In the Beginning

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Before creating his NEA-syndicated comics, Kreigh Collins took all sorts of painting and illustration commissions; he also wrote and illustrated books. He found steady illustration work with religious publishers, including Pilgrim Press (“These Men Knew God,” from 1947), the Fideler Company (1948’s “Bible Days”) and The Graded Press (“The Story in the Bible,” 1949), among others. For Nashville’s Methodist Publishing House, he did comics which were reproduced in Sunday School brochures called “Boys Today” and “Girls Today.”

Comic-strip technique was being applied to religious stories in a new way in order to increase their appeal to children. The Methodist Church’s board of education declared this pictorial way of telling Bible stories a great success, and approximately 700,000 copies of the stories were circulated each week. Chapters often ended with suspense questions of the “what will happen next?” variety.

An item in the March 10, 1946 St. Louis Post-Dispatch (top) described the phenomenon and featured several of Kreigh’s comics. The blurb said that Collins had “visited the Holy Land to add authenticity to his work,” but it is more likely the authenticity was provided by hundreds of hours spend doing research at local libraries.

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These early comics showed examples of Kreigh’s style and devices he would employ throughout his career. Note the distinctive lettering, the use of descriptive inset illustrations (above, a phylactery; below, a quintain), and even Jesus’s pose, as he leapfrogs the vase (compare to Brett, at bottom, from a 1955 Kevin).

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