No Gimmicks

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.

To be continued…

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

Yo’s Lament

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.

To be continued…

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

Time Capsule

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 Bible Picture Stories), 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.

Anna Maria Island, Florida, 1949. Kreigh was an early adaptor of the remote working concept.

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.

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Speaking of Mitzi…

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 Cover 150

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 $30 ONLY $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.

___________________________________________________________________________________

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

Sunday, August 14, 1949

Here is another Sunday Times Mirror section I acquired while putting together The Complete Mitzi McCoy. There are fewer ads than usual—if the Mirror’s ad sales department was slacking off, that just meant more full-page episodes and fewer half-tabloids. As usual, Ham Fisher’s “Joe Palooka” leads off, followed by Milt Caniff’s “Steve Canyon” and “Mickey Finn,” by Lank Leonard. Next up is “Kerry Drake,” by Alfred Andriola/Allen Saunders and Frank Miller’s “Barney Baxter in the Air,” with each page filled out with a few $2 bills of play money. Harry Hanand’s silent comic “Louie,” and “Superman” by Wayne Boring (and likely Stan Kaye) follow.

Next, Merrill Blossar’s “Freckles and His Friends” shares a page with an ad for Camel filtered cigarettes—the ad features the then-famous aerialist Antoinette Concello. Ms. Concello offers a testimonial to the mild, good-tasting cancer sticks, but I think she likes them because they soothe her nerves. (I don’t care if she performed over a net, I’d need something at least as strong to calm down after running through that routine!). The facing page features the comic strip that inspired me to plunk down my money for this section—a full page “Mitzi McCoy” episode (a nice change from the usual half-tabloids that ran in the Mirror). This August 14 episode is the penultimate installment of the fifth chapter of “Mitzi” and features the NEA’s typical footer—mugshots of the syndicate’s lead characters.

Next up, “Rex Morgan, MD” by Bradley and Edgington (with a nice, custom footer), and “Boots” by Martin, sharing the page with an ad for Colgate Dental Cream. Sometimes the ads in these old sections are charming, but this one is pretty obnoxious (and typical of the era). Roy Crane’s “Captain Easy” (drawn here by Walt Scott?) and V.T. Hamlin’s “Alley Oop” share the next page, followed by “Henry” by Carl Anderson. While “Captain Easy” and “Alley Oop” get the NEA footer, “Henry” features more play money, this time it’s big money—sawbucks! (I wonder if any kids ever cut these out? If so, then “Mickey Finn,” “Louie,” and “Bobby Sox” paid the price by being on the flip side). Two more split pages follow, “The Flop Family” by Swan with “Bobby Sox” by Marty Links, and “Out Our Way featuring the Willets,” by J.R. Williams, and “Our Boarding House.”

Taking its usual spot on the back cover is “Lil’ Abner” by Al Capp.


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About that Strip on Page 9…

The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, the Complete Mitzi McCoy,” is available for immediate delivery at a reduced price; it features the entire run of Kreigh Collins’ first NEA feature .

Mitzi McCoy Cover 150

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 $30 only $20! For domestic shipping, add $4; for international orders, add $25 for first class shipping. To place an order, email me at BrianEdwardCollins1[at]gmail.com, and I will give you PayPal or Venmo information.

___________________________________________________________________________________

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

Sunday, September 17, 1950

Presenting a Sunday comic section from the New York Sunday Mirror. Paging through it, I’m struck by the large number of different syndicates represented—by my count, eight.

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As usual, Ham Fisher’s “Joe Palooka” (distributed by McNaught Syndicate, Inc.) ran on the front page, followed by Milton Caniff’s “Steve Canyon” (King Features) and “Mickey Finn” by Lank Leonard (McNaught). Next up are “Kerry Drake,” drawn by Alfred Andriola and written by an uncredited Allen Saunders, and “Rex Morgan, MD” by Bradley and Edgington (both distributed by Publishers Syndicate). Harry Hanand’s silent comic “Louie” (Press Features, Inc.) and  “Superman,” by either Stan Kaye or Wayne Boring (McLure Newspaper Syndicate) are followed by a half-tab version of “The Flop Family” by Swan (King Features), an advertisement for Ben Gay, and Carl Anderson’s “Henry.”

Because the comics came from different syndicates, they had different dimensions, and in some cases filler was needed at the bottom of a page. Trading cards for “Captain Easy” and “Joe Palooka” were hawked beneath the “Mickey Finn” episode, and tiny bills of play money ran beneath  “Henry” ($10) and “Kerry Drake” ($2). “Rex Morgan,” “Louie,” and “Dixie Dugan” had customized footers featuring characters from their strips, and a couple other pages had more generic footers with characters from all of the Mirror‘s lineup.

Next up in the Sunday Mirror section was Kreigh Collins’ “Mitzi McCoy.” Before I bought this section, I owned a couple versions of the September 17 episode, but they were third-page versions—one in color and the other a black and white version from the Saturday edition of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press. Despite the awkward spaces added between its frames, I prefer the BW version in large part because the earring Stub finds in the sixth frame is more obvious. (When I first saw this episode I was confused as to what had happened).

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MM 091650 BW TH qcc2

When I was putting together my book, The Complete Mitzi McCoy, I was stymied by a half dozen episodes like the one above—I only had third-page versions. Eventually, I found a tabloid example from the Free Press Weekly Prairie Farmer (a newspaper from Winnipeg, Manitoba). As a tabloid, it was missing its throwaway panel—which in this case, was not to be missed. So I splurged an bought the entire Sunday Mirror section.

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I think it’s an attractive little panel!

Accompanying Kreigh Collins’ “Mitzi McCoy” (NEA) was Marty Links’ “Bobby Sox,” (about a year before she changed its title to the better-known “Emmy Lou” (distributed by Consolidated News Features).

Most of the remaining comics are more NEA features, Merrill Blossar’s “Freckles and His Friends” (plus the topper “Hector”), Roy Crane’s “Captain Easy,” probably drawn here by Walt Scott, V.T. Hamlin’s “Alley Oop,” “Boots” by Martin, “Out Our Way featuring the Willets,” by J.R. Williams, and “Our Boarding House”. The other strips rounding out the section were McEvoy and Strieber’s “Dixie Dugan” (McNaught), ads for Colgate toothpaste and Philip Morris cigarettes, and “Lil’ Abner” by Al Capp (United Features Syndicate).

 

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Catch Her if You Can!

Mitzi McCoy Cover 150

I’m sorry to report that purchasing a copy of The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, The Complete Mitzi McCoy, can be a bit of a challenge. I’d heard there were problems with orders placed on my publisher’s website; sadly, I can confirm that this is true (I’m still waiting for the copy I ordered in November <frown emoji>) .

I would recommend checking out other vendors: Amazon, AbeBooks.com, or Alibris.com.


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

Sunday, May 22, 1949

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When I was working on my book, The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1, The Complete Mitzi McCoy, a late stumbling block was finding replacement comics for episodes of which I only had third-page examples. Ironically, after searching far and wide for several years, I located them in a comic book shop about a dozen miles from my home. The catch was that I had to purchase them in complete comic sections. I left the shop with five 16-page New York Sunday Mirror Sunday comic sections and while I spent far more than I hoped to, my quest was over. The Mirror carried “Mitzi” for the duration of its run—usually in a half-tabloid format, but occasionally as a full tabloid page. I chose this particular section because its 70th anniversary is imminent.

Flipping through it reveals both big name features and comics now forgotten.

As usual, Ham Fisher’s “Joe Palooka” ran on the front page, followed by Milton Caniff’s “Steve Canyon” and “Mickey Finn” by Lank Leonard. Next up are “Henry” by Carl Anderson, “Kerry Drake,” “Superman” (neither credited, but by Alfred Andriola/Allen Saunders and Stan Kaye/Wayne Boring respectively), “The Flop Family” by Swan, an advertisement for Rinso, and Frank Miller’s “Barney Baxter in the Air.”

What was the main event for me likely falls into the category I mentioned earlier, “comics now forgotten.” This early episode, “Mitzi” ‘s 29th, is at the beginning of the strip’s fourth story arc. Half-tabloids are pretty small, but at least they include the throwaway panel, which full-page tabloid versions do not.

As a young man, Kreigh Collins worked as an illustrator at an ad agency in Chicago. This gig lasted about a year, and the primary reason it ended is that Collins despised having to produce commercial illustrations like the one in the Pepsi ad. At this point in time, I find the the ad’s style quite charming, but maybe I’m just biased because I drank so much Pepsi as a kid. On the facing page, Frank Godwin’s “Rusty Riley” has a style similar to “Mitzi” —leaning more toward illustration than cartooning. In fact, illustrations by Godwin and Collins appeared in Hermann Hagedorn’s The Book of Courage, published by the John C. Winston Company six years earlier.

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Now back to the comics… and advertisements.

Roy Crane’s “Captain Easy,” drawn here by Walt Scott, and V.T. Hamlin’s “Alley Oop” face a couple of nondescript advertisements for Dr. Lyon’s Tooth Powder and Danderine. Next up are “Bobby Sox” by Marty Links, “Rex Morgan, MD” by Bradley and Edgington, “Boots” by Martin, and Merrill Blossar’s “Freckles and His Friends” (plus the topper “Hector”).

The last full spread in the section features Harry Hanand’s silent comic “Louie,” “Out Our Way featuring the Willets,” by J.R. Williams, “Our Boarding House,” and an ad. The ad might be my favorite part of the entire section. It features the type of male chauvinism so common of the era, but it’s quite hysterical (in my reading, anyway).

Taking its usual spot on the back cover is “Lil’ Abner” by Al Capp.

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Patience Is a Virtue

Mitzi McCoy Cover 150

According to recent reports, there continues to be occasional delays with order fulfillment, but eventually your book will come, that is, if you order The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, Vol. 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy. This first-ever collection of Kreigh Collins’ debut NEA Sunday comic strip can be ordered here.


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