A True Story of Captain John Smith

Among the late themes that ran in “Kevin the Bold” was one featuring Captain John Smith. Despite continued pop culture references, I had mostly forgotten his story (which is very much worth revisiting.)

Of course, Pocahontas is the main story now, but her relationship with Smith was mentioned  Peggy Lee’s 1958 smash, and again in the the Disney film from 1995 (and elsewhere, no doubt). As a young girl, Pocahontas even appeared in a 1965 episode of “Kevin.”

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But here the story is Smith. When he conjured up the world of “Kevin the Bold,” Kreigh Collins must have been familiar with Smith’s life—there are several notable parallels. Here, a chapter of the English adventurer’s life is retold with the inclusion of Kevin and his friend Pedro.

This 14-episode story arc comes from near the end of the storied strip’s run—only four more sequences would follow. These 1967 episodes ran from July 16 through October 15. Most of the examples are half pages, but there are also some third pages, a couple of tabloids, and two images of Collins’ original artwork. This arc’s introductory episode uses the strip’s standard logo, but for those that followed, the typeset copy “A True Story of CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH” was appended.

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For a late-period episode of “Kevin the Bold,” July 16 stands out with its compelling opening and closing panels. The throwaway charmingly shows Notre Dame in the distance, and helps to situate the action on Paris’ left bank. (The Pont de l’Archevêché appears in the foreground).

As the scene shifts to Morocco, a country that Kreigh Collins had visited is featured. After his first ocean crossing, his steamship docked in Tangier. The duration of Collins’ stay in the north African country is unclear, but it was long enough for him to produce some illustrations—and be knifed by a would-be robber late one night. However, Collins was a large man, and at 6’3″ and over 200 pounds, he was able to defend himself. He returned safely to his quarters aboard the ship and only then noticed his head wound, which was still bleeding. He was 21 years old.

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I don’t own a physical copy of the July 23, 1967 episode; fortunately, I was able to track down an example from an online auction.

As they approach their destination, the competing desires of the two men are revealed: For Kevin, it’s the “local scenery,” and for Pedro (as usual), it is food.

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Kevin’s first order of business is to show a rogues’ gallery of men who is in charge, and he is ready to use any powers of persuasion to accomplish this goal.


Need a great gift idea?

OK, I’m biased, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more charming collection of Golden Age comics than The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins: The Complete Mitzi McCoy. 

Drawn and scripted by Kreigh Collins, Mitzi McCoy showcased the artist’s 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 here 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.

Edited and restored by the artist’s grandson, Brian E. Collins, with an introduction by Eisner Award-winning author Frank M. Young, an Afterword by comics columnist Ed Catto, and a new tribute illustration of Mitzi by Butch Guice

Available HERE from Lost Art Books.

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

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.

 

Bewitched

KTB 031851 HA 150 qccThe March 18, 1951“Kevin the Bold” comic is packed with backstory. Kreigh Collins was known to haunt libraries while researching his subjects, but in this case, much of the context was observed firsthand. As a young man, Collins had spent time drawing and painting in northwest Africa. In the spring of 1928, he had crossed the Atlantic aboard a freighter with an early mentor, noted painter Mathias Alten. The first stop was Morocco; their departure for France was a couple weeks off. No doubt this experience came in handy when Collins scripted and drew the episodes for the next eighteen weeks.

Kevin hears the strange tale told by an English sailor, Patch, about an entranced blonde woman who whips Moorish pirates into a frenzy with her words and antics. Also introduced is Koko, Patch’s adorable and mischievous simian companion.

Thinking the strange enchantress could be the woman DeFalcon seeks, Kevin introduces Patch to the convalescing Count.

KTB 032551 HA CST 150 qcc.jpgSkeptical DeFalcon doesn’t understand, but Kevin wants to hear more. He does, as the April 1 comic’s events are as vivid as its Chicago Sunday Tribune printing.

KTB 040151 HA 150 qcc.jpgAs Kevin prepares to set off on his next fantastic adventure, he witnesses another fierce scene — a piqued Moya McCoy, jealously storming off astride his own horse. Despite the embarrassment he felt over her scene, Lord McCoy comforts his distraught daughter, Moya. As Kevin and Stub recognize one of their ship’s crewmates, danger is sighted ahead.

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