Starting in 1936, Kreigh Collins’ syndicate, NEA, produced special Christmas strips. A complete list of the titles and artists can be found here. In 1965, Collins’ creation “Legends of Christmas” was featured.
The first two episodes were stand-alones; they were followed by the two stories mentioned in the blurb above.
Running in various small-market papers that were typical for NEA clients, the “Legends of Christmas” comics are rather curious, and despite their yuletide theme, there was room to squeeze in a little anti-Soviet Cold War-era commentary (December 8). Take that, Brezhnev!
The final story of Collins’ “Legends of Christmas” featured an easier-to-follow legend. It starred Peter, a young boy trying to care for his ailing mother while his father was away.
To commemorate Michigan’s centennial, Kreigh Collins illustrated a daily feature called “Do You Know.” A collaboration with writer Willis Atwell, it appeared in eight Michigan newspapers and ran from September 2, 1935 to January 26, 1937 (the 100th anniversaries of Michigan first becoming a U.S. territory and then a member of the Union).
Because each panel was comprised of three separate illustrations and historical accuracy was paramount, the project required a great deal of research. The hard work paid off and the feature became a hit in Collins’ home state. Due to popular demand, Booth Newspapers, Inc. compiled these 441 panels into a book, allowing Collins’ reputation as an illustrator to spread.
“Do You Know” was quite similar in style to “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.” While “Ripley” will celebrate its 100th anniversary this October, at the time it was a relatively new feature, having debuted 16 years earlier. In fact, another comic feature, illustrated by Art Krenz, appeared around the same time. It was also titled “Do You Know,” and was put out by the syndicate that would hire Collins 13 years later, Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). The two like-named features coexisted, and it is unclear to me which came first. Even if the Booth Newspapers concept was not entirely original, the illustrations are both entertaining and educational, qualities that would also describe Kreigh Collins’ future comic strips, especially “Kevin the Bold” and “Up Anchor!”
The March 18, 1936 installment has a very informative diagram showing the relative depths of the Great Lakes, most of which Collins would later sail on extensively (all but Lake Superior). The earliest installments (below) describe a border skirmish between Ohio and Michigan, the results of which are a bit embarrassing for someone whose family hails from the Great Lakes State.
The illustrations are filled with interesting details, like the reverse lettering on the ink stamp (October 4, 1935), clever political cartooning (October 30, 1935), and despite the time period in which they were published, not only highlight the accomplishments of men, but those of women and native Americans too (November 14 and 1, 1935).
For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, visit his page on Facebook.