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.

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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.

January 17, 1960

This 60-year-old comic section was a souvenir from my grandparents’ southern journey aboard their schooner, Heather. In late 1959, they left their west Michigan home port on Lake Macatawa and set sail for Chicago. The Illinois River led to the Mississippi, and eventually to Florida’s west coast—a favorite wintertime destination (In the ’40s, the Collins clan often rented on Anna Maria Island). Besides his wife, Teddy, Kreigh’s only crew was his eight-year old twins, Kevin and Glen. Heather and her crew wouldn’t return to Michigan until August, 1960.

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The Fort Meyers News-Press‘ Sunday edition included an eight-page comic section, led off by Milt Caniff’s popular strip Terry and the Pirates, handled since 1946 by George Wunder. Joining Terry on page one was Mary Worth, written by Allen Saunders and illustrated by Ken Ernst.

Scanning the outside pages of an old comic section is relatively easy with a tabloid scanner, but getting the inside pages presents more of a challenge. Despite having already shrunk from their enormous dimensions from earlier in the 20th century, these pages still measure 29″ x 21.5″ when unfolded. Pages 2-3 feature largely feature run-of-the-mill NEA titles: Boots, by Edgar Martin; Dick Turner’s Carnival; Roy Crane’s Captain Easy (handled on Sundays by Leslie Turner); Vic Flint (written by Jay Heavilin and drawn by Dean Miller); and Our Boarding House, likely illustrated by Bill Freyse. The only non-NEA comic on this first inside spread was Warner Bros.’ Bugs Bunny.

From my perspective, things improve on page 4. There are two contrasting half-page features, Chris Welkin, Planeteer, by Art Sansom and Russ Winterbotham, and Kreigh Collins’ Kevin the Bold. (This episode is one midway through a tale of buried treasure and tyranny, with the villain being Count Stabb). Page 5 has two King Features Syndicate titles (Chic Young’s Blondie and Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey) and another by McNaught (Joe Palooka, likely handled at this point by Tony DiPreta and Morris Weiss). 

The final inside spread has a raft of third-page NEA comics, (Pricilla’s Pop by Al Vermeer, Tom Trick by Dale, Out Our Way by J.R. Williams, Rolfe’s Brenda Breeze, Merrill Blossar’s Freckles and His Friends and Walt Scott’s The Little People.

The back page of the comic section had two more McNaught titles (Lank Leonard’s Mickey Finn and McEvoy and Stribel’s Dixie Dugan), as well as the the NEA’s popular feature Alley Oop, by V.T. Hamlin.

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By far, most of my comics are single sheets cut from sections, but I’m glad that my grandparents kept this section intact. (Maybe they forgot to bring scissors when they went south).

Happy New Year! (January 1 was Kreigh Collins’ 112th birthday).

KTC New Year 200


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

Tit-Bits No. 2232

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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.

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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.

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“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.

NEA Daily and Sunday Comics

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Among my collection of Kreigh Collins’s comics is a sampler of NEA comics from mid-1955. It looks likel the entire NEA comic package for the week of May 23–29, 1955 — but I’m not sure because it’s the only one of its kind I’ve ever seen.

It’s a 32-page, self cover, black and white tabloid, printed on a coated stock. Curiously, it isn’t bound in any way, so the eight individual sheets that it consists of can be pulled apart and put back together with ease. Because of its lack of staples, nice reproduction quality, and decent paper stock, I wonder if it wasn’t intended for newspapers to use for printing their comic sections.

If not, it apparently made for a nice keepsake for the NEA artists whose work was contained inside. As a young boy, I remember stacks of these things piled in Grandpa Collins’ studio. And of course I noticed the comic that appeared inside the front cover!

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Beyond that, I’m not sure how far I read. I might’ve skipped the Sunday and daily Boots and Her Buddies comics (by Edgar Martin), but who could resist V.T. Hamlin’s Alley Oop?

It’s interesting to see which strips had daily versions, and which were Sunday-only. Although the topic of Kevin the Bold becoming a daily came up between Collins and his NEA boss, Ernest Lynn, it never happened.

I’m not too well-acquainted with many of the other comics that follow, but I am familiar with others (mostly due to seeing them on the backs of my Kevins). I recognize the name Walt Scott, since he drew the charming illustration that the NEA staff gave my grandfather on the occasion of his twin sons’ birth (in February, 1951).

Besides Walt Scott (whose The Little People, below, ran on page 7), I’m familiar with Red Braucher (quite a character himself), Herbert W. Walker (Newspaper Enterprise Association president), Dean Miller (he illustrated the Vic Flint Sunday on page 15), and… that’s about it.

from NEA

Here’s Walt Scott’s take on Kreigh Collins serenading his newborn baby sons Kevin and Glen (while older sons David and Eric crack wise).

Next up in the NEA tabloid are a Sunday and dailies for Freckles and His Friends (Merrill Blosser), Walt Scott’s The Little People (accompanied by its topper strip, Huckleberry Hollow), and seven days of Captain Easy, by Lesley Turner.

Then, Sundays and dailies for Out Our Way with “The Willets” (J.R. Williams) and Pricilla’s Pop (Al Vermeer).

Continuing to show the variety the NEA package offered, Sundays and dailies for Vic Flint (Dean Miller/Jay Heavilin) and Bugs Bunny (uncredited) follow.

Next up: Chris Welkin Planeteer (Russ Winterbotham), a “fun page” with several small strips including Tom Trick Fun Detective (credited simply to Dale), and seven days of Our Boarding House with Major Hoople (six daily one-panels and a Sunday tabloid).

The single-panel comics Side Glances (by Galbraith), and Carnival (by Dick Turner) follow.

Bringing up the rear are several comics featuring women (Brenda Breeze by Rolfe) or drawn by them (Sweetie Pie by Nadine Seltzer). Continuing in a domestic vein, there is Hershberger’s Funny Business, and apparently to fill extremely tiny spaces, Little Liz, a tiny daily single-panel, that is essentially an illustrated fortune cookie message.

Finally, it’s The Story of Martha Wayne by Wilson Scruggs.

If anyone has further information about any of these comics or the NEA, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section, below.


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