At this late stage of creating comics for his syndicate, the layout of Collins’ artwork reflected the way he took to dealing with the multiple-format situation NEA artists faced—how to create an episode that worked as a half-page, tabloid, third-page, and half-tabloid. The layouts tended to have a rather stark third tier, as these bottom panels would be jettisoned in order to make a third-page version of the strip. For tabloids, as the panels were shuffled, only the smaller of the two on the bottom tier was thrown away; half-tabloids included the entire piece of artwork—same as the half-page—just at a smaller scale.
I thought Eugene was an unusual name for a horse, but in this case, it’s appropriate—Eugene means “well-born, noble.” Here, poor Eugene is in a bad place, and unfortunately, things get worse.
Kevin should have theme music when he appears—Eugene seems to hear it!
Kevin lives by a code of conduct where it is his duty to protect women, children, and the oppressed; he feels equally protective toward horses (as the Count De Falcon learned in the second-ever chapter of Kevin’s saga).
The following story arc ran in mid-1968 and was “Kevin the Bold” ’s penultimate sequence, appearing just before the strip morphed into “Up Anchor!” It ran over the course of 18 weeks and seems to have been deliberately included as sort of a grand finale—its subject matter was something very close to Collins’ heart. I don’t have original examples of five of the episodes, including the first four, but I do have color half pages of most of them, so stick around.
This is the story of the breed of horses known as Lipizzaners.
Being a student of history, Kreigh Collins may have previously heard of Lipizzaners, but his familiarity with the breed grew in the late 1950s. Kreigh’s wife was Theresa (Teddy), and her sister Esther had married a man named Tempel Smith. My great uncle Temp started a steel company in 1945 that prospered mightily in the post-war era, such that after witnessing a performance of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, he and his wife purchased and imported 20 Lipizzan horses, and started a riding school on their property in northern Illinois. Given their royal heritage and striking appearance, Collins knew Lipizzaners would be a perfect feature for “Kevin the Bold.”
In Kevin’s adventures, coincidences abound, and in a stroke of kismet, I found myself in Lipica, Yugolslavia, in the summer of 1988. Now part of Slovenia, it is home to the Lipica Stud Farm, the origin of the Lipizzan horse. I was visiting with my mother and step-father, and taken there by some Italian friends who were acting as guides, so the fact that I had a sort of family connection to the place was indeed a coincidence. Of course, our tour guide at the stud farm knew all about Tempel Smith. (In another bit of serendipity, last night I was going through some of my mother’s old photo albums, and came across these pictures and souvenirs, just in time to include here).
Kevin has set about a very long journey on foot—he’d likely offer his kingdom for a horse, but alas, he doesn’t even own any land. (Long ago, he set off from Moya McCoy in search of wealth in order that he might return to Ireland and marry her—but those plans seem long dashed).
Because the Austrians have fallen under attack from the Turks, horses are being conscripted into military service. Fritz, the top trainer at the Lipizzaners’ training facility, has decided he can’t bear to send his prized stallion to war unaccompanied.
“The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, the Complete Mitzi McCoy,” now available directly from its editor (moi!), features the entire run of Kreigh Collins’ first NEA feature.
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 Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, 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’s price is $30. For domestic shipping, add $4; for international orders, first class shipping costs $25. (A recent order sent from New Jersey to France took 10 calendar days to be delivered). To place an order, email me at BrianEdwardCollins1[at]gmail.com, and I will give you PayPal or Venmo information.
When I was a lad, I joined a judo team and took lessons for several years. We learned a bit about Japanese culture and a little bit of the language (I still remember how to count to 99). I got a start at a young age, and did pretty well. I loved it.
To win a match, as I recall, you basically needed to score one point. A nice throw might earn a half point (wasa-ari), and if you achieved two nice throws, it was enough to win. A quicker path to winning was to flip your opponent with a more or less perfect throw, and the referee would call “Ippon!“—meaning one point (and game over). I did this once, I can still remember my opponent coming at me, forcing me to retreat, until I spun and unleashed my bread-and-butter throw, the seoi nage.
I only mention this because I thought there were three more episodes in this story arc, when there is in fact only one. And while the blow Toshi delivers is nothing like anything found in Judo (outside of an Austin Powers movie, maybe), it causes a sudden, decisive ending to the fight.
It’s unfortunate that I don’t have an actual copy of this concluding episode, and it looks like it may contain a pice of clip art—a photostat of Kevin’s sword, appearing in the panel after the throwaway. This time-saving device was used by Collins somewhat frequently during this period.
Since this was such a short post, let me fill some space with a recent photo of a special beer tasting.
I wrote about these beers last November. I provided customized label artwork for a brewery in my grandfather’s old hometown—Ada, Michigan’s Gravel Bottom Brewery—and the brewery produced three varieties as their first bottle releases. I had previously tasted the base version (Kevin the Bold Russian Imperial Stout), and it was quite nice, but I think I preferred a version that I’d cellared for the last year, “Kevin Goes to the Beach,” with its subtle coffee, coconut, and vanilla flavorings. Aging it really helped. Later in the winter, I’ll surely be cracking open the last one, “Kevin Goes Camping.”