The Four Corners

Kreigh Collins truly had a wanderlust, and his comic strips’ settings reflected this as well. “Mitzi McCoy” was set in Freedom, Michigan, but in its short run, Mitzi traveled to Canada’s North Woods (in her own plane), Miami Beach, New York City, and Chicago; action also took place in ancient Rome and Ancient Israel.

“Kevin the Bold” had an 18-year run, and its protagonist travelled much more extensively—to the four corners of the Earth.

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This dramatic Irish cliff seems at least party inspired by the Cliffs of Moher.

Although Kreigh Collins never visited Ireland, he did travel to Morocco as a young man, and his classic Sadea sequence from 1952 featured the North African country.

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Situated as close to Ireland as it was, much action took place in the Netherlands, as in this episode from 1961. Bruges (Belgium), was also a relatively short trek for Kevin.

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Often, action was taking place in several distant lands in a single comic. The March 16, 1952 episode features Switzerland, northern Italy, and Byzantium (aka Constantinople).

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In a sequence that has yet to run on this blog, Kevin travels to Venice and eventually sails to the eastern Mediterranean in pursuit of the pirate Zyclos.

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Much of the action from the mid-50s episodes of “Kevin the Bold” took place in London and other locations in England; fictitious German towns were also a frequent setting. In Firenze, Kevin nearly bumped into Leonardo Da VInci.

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On an adventure that was published in the summer of 1953, Kevin traveled as far east as the Caucasus Foothills (Georgia, Asia). By the end of that chapter, he was back in the south of France.

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The next year, Kevin rode to Muscovy (modern-day Moscow). And of course, Kevin’s travels were generally in the name of fighting injustice. KTB 090554 HA CST 150 qcc

In 1955, Kevin set sail for Suez, Egypt, in order to return a princess to father. For this episode, Collins prepared a customized layout for the Chicago Tribune, featuring fewer panels and the addition of a nicer rendering of Kevin’s storm-tossed ship.

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A later sequence took place in Norway, again featuring one of the artist’s specialties, beautifully-drawn boats.

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In early 1962, Kevin’s adventures to him to the New World, the first of several trips he would make across the Atlantic.

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The following year, a storm struck Kevin’s ship and blew him off course—apparently around Cape Horn and into the Pacific, where he eventually beached in Japan. Unfortunately, and not so surprisingly, given the era in which this episode was published, the Japanese are shown with a skin tone beyond caricature. (However, by the time the sequence had wrapped, this travesty was corrected).

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In the mid-60s Kevin again crossed the Atlantic, reaching the North America mainland. He saw the location of the ill-fated colony of Roanoke, Niagara Falls, and the California coast.

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Near the end of its run, Kevin’s journey takes him furthest from his Irish beginnings, to the other side of the world, the South Sea Isles.

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Although Kevin’s journey seemingly brought him to the four corners of the world, this blog’s readers hail from an even more diverse list of exotic lands:

Estonia, Slovakia, Bolivia, Bahrain, Vietnam, Iceland, Malta,
the Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Albania, Honduras,
Luxembourg, Greenland, Ecuador, Singapore, Qatar, Tunisia,
American Samoa, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Peru, Romania,
Japan, Guam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, Macedonia, Puerto Rico,
Latvia, Myanmar, Poland, Greece, Indonesia, Uruguay, Panama,
Pakistan, Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Belgium, South Africa,
Nigeria, South Korea, Ukraine, Mexico, Switzerland, Hong Kong,
Ireland, Norway, Turkey, New Zealand, Bosnia & Herzegovina,
Philippians, Finland, Hungary, Chile, Australia, India, Argentina,
Thailand, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Serbia, Denmark,
Canada, Sweden, Netherlands, Brazil, Croatia, Portugal, Spain,
Italy, France, and (not as exotic to me), the United States

In commemoration of this blog’s fourth anniversary, I thank its readers for their continued interest in my grandfather’s comics career.


The Perfect Anniversary Gift!

Forget those traditional and modern gift lists—click here to place your order for The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy. In addition to the entire run of “Mitzi McCoy,” the book includes the opening sequence of the comic strip “Mitzi” evolved into, “Kevin the Bold.”

The book also features an extensive introduction by Eisner Award-winner Frank M. Young and previously unpublished artwork and photographs.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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

Gone Girl

Wykes has been eliminated but there is still danger afoot.

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After a quick getaway, some liberty appears to have been taken with the geography involved in this tale. The previous action had taken place around Roanoke Island, North Carolina, and yet now Kevin, et al., find themselves at the Jamestown Settlement, located over 100 miles away in Virginia. Or perhaps they paddled their canoe that far. (It’s possible this action was cut when the comic was reformatted as a one-third page!). At any rate, plans are being made for an ocean crossing, and a return to London.

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Saigen admits to abetting Ginia’s escape from the English merchantman, but happily agrees to stay aboard for the voyage across the sea. As a reward, Kevin begins telling the tale of Robin Hood, whose story becomes the next sequence in the comic strip’s narrative. Fittingly, recounting a story to a child is another device used by Collins throughout his cartooning career. It happened several times in “Mitzi McCoy:” the story of the Irish Wolfhound, the Christmas Story, and the McCoy Family Legend (which facilitated the transition of “Mitzi” into “Kevin the Bold”).

 


 

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

Pedro to the Rescue

As the past few weeks have shown, this Roanoke sequence has contained several instances where plot devices Kreigh Collins used in earlier episodes were repeated. Sometimes even oddball phrases would reoccur.

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There is no doubt that the introductory caption of the September 5 episode (above) would be worded differently if it appeared today. (I think “bundled sticks” would suffice). But at least an alternate spelling was used that better distinguished the word from its ugly sound-alike (how ironic it is that the term for this phenomenon is “homonym”). The more offensive spelling was actually used in an episode of “Kevin the Bold” that appeared nearly a decade earlier, again referring to firewood.

As for the theory Kreigh Collins mentioned in the newspaper article from a few weeks ago, he believes Ginia is better known by another name…

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Back to the action, Pedro bravely saves Kevin and Ginia/Pocahontas, and then he puts his back into the action!

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A deadfall device appeared early on in Kreigh Collins’ NEA cartooning career, in the ninth episode of “Mitzi McCoy,” which ran on January 2, 1949. It also raised the ugly specter of a beautiful girl being crushed to death.

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To find out Mitzi’s fate with the deadfall, pick up a copy of The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy, and turn to page 27. The book can be ordered here.

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

The Cruelest Cuts

Hmmm… this foundling daughter sure has an interesting name!

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Black and white tabloid proofs reveal the travesty of the one-third-page format—the last two panels are deleted! And in the August 29 episode shown below, the omission is even more egregious—a plot point is left on the cutting room floor. Meanwhile, Wykes sets his brutal plan in motion.

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Ginia’s harsh criticism leads her to suffer the same fate as Kevin. As she fills Kevin in on Wykes’ plans, salvation appears low on the horizon.

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

Finding a Friend

Kevin is confused by his new acquaintance’s behavior, and their relationship gets off to a rocky start.

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The two develop a certain amount of trust, and the July 25 episode presents Kevin with a couple of surprises.

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Saigen harks back to a character from a September, 1949 “Mitzi McCoy” episode. Tim Graham is saved in a very similar fashion by Mugs, another Native American boy. (This reminds me of a line by David Byrne, “There are a finite number of jokes in the universe.”)

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Although Kreigh Collins portrayed Native Americans as both heroes and villains, their speech was usually presented in the stereotypical fashion common of the era, a broken English where “me” was used instead of “I” and “-um” was appended to words. Kevin also shows some bias in making the mistake of underestimating his new friend Saigen.

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Not only that, but Kevin falls into the same trap as in an adventure from five years earlier…

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…as did Kevin’s dog Rory, in the comic strip’s inaugural 1950 sequence.

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As a kid, I remember digging holes for this type of trap out in the woods behind our house. Or more likely, I recall my brother Brett doing it in hopes of capturing me! We must have learned this trick from our father.


Tiger Traps and Other Comics

The 1950 “Kevin the Bold” episode directly above is featured along with 110+ others in “The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy.” It also features a wonderful essay by Eisner Award-winner Frank M. Young and is available here.

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

The Lost Colony

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The following “Kevin the Bold” sequence received quite a promotional push from Kreigh Collins’ syndicate. In addition to several paragraphs of descriptive text, four separate spots were prepared—three with illustrations and one with a photo of Collins at his drawing table.

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The promotional push generated other articles, such as this one from the Atlantic City Press. Placing it alongside an update on pole sitter Dixie Blandy is interesting perhaps only to me (but get a load of this!)

Although the comics came out in the summer of 1965, the required research was started five years earlier. Collins and his family had taken their schooner Heather south in 1959, wintering in Coconut Grove, Florida. This was the first step in their endeavor of sailing the Great Loop, an approximately 6,000-mile journey (quite a feat considering the 45′ sailboat’s crew consisted of Kreigh, wife Theresa, and 9-year-old twins Kevin and Glen.

It is worth mentioning that Collins continued working on his comic strip during this year-long adventure, he arose early in the morning and did his illustrations in the main salon of his sailboat’s cabin. Visits to post offices along the way were required for mailing off his scripts and illustrations, and for receiving feedback from the suits at the syndicate.

In April, the family headed north via the Intracoastal Waterway, eventually sailing through New York Harbor, the Hudson River, and across the Erie Canal. From there, they entered the Great Lakes, sailing through Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan, making it back to their home port on Lake Macatawa in late August.

Somewhere in North Carolina, a photographer joined the crew (although these photos must have been taken by someone else, since the photographer appears in a couple of the shots).

Among their many stops was Hatteras Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks—the location of the lost colony of Roanoke, and the mystery and disappearance of its settlers, including Virginia Dare. No one knows what happened, but as Collins said in the newspaper article about the sequence, he had his theory.

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A souvenir from an annual stage show about “America’s greatest mystery” (now in its 82nd season)

The action begins with Kevin about to sail for the New World, and with his amigo Pedro determined to join the crew.

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As usual, the comics’ tone is lighthearted at the beginning of the story arc, but soon the real action begins.

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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.

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“The Complete Mitzi McCoy” can be ordered here.


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

Do You Know–

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To commemorate Michigan’s centennial, Kreigh Collins illustrated a daily feature called “Do You Know.” A collaboration with writer Willis Atwell, it appeared in eight Michigan newspapers and ran from September 2, 1935 to January 26, 1937 (the 100th anniversaries of Michigan first becoming a U.S. territory and then a member of the Union).

Because each panel was comprised of three separate illustrations and historical accuracy was paramount, the project required a great deal of research. The hard work paid off and the feature became a hit in Collins’ home state. Due to popular demand, Booth Newspapers, Inc. compiled these 441 panels into a book, allowing Collins’ reputation as an illustrator to spread.

 

“Do You Know” was quite similar in style to “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.” While “Ripley” will celebrate its 100th anniversary this October, at the time it was a relatively new feature, having debuted 16 years earlier. In fact, another comic feature, illustrated by Art Krenz, appeared around the same time. It was also titled “Do You Know,” and was put out by the syndicate that would hire Collins 13 years later, Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). The two like-named features coexisted, and it is unclear to me which came first. Even if the Booth Newspapers concept was not entirely original, the illustrations are both entertaining and educational, qualities that would also describe Kreigh Collins’ future comic strips, especially “Kevin the Bold” and “Up Anchor!”

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The March 18, 1936 installment has a very informative diagram showing the relative depths of the Great Lakes, most of which Collins would later sail on extensively (all but Lake Superior). The earliest installments (below) describe a border skirmish between Ohio and Michigan, the results of which are a bit embarrassing for someone whose family hails from the Great Lakes State. 

The illustrations are filled with interesting details, like the reverse lettering on the ink stamp (October 4, 1935), clever political cartooning (October 30, 1935), and despite the time period in which they were published, not only highlight the accomplishments of men, but those of women and native Americans too (November 14 and 1, 1935).


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

A Pretty Little Speech

Besides becoming an artist, the only other career choice Kreigh Collins considered was to become a magician. By the time he reached high school he’d made up his mind, yet magic cropped up in his work frequently enough. In 1937, he wrote Tricks, Toys, and Tim, a unique “how-to-do-it” book  published by D. Appleton-Century — Kreigh’s illustrations appeared throughout. In his later work, subjects related to magic came up — “Mitzi McCoy” had a sequence featuring a yodeling cowboy with a ventriloquist’s dummy (!) — and ventriloquism was featured again in this “Kevin the Bold” storyline.

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If you find a copy, buy it! You won’t be sorry. More information on “Tricks, Toys, and Tim” here.

Unfortunately, Kevin and Tankard are unaware of the current fearful climate in the little Dutch city of Bomen.

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The September 9 episode is a good example showing the difference between the Chicago Tribune’s superior color schemes and that of a typical newspaper. Although the image of the half page version is just a snapshot liberated from an old eBay listing, it has richer colors and and a much more extensive palette than the tabloid.

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The ever-honorable Kevin bids to save his new friends’ lives by sacrificing his own. In what appears to be a cowardly move, Tankard quickly backs the idea.

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Finding the perfect time to demonstrate his talents, Tankard saves the day. Meanwhile, Kevin is appreciative enough that Tankard accompanies him on his next adventure in Ireland, where no doubt he will demonstrate more magic.


The Complete Mitzi McCoy

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To read the 1949 “Mitzi McCoy” sequence featuring the yodeling cowboy and his ventriloquist’s dummy, pick up a copy of The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy, available here.


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