In late October of 1968, with the final episode of “Kevin the Bold,” our hero made good on something he’d been trying to do for years.
The end of the trail found Kevin in his friend Pedro’s homeland, Spain, but if he was going to settle down, it would mean more than time travel—a change of scenery was also in the cards.
Set on Lake Macatawa, in western Michigan (the same place Collins docked his boat, Heather), “Up Anchor!” was Kreigh Collins’ final NEA comic feature. It launched on November 3, 1968 and was an attempt to adapt to changing times—adventure strips like “Kevin the Bold” had fallen out of favor. His new strip was largely based on his family’s real-life experiences aboard their schooner, Heather—but plenty of license was taken with the plot.
The tone of the strip changed too, as it was narrated by Jane Marlin. Jane was loosely based on Kreigh’s wife, Theresa; “Teddy” helped develop the strip’s continuity, too. With “Up Anchor!,” Collins had finally figured out how to best deal with dreaded third-page reproductions of his artwork—he added a topper strip, “Water Lore.” (For the last few years of “Kevin,” the bottom tier of panels had been considered expendable—an example is shown at the top of this post). When the new strip ran as a tabloid, the smaller of the two “Water Lore” panels was the throwaway; when it ran in a one-third page format, the topper was lost.
While the tone of the strip was more modern than in “Kevin,” there are still some elements that now seem dated, such as a recurring theme of male chauvinism, and even an awkward joke about a black eye in the strip’s debut.
Nonetheless, with summer here, a voyage under sail sounds wonderful.
The debut introduced the characters, or crew—in addition to Jane and Kevin (remember, this was supposed to be the same character as from the previous strip), we meet the couple’s sons, Erik and Dave. In real life, Erik was my father and David is my uncle, and their little brothers are Kevin and Glen. Once again, Glen seems to have gotten short-changed, but maybe this was fine with him. For what it’s worth, Glen bears a much stronger physical resemblance to his father than his brothers.
Most of the examples I have are third-pages, but I have recreated the full illustrations with the help of black and white online downloads.
A rather central component of the strip was education, and it wasn’t just relegated to the topper.
This post has some pretty sweet examples of “Water Lore,” particularly the one above dealing with radar’s precursor, and the November 10 example even previews the following week’s edition.
As the episodes themselves indicate, “Continued next week.”
For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, visit his page on Facebook.