The Musketeers

For these next three episodes, color half-pages stand in for last week’s black-and-white bromide proofs. Meanwhile, Sergeant Stubbs assembles Captain Martinet’s new musket company.

There is a bit of tension among the troops, but in this case I’m talking about writer Dave Ward and new recruit, Bob Molyneux.

This tension is illustrated in a pair of letters Collins received, both written on Thursday, January 30. Molyneux (perhaps doing Ernest Lynn’s bidding), complains about the trajectory of Ward’s story, and asks for some clarity regarding a plot point involving a gun’s rifled barrel. Feeling defensive about criticisms to his work (again), Ward digs into some minutiae, and takes a potshot at Molyneux (“Maybe Moly should practice on something else — maybe VIC FLINT or BEN CASEY”, referring to two other NEA comic strips, both of which were on the downward arc of their popularity.

Around this time, Collins had his own complaints, more of a physical nature—a sore wrist—no small matter. A letter from Moly reveals another long-time NEA artist was having serious health problems—the business seemed to take its toll on many of its practitioners. In the same letter, Molyneux tells Collins that he sells himself short as a writer (a common refrain in other correspondence between the two).

Merrill Blossar recovered and lived for nearly 20 more years.

As for the plot of this KEVIN THE BOLD chapter, I might be inclined to agree with the suits at NEA—it’s a bit contrived. Since I tend to root for the underdog, seeing the high-born Cecil succeed through luck rubs me the wrong way.

In a memo sent to Collins the following Monday, Moly (pronounced “Molly”) addresses the KEVIN story that follows the Musketeers (Hispaniola), and updates Collins on how he traffics scripts and revisions back at the office.

These little 5″ x 7″ notes became Molyneux’s preferred stationery for his messages to Collins (This memo originally ran to a second page; I edited the image so it ran as a single sheet).

Despite his connections and flukey luck, Cecil is committed to the cause, and Captain Martinet’s musketeers shove off.

To be continued…

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

The New Guy

From the start, Ernest “East” Lynn proved to be a rather persnickety boss for Kreigh Collins at NEA. After fifteen years, their once cordial relationship had cooled considerably, and when Lynn handed off KEVIN THE BOLD to Robert Molyneux, Collins must have felt some sense of relief.

Because of the nature of doing a weekly strip, with different stages of development happening on several storylines simultaneously, it wasn’t a simple turnkey situation. While Molyneux was introducing himself and learning the ropes, Collins was busy wrapping up existing storylines and scripts with Dave Ward. An erstwhile employee at the Newspaper Enterprise Association’s Cleveland office, Ward was now working on a freelance basis out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. This information comes from Collins’ correspondence with Lynn, Molyneux, and Ward, and with the exception of the new guy, there is plenty of sniping going on. As most acknowledged, Collins was caught in the middle.

It’s a shame that I don’t have copies of Collins’ letters—his tended to be entertaining reads too.

It’s bewildering trying to keep track of who was doing what, with all the different things happening simultaneously. While Kreigh Collins no longer handled all of KEVIN’s writing, he did provided outlines for upcoming chapters. He also collaborated on plot developments, and he was inclined to contribute to the scripts he received.

Both Molyneux and Ward played parts in the development of the sequence running below, featuring young Cecil Rochester. (In order to collect a sizeable inheiritance, Cecil must become a soldier). Ward was the writer and Molyneux handled the back end of its development. Correspondence shows that Collins generally gets along with Ward, Ward was resented by Lynn (whose demeanor had caused Ward to quit in the first place), and Ward resented Molyneux (who appears positioned as Ward’s replacement). Meanwhile, Molyneux and Collins start figuring out how to work together.

Here is a selection of these parties’ correspondence. The oddly-cropped images were the result of photos taken in haste as I plowed through the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Special Collection #56.

In this letter (or separate letters) from Dave Ward, Ward approves of Colllins’ original story outline and makes some suggestions for plot developments. One is to have the regiment of Musketeers let by the historical figure Jean Martinet (which requires bending time in order to fit him into Kevin’s 16th-century world). The story introduces a new guy, Cedric, whose name eventually becomes Cecil.

Meanwhile, Molyneux introduces himself, tells Collins that he has boned up on some episodes already in the pipeline (#69 – “Queen Elizabeth,” and “#71 – “Hispaniola;” Cecil’s story is #70); he also admits to being new to the game of comics continuations. Yet a few days later, he asks for Collins’ permission to write a story for KEVIN.

Molyneux settles in to the routine of handling Collins, but is getting pushback on some of his suggestions. Nonetheless, he includes an interesting anecdote from his WWII Army background with a reference to Mort Walker’s BEETLE BAILEY character, Cosmo. No doubt Collins was relating some doozies of his own in the return mail.

Another missive from Ward reveals how defensive he is toward his story, and below, he starts nitpicking at things Molyneux is doing (interestingly, also one of Lynn’s bad habits). But it’s also clear that Ward knows his stuff.

So many words! Enough! Now for some pretty pictures.

The April 5 episode is transitionary; Cecil is introduced in the final panels. Here is an early version of the episode’s script.

Lord Sanford has made it known that Queen Elizabeth wants Kevin to serve secretly as Cecil’s chaperone.

A round peg for a square hole, Cecil makes poor first impressions on both Sergeant Stubbs and Captain Martinet. Kevin has his hands full!

A really cool thing about the beautiful April 19 episode (what a splash panel!), is that I have its Finnish version, where it was titled Haukka – temmeltäväin tuulten kasvatti, which translates to “Hawk—The Most Uplifting of the Winds” (a rather romantic take on the usual sort or rebranding the strip received for foreign markets).

Incidentally, I hope to receive a couple physical examples of HAUKKA in the coming months.

To be continued…

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An Overlooked Classic

The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, the Complete Mitzi McCoy” features the entire run of Kreigh Collins’ first NEA feature, and is available for a limited time at a reduced price.

Mitzi McCoy Cover 150

MITZI McCOY ran from 1948 to 1950 and showcased Kreigh Collins’ 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 in “The Complete Mitzi McCoy” 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.

The collection includes an introduction by Eisner Award-winning author Frank M. Young, an Afterward by Ithaca College’s Ed Catto, and previously unpublished artwork and photos. Longtime comics artist Butch Guice also provides a new pin-up of the character Mitzi McCoy.

The book is available for $30 ONLY $20! For domestic shipping, add $4; for international orders, please add $25 to cover first class shipping. To place an order, leave a comment below or email me at BrianEdwardCollins1[at]gmail.com, and I will give you PayPal or Venmo information.

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

Burying the Lede

Grand Rapids History & Special Collections, Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI

As 1963 was about to end, so was the fifteen-year period of direct supervision of Kreigh Collins by Ernest Lynn at NEA. That it was disclosed without fanfare in the third paragraph of a memo hinted at how strained the relationship between the two had become. Happy New Year?

On a more cheerful note, January 1 was Collins’ 114th birthday. Beginning next week, a new chapter—overseen by neophyte Robert Molyneux—begins.

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

Yo’s Lament

The outline continues. Here is the beginning of the sentence from page 1: The story is high blown prose describing the utter fatigue of the artiste and the mountain…

The first paragraph is a pretty accurate description of the July 10 episode, taken from a photograph of the original artwork, which is found in a collection at the Grand Rapids Public Library..

It is a delight, both in its overall appearance and in some of the details hidden within. In the first panel showing Yo Delle and his manager, Notty Pine is shown to be bald—something fans of the “cowboy ventriloquist” wouldn’t notice, since the dummy’s costume included a cowboy hat. In the following panel, the crew stops at a roadside diner called Tomain Tommy’s, a play on a (now obsolete) term describing food poisoning, “ptomaine”). The final panel has an eerie quality, with manager Billy Buildup looking over his shoulder—he apparently has the car in reverse—and taken out of context, Notty Pine’s crack seems strangely contemporary.

From the outline, “Page 2 — June” (i.e., the July 17 episode) turned out not to be a “half and half” with more Irish wolfhound backstory, but a simplified version showing the new characters getting established on shore, identified as Manitou Island. In reality, Manitou is actually two islands, North and Sound Manitou, and they are located to the west of Michigan’s “pinkie,” about a dozen miles away from the town of Leland. Leland is the town in which Collins situated the prototype episode he created for NEA, “Tom Match and Stub;” here is evidence that MITZI McCOY was also set in Leland (an area that Collins spent a couple summers early in his career, when his focus was landscape painting).

The outline is quite specific in its description of the island—I would posit that Collins had read about such geographical features somewhere along the way.

To be continued…

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

Time Capsule

About ten years ago, when I started collecting my grandfather’s comics in earnest, I received a large package from my Uncle Kevin. It contained hundreds of KEVIN THE BOLD and MITZI McCOY episodes (including the entire run of MITZI). Because I had talked with (Uncle) Kevin about putting together a book featuring his namesake, I was less interested in the MITZIs. Later, when the idea of publishing a compilation of a comic feature that ran for nearly two decades became too daunting, I recalculated and set my sites on Kreigh Collins’ first NEA feature. Around this time, my uncle sent me another massive shipment—many more Sunday strips, but also some odds and ends.

Among the miscellanea was the envelope shown above, postmarked February 1987, from Wadsworth, Illinois. Tempel Farms was the home of Aunt Esther, my grandmother’s sister. Because the husbands of both Theresa and Esther had passed, the two women spent much time together, including at Aunt Esther’s winter home in Naples (where the letter was delivered). My grandmother’s handwriting indicates the envelope was for Eleanor Burgess, with whom I am not familiar. The contents all related to my grandfather’s comics career, but by the time I opened it, it seems the envelope had become a sort of catchall, a little time capsule, circa 1949. There was a letter typed by Kreigh (the numerous typos were a dead giveaway)—it mentioned the possibility of starting a second comic strip. Also included was a plot outline for one of the chapters of MITZI McCOY, and about a half dozen MITZI episodes, half-tabloids likely from the New York Sunday Mirror—but not the episodes covered in the plot outline. Unable to make sense of the package, I put it aside and got busy scanning and cataloguing all my new comics.

Later, after having done research for my MITZI collection, the contents of the envelope started to make more sense, and as this blog celebrates its sixth anniversary, now seems like a good time to delve further into this enigma. The second strip referred to brief discussions Collins had about creating one with a religious theme (like his earlier Bible Picture Stories), and whether he would be bound to his current employer (NEA), or if he could negotiate with another syndicate, such as King Features.

Revisiting the plot outline, and now more familiar with MITZI McCOY, I was surprised to see how closely the finished episodes hewed to Collins’ original plan. His boss, Ernest “East” Lynn, was a heavy-handed editor inclined to nitpick and tinker, and prior to the publication of my MITZI collection (ahem, The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, The Complete Mitzi McCoy), much of the information I read online gave others credit for the storylines my grandfather illustrated (such as this well-written blog post by my future collaborator, Frank M. Young).

Because of the long advance time needed to create a weekly Sunday comics feature, the outline for these episodes would have been written 3–4 months before the corresponding strips were published. In this instance, that would mean roughly March, 1949. In the late 1940s, Kreigh Collins and his family wintered on Anna Maria Island, a barrier island located at the southern tip of the mouth of Tampa Bay. For two or three months, the family would escape the snowy West Michigan winters and stay in a rented cottage, with sons Eric and David temporarily enrolled in a local elementary school. Later in his career, Collins and his family would spend even longer periods away from home, plying the Great Lakes and beyond in a sailboat.

Anna Maria Island, Florida, 1949. Kreigh was an early adaptor of the remote working concept.

The story outline is for what became MITZI’s fifth chapter. In my MITZI McCOY collection, I titled it “The History of the Irish Wolfhound,” but it’s really more about Stub Goodman, the editor of a smalltown newspaper, and Dick Dixon, an erstwhile runaway who ends up working for Stub at the Freedom Clarion. Tiny, Stub’s Irish Wolfhound, also plays a major role. By design, any of MITZI’s primary characters could take the lead in a given sequence—this time, Mitzi herself doesn’t show up until the third episode, and then only in a supporting role.

I can’t guarantee Collins banged this out while basking in the Florida sun, but I’d like to imagine that’s exactly how it happened.

The first paragraph mentions some new characters, and although Collins was open to having them return at some point in the future, they never did. One minor change is that the action occurred over eight episodes, not seven, but beyond that, it’s an accurate prediction of the final product. Six months into the strip’s run, Tiny had already become a reader’s favorite, and to capitalize on this, Collins suggested a splash panel with an eye-catching closeup of the dog. Lynn and the suits at the NEA were pleased with the results, and printed promotional slicks to woo potential clients.

In the outline, June 26 was the target date for the first episode of the story; this episode was actually split across two weeks. This sort of recalibration was not unusual—apparently an episode from an earlier sequence was also spread out over two weeks, as the chapter debuted a week later, on July 3, 1949.

Notably, this chapter was one of the most influential of MITZI’s short run—the device of having Stub narrate a story to a youngster would recur in Collins’ future work, and the throwback visuals shown here foretell what was to come 15 months later when MITZI morphed into KEVIN THE BOLD.

“The History of the Irish Wolfhound,” and its outline, continues next week.

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Speaking of Mitzi…

The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, the Complete Mitzi McCoy,” is available for a limited time at a reduced price; it features the entire run of Kreigh Collins’ first NEA feature.

Mitzi McCoy Cover 150

MITZI McCOY ran from 1948 to 1950 and showcased Kreigh Collins’ 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 in “The Complete Mitzi McCoy” 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.

The collection includes an introduction by Eisner Award-winning author Frank M. Young, an Afterward by Ithaca College’s Ed Catto, and previously unpublished artwork and photos. Longtime comics artist Butch Guice also provides a new pin-up of the character Mitzi McCoy.

The book costs $30 ONLY $20! For domestic shipping, add $4; for international orders, add $25 for first class shipping. To place an order, leave a comment below or email me at BrianEdwardCollins1[at]gmail.com, and I will give you PayPal information.

___________________________________________________________________________________

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

Tit-Bits No. 2232

Tit-Bits 2232 01 300

Tit-Bits was a British weekly with origins in the late 19th century. An Argentinian version was created in 1909, and among its pages, Spanish translations of American comics were featured.

Measuring 10.5″ x 13.5″, the 24-page, tabloid-sized magazine had full-color covers, and the interior was a mixture of black and white and color pages.

“Kevin the Bold” made its Tit-Bits debut in issue No. 2232, published on April 1, 1952. Retitled Kevin el Denodado, its adventure theme fit in nicely with the other comics the magazine featured. In addition to appearing on the cover, “Kevin” also ran on the inside spread. The other comics in this issue were Spanish versions of “Big Ben Bolt,” by John Cullen Murphy (Ben Bolt Campeón), “Rusty Riley” by Frank Godwin (Rusty Riley, Aprendiz de Jockey), “Terry and the Pirates” by Milt Caniff (Terry, el Piloto), and Dr. Nicholas P. Dallis’ “Rex Morgan, MD” (Rex Morgan, Médico). Sometimes the comics ran on full pages, and in other cases there was editorial content wrapping around them.

In all the copies I have seen of Tit-Bits, comics were featured on both the second page and facing the table of contents (page 3). The other comics appeared at random intervals throughout and generally ran in black and white.

On the other hand, the new comic found on the magazine’s center spread ran in color. Not only that, but this massive 21″ x 13.5″ image was made by combining three separate episodes into one.

Tit-Bits 2232 12-13 150 qcc.jpg

It actually begins with the final episode of “Mitzi McCoy,” and continues with the first two episodes of “Kevin the Bold.” This composite comic was constructed from tabloid versions of the original—each of the three throwaway panels are missing—and the visuals of the third and fourth panels are reversed, with the dialog remaining in its original position (I guess the NEA’s Ernest “East” Lynn wasn’t the only fussy comics editor in the western hemisphere!)

As a comparison, here are the original versions of the spread’s three comics (September 24, October 1, and October 8, 1950).

Tit-Bits continued running episodes of Kevin el Denodado for at least three years. A single episode ran in each of the five issues following No. 2232, and then another three-comic combination graced the center spread of issue No. 2238, dated May 13, 1952. As was the case with the Menomonee Falls Gazette, the Tit-Bits cover images rotated based on the comics featured inside. From what I can tell from my small collection, Tit-Bits kept publishing “Kevin” episodes sequentially, possibly skipping a story arc, or occasionally running them in a different order.

“Mitzi McCoy” does not seem to have been featured in Tit-Bits, and the only case I have seen of that comic strip having been translated into Spanish appeared in Havana, Cuba’s “El Mundo” Sunday edition.

El Mundo De MM 150

“El Mundo de Mitzi McCoy,” May 21, 1950.


Lost in Translation

The action featured in the epic “Kevin the Bold” comic above appears near the tail end of my book, “The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy.” The book features all 99 episodes of “Mitzi McCoy” as well as the ensuing 12 “Kevin the Bold” adventures that following the “Mitzi”‘s transition to “Kevin”. While there are no immediate plans to translate the book into Spanish, it’s pretty awesome in its original English, if I do say so myself.

Mitzi cover final

“The Complete Mitzi McCoy” can be ordered here.


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