Christmas (Re)Packages

Any good story is worth telling more than once. That is certainly the case of the Christmas Story, and it was certainly the opinion of Kreigh Collins and the folks at his syndicate, Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA).

In 1949, Collins used his “Mitzi McCoy” comic strip as a vehicle to tell the Christmas Story. Although some panels showed Stub Goodman narrating the story to a young boy (Dick Dixon), most of the visuals consisted of the Christmas Story itself—Stub and Dick generally only appeared once or twice in each episode. Those comics appeared last year on this blog and can be seen here.

Four years later, with a new comic strip (“Kevin the Bold”) and a proven gimmick, the story was recast with Kevin and his ward Brett substituting for Stub and Dick. Only this time, the comics didn’t run in Sunday papers, they served as NEA promotional material. I’m not sure if any other versions appeared, but the following comics were sponsored by an outfit called “Bielefeld Studios.” 

The five original comics, in tabloid format, were supplemented by newly-created front and back covers and an introductory comic, and the result was an eight-page version tucked inside a portfolio of white card stock. No comic strip logo appeared in the stand-alone package. In fact, Kevin and Brett were introduced as if the reader had never met them. 

The artwork was picked up from the original 1949 version. Occasionally, new artwork replaced an old biblical scene, but usually the only changes were swapping out Stub and Dick for Kevin and Brett.

The Christmas Story continues next week. 

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Speaking of Christmas Presents…

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It probably won’t be delivered in time for Christmas, but The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy is available here. International shipping now available! Forthcoming volumes in the series will feature Kreigh Collins’ mid-1940s “Bible Picture Stories” comics (due in 2019), and “Kevin the Bold” (tentatively scheduled for 2020). 


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

The Ghost Ship

A nice feat of engineering reveals what Kevin and Brett hope will be their ticket off the island. 

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Luckily for Kevin and Brett, the islanders had a nice supply of white cloth for their ruse. 

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Most gratefully, Maria offers Kevin a kiss in lieu of marriage. Perhaps more than one, as Kevin and Brett don’t disembark until several days later.  

Finding a drowning sailor provides an interesting denouement as the sequence transitions swiftly.  

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Perhaps the reason for the abrupt change is that the next sequence would be Jay Heavilin’s last — his 13-month run as  the writer for “Kevin the Bold”  was ending.

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Now being shipped!

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I’m not sure how long delivery takes, but pre-sale orders of the book The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy have started to be shipped. Apologies for the delay. Presently, I am trying to find out what arrangements can be made for the publisher to fulfill overseas orders. The book is available at the publisher’s website.


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

The Catch

As Brett and Kevin get settled on the New World Island, Maria thinks she has landed a trophy fish in her net (in this case, a hammock). The next episode originally ran just before Valentine’s Day in 1962, yet Kevin seems to have missed the memo—he rejects Maria’s playful and romantic overtures.

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Although this adventure of Kevin’s was written by Jay Heavilin, Jay seems to have cribbed some of Kreigh’s plot devices. Norse mooring pegs were shown in a sequence from four years earlier (although it ran just last month on Kreigh’s Comics).

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As Kevin labors away in an attempt to raise the long-sunken boat, Maria continues to work on finding a husband. Soon, an even more series dilemma appears on Kevin’s horizon.

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In Kevin’s situation, few men would be able to resist Maria’s overtures. However, Kevin’s prime directive is to travel the world, undoing injustices, and helping those in need, and he is determined to stay true to those ideals.


Now being shipped!

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I’m not sure how long delivery takes, but pre-sale orders of the book The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy have started to be shipped. Apologies for the delay. Presently, I am trying to find out what arrangements can be made for the publisher to fulfill overseas orders. The book is available at the publisher’s website.


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

Jay Heavilin

For nearly all of “Kevin the Bold” ’s 18-year run, Kreigh Collins handled the comic strip’s continuation. The lone exception (credited, anyway) was the period from April 30, 1961 through May 27, 1962, when the comic strip carried the additional byline, “Story by Jay Heavilin.”

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Jay was a young NEA staffer of whom I know little, but I did manage to track down an NEA headshot. What is even more interesting than an old photograph is the dirt I discovered in a couple of letters (c. 1961) that NEA Vice President/Features Director Ernest Lynn sent my grandfather.

Lynn was responding to Collins’ query, was Jay dependable? Kreigh was looking for a writer for an unnamed book project, and Lynn didn’t mince words. “He’s a mixed-up kid without much, if any, conscience.” Lynn’s low opinion was apparently due in part to Heavilin having recently quit, leaving Cleveland for New York. And there was obviously a personality clash, “For one thing, he kept me tense. His utter contempt for office rules and the rights of others bothered me more than I care to admit. He has an ungovernable temper. The rules are for the other fellow, not Jay.” Because I don’t know the entire context, I won’t repeat anything else. At any rate, the letter sheds some light on the type of person Lynn was. too.

The next episode in the sequence currently being featured is one with which I am especially familiar. It has some lovely illustrations and action, and a particular detail that I find quite charming. In its last panel, Kevin and Brett have decided to swim for shore, and are shown jumping off the ship. When your sobriquet is “The Bold,” you don’t jump, you dive. As the faithful young ward of such a man, Brett also dives, but with only one hand outstretched — the other is holding his nose.

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The reason I’m so familiar with this particular episode is that for years, the original artwork hung on my older brother’s bedroom wall. My brother’s name was also Brett, and despite being Kreigh Collins’ oldest grandchild, this was a coincidence. Originally, Brett and I assumed the character had been named for him, and only later did we realize that the character in fact preceded Brett by nearly a decade.

The artwork was originally given by my grandfather to my Grandpa Palmer, and it’s inscribed in the upper left corner. Only later did the piece end up in my collection, though that’s an interesting story too. Brett kept the illustration all through college, and for several years afterward it hung prominently in his apartment. Eventually, he gave it to our father, because he would no longer have anywhere to hang it. Following the family tradition, he was moving aboard his sailboat, a 43′ ketch. Later, after I’d begun researching my grandfather in earnest, my father gave the artwork to me.

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Once ashore, Kevin and Brett make a shocking discovery.

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They warn Maria of Captain Moniz’s intentions, and help them escape enslavement. However, Maria has plans of her own for Kevin.

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Now being shipped!

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I’m not sure how long delivery takes, but pre-sale orders of the book The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy have started to be shipped. Apologies for the delay. Presently, I am trying to find out what arrangements can be made for the publisher to fulfill overseas orders. The book is available at the publisher’s website.


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

 

Brett the Bold

After thirteen plus years of writing the continuity for “Mitzi McCoy” and “Kevin the Bold,” Kreigh Collins was either a bit burned out or looking to free up time to pursue other projects. In any event, starting in mid-1961 and lasting for slightly over a year, Kevin’s adventures were dreamed up by NEA staff writer Jay Heavilin.

When I started collecting my grandfathers’ comics, I paid less attention to Jay Heavilin’s sequences because they weren’t Collins’ own brainchild (to use Kreigh’s phrasing). On more recent reflection, I notice these comics contain some fine illustrations even if the action is slightly out of character—e.g., Kevin attempting to visit his sickly mother, as shown in the December 17, 1961 comic that ran last week. (My theory on that episode: an excuse to introduce a gypsy woman who resembled Moya McCoy, who hadn’t appeared in the strip for over six years. Moya’s absence can be explained by the fact that she was the only woman Kevin ever loved, and removing her from the story helped ensure that our hero would never settle down, and would keep on moving.)

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August 15, 1954

Of note, Moya’s very last appearance (as far as I know) also involves a fortune teller.

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August 29, 1954

Now, back to our current sequence… where Kevin’s situation takes take a sudden turn for the worse.

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Brett’s well-aimed dagger saves the day, but as the ship’s provisions dwindle, so does their time.

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Mitzi book update!

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After receiving a few inquiries as to where the book they’d ordered was, I heard today from someone who said they’d finally received their copy! My apologies for the delay, and I hope you think it was worth the wait. November 7 was the 70th anniversary of the comic strip’s debut.

For those who haven’t ordered it yet, The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy can be found at the Lost Art Books website. 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.


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

Bound for the New World

As a young lad, I recall sitting in my grandfather’s studio and poring over stacks of comics—bound copies of the “NEA Daily and Sunday Comics.” At some point after my grandfather died, the covers (conveniently featuring “Kevin the Bold”) were cut off and the rest discarded. It’s a shame so much was lost, but I’m lucky to possess what remains.

The prominent date at the top of the page was the Monday of that issue’s week, and the publication contained the six daily comics (plus a Sunday comic, in some cases) for a given NEA strip. Since “Kevin the Bold” was a Sunday, these publications only featured one comic, whose publication date would be six days after the date shown for each issue.

The year is 1520, and the following sequence starts with Brett trying to sign onto a Portuguese ship headed for the New World. The ship is being financed by King Henry, and because he has heard bad news about its crew, he calls on an old friend to keep an eye on things.

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Shockingly, Kevin, an agent to the King, is about to refuse his request.

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According to Kevin’s back story, he was an orphan and knew nothing of his parents, so the the action at the beginning of this sequence is quite unexpected (and is abandoned abruptly). Kevin and Brett soon are reunited and about to set off on another adventure.

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As for those stacks of comics in my grandfather’s studio, it appears a young reader was inspired by the publication’s masthead to try his hand at cursive writing. The culprit was likely myself, my brother, or one of my cousins.

Defending Her Honor

The following “Kevin the Bold” sequence, which began in late September 1963, seems to have been an attempt to relate to college-age readers of the funnies. It portrays the students’ 16th-century counterparts as being not so different from themselves. Quick to fall in love, idealistically standing up for their beliefs, and living like slobs—some things never change. (Except for the part about college kids reading newspapers).

Having just arrived in Paris, Kevin is attracted to its beauty and stumbles into a messy scene.

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Paul’s actions are based on emotions rather than logic, and he is headed toward danger to which he is blind. Luckily, his new friend Kevin is more worldly, and willing to help.

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(The sequence continues next week).

In commemoration of this blog’s third anniversary, I would like to thank all of its readers for their continued interest in my grandfather’s comics career.


Now available for pre-order!

Visit the Lost Art Books website 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 and previously unpublished artwork and photographs.

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

 

Water Lore, Boat Show Edition

After the launch of “Up Anchor!,” a promotional event for the new comic strip was held a few months later at the New York City Boat Show.

 

The New York Times ran articles about the show opening and closing; unfortunately, there was no mention of my grandfather’s participation. They did mention 434 exhibits and 14 educational booths, I guess that will have to suffice.

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Kreigh Collins was accompanied by his new NEA boss, Robert Molyneux.

At the boat show, Collins worked on the episode of “Up Anchor!” shown below. Note the inscription beneath the strip’s logo, “Drawn at New York Boat Show.” The episode ran  May 4, 1969, and because the boat show lasted from January 25 until February 2, it shows the cartoonist was still working with his customary three-month lead time.

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In addition to nautical trivia, sailing regulations, and knot-tying how-to, “Water Lore” featured personal anecdotes based on Collins’ travels with his family aboard their 45-foot schooner. The Collinses encountered much in the 15 years they spent aboard Heather, sailing the Great Lakes, off shore in New England, and on their travels along the Mississippi River, Erie Canal, and Intracoastal Waterway. Here are some of those first-hand observations.

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In addition to nutty things his kids did or saw, others were based on places they had spent time while cruising.

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Lake Huron and the St. Clair River were crossed during any trips eastward through the Great Lakes, and Holland, Michigan was the location of Heather’s home port on Lake Macatawa (which connects with Lake Michigan).

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

Water Lore

“Water Lore” was the topper strip Kreigh Collins created for his third NEA comic, “Up Anchor!” The comic generally ran as a one-third page, so the topper was rarely seen in print. Until recently, I had only seen “Water Lore” when I’d come across Collins’ original illustrations for the comic, or in the handful of “Up Anchor!” syndicate proofs in my collection.

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The May 17, 1970 episode is one of many pieces of Collins’ original art found in the collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

I recently acquired some half-page examples of “Up Anchor!” and have now seen its topper in print, and in color.

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The “Evening Chronicle” from Allentown, Pennsylvania was one of the few newspapers to run “Up Anchor!” as a half page comic.

Collins had long hated the one-third page format in which most newspapers were running “Kevin the Bold,” and when the suits at the NEA convinced Collins to retire “Kevin” and replace it with something more contemporary, he utilized the topper so his panels wouldn’t get cropped and shrunken. In cases where it ran as a four-tiered tabloid comic, the second topper panel would be eliminated.

The “Water Lore” toppers occasionally had dates inscribed in them, indicating they may have been intended as stand-alone single panel comics. Collins often illustrated and wrote articles for consumer sailing magazines, perhaps they were the intended market.

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More commonly, they were undated.

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

Hercules

In what could be the worst bachelor party ever, Kevin and Luoth spend the eve of the wedding working hard on a risky and dangerous task.

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Following his night of hard labor, Kevin is spent. The panels in the middle tier of the episode above are hysterical—with the first two contrasting the eager bride and the reluctant groom, and the third panel existing somewhere between the screwball and the absurd (and practically begging to be taken out of context). Meanwhile, Kevin faces his moment of truth.

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Mascarading as Hercules, Kevin passes one test, but unexpectedly faces another.

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Luoth understands that if Barda breaks the engagement, it is mutually beneficial to Kevin and himself. Luoth is willing to take a great risk in order to restore his standing with Barda. Finally, a sudden thunderstorm and some quick thinking allows Kevin to escape his fate as a married man.


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