess riffs on a scene from King Lear (“The knave turns fool that runs…”). Of note, five years down the road Shakespeare would figure even more prominently as inspiration for a “Kevin the Bold” sequence.

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Having made Kevin an offer he could not refuse, Barda finds trouble of her own.


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

The Secret Valley

The peak years for “Kevin the Bold” were the 1950s, but by mid-1957, the Chicago Tribune, an early champion of the comic, was running inferior one-third page versions of the strip. While other papers continued running the strip as a half-page, like the Detroit News, many soon followed suit with the dreaded one-thirds.

Finding half-page examples of the comic from the late-50s can be difficult, so I am lucky to have numerous syndicate proofs in my collection. These proofs (veloxes?), show the entire half-page comic, and are printed on a nice heavy stock. Kreigh Collins used these to provide color guides to the NEA. He would paint them with watercolors, and these would be used by the NEA as guides while colorizing the comics. Extra copies of the proofs were kept in Collins’ studio, and sometimes these ended up being used like coloring books by either his youngest sons or his grandchildren. In retrospect, it’s a real shame, but at the time it probably seemed like a “grand” idea (to use a word that reminds me of Gramma Collins). While some of these proofs were colored or painted on, others suffered a worse fate, as the aspiring artists attempted collages, apparently, cutting holes in the proofs with scissors.

The following sequence, which ran from November of 1960 to January of ’61, has 11 episodes. I have cleaned up one that was painted on (our young artist hadn’t gotten very far with the November 27 episode—for once a short attention span proved beneficial), and I used some one-third page comics to patch up two others.

Despite these flaws, the sequence itself is wonderful. It contains all of the strip’s classic elements: beautiful scenery, a gorgeous young woman (smitten with Kevin, naturally), mystery, and action, plus a nice feat of engineering. It begins with Kevin taking a needed break from his adventures; he has returned alone to Ireland.

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After falling into the trap, Kevin’s captors comment on his size and strength, comparing him to one of the ancient gods they worship. Despite his appearance, a perplexed Kevin is released to Barda, the daughter of the cult’s leader.


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

NEA Daily and Sunday Comics

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Among my collection of Kreigh Collins’s comics is a sampler of NEA comics from mid-1955. It looks likel the entire NEA comic package for the week of May 23–29, 1955 — but I’m not sure because it’s the only one of its kind I’ve ever seen.

It’s a 32-page, self cover, black and white tabloid, printed on a coated stock. Curiously, it isn’t bound in any way, so the eight individual sheets that it consists of can be pulled apart and put back together with ease. Because of its lack of staples, nice reproduction quality, and decent paper stock, I wonder if it wasn’t intended for newspapers to use for printing their comic sections.

If not, it apparently made for a nice keepsake for the NEA artists whose work was contained inside. As a young boy, I remember stacks of these things piled in Grandpa Collins’ studio. And of course I noticed the comic that appeared inside the front cover!

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Beyond that, I’m not sure how far I read. I might’ve skipped the Sunday and daily Boots and Her Buddies comics (by Edgar Martin), but who could resist V.T. Hamlin’s Alley Oop?

It’s interesting to see which strips had daily versions, and which were Sunday-only. Although the topic of Kevin the Bold becoming a daily came up between Collins and his NEA boss, Ernest Lynn, it never happened.

I’m not too well-acquainted with many of the other comics that follow, but I am familiar with others (mostly due to seeing them on the backs of my Kevins). I recognize the name Walt Scott, since he drew the charming illustration that the NEA staff gave my grandfather on the occasion of his twin sons’ birth (in February, 1951).

Besides Walt Scott (whose The Little People, below, ran on page 7), I’m familiar with Red Braucher (quite a character himself), Herbert W. Walker (Newspaper Enterprise Association president), Dean Miller (he illustrated the Vic Flint Sunday on page 15), and… that’s about it.

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Here’s Walt Scott’s take on Kreigh Collins serenading his newborn baby sons Kevin and Glen (while older sons David and Eric crack wise).

Next up in the NEA tabloid are a Sunday and dailies for Freckles and His Friends (Merrill Blosser), Walt Scott’s The Little People (accompanied by its topper strip, Huckleberry Hollow), and seven days of Captain Easy, by Lesley Turner.

Then, Sundays and dailies for Out Our Way with “The Willets” (J.R. Williams) and Pricilla’s Pop (Al Vermeer).

Continuing to show the variety the NEA package offered, Sundays and dailies for Vic Flint (Dean Miller/Jay Heavilin) and Bugs Bunny (uncredited) follow.

Next up: Chris Welkin Planeteer (Russ Winterbotham), a “fun page” with several small strips including Tom Trick Fun Detective (credited simply to Dale), and seven days of Our Boarding House with Major Hoople (six daily one-panels and a Sunday tabloid).

The single-panel comics Side Glances (by Galbraith), and Carnival (by Dick Turner) follow.

Bringing up the rear are several comics featuring women (Brenda Breeze by Rolfe) or drawn by them (Sweetie Pie by Nadine Seltzer). Continuing in a domestic vein, there is Hershberger’s Funny Business, and apparently to fill extremely tiny spaces, Little Liz, a tiny daily single-panel, that is essentially an illustrated fortune cookie message.

Finally, it’s The Story of Martha Wayne by Wilson Scruggs.

If anyone has further information about any of these comics or the NEA, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section, below.


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

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.

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.