The Runaway Bride

Seventy-three years ago today, Kreigh Collins’ first NEA-syndicated Sunday comic was published. After a short courtship by the Cleveland-based syndicate, and a one-off feature proposal by Collins (the unpublished TOM MATCH AND STUB), the two sides settled on a weekly serial named for a headstrong daughter of wealth, and featuring a cast of characters that took turns in the spotlight.

Elements of Collins’ proposed comic strip remained, but were reshuffled significantly. Much of the action revolved around the employees of a small-town weekly newspaper, but unlike TOM MATCH AND STUB, where a younger man was the boss of his older employee, in MITZI McCOY the employees operate under a more traditional arrangement, with the young reporter (Tim Graham) working for the grizzled publisher (Stub Goodman). These changes were no doubt strong-armed by NEA Features director Ernest “East” Lynn—and in hindsight, it seems to be a case of Lynn trying to remind the freethinking Collins of who was in charge.

Despite their differences, the pair worked well together, and the result was a long and fruitful relationship for Collins and the NEA. MITZI McCOY takes off immediately, with our heroine abruptly cancelling her own wedding. Before long, Mitzi is airborne too.

While the strip would continue to evolve over its short lifespan (23 months), it started strongly, featuring many elements typical of Collins’ style. There was action, scenes rendered from multiple viewpoints, beautiful illustrations, and lovely women. Collins modeled the strip’s titular character after Rita Hayworth, a lovely choice, but it is unclear if this was his decision or Lynn’s—TOM MATCH AND STUB had introduced a sultry brunette in its lone episode.

Rita Hayworth, circa 1940

Regardless, basing Mitzi on the woman who was arguably the most popular pin-up girl of the WWII era was a fine idea.

Collins worked hard on his new project, as MITZI’s expertly-composed and detailed panels make clear. Each one was packed with visual information; Collins initially handled the lettering as well. The Grand Rapids Public Library has a large collection of original MITZI McCOY artwork in its local history collection, and these oversized pieces of original artwork are a marvel to behold.

In the strip’s second episode, regulars Stub and Tim make several appearances, but so do Mitzi, her father, and a smattering of the small town’s residents. Also included are Stub’s jalopy, Mitzi’s convertible, Mr. McCoy’s Packard, a couple of the McCoy family’s boats, Mitzi’s seaplane, and different setting or viewpoint for each of the episode’s ten panels.

November 14, 1948. From the collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library

Nice details from this episode include the third panel, with Mitzi running down the dock to her seaplane (shown in the foreground, with her convertible parked up high in the background), the realistically-rendered printshop interior shown in the panel directly below, the body language shown by Stub as he takes an earful from Mr. McCoy bottom left, and the gossipy townsfolk shown in the final panel, all hunched over and peaking at the scene playing out on the street corner, as they learn the scandalous news of the McCoy family.

When in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I highly recommend paying a visit to the city’s main library in order to view the MITZI originals up close. If a visit to Beer City is not in your travel plans, a nice fallback option is to acquire a copy of the book, “The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins: The Complete Mitzi McCoy,” with details (you guessed it!) provided below.

An Overlooked Classic

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, please 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 or Venmo information.

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