Ending with a bang

Sorry, but… April Fools! The two Menomonee Falls Gazette comics from last week were fakes — they don’t exist. Here are the color half-pages for the final comics in this sequence.

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A crooked archer, Shark Donnelly wasn’t much better at swimming — posing as a sailor was a poor career choice. The fate he suffers is grim (and reminiscent of Captain Zinbad’s demise in Kevin’s first sequence).

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All that’s left is Clarissa and Ben’s reunion. As the sequence ends, it transitions to the next storyline, again involving romance.

MFG Rarities

Most of the comic strips in my collection were given to me by Kreigh Collins’ son Kevin. My windfall covered about half of my grandfather’s NEA work, printed in one form or another. I received my first large batch from Uncle Kevin in 2008, with other packages arriving later. Between these deliveries, I purchased other comics to fill holes in my collection.

Initially, I bought anything I could afford that I didn’t already have. I soon learned to ignore one-third page comics and focus on half-pagers. Among the printed samples I received from Uncle Kevin were different types of black-and-white proofs, as well as other BW versions. I paid little attention to these; I was focused on the color halves from the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit News.

As I began working my way through my grandfather’s old tearsheets, I learned more about what I had, and a couple things I’d overlooked became more interesting. Included were a few late copies of the Menomonee Falls Gazette. Since I had half-page versions from the Trib of basically all of the comics that ran in the Gazette, I saw little value in these black-and-white tabloid versions. Only lately did I realize that a couple of the Gazettes I had must be extremely rare. Furthermore, they help complete the sequence featuring Benjamin Defoe, Clarissa and Shark Donnelly.

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Following its customary two-month hiatus, issue #233 was dated June 4, 1978. The Gazette still had two sections, but they were now only 12 pages long. Kevin again appeared on the front page of the second section. The strip’s action picked up with Kevin and Clarissa in danger of being jumped by the bad guys while Ben DeFoe makes a desperate lunge aboard Heather. Hit by Shark Donnelly’s shot, Ben fails to get belowdecks but still manages to sew chaos.

Arriving another two months later, the comic in issue #234 was spectacular. Featuring a suspense-building device first proposed (but not used) by Collins for an old Mitzi McCoy comic, Donnelly and DeFoe are shown desperately swimming away from the tinderbox that is the Heather.

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Now THAT’S more like it, a fitting end to this tabloid’s run. The crisp black lines of the Gazette highlight the drama of this final scene. Needless to say, this comic also looks spectacular as a color half-page.

The End?

Inspired by traditional Sunday papers’ funny pages, I usually post examples of Kreigh Collins’ colorful Sunday comics. In honor of the black and white versions that ran in Saturday editions, the current sequence has been posted on Saturdays.

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One of Kreigh’s local dailies began running black and white one-third page versions of “Mitzi McCoy” near the end of the strip’ run…

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…and Collins’ work continued to appear in the Grand Rapids Press on Saturdays after the comic transformed into “Kevin the Bold.”

—  — • — —

 

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Waking from another hibernation (this time, three months), The Menomonee Falls Gazette rallied to publish issue #230. At this point, Kevin ran on the front page of the second section, and whomever was laying out the pages forgot to update the Volume/Number/Date line from the previous issue (#229).

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Shark Donnelly has learned that Ben knows of his sordid past. Fearing the worst, Ben and Jonathan are summoned topside by the captain. Meanwhile, Clarissa tries to mend her broken heart by allowing Kevin to escort her on a hunting party.

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Kreigh Collins treats us to some hunting lore, but soon Kevin and Clarissa become separated from the group. Back aboard Heather, Donnelly has coerced the powerless DeFoe to do his bidding.

Once again letting suspense build unreasonably, the next issue of the Menomonee Falls Gazette arrived months after its predecessor. Misidentified as #234 on its cover (didn’t they fire the layout guy yet?), issue #232 was dated March 3, 1978.

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In this final edition of the comics tabloid, Kevin’s sequence was as yet unresolved. With the action so close to a climax, it’s a shame the Gazette’s loyal readers were left hanging. Or were they? Check back for two explosive revelations!

Shark Donnelly

In existence since late 1971, the weekly Menomonee Falls Gazette was showing signs of strain by 1977. After hibernating for a couple of months, issue #227 finally shipped. Now released every two weeks, the action on its pages picked up where it left off in March. ktb-040757-mfg227-01-150

Unmindful of recent events — the wedding’s cancellation and the Lord Mayor’s illness, Kevin arrives. At least Clarissa’s mood brightens at the sight of Kevin. Benjamin DeFoe and his compatriot (Jonathan Clay) are still in dire straits.

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Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Ben and Jonathan have new problems. Sent to the brig by another cruel master, DeFoe realizes something is amiss. Back in Glassen, Kevin is brought up to speed.

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Bejamin DeFoe, an erstwhile archer for the king, finally realizes where he’d seen Shark Donnelly previously, and now has another reason to despise him. Using “Frederick Stearns” as an alias and masquerading as a sailor, Stearns is Heather’s captain.

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I’m sure the resemblance between these two men (both skippers of boats named Heather) is purely coincidental.

Left at the Altar

From March 1978 issues of the Menomonee Falls Gazette, this Kevin the Bold sequence was originally published sixty years ago (1957). Printed from the original films, the reproductions were excellent, and Kreigh Collins’ strength as an illustrator was evident.

Despite the absence of romance in Kevin’s life, storylines involving lovers periodically ran, as did their drama. As with Mitzi McCoy, Collins enjoyed the freedom of having any character take the lead. Here, a new set of characters is introduced. Kevin doesn’t appear — he isn’t even mentioned.

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Benjamin DeFoe has been pressed into service, leaving his bride jilted at the altar — an interesting twist on the action seen in Mitzi McCoy’s debut comic.

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After a week’s absence, Kevin is briefly introduced. (Originally, it wasn’t clear to me where this action took place — I must have been distracted by the fantastic illustrations.) Meanwhile, Ben finds himself in an ugly situation aboard a beautiful ship — whose namesake Collins himself skippered.

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Heather, circa 1957

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Things are bleak. Ben plans a desperate escape, Clarissa’s heart is broken, and her father, the Lord Mayor, has taken ill. The lone sign of hope is the appearance of Kevin in the comic’s final panel.

The Menomonee Falls Gazette

The Menomonee Falls Gazette was a weekly tabloid that reprinted newspaper comic strips from the US and the UK. Each page typically featured a week’s worth of a daily strip or a full-page Sunday tabloid comic. Generally, these comics fell into the adventure or soap opera categories. Issue No. 1 was published on December 11, 1972. In all, there were 232 issues; the final issue was dated March 3, 1978. 

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How comics found there way into the Menomonee Falls Gazette is unclear to me, but it appears a case of opportunism brought Kevin the Bold to the Gazette. A week after his 66th birthday, Collins died (January 8, 1974). Six days later, issue No. 109 featured a Kevin the Bold splash panel on the front cover and an episode of the comic from early 1957 on the back. Regardless of how he got there, Kevin anchored the back cover position for the next six months.

Issues of the Menomonee Falls Gazette featured as many as 50 comic strips and these strips took turns gracing its cover. Kevin the Bold earned the spot at least three other times (Nos. 150, 182 and 215). Essentially, all issues of the Gazette can be found online, where they can be viewed or downloaded.

Kevin the Bold continued to run in the MNF for as long as the tabloid was published. The only exception was No. 214, when the comic didn’t appear. This seems to have been a oversight, as  No. 213 ran a comic dated December 30, 1956 and No. 215 ran the January 6, 1957 strip. At this point, the Gazette must’ve been on its last legs: another glitch happened when the February 10, 1957 episode was skipped — Issue No. 220 jumped ahead to the February 17 comic. 

During the four years Kevin ran in the Gazette, twelve of Kevin’s adventures were retold. The final sequence is incomplete, which is a shame — it ends with a bang. For loyal readers of the Menomonee Falls Gazette wondering whatever happened to Captain Ben Defoe and Shark Donnelly, that sequence will run in its entirety starting next week.