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.

KTB Comicbook 24Lg

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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.

Happy Easter

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Unfortunately, I have never seen the remaining comics in the “Jesus in Jerusalem” series. This year, Easter falls on April Fool’s Day, and my apologies if this seems like a(nother) prank — last year, I had a little fun. Since the Easter story is so well-known, I hope the illustration above will be an acceptable stand-in for the missing Bible Stories Comics. The “Jesus in Jerusalem” series had perhaps nine more episodes before the action switched back to the Old Testament, and a series about Moses began, which ran over the course of an entire year (Wow! How long was he lost in the desert?!)

The Bible Stories Comics I have seen came from two sources — the Kreigh Collins collection in the Grand Rapids Public Library, and my Uncle Kevin’s collection of his father’s artwork. However, I know of another person with access to these comics, reportedly the entire series! The plan is that his company will publish the “Mitzi McCoy” book, and then issue a second volume on the “Lost Art of Kreigh Collins” featuring the Bible Stories Comics. Please stay tuned!


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

 

The Darkest Hour

The next three “Bible Picture Story” comics show Jesus’ final hours. Confronted by an angry mob and at the mercy of an ineffective and conflicted administrator, he is stoic as his fate unfolds.

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Although the narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion is likely one of the most famous stories ever, there is one unfortunate surprise ahead — as far as “Bible Picture Stories” are concerned.


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.

The Last Last Supper

For each episode of “Bible Picture Stories,” Kreigh Collins received a lengthy outline from writer M. C. Wilson. Collins’ first job was to distill the story into six or seven panels, keeping the message intact, a very difficult task. Making it visually interesting was less of a challenge, but still no mean feat. With the Bible as subject matter, the artist had a fine line to walk, so as not to upset his editors or audience. As correspondence between MPH editor Morgan Stinemetz and Collins shows, the artist consistently delivered the goods.

These comics were finished in late summer, 1946, when conversations were just beginning between Collins and his future employer, the NEA syndicate. The appeared in issues of Boys Today and Girls Today in the spring of 1947, during Lent.

The Last Supper was a rare case of the subject matter being spread over two weeks (possibly the only time this happened). Here is part two.

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The Easter story is very familiar, even to a lapsed Episcopalian such as myself. However, I don’t remember Peter’s attack on the guard. The action in the fourth panel foreshadows the swordplay of “Kevin the Bold.”

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

Boys (and Girls) Today

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Mrs. Stephen Collins was Kreigh’s mother Nora. 

Before his comics career took off with the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), Kreigh Collins spent about eight years freelancing for the Methodist Publishing House of Nashville, Tennessee. Collins got his start with the MPH writing and illustrating stories for the Sunday School publications Boys Today and Girls Today. As described in an earlier post, he was eventually asked to illustrate stories from the Bible in comic strip form, and this project became known as “Bible Picture Stories.”

Source material for these weekly Bible comics came from both the Old and New Testaments. The first few years featured extended sequences on Paul, Joseph, Mary, and John the Baptist. Two more sequences followed (Jesus in Galilee; Jesus Leaves Galilee), and then came one on Jesus in Jerusalem, which ran from December, 1946 until June, 1947.

The following comics are from the History & Special Collections Department of the Grand Rapids Public Library. Today, these comics are quite rare—even the library’s collection (given to the library by Collins’ widow, Therese) is incomplete. The sequence that follows starts with the third episode of “Jesus in Jerusalem.”

My understanding of the Bible is not very deep—maybe things would have turned out differently if these sweet comics were part of my Sunday School lessons! However, I do recall a certain villain named Judas…

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Besides the fine illustrations, aspects of the comics that appeal to me are the speech balloons, with Collins’ distinctive lettering, and the colloquial language, must have been relatable for the young reader. The small introductory illustrations at the tops of the comics are nice touch, too.  The fifth comic in the series opens with a large splash panel, as Jesus dramatically confronts the scribes and Pharisees.

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The story told in these comics may be familiar, but check back next week to see how it was told in these mid-1940s comics.


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.