Travel

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In each of Kreigh Collins’ three NEA comics, travel is a frequent theme.

Mitzi McCoy flew her private airplane into the northern Canadian wilds, and later to Chicago. She also spent time in Florida. Kevin originated in Ireland but traveled widely throughout Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East — he even visited the New World toward the end of his run (c. 1967). The Marlin family’s travels in “Up Anchor!” mirrored Collins’ own — besides sailing the Great Lakes and the Great Loop, the schooner Heather also called New England and Maine home for two seasons. A change of scenery provides a cartoonist an opportunity for varied tableaux, new storylines, and a chance to meet new characters.

Two years ago, I started this blog with the goal of raising awareness of my grandfather’s career (in advance of the publication of the collected “Mitzi McCoy” comics). While I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, I do know that my blog has done a fair bit of traveling too. According to its statistical data, it has been viewed by people in 55 countries across the world, amazing! I wish I could thank each visitor, I’m sure I’d also meet some characters.

The statistics are interesting, and I am pleased to note surprises. There have been slightly more viewers from France than from the United States, and there have been no visitors whatsoever from mainland China or Russia. Punching above their weight class are #4 Portugal and #6 Croatia (the 88th- and 129th-most populous countries in the world). The top twelve countries make up about 96% of my traffic, and while this is great, it’s more exciting to reach especially distant and smaller places. To my singular readers from Luxembourg, Uruguay, Greece, Guam, Romania, Slovenia, Qatar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Taiwan, Ukraine, European Union (is that even a country?), Singapore, and Greenland (population 56,412), thank you!

 

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The Tournament

Tournament preparations are completed; it is time for the show. The few rules are explained. The dramatic sequence of the Chicago Sunday Tribune’s new comic feature begins.

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With a lot less color and not as much fanfare, the action also unfolded in another recent subscriber to the NEA’s new comic. Kreigh Collins had a longstanding business relationship with a local paper, the Grand Rapids Press, for whom he had previously done illustrations. Like many cities of the era, Grand Rapids had several daily newspapers, but It took a while before any of them started running his comic. (A few months ahead of the strip’s transition to “Kevin,” the Press started running “Mitzi McCoy” in July of 1950).

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Now, with the Trib’s vivid reproduction.

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Kevin followed Stub’s plan to slide off his mount in order to try to lure De Falcon into combat on foot. The only problem — De Falcon is still astride his warhorse, Satan. However, playing possum proves effective, and Kevin avoids the Baron’s coup de grâce.

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Kevin’s own quick thinking leads to his desired outcome of mano a mano, where Stub declared, “On foot, ye’re his better.”

Stub is absolutely correct, as Kevin makes quick work of De Falcon. Claiming the Count’s horse, but sparing his life, Kevin realizes he has done well to allow him to live. He discovers the fallen man’s humanity, and is about to set out on another quest.


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

Training

From its onset, “Kevin the Bold” had much going for it. Kreigh Collins was bursting with enthusiasm for its subject matter, he had the experience and artistic chops to pull of such a period comic, and he had the backing of the Chicago Sunday Tribune to give his work a wider audience. Collins also had a compelling collection of original storylines to illustrate.

The result was some exceptional work. These next three comics neatly distill the essence of the comic strip and its protagonists. Kevin is honorable and humble, yet invincible; MacTavish Campbell MacGregor (“Stub”) is steadfast and loyal; and Moya is cheerful, smart, and beautiful. It’s important to note that as Mitzi McCoy’s ancestor, Moya more closely resembles the heroine of Collins’ earlier comic feature than Kevin and his squire resemble their forebearers, Tim and Stub (despite the older man’s familiar sobriquet). Sadly, Moya does not last long as a prominent character in “Kevin”.

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With the date of his fight against De Falcon looming, Kevin starts training, and he also begins to upgrade his gear. In addition to his Claymore, he now has chain mail. With Stub as his tactician, Kevin gets to work.

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Acknowledging his past heroism, one of Moya’s father’s subject presents Kevin with a horse more suitable for his tournament date. Appropriately, she is mare, leading to a false sense of confidence in Kevin’s opponent. Like Kevin, she is not to be underestimated, an error made by many of Kevin’s adversaries.

The comics also contrast the two sides in the upcoming battle. Despite the obvious differences, maybe Kevin and the Baron have more in common than they realize.

First Impressions

Following the abrupt transformation of the comic strip “Mitzi McCoy” into “Kevin the Bold,” Kreigh Collins was ready with several dynamic storylines for his new hero, and his artwork was equally up to the task.

At the end of the new comic strip’s first chapter, Kevin defeated the Moorish pirates and saved the locals from enslavement. As a reward, Moya McCoy’s father presented Kevin with a historically significant claymore, as well as his distinguished title.

The second chapter of “Kevin the Bold” begins with a marvelous comic. Its splash panel shows a beautifully garbed Moya, as MacTavish Campbell MacGregor is introduced. Upon meeting Moya, “Stub” announces Kevin’s simple credo. Moya instantly takes to the prickly Scotsman and fires a snappy line at her new friend.

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As is often the case, the transitional comics between the main sequences are lighthearted, but action comes to the fore in the next comic, with another exciting splash panel. Stub has resumed Kevin’s training, with our protagonist getting acquainted with his fearsome new weapon. No doubt this training will come in handy at a later time.

The comic also shows the amazing reproductive abilities of Collins’ newest champion, the Chicago Tribune. The Trib typically ran its new feature near the front of its comic section, and the newspaper was able to showcase the Kreigh’s skills with its own superb coloring, including a very nice example of aerial perspective in the ninth panel.

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Significantly, this panel shows a distant bell tower, which calls Kevin to action.

 

 

Serie magasinet 13

[Update: in my haste to figure out anything about the following comic, I originally misidentified it as Danish. It is, in fact, Swedish. My apologies! If you have any information on this comic book series, please feel free to leave a comment; the comments link is rather buried at the bottom of the post. Thank you].

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I do not speak Swedish, but I wish I did. This comic book caught my eye with the mention of “MItzi McCoy” among its coverlines. Knowledge of Swedish would come in handy in comparing the dialog of the Mitzi comics it contained to the original English, as it originally appeared in late 1940s.

I had been aware of Kreigh Collins’ comics being reprinted for Australian markets, and also for Argentina. I’d even come across some Norwegian and Swedish comics. Usually these reprints all featured “Kevin the Bold.” But this one was a surprise, bringing Mitzi back nearly 30 years after the original Sunday comics ran.

Serie magasinet 13 runs 68 pages, with plenty of preliminary action before what is for me, the main event. Inside there are a couple sequences of “Dredger,” and one each of “Harry Chase,” “Kerry Drake,” and something called “Larm I Distrikt 94.” Forgive me, I no nothing about these comics. I suspect at least one is of Scandinavian origin, as a female character is shown without the clothing typical of mainstream American comics.

Starting on page 31 is the second sequence from “Mitzi McCoy”’. Its six comics were originally published from January to March in 1949. They show all of the strip’s main characters, and feature Stub Goodman’s Irish Wolfhound, Tiny, in his fist heroic role.

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The comics are reproduced pretty much as they originally appeared as tabloids in the Sunday papers, with their throwaway panels omitted. The only real alteration I could spot is the artificial creation of the opening sequence’s splash panel (only the bottom half appeared in the original). Curious as to what “Valpen” meant, I learned it meant “the puppy.”

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I was disappointed to see there was no translation evident of “Plutten,” Tiny’s name in the Swedish version of the comic (written on his doghouse).

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The comics were reproduced from original proofs supplied by the NEA — it’s great to see Collins’ crisp black and white line work. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of these proofs at this time is unknown. Meanwhile, I’m trying to track down information on other Serie comic books.

Chasing Mitzi

When I first started collecting comics, I dreamed about putting together a book featuring “Kevin the Bold.” Being a graphic designer who worked in publishing, it didn’t seem too far-fetched. My Uncle Kevin had given me a large amount of my grandfather’s comics in 2011, and the question seemed to be what comics to use. I didn’t have the entire 18 year run, but I did have several years complete. The logical starting place for a serial like “Kevin” was its beginning, but my collection had some missing comics among the early ones. I didn’t get off to a flying start.

A year or so later, uncle Kevin sent me another massive package of Kreigh’s comics. Inside were hundreds of “Kevin the Bold”s, as well as the complete run of Collins’ earlier comic, “Mitzi McCoy.”  I’d heard about “Mitzi”, but had never seen any examples of the short-lived strip (it ran for less than two years). They comics were beautiful and fresh. Its run of 99 comics seemed like a manageable size to tackle in a first effort at publishing a book, so I switched gears.

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Mitzi’s debut comic.

Unsure how to proceed, I got to work thinking I’d figure it out as I went along. I started scanning my “Mitzi”s. Although it was a time consuming task with my ancient Microtek tabloid scanner, in retrospect, it was the easiest part of the process.

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Every time I switch it on, I pray that its lamp hasn’t burned out.

Nearly three years ago, while scouring the internet for information on “Mitzi,” I came across an essay with a ton of information on the strip, much of which was new to me. I began corresponding with the essay’s author, and soon enough we had a loose agreement for him to write the introduction to the book.

The next progress was reconnecting with a publisher  with whom I had discussed the possibility of doing a “Kevin” book. He showed interest in “Mitzi,” and the project gained momentum.

I started color correcting and retouching my comics in earnest, and I soon realized a major problem with my book was that for some of the comics, I only had one-third page versions. The bulk of my comics were half-pages (from the Indianapolis Times or the Pittsburgh Press), and others were tabloids or half-tabloids (New York Mirror).

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It’s so sad to see this comic cropped and squeezed into a one-third page format!

Two years ago I paid my first visit to the Grand Rapids Public Library. Its Local History department has a fantastic collection of Kreigh Collins’ illustrations and papers, with numerous original comic illustrations, including many original “Mitzi McCoy”s. Several of these originals were comics I had the inferior one-third page versions of, so I was getting closer to my goal of upgrading my lesser comics. Shortly afterward, I realized my prospective publisher had several more larger versions, and my list of inferior comics was down to six.

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Even though I live 800 miles away, the librarians are starting to recognize me (I’ve now made the trip three times).

Unfortunately, progress slowed during the next year and I wondered if I would ever find the elusive comics, or even get the book finished (and published). I’d been looking high and low, with occasional eBay purchases from sellers as far away as Switzerland.

However, my persistence paid off, and last month I found the last six comics I needed at a single source — a comic book shop 12 miles away from my house. The comics cost a bit more than I wanted to spend, as they were each part of intact New York Sunday Mirror comic sections. But being able to seal the deal made me willing to splurge.

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Eureka! (But they cost more than 10 cents each).

Amazingly, the shop employee that sold me the comics was as much of a site for sore eyes as the comics themselves. I wondered if these comics had been lurking in Moonachie, NJ all along, but Shannon told me they’d been acquired relatively recently, at last year’s Baltimore Comic-Con.

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Shannon wasn’t in costume when she made the sale, but she was sweet as she is pretty.

The lesson I learned was to always follow your dreams.

 

 

Where’s Mitzi?

“Mitzi McCoy” was Kreigh Collins’ first syndicated (Newspaper Enterprise Association) comic strip, and in its November 7, 1948 debut, Mitzi bolted from her wedding after realizing her fiancé was a gold-digging jerk.

The comics that followed showed the transformation of Collins’ skills from that of a renowned illustrator to those of a successful cartoonist. Each panel of these early comics are jammed full of detail, and the original artwork is astonishing to behold. About half of the “Mitzi McCoy” originals are in the Local History collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

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These early Mitzi originals also show evidence of revisions to the artwork and dialogue. In addition to illustrating and scripting the comic, Collins did the lettering. Kreigh had similar responsibilities for his mid-1940s “Bible Stories Comics” (put out by the Methodist Publishing House) but the NEA required a more structured approach, and had more specific procedures to be followed. There were some growing pains, but the artwork is absolutely amazing.

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While comics fans might have been wondering where Ms. McCoy had gone in 1948, “Where’s Mitzi?” could also be a question posed more recently. Late last year, an announcement was made on the upcoming publication of a book collecting the comic strip’s entire run.

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While production of the book has been delayed, rest assured that the book is still in the works. Once it is published, Mitzi’s whereabouts will be more easily tracked.

Brett’s Friends

A new sequence deserves a knock-out opener, and Kreigh Collins delivers.  KTB 122064 BWT 150 qcc

Perhaps Kevin’s penchant for saving dameselles in distress comes from him always keeping his eye on the “scenery.” The character upon whom Kevin was molded (to a degree), Tim Graham, from “Mitzi McCoy,” had a similar predilection. In this case, Kevin has unknowingly rescued the pretty friend of his ward, Brett.

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While Kevin spent the summer in the West Indies, Brett had stayed behind in London. Upon his arrival, Kevin meets another friend of Brett’s, a boy named Will Shakespeare (an example of the sort of historical figure that can be found in “Kevin the Bold.”) With the date established as 1588, Shakespeare would have reached the age of 14. Brett is likely a couple years younger, while Julie appears to be a young lady, about 18 years old.

Will and Brett are rehearsing a play at the Unicorn Theater, and it turns out that Julie’s step-father (Jake Waggar) owns the rival theater, the Lantern. As far as step-fathers go, Jake falls into the “evil” category, and he stoops low in his competition with the Unicorn.

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Along with the appearance of historical figures in his comics, Kreigh Collins could also be counted on for some related education. Collins was known for the depth or research he put into his subjects, all in the name of historical accuracy.

With Will Shakespeare a part of this storyline, one can expect numerous references to the famous author’s oeuvre. And with my personal knowledge of Shakespeare somewhat lacking, I bet my grandfather would get a kick out of the research I need to do in order to write these posts. I will mention references where I see them, but I would appreciate it if any reader would point out any that I have missed in the comments.

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.

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.