Pedro’s wife has popped over for a surprise visit, but it is Carmine who is in for the bombshell revelation.
Rumors of the plot to kill Queen Elizabeth had been swirling around, and Pedro is swept up, improbably.
As the dramatic confrontation nears, my friend Gregorio’ re-colored half pages end. (I had no color examples of the remaining episodes in this chapter to use as color guides). Thanks again for your efforts!
Even minus the color, the quality of these bromide proofs is pretty sweet. But poor Pedro, he feels so badly about losing his ring that he cannot bear to see his wife, even with his punishment nigh!
When I first starting collecting Kreigh Collins’s comics, I wasn’t aware of many fruitful places to look for them. I knew of ebay’s existence, but I didn’t think to look there. I can’t remember where I found the listing for my first purchase, but it was printed rather than online. Around this time, I was also collecting books my grandfather illustrated—I found these on a couple used booksellers’ websites.
One 2009 search on abebooks turned up a hit for 37 color KEVIN L’AUDACIEUX third-pages—from a newspaper Québeçois. They weren’t expensive, so I made the purchase—my second, comics-wise. The plan was to translate them back to English, set all the type on my computer, and digitally combine everything—and plug a hole in my collection.
Soon after the comics arrived, my ambitious bubble burst. Their color wasn’t great, most were cropped so tightly that edges were missing, and I realized I’d vastly overestimated how much French I remembered. I soured on the whole deal and changed my mind about buying another similar lot. (The irony is that now I’m most interested in foreign translations). Years later, the item was still listed—as I recall, PRINCE VALLIANT was on the other side—but no longer.
Later, when my “discovery” of ebay made collecting easier, I considered these episodes in French nearly worthless. But recently, through emails exchanged with a friend from Spain, I learned that these unloved thirds did have value. Gregorio graciously offered to combine them with the corresponding bromide proofs, replace le dialogue française with the English from the proofs, and return them. I found his method amazing, and was very impressed with the results. Gregorio also extended the color from the third-pages to the edges of the bromides’ frames, giving them a distinct appearance.
I offer a sincere thank you—this sequence’s remaining color episodes were all produced by Gregorio. Now, picking up where we left Kevin, he has just agreed to infiltrate a gang of conspirators plotting against Queen Elizabeth.
In the last panel, I’m assuming Kevin also has his fingers crossed.
Once Kevin sees Pedro, it seems he’s having second thoughts about his role as a mole.
Even a most preliminary investigation of KEVIN THE BOLD reveals that he spent time as an Irish agent of King Henry VIII—indeed, in early 1956 the English king became a featured character and appeared regularly. But as the years passed, Henry aged out and was eventually succeeded by Queen Elizabeth I. She first appeared in the December 22, 1963 episode of Kreigh Collins’ feature.
Taken as historical fiction, time is rather fluid in KEVIN THE BOLD. A sequence that ran five months earlier placed the action in 1580. While Queen Elizabeth I’s reign began in late 1558, the events described in the following chapter (based on the Ridolfi Plot), would place the action back in 1571. With that in mind, let’s back up and see why Kevin was meeting the Queen in the first place.
As the previous adventure segues into the next, Pedro delivers a message to his friend that he is to report to the Queen immediately. Kevin is about to learn that her majesty does not like to be kept waiting.
For KEVIN episodes from this time period, I don’t have too many color half-pages, but I do have a pretty solid collection of black and white proofs, which I recently learned are called bromides. (Although the term was familiar, I guess much of the material I learned in my Reproduction Processes class at SUNY-Buffalo circa 1985 is starting to fade). These bromides are photographic reproductions printed on heavy matte paper, similar to watercolor paper. Besides serving as nice keepsakes, they were used as color guides for the separators—illustrators such as Collins would paint them with watercolors to indicate the colors of clothing, interiors, etc.
When I have the time and resources, I combine them with color third-page copies to give a better idea of how the episodes looked in their intended format. In the hybrid episode below, Kevin learns the Queen is not so unreasonable after all…
Kevin is about to reprise his role as an agent of the monarchy, and as usual, it’s a dangerous situation.
While I have a color half-page for the January 5, 1964 episode, the adventure continues next week, with some even more creatively combined BW-color examples…
The outline continues with some more description of the cave Yo Delle’s manager Billy Buildup found for them to hide out. It also establishes that Billy has a more blue collar existence than many of MITZI McCOY’s other characters, who are busy with leisure activities in the next couple of episodes.
The outline was clearly written by someone familiar with sailing small boats, and the final product shows he had a facility with drawing sailcraft. No doubt the final dialogue was all written by Collins too.
A nice tabloid example of the July 24, 1949 episode shows the footer common to NEA features, with Mitzi fifth from left.
That’s a pretty brave stunt young Dick is pulling, trying to free the Snipe’s centerboard while under sail—all without wearing a life vest. But it’s Stub who needs to be careful. When Stub moves over to the high side to keep an eye on Dick, he causes the boat to jibe. A opposed to tacking into the wind, an uncontrolled jib can be very dangerous, and Stub illustrates this by getting clocked by the boom as it swing quickly across the cockpit. Meanwhile, DIck shows impressive life saving technique as he struggles to get Stub to shore.
The “gimmick” proposed by Collins in his original outline (either a watch with a second hand or something similar) was scrapped and replaced with standard captions, but he revisited the idea nearly a decade later, in a 1957 episode of KEVIN THE BOLD.
The outline continues. Here is the beginning of the sentence from page 1: The story is high blown prose describing the utter fatigue of the artiste and the mountain…
The first paragraph is a pretty accurate description of the July 10 episode, taken from a photograph of the original artwork, which is found in a collection at the Grand Rapids Public Library..
It is a delight, both in its overall appearance and in some of the details hidden within. In the first panel showing Yo Delle and his manager, Notty Pine is shown to be bald—something fans of the “cowboy ventriloquist” wouldn’t notice, since the dummy’s costume included a cowboy hat. In the following panel, the crew stops at a roadside diner called Tomain Tommy’s, a play on a (now obsolete) term describing food poisoning, “ptomaine”). The final panel has an eerie quality, with manager Billy Buildup looking over his shoulder—he apparently has the car in reverse—and taken out of context, Notty Pine’s crack seems strangely contemporary.
From the outline, “Page 2 — June” (i.e., the July 17 episode) turned out not to be a “half and half” with more Irish wolfhound backstory, but a simplified version showing the new characters getting established on shore, identified as Manitou Island. In reality, Manitou is actually two islands, North and Sound Manitou, and they are located to the west of Michigan’s “pinkie,” about a dozen miles away from the town of Leland. Leland is the town in which Collins situated the prototype episode he created for NEA, “Tom Match and Stub;” here is evidence that MITZI McCOY was also set in Leland (an area that Collins spent a couple summers early in his career, when his focus was landscape painting).
The outline is quite specific in its description of the island—I would posit that Collins had read about such geographical features somewhere along the way.
About ten years ago, when I started collecting my grandfather’s comics in earnest, I received a large package from my Uncle Kevin. It contained hundreds of KEVIN THE BOLD and MITZI McCOY episodes (including the entire run of MITZI). Because I had talked with (Uncle) Kevin about putting together a book featuring his namesake, I was less interested in the MITZIs. Later, when the idea of publishing a compilation of a comic feature that ran for nearly two decades became too daunting, I recalculated and set my sites on Kreigh Collins’ first NEA feature. Around this time, my uncle sent me another massive shipment—many more Sunday strips, but also some odds and ends.
Among the miscellanea was the envelope shown above, postmarked February 1987, from Wadsworth, Illinois. Tempel Farms was the home of Aunt Esther, my grandmother’s sister. Because the husbands of both Theresa and Esther had passed, the two women spent much time together, including at Aunt Esther’s winter home in Naples (where the letter was delivered). My grandmother’s handwriting indicates the envelope was for Eleanor Burgess, with whom I am not familiar. The contents all related to my grandfather’s comics career, but by the time I opened it, it seems the envelope had become a sort of catchall, a little time capsule, circa 1949. There was a letter typed by Kreigh (the numerous typos were a dead giveaway)—it mentioned the possibility of starting a second comic strip. Also included was a plot outline for one of the chapters of MITZI McCOY, and about a half dozen MITZI episodes, half-tabloids likely from the New York Sunday Mirror—but not the episodes covered in the plot outline. Unable to make sense of the package, I put it aside and got busy scanning and cataloguing all my new comics.
Later, after having done research for my MITZI collection, the contents of the envelope started to make more sense, and as this blog celebrates its sixth anniversary, now seems like a good time to delve further into this enigma. The second strip referred to brief discussions Collins had about creating one with a religious theme (like his earlier BiblePictureStories), and whether he would be bound to his current employer (NEA), or if he could negotiate with another syndicate, such as King Features.
Revisiting the plot outline, and now more familiar with MITZI McCOY, I was surprised to see how closely the finished episodes hewed to Collins’ original plan. His boss, Ernest “East” Lynn, was a heavy-handed editor inclined to nitpick and tinker, and prior to the publication of my MITZI collection (ahem, The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, The Complete Mitzi McCoy), much of the information I read online gave others credit for the storylines my grandfather illustrated (such as this well-written blog post by my future collaborator, Frank M. Young).
Because of the long advance time needed to create a weekly Sunday comics feature, the outline for these episodes would have been written 3–4 months before the corresponding strips were published. In this instance, that would mean roughly March, 1949. In the late 1940s, Kreigh Collins and his family wintered on Anna Maria Island, a barrier island located at the southern tip of the mouth of Tampa Bay. For two or three months, the family would escape the snowy West Michigan winters and stay in a rented cottage, with sons Eric and David temporarily enrolled in a local elementary school. Later in his career, Collins and his family would spend even longer periods away from home, plying the Great Lakes and beyond in a sailboat.
The story outline is for what became MITZI’s fifth chapter. In my MITZI McCOY collection, I titled it “The History of the Irish Wolfhound,” but it’s really more about Stub Goodman, the editor of a smalltown newspaper, and Dick Dixon, an erstwhile runaway who ends up working for Stub at the Freedom Clarion. Tiny, Stub’s Irish Wolfhound, also plays a major role. By design, any of MITZI’s primary characters could take the lead in a given sequence—this time, Mitzi herself doesn’t show up until the third episode, and then only in a supporting role.
I can’t guarantee Collins banged this out while basking in the Florida sun, but I’d like to imagine that’s exactly how it happened.
The first paragraph mentions some new characters, and although Collins was open to having them return at some point in the future, they never did. One minor change is that the action occurred over eight episodes, not seven, but beyond that, it’s an accurate prediction of the final product. Six months into the strip’s run, Tiny had already become a reader’s favorite, and to capitalize on this, Collins suggested a splash panel with an eye-catching closeup of the dog. Lynn and the suits at the NEA were pleased with the results, and printed promotional slicks to woo potential clients.
In the outline, June 26 was the target date for the first episode of the story; this episode was actually split across two weeks. This sort of recalibration was not unusual—apparently an episode from an earlier sequence was also spread out over two weeks, as the chapter debuted a week later, on July 3, 1949.
Notably, this chapter was one of the most influential of MITZI’s short run—the device of having Stub narrate a story to a youngster would recur in Collins’ future work, and the throwback visuals shown here foretell what was to come 15 months later when MITZI morphed into KEVIN THE BOLD.
“The History of the Irish Wolfhound,” and its outline, continues next week.
“The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, the Complete Mitzi McCoy,” is available for a limited time at a reduced price; it 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 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 costs $30ONLY $20! For domestic shipping, add $4; for international orders, add $25 for 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 information.
The melee continues as the tide floods the secluded cove.
Thinking quickly, Sir Duncan flings a piece of flotsam to Kevin, who makes quick use of the improvised weapon. Or perhaps the elder gentleman simply remembered the trick Stub demonstrated a dozen years earlier in “Kevin the Bold” (below).
(Perhaps it was one of the thugs’ clubs that Sir Duncan flung to Kevin, but for the sake of a clever title for this post, I’m assuming it was some debris from the wrecked ship). With his assailants vanquished, Kevin turns his attention to saving Sir Duncan.
With the fate of Louise, Sir Duncan, and Kevin unknown, friends and family gather at the McDonald Manor and try to come to grips with the events of the day.
With Kevin’s dramatic appearance, all questions are answered. The following day, Kevin escapes another dangerous situation—an infatuated lady friend of Louise—and Kevin manages to avoid personal entanglement.
Because the next chapter starts a bit abruptly, let’s back up one week to see what happened as the previous sequence transitioned. These were the first two chapters to follow Jay Heavilin’s credited writing stint, and the following chapter was clearly written by Collins (To me, the acrobatics in the finale are a dead giveaway). Dank u to my friend Arnaud in Rotterdam for the tabloid examples shown here.
Ah yes—Kevin was sailing from France to England with a load of precious cargo when a storm whipped up. And what a storm it was—instead of a relatively straight shot across the English Channel from Balinghem, France to London, the storm has driven the ship far to the north, toward the Scottish Highlands. There, a more genteel scene is set, and a host of new characters are introduced.
Reading between the lines, one can surmise that Blackie has an axe to grind with Sir Duncan McDonald.
With arson on his mind, the storm plaguing Kevin’s ship reaches Blackie and his band of hoodlums.
After bumbling upon the nefarious trio, McDonald and Louise bolt away blindly and tumble off a ledge. In hot pursuit, Blackie and his gang meet the same fate.
As this drama has been set, one notable absence from the past three weeks’ action has been Kevin. As it happens from time to time, others take the lead while the strip’s titular character sits out a few episodes. Sir Duncan and Louise could certainly use his help now!