Thriller Comics No. 24

 

Only 5-1/4″ wide by 7″ tall, Thriller Comics No. 24 is smaller than other Australian edition comic books I’ve seen (below)—they have a trim size of 6-3/4″ x 10″. But as MacTavish Campbell MacGregor (shown training with Kevin on the cover) would be the first to tell you, sometimes big things come in small packages.

Thriller Comics No. 24 was printed in London, England c. 1951, and marketed in Australia. The cover lists its price as “1’–” which I’ve just learned is one shilling (thank you to my wife’s Australian cousin Lorrie!). It contains two classic early sequences, “The Count de Falcon” and “The Search for Sadea;” combined, they ran over a period of 33 weeks. These 33 episodes are split into five chapters and jammed into 59 pages. I say “jammed” because the comics are abridged—as many as three of the original panels are excised from each episode (not even including the throwaway panels!). In some cases, the panels’ order is changed as well, in an attempt to help streamline the flow of action.

The final three spreads of the comic book feature a Robin Hood comic by an unknown artist (Kreigh Collins isn’t credited for “Kevin,” either), leaving me to wish the comic book editors hadn’t bothered with Robin and had ran the “Kevin” episodes in their entirety.

This is a very minor nit to pick, as the Thriller Comics No. 24 is awesome. My copy kind of fragile — I didn’t want to damage it by flattening it in my scanner, so I took some quick photos of it with my phone. Here is Chapter 1. 

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(If these photographs aren’t satisfying, the sequence’s original, color Sunday comics can be seen here). The story continues with chapter two…  

Here’s Chapter 3, which I call “The Search for Sadea,” and whose original comics  can be seen here.

Chapter 4:

And the conclusion, Chapter 5. An avid sailor, my grandfather clearly loved drawing boats of any size in his comics. In addition to “Kevin the Bold,” boats were featured frequently in both “Mitzi McCoy” and “Up Anchor!”

In October, 1965, near the end of the line for “Kevin the Bold,” Kreigh Collins also used Robin Hood in a plot. Here is another cartoonist’s take on Robin. 

And finally, the back cover.

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

Strangers in the Night

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Brought together by chance, Kevin hears a firsthand account of the plight of the Glaustarkians from a beautiful young woman he initially believes to be a peasant. A nightwatchman soon confirms what Kevin had heard from the peasant, and Kevin realizes what must be done.

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The December 9, 1951 comic is another gem. Its nine panels are filled with beautifully-illustrated horses and settings, witty dialog, and charming examples of the principal characters’ qualities. When Kevin strikes the gong, he startles his horse Satan, and appears to crack the gong itself. Stub fearlessly confronts von Blunt in one panel and nearly swoons at the end, when he discovers Princess Lea’s scented handkerchief.

In case you were wondering if the help wanted ad Kreigh Collins had placed in the Grand Rapids Herald produced any results, sure enough — it worked. A local gentleman named Frank Tatroe filled the bill. If you compare the second photo below with the penultimate panel of the December 9 comic, you can see for yourself.

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

Special No. 6

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Since writing previously about Australian Edition comic books, I have acquired a couple more. Tip-Top Comics No. 4 was nice because it had the transitional comic where “Mitzi McCoy” became “Kevin the Bold” and included the new strip’s first two sequences. No. 6 was pretty cool because it also had early Kevin comics. I knew these Tip-Top comics sometimes ran storylines out of sequence, yet I didn’t actually flip all the way through No. 6 — the comic was somewhat fragile and the print quality of these things isn’t all that great. My mistake!

Being especially interested in Kreigh Collins’ first NEA comic (Mitzi), I really wanted to get my hands on the earlier Tip-Top comics. No. 3’s cover, which I’d seen online, featured a late “Mitzi McCoy” storyline, so I figured Nos. 1 and 2 would have earlier Mitzis.

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I finally got around to paging through the No. 6. Since it contained the same early 1952 comics I’d been running for the past six weeks — the Death Trap and Moab — now seemed like a good time to run No. 6 on this blog. I didn’t want to damage the comic book by flattening it out completely on my scanner, so I took some photos of it outside with a sheet of plexiglass holding the spreads open. This produced mixed results — in addition to some reflection, the early February afternoon didn’t provide ideal lighting. But the shots are OK, and are interesting to compare to the Sunday comics versions I just featured.

I noticed Tip-Top eliminated several panels from the February 24 comic in order to squeeze in an ad, and I learned that the Great Dane in Brad Anderson’s gag cartoon wasn’t the first comics critter named Marmaduke. (For what it’s worth, Anderson hailed from a town next to the one in which I grew up). But wait — there’s more.

The comic on page 18 wrapped up the Kevin sequence, and its final transitional panels were deleted to Squeeze in another small ad hyping a “Red Ryder” comic book. “Red Ryder” is the former NEA comic strip whose departure for a rival syndicate opened the door for Collins’ “Mitzi McCoy” at NEA. Coincidentally, on the facing page is a Mitzi comic. I doubt anyone else would be as excited to have seen it as I was. Generally, storylines in Mitzi ran for two or three months, but this comic was a stand-alone episode. My assumption that it was a filler page between Kevin sequences proved to be wrong — eight more Mitzi comics followed!

In order to squeeze the entire “Yolo” sequence into the back of Special No. 6, one comic was eliminated, which is a shame for several reasons. We miss some of Jerry’s back story, we don’t see a nice rendering of “Moroccan Heat Wave” Yolo, and we are faced with some hack’s miserable lettering in a following comic’s introductory caption. (Even worse, it’s misleading — page 20 in the comic book).

I have inserted the missing comic (July 30, 1950) above. From here, the comics run without interruption or editing, which is a good thing, since the final three comics in this sequence are quite compelling.

Sometimes, Australian editions have filler comics, often really lousy stuff. Special No. 6 turned out to be a real treasure. Of its 28 pages, there is a cover (mine is in very nice condition), 17 pages of Kevin comics, nine pages of Mitzis, and a pretty cool monochromatic back cover, as well.

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The other thing I noticed was that the front cover image was redrawn, as there are subtle differences from the original comic panel that inspired it. Brett has been added to the frame (it looks like the reference for Brett is the March 16 comic), the attacker’s sword is in a different position, and Kevin’s left leg has straightened out (leaving him in an awkward defensive stance, which I’m sure Kreigh would have found most egregious of all). ktb-panel-for-cover-no-6

 

Australian Editions, Part 2

A third publisher of “Australian Edition” comic books was Atlas. The comics Atlas published came out later than those put out by Tip-Top and Thriller, and they seem to be better organized — the comics run in sequence without the randomness that occurred in some Tip-Top titles.

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The comics may run in sequence but the material in No. 13 (April 11–August 22, 1954) is older than that which is found in No. 14 (November 8, 1953–March 28, 1954). I found these titles on an eBay and was fortunate to win the lot of them for less than $20.00. They were listed by a seller in Australia, and don’t turn up very often — maybe once a year.

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