The first “Kevin the Bold” sequence features all the classic elements for which the strip would become known — dramatic action, monstrous villains, damsels in distress, heroism… and gorgeous artwork.
Moya McCoy is the first character introduced; Kevin doesn’t appear until the second episode, when the two abruptly meet (or as it says in the comic, “Whoosh!”).
“Whoosh!” is a slang term with which I had been unfamiliar — until I started reading Kreigh’s comics. It must be dialogue suggested by the artist. By coincidence, the word appears in not just the second episode of “Kevin the Bold,” but also in the second episode of “Up Anchor.” Note to conspiracy theorists: it does not appear in the second (or any!) episode of “Mitzi McCoy.”
Note: I stand corrected! See the fourth panel (or “frame,” as Collins called them) of the March 26, 1950 “Mitzi,” below.
Tit-Bits (originally named Tit-Bits from all the interesting Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers of the World) was a British weekly magazine with origins in the late 19th century. (It also makes for a blog post title that might come up in more internet searches than usual).
The publication’s emphasis was on dramatic human interest stories. An Argentinian version was created in 1909, and among other things, it featured American comics translated into Spanish.
In the 1950s, many of the comics it ran were King Features titles (“The Phantom,” “Judge Parker,” “Rex Morgan MD,” etc.) but it also ran “Terry and the Pirates” (the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, renamed “La Sombra”) and “Kevin the Bold” (Newspaper Enterprise Association/“Kevin el Denodado”), among others.
The Tit-Bits covers repurposed art from its variety of source material, and frequently used comics. “Kevin” was featured — generally in cases when it had dramatic double-decked illustrations. (Covers are shown with corresponding original Sunday comics).
Looking at the five originals above, I’m reminded of other comics where Collins used similar devices or poses. The first two have echoes of throwaway panels from some of the earliest KTBs.
At left, an earlier drowning victim (December 3, 1950). At far right, from the KTB debut strip, Moya McCoy displays similar form to the damsel in the red dress.
Based on the publication dates of the Argentine monthlies (and the dates the comics originally ran), I’d speculate that each issue would contain four to six episodes of any given comic. The comics ran in a tabloid format, but in a much smaller size, with other stories wrapping around them on the pages.
Though many are currently listed on eBay, I haven’t seen any physical copies of these publications — the shipping costs put them out of my price range. However, I did spring for a rather unique full-page illustration from Tit-Bits. It shows a trussed up Moya McCoy, as she is being kidnapped by Moors. The artwork is from KTB’s opening sequence, and I will begin running that chapter in four installments starting next Sunday.
Nothing to see here — just a little pre-Code bondage!
In the final episode of “Kevin the Bold,” after saving yet another damsel in distress (and of course, an entire village), our hero is begged by a lovely señorita to settle down and stay in her now-peaceful valley. Kevin, whose last name (Marlin) has been revealed in a recent, prior episode, declines the offer from the Spanish beauty but admits he could imagine himself settling down on a boat in say, 300 years.
Abruptly, “Up Anchor” was launched a week later (November 3, 1968). As the NEA’s promotional literature put it, “Kreigh Collins’ credentials to create and draw ‘Up Anchor,’ America’s first color comic strip devoted to boating, are as bona fide as the burr on a thistle.” Narrated by first mate Jane Marlin, “Up Anchor” was based on experiences Collins had with his family cruising on his own sailboat. Aboard Heather with Jane were her husband (Kevin Marlin, remember him?), and sons Erik and Dave. The scripts were developed in partnership with Collins’ wife Theresa (“Teddy”), who had previously chronicled the family’s round-trip journey from their home port on Lake Michigan to Maine (Teddy’s “The Wake of the Heather” was published in 1967) .
Editor & Publisher, a newspaper industry trade magazine, announced in its August 26, 1950 issue that “Mitzi McCoy” was about to be taken over by a new character. According to NEA feature director Ernest “East” Lynn, jumping back nearly five centuries to this new lead character was without precedent in the comic business. With the comic strip’s new setting, Collins returned to the field in which he made an international reputation — the field of costume illustration.
E&P quoted Lynn, “It was the outgrowth of popular approval of two episodes in Mitzi McCoy, each of which gave the artist an opportunity to display his great flair for period art. The first was a story dealing with the history of the Irish wolfhound. The second, ‘The Christmas Story,’ told the story of the birth of Christ. In each instance Mr. Collins used the device of having Stub Goodman, one of the leading characters of Mitzi McCoy, narrate the story to a young boy, Dick Dixon. And in each instance fan mail greatly increased. Several editors urged period illustration on a regular basis.”
A month after the announcement, the final episode of “Mitzi” ran, the tale of the McCoy family legend.
The following Sunday (October 1, 1950), the action continued, but under a new shingle. It began with Kevin saving Mitzi’s ancestress, Moya McCoy. However, the focus soon shifted as Kevin left Moya (and Mitzi) behind. As penance for a wild youth, Kevin had pledged a fight against oppression wherever he found it. He waged his battle for the next eighteen years in the funny papers, until another major plot change occurred.
Kreigh Collins’s first comic strip was “Mitzi McCoy.” It premiered on November 7, 1948. Mitzi’s debut was appropriately dramatic — beautiful illustration and a runaway bride. This half-page ran in the Indianapolis Times. Collins obviously put a lot of time into the artwork, and the Times invested a lot of effort in a getting it to print so nicely. Cyan was used in addition to black for the speech balloons and most of the line work to create very rich blacks, and the registration is perfect, resulting in a nice crisp comic.
Along with Mitzi, the strip’s other two main characters (Stub Goodman and Tim Graham) were introduced, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of that scoundrel Phil Rathbone.