A True Story of Captain John Smith

Among the late themes that ran in “Kevin the Bold” was one featuring Captain John Smith. Despite continued pop culture references, I had mostly forgotten his story (which is very much worth revisiting.)

Of course, Pocahontas is the main story now, but her relationship with Smith was mentioned  Peggy Lee’s 1958 smash, and again in the the Disney film from 1995 (and elsewhere, no doubt). As a young girl, Pocahontas even appeared in a 1965 episode of “Kevin.”

KTB 091265 TH 150 qcc

But here the story is Smith. When he conjured up the world of “Kevin the Bold,” Kreigh Collins must have been familiar with Smith’s life—there are several notable parallels. Here, a chapter of the English adventurer’s life is retold with the inclusion of Kevin and his friend Pedro.

This 14-episode story arc comes from near the end of the storied strip’s run—only four more sequences would follow. These 1967 episodes ran from July 16 through October 15. Most of the examples are half pages, but there are also some third pages, a couple of tabloids, and two images of Collins’ original artwork. This arc’s introductory episode uses the strip’s standard logo, but for those that followed, the typeset copy “A True Story of CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH” was appended.

KTB 071667 HA 150 qcc.jpg

For a late-period episode of “Kevin the Bold,” July 16 stands out with its compelling opening and closing panels. The throwaway charmingly shows Notre Dame in the distance, and helps to situate the action on Paris’ left bank. (The Pont de l’Archevêché appears in the foreground).

As the scene shifts to Morocco, a country that Kreigh Collins had visited is featured. After his first ocean crossing, his steamship docked in Tangier. The duration of Collins’ stay in the north African country is unclear, but it was long enough for him to produce some illustrations—and be knifed by a would-be robber late one night. However, Collins was a large man, and at 6’3″ and over 200 pounds, he was able to defend himself. He returned safely to his quarters aboard the ship and only then noticed his head wound, which was still bleeding. He was 21 years old.

KTB 072367 OA qcc2

I don’t own a physical copy of the July 23, 1967 episode; fortunately, I was able to track down an example from an online auction.

As they approach their destination, the competing desires of the two men are revealed: For Kevin, it’s the “local scenery,” and for Pedro (as usual), it is food.

KTB 073067 HA 150 qcc.jpg

Kevin’s first order of business is to show a rogues’ gallery of men who is in charge, and he is ready to use any powers of persuasion to accomplish this goal.

Need a great gift idea?

OK, I’m biased, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more charming collection of Golden Age comics than The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins: The Complete Mitzi McCoy. 

Drawn and scripted by Kreigh Collins, Mitzi McCoy showcased the artist’s skill as an illustrator and storyteller. His picturesque landscapes, lovely character designs, and thrilling action sequences brimmed with detail and charm, and the strip’s ensemble cast rotated in and out of the spotlight taking turns as protagonists in the dozen story arcs collected in this volume. The last story collected here is the narrative bridge that set Collins and his characters off on a new journey, beautifully told for the next couple of decades in the much-lauded adventure strip Kevin the Bold.

Edited and restored by the artist’s grandson, Brian E. Collins, with an introduction by Eisner Award-winning author Frank M. Young, an Afterword by comics columnist Ed Catto, and a new tribute illustration of Mitzi by Butch Guice

Available HERE from Lost Art Books.

Mitzi McCoy Cover 150

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

Late Themes

As they sailed away from the New World, Kevin began telling Saigen the story of Robin Hood. While having an adult narrate a story to a youth was a familiar trope for Collins, what was different was the appearance of the comic strip’s logo. A longbow and a quiver of arrows replaced the usual rapier and pistol, Robin Hood’s hat rested on the suit of armor’s helmet, and a chapter heading of sorts, “A Story of Robin Hood” was inscribed at the top.

The October 17, 1965 episode serves as an introduction for the chapter’s new characters.

KTB 101765 HA 150 qcc.jpg

The only previous time the comic strip’s logo changed was on April 23, 1961. Ten years into its run, the familiar blocky KEVIN logo adorned with a claymore and shield was replaced by a more elegant version featuring new weapons and an uncial-style font more appropriate for an Irishman. In fact, in its final appearance in print, the old logo is half-obscured by an enormous Spanish galleon, a portent of its imminent departure. The new logo coincided with the onset of Jay Heavilin‘s 13-month stint as writer for the comic strip.

KTB 042361 TH 150 QCC.jpg

Yes, those are balls of cheese being used for ammunition!

KTB 043061 TH 150 QCC.jpg

A year later, the logo was modified again, this time just by adding the new chapter’s title, “Story of the Norman Conquest.” While the historical timeline  in “Kevin the Bold” can be a bit difficult to follow—the first episode takes place at the end of the 15th century while the final one is dated 1668, about 175 years later—setting the action during the Norman Invasion of Ireland (c. 1170) required a different approach. Here Kevin’s ancestor (also named Kevin) is featured. Making this flashback less confusing to casual readers, the two Kevins appear identical, except for the ancestor being blond.

KTB 111366 HA 150 qcc.jpg

Another point of departure is the ancestor’s willingness to chase after women, something later-day Kevin eschews. However, the episode that ran two weeks later portrays the two Kevins as essentially the same character.

KTB 112766 HA 150 2 qcc.jpg

The final time the comic strip’s logo was altered was for one its last sequences, “A True Story of Captain John Smith.” Following this chapter, only four more appeared before the comic strip morphed into Kreigh Collins’ final NEA feature, “Up Anchor!”

Oddly, the July 16 episode introducing the sequence is not labelled as “A True Story of Captain John Smith,” but the 14 comics that follow are. Perhaps adding the title was a late decision made by the NEA, and the fact that it is typeset, rather than hand-lettered, lends credence to the theory.

KTB 071667 HA 150 qcc.jpg

Another familiar trope is the damselle in distress! Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

KTB 1967 07.23 qcc

Nearly all the original art for the final three years of KEVIN THE BOLD  is found in a collection at Syracuse University. The July 23 episode is an exception. (I found this image online).

KTB 073067 HA 150 qcc.jpg

How Many Different Logos Were Featured in MITZI McCOY?

That question and more can be answered by picking up a copy of “The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy.” It features a wonderful introductory essay by Eisner Award-winner Frank M. Young and is available here.

Mitzi cover final

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