Published in late 1957, issue No. 3 of the French comic book Big Horn follows the same format as its two predecessors. In addition to Warren Tufts’ title comic, it also features John Wheeler’s KID COLORADO, a short story, and Kreigh Collins’ KEVIN LE HARDI (“Kevin the Bold“).
Because these comic books are so thick (132 pages), they don’t scan very well. These images are photos I took outside with the comic book spread flat beneath a piece of plexiglass. Sorry about the glare. First up is BIG HORN.
BIG HORN is followed by KID COLORADO.
A three-page short story, likely a space filler, buttresses the comic book’s non-titular features.
KEVIN LE HARDI brings up the rear of the book with the action picking up where it left off in BIG HORN No. 2. Originally published on November 25, 1951, the episode features someone I like to call the original Princess Lea.
The KEVIN LE HARDI episodes cover the second half of the chapter featuring Baron Von Blunt. That chapter begins here; the action in BIG HORN No. 3 begins here.
The final (complete) KEVIN THE BOLD episode covered in BIG HORN No. 3 is particularly dramatic.
Unlike the previous BIG HORN titles in which KEVIN LE HARDI appeared, the KEVIN sequence wraps up at the comic book’s ending, with the next chapter being featured in Big Horn No. 4.
Aware that KEVIN THE BOLD had been published as part of the 1970s Italian comic book “Il Nerbiniano,” I recently learned that Kevin was originally featured in his own line of comic books under the moniker RINALDO SENZA PAURA. It’s a great name for our hero, since Rinaldo means “wise power” or “ruler’s advisor,” and senza paura translates to “fearless.” (A huge grazie to my friend Davide for alerting me to these Italian editions!)
The comic books must be rare—the ones listed on ebay are quite expensive. According to the publishing information Davide sent, 14 editions were published by La Rosa dei Venti, based in Milano, dating from 1953–54. Printed in a horizontal format, the comic books were initially 24.5 cm x 17 cm (9.6″ x 6.7″) and 32 pages long; after four or five issues the trim size was reduced to 17 cm x 8 cm (9.6″ x 3.1″) and ran 96 pages. Here are some of the larger-format issues:
Above at left, the first RENALDO SENZA PAURA issue (53-7-30). The sample interior pages show it featured KEVIN THE BOLD’s debut “McCoy Family Legend” story arc, while the cover comes from the second story arc (“The Search for Sadea”). Above center (RSP issue 53-09-30) also has cover and interior pages from “The Search for Sadea;” above right (RSP issue 53-10-30) has cover and interior pages from KEVIN’s fourth “Baron Von Blunt” sequence. Below are some of the smaller-format issues. Perhaps these were designed to be pocket-sized—if you had deep enough pockets (if I had deeper pockets, I’d own one of these beauties!)
Kevin wasn’t the only character expanding into a new market—inside front covers often carried ads for other NEA titles.
While doing this research, an interesting hit led me to an old book. It contains a very old poem—and by old, I mean 13th century! A reprinted version of the book lists 1788 as its date of publication, though I’m not certain if the following images are from same edition. Below, its title page.
The book, nearly 300 pages long, consists of a single poem, written in over 2,000 eight-line stanzas. The first page of the book has a large woodcut illustration showing two armored men battling, helpfully including identifications of the combatants—one of whom is named Rinaldo.
Every few pages, one of the stanzas is replaced by a woodcut spot illustration; occasionally there are two of these illustrations on a single page. I asked a friend from Italy if she could provide some translations, but she said it was written in very old Italian and difficult to read.
The reason this interesting old book come up in my search results was due to a mention (in the seventh line of stanza 53) of the character illustrated on the title page, “Rinaldo senza paura.”
This old poem seems to be the inspiration for Kevin’s moniker in the Italian comic books. It’s an excellent choice, given the subject matter of the poem, and the fact that it dates (approximately) to the era in which KEVIN THE BOLD was set.
In all, the book contained about 25 different spot illustrations. In general, each one was repeated several times at various points in the book, leading me to surmise that they were decorative, and not specific to the action of the poem.
Many of the illustrations depict the type of scenes portrayed in KEVIN THE BOLD episodes. Above, in the first column, we see horsemen riding with banners flying, a ship being loaded with cargo, and a view of a walled city. The second column has three scenes featuring a king—on the battlefield, in the throne room surrounded by advisors, and watching two men in combat. The bottom illustration appears to show a soldier being led away as a prisoner. The third column has scenes of mounted soldiers preparing for or engaging in combat, with the bottom one featuring a centaur who seems to have killed one of the two soldiers he was facing. The fourth column features hand-to-hand combat; the bottom illustration appears to show a soldier carrying the severed head of his opponent.
While it is doubtful that Kreigh Collins ever saw this old book, he was known for thoroughly researching his subject matter, and many of KEVIN THE BOLD’S adventures were likely based on similar original sources.
Next week, I will be traveling to Italy. Along the way, I hope to find some comic book shops that have (affordably priced) copies of either Il Nerbiniano or Kevin Senza Paura. If anyone knows of any stores I should visit in Milano, Firenze, Venice, or Verona, please let me know! Leave a message below, or email me at BrianEdwardCollins1[at]gmail.com. Grazie!
Next week, a new story arc begins. It features the villain Count Noir, and ran in the funnies in the summer of 1957. The story arc picks up where the action in “Kevin the Bold: Sunday Adventures” leaves off. “Sunday Adventures” is a collection of nearly three years’ worth of episodes, presented in a black and white tabloid format, from original proofs (for all but a few episodes). Available here.
Issue No. 2 of the French comic book Big Horn follows the same format as its predecessor. In addition to Warren Tufts’ title comic, it also features John Wheeler’s KID COLORADO and Kreigh Collins’ KEVIN LE HARDI (“Kevin the Bold“).
Because these comic books are so thick (132 pages), they don’t scan very well. These images are photos I took outside with the comic book spread flat beneath a piece of plexiglass. Leading off is BIG HORN.
Full- or half-page ads separate the comic book’s features, which include a text-heavy short story. BIG HORN is followed by the more graphic KID COLORADO.
Once again, KEVIN LE HARDI brings up the rear of the book. It leads off with another nicely illustrated opener—but I can’t immediately peg which episode it came from.
The action picks up where it left off in No. 1, partway through the September 30, 1951 episode.
As before, the panels’ original sequence has been edited, with some of them omitted completely.
(Sorry about the glare in the images—I was taking the pictures on a relatively balmy day in mid-January).
Page 117 was devoted to the splash panel that was featured in an all-time great episode (October 28, 1951).
An oft-mentioned line in biographies of Kreigh Collins is that he employed his wife, Theresa, as a model. The comic book’s final panel is a good example—the close-up of the princess dressed as a commoner. The previous panel was likely posed by Teddy as well. While I can’t vouch for the décolletage, my grandmother did have a very slight build.
Despite the caption at the bottom of the final panel, this was not the end of the episode—it went on for another nine weeks. That action is featured in Big Horn No. 3.
Finalement, congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his reelection as President of France.
“Kevin le Hardi” was included as part of five French “Big Horn” comic books, which were published beginning in October, 1957. The comic books, though small in trim size (about 5-3/8″ x 7-1/8″), were quite lengthy, 128 black and white pages plus color covers. On the cover, Kevin received third billing, and Kreigh Collins’ creation ran on the 31 pages at the back of the book.
Warren Tufts’ title comic occupied the first 32 pages, and it was followed by “Kid Colorado,” by John Wheeler. Each of the comics have nice, custom introductory pages (three pages for “Big Horn.”)
At the conclusion of the “Big Horn” adventure is an ad for “Fantasia.” Next up is a sizable chunk of “Kid Colorado.” I wasn’t able to find out much about it, other than it was the work of a British artist, John Wheeler. Here, it runs for nearly 60 pages—about half the comic book’s pages—and is followed by an ad for “Rancho.”
Now, allow me a “Wizard of Oz”-like transition (RGB files for the good stuff!). Here’s the star of our show, Kevin le Hardi. I know just enough French to make some foolish assumptions about what I’m reading, so it looks like the charming introductory page presents Kevin, his enemy Von Blunt (en français, Von Blut), and his loyal, um, squire (I had to look that one up), MacGrégor (Stub).
“Big Horn No. 1″ features the fourth chapter in the “Kevin the Bold” saga, “The Witch Hunt.” The action picks up with the episode that ran in Sunday comic sections on August 5, 1951.
Ici, a single Sunday episode typically runs three and a half pages (sans throwaway panels).
Au dessous, the September 2, 1951 episode starts at the end of the left-hand spread, and in the center spread, a couple of panels are reversed in order. Otherwise, the panels follow unimpeded for the remainder of the chapter.
Près de the very end of “Big Horn No. 1″ (page 124), the fifth “Kevin the Bold” chapter begins. It features the foe shown on Kevin’s introductory page, Von Blut. The second-to-last page has another example of panel re-sequencing—Von Blut’s mug originally ran on September 23 but it is plopped right in the middle of the September 30, 1951 episode. It works just fine.
Sous the final panel, it curiously states “end of the first episode,” but it’s not even the end of the September 30, 1951 episode! Not to worry, the action continues in “Big Horn No. 2.”
Malheureusement, the back cover highlights everyone but Kevin le Hardi.