More Lore

Because “Up Anchor!” ran for over three years, Kreigh Collins had to come up with quite a bit of material to fill the two topper panels of its 174 Sunday comics. All of this information needed to be fresh, but sometimes the accompanying illustrations required a bit of recycling.

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December 15, 1968

Say… that lad hopping over the tree stump looks familiar. Where have I seen that pose before?

Leapfrog

At left, from the Methodist Publishing House’s Bible Picture Story Comics, is a young Jesus (1946); at right, Brett from “Kevin the Bold” (1955).

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Brett from “Kevin the Bold” (1963).

Back in the days before the internet, illustrators were wise to keep a “morgue,” where reference images were stored. These images came in handy for future assignments, and I’m unaware of a pose Collins copied more often than the boy playing leapfrog.

Here are some more examples of “Water Lore.”

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After three weeks of “Water Lore,” I am happy to say that I will be making a major announcement in next Sunday’s post.


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

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Water Lore, Boat Show Edition

After the launch of “Up Anchor!,” a promotional event for the new comic strip was held a few months later at the New York City Boat Show.

 

The New York Times ran articles about the show opening and closing; unfortunately, there was no mention of my grandfather’s participation. They did mention 434 exhibits and 14 educational booths, I guess that will have to suffice.

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Kreigh Collins was accompanied by his new NEA boss, Robert Molyneux.

At the boat show, Collins worked on the episode of “Up Anchor!” shown below. Note the inscription beneath the strip’s logo, “Drawn at New York Boat Show.” The episode ran  May 4, 1969, and because the boat show lasted from January 25 until February 2, it shows the cartoonist was still working with his customary three-month lead time.

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In addition to nautical trivia, sailing regulations, and knot-tying how-to, “Water Lore” featured personal anecdotes based on Collins’ travels with his family aboard their 45-foot schooner. The Collinses encountered much in the 15 years they spent aboard Heather, sailing the Great Lakes, off shore in New England, and on their travels along the Mississippi River, Erie Canal, and Intracoastal Waterway. Here are some of those first-hand observations.

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In addition to nutty things his kids did or saw, others were based on places they had spent time while cruising.

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Lake Huron and the St. Clair River were crossed during any trips eastward through the Great Lakes, and Holland, Michigan was the location of Heather’s home port on Lake Macatawa (which connects with Lake Michigan).

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

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.

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.

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!

 

A Harsh Mistress

With a sudden storm having wrecked their sailboat, Kevin and Bunny desperately cling to its swamped hull.

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With word of her husband’s rescue coming via radio and newspaper, Jane betrays a bit of jealousy toward her husband’s co-star. However, her fears are assauged with the arrival of a telegram, which reveals Bunny’s true colors.

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On reflection, it’s interesting to note the “modern” touches of these late-period comics of Collins (e.g., the pasted up photostat of the Western Union Telegram); I guess everything is relative, even the groovy dialog.

The sequence immediately following this one ran previously on this blog, and can be viewed here.

The Line Squall

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As he’s escorted around Hollywood by his co-star and director, Kevin learns how the movie game is played. As the action in the comic intensifies, the mood of the topper strip “Water Lore” darkens.

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Jane trusts her husband Kevin enough to ignore the rumors propagated by the Hollywood hype machine — or is she just putting on a brave face? Meanwhile, Kevin and Bunny are lost at sea without ship-to-shore communication. Rescue efforts get under way, and Pedro manages to press the spineless movie star Cecil Dunn into service.

Of note: movie director Rex Fox bears a certain resemblance to one of Collins’ old “Mitzi McCoy” characters, publisher Stub Goodman. Stub was based on the character Frank from the 1947 novel by Thomas W. Duncan, “Gus the Great.” Like Stub, Frank was a newspaperman, and a very richly developed character. Midway through the book, he retires to California (and to my disappointment, isn’t heard from again). It’s nice to see one possible outcome was Frank’s reinvention as a Hollywood director.

Stub on the phone

Smooth Sailing

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Eager to get his friend involved in the movie business, Pedro’s idea is to have Kevin’s wife Jane talk him into it. Jane is leery of the possibility of losing her man to a famous Hollywood starlet, but seems to go along with the plan —  she and Kevin are eventually persuaded by the easy money.

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As the sequence gets off the ground, the action is very light, but there are some interesting details to be noticed. The “Water Lore” topper strips have some nice illustrations of various watercraft to accompany Collins’ observations, technical diagrams, and historical tid-bits. The March 7 topper references the artist’s home port of Holland, Michigan, which was located a short drive from the tiny village of Ada, where Kreigh lived with his family. Another notable from Ada was Amway founder Richard DeVos. DeVos went into business about the same time as Collins started cartooning, and one part of the Amway empire included an air charter service. Collins name-checked his friend in the March 14 comic.

It’s been smooth sailing through this sequence’s first few episodes, but how long can that last?

 

Balance

If one was to include the pre-Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) weekly “Bible Stories Comics,” Kreigh Collins’ comics career lasted nearly three decades.  “Up Anchor” was his final comic, and it ran for nearly three and a half years.

As summer ended in 1959, Collins and his family packed up his sailboat and headed south. They ended up spending a year on the boat, traveling down the Mississippi, and wintering in Florida. He continued with his work while aboard Heather, producing artwork for the comic as his family’s journey progressed.

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With help from the NEA, Collins was happy to do promotion for his work, and given his unique situation as a sailing snowbird, this was sometimes front-page news. In an interview with the Panama City News-Herald that appeared in the daily’s November 1, 1959 edition, Collins explained how he was able to do it: “Maintaining a comic strip is a high-pressure sort of thing. You’re dealing with it every day, meeting deadlines, writing scripts, doing the artwork, and so on. To stay normal, you just about have to have your mental balance.” The article continued, Collins maintains his balance by writing children’s books, adventure stories, and travel articles. He also considers his 45-foot yacht a mental life saver. 

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A syndicate proof of the comic that appeared in Panama City News-Herald, above 

 

 

After “Kevin the Bold” had run its course, Collins launched his next comic, “Up Anchor!,” in 1968. He used many of his family’s experiences aboard Heather as fodder for his scripts, but much of the material came from his imagination. While there was talk in 1966 of spinning off “Kevin” into a television show, movies weren’t really in the conversation. Nonetheless, Hollywood did come into focus in one of the final sequences of “Up Anchor!”

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The original illustrations for the comics that will follow in the next several weeks are all in the collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

An Amazing Lad

As the sequence with Tim continues, a sweet vignette is shown. The boy quickly learns aspects of sailing with which he wasn’t already familiar, and shows he’s an asset, not a liability. But before the comic transforms into a PSA on inclusiveness, a villain appears on the horizon, and tension is created.

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As a cruising family, any time spent at a port is an opportunity to restock the galley. Given Tim’s limitations, the logical decision is made to leave him in charge of Heather while the family walks into town.

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While the motivations of the man who cut the barge loose weren’t discussed, Tim’s quick thinking saved Heather and himself, and provides an example of the sort of drama to be found while sailing.