As the 1960s progressed, several changes happened in regards to the production of KEVIN THE BOLD. In April, 1961, it sported a new logo, and for a couple years, Jay Heavilin took over the strip’s writing. By 1964, NEA Features Director Ernest Lynn had handed over supervision of the strip to NEA staffer Robert Molyneux. In 1965, the prevalence of newspapers running the dreaded one-third page format led to a brilliant new way of dealing with this unfortunate situation, and in another development, the name of the story arc occasionally started appeared in conjunction with the strip’s logo.
The first chapter to include this minor embellishment to the logo was “A Story of Robin Hood.”
On his way back from the New World settlement at Jamestown, Kevin begins recounting the tale of Robin Hood to Saigen, a young indigenous boy with whom he is traveling to England. Having an adult narrate a tale to a child was a device Kreigh Collins employed periodically, but Saigen’s appearance leads to some unfortunate stereotypes, language-wise. Looking beyond that, the reader sees a warm relationship between the two, as shown in the transitional episode from October 10.
Recounting the oft-told tale of Robin Hood could also be seen as a sign that original ideas for story arcs were beginning to dry up.
I’m not overly familiar with the story of Robin Hood—the last version I’ve seen was Mel Brooks’ Men in Tights—so perhaps I can benefit from a more traditional account, like learning how Robin and Marian were slated for an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, Robin is off to see the King.
Having been duped into killing the one of the King’s deer, the October 24 episode concludes with three ominous panels whose silence adds to the suspense.
As the chapter with Cecil the Musketeer neared its conclusion, Bob Molyneux lauded Collins’ efforts on the ninth episode, and especially the tenth (shown below).
A veteran of World War II, “Moly” especially appreciated Collins’ renderings of the battle scenes.
As Kevin is accused of desertion, Cecil wins over sergeant Stubbs and makes a daring effort to silence the fort’s cannons.
The plot points of having Cecil using a grappling hook to scale the walls and open the gates were discussed as the script developed, but weren’t actually shown—the dialog helped fill in the blanks. This situation was likely the result of the changes happening at NEA, both in staffing and procedures.
After having mentored Cecil through his Musketeer training, the lad now has a chance to repay Kevin in his moment of need.
With the June 21 episode, the chapter ends rather abruptly—Mary’s father is now happy to have Cecil as his daughter’s suitor. The following week offered a completely new chapter, without the usual sort of transition.
Next week, a new market for KEVIN THE BOLD is revealed.
As they approach their destination—one of the Channel Islands—the musketeers hear details about their risky mission. (Based on the appearance of the model of the island, it seems their destination is Jersey).
Behind the scenes, the working relationship between Molyneux and Collins was still being established, with Molyneux taking pains to accommodate his artist. A late February letter from “Moly” indicates the two have already had a face-to-face meeting, and while their wives hadn’t met each other yet, they had been corresponding too. In late spring, a trip through the Great Lakes would bring Collins and his family east, and when they reached Cleveland, Collins offered to take Molyneux out for a sail aboard Heather.
The smudges on the letter are evidence of Collins breaking out his watercolors for the purpose of creating color guides on the bromide proofs he received from NEA (like the one below).
Despite the kinks in the story’s development, Collins’ artwork has turned out rather nicely, showing the grittiness of war. While the story’s main characters have survived, others weren’t so lucky.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Collins and Molyneux has become more relaxed, with “Moly” often eschewing his secretary’s help in firing off notes to Collins. Here, he reacts to a story written and illustrated by Collins that had been published in Yachting, a monthly sailing magazine.
Cecil and Kevin continue to hang tough in their difficult assignment, but an unexpected problem soon arises.
For these next three episodes, color half-pages stand in for last week’s black-and-white bromide proofs. Meanwhile, Sergeant Stubbs assembles Captain Martinet’s new musket company.
There is a bit of tension among the troops, but in this case I’m talking about writer Dave Ward and new recruit, Bob Molyneux.
This tension is illustrated in a pair of letters Collins received, both written on Thursday, January 30. Molyneux (perhaps doing Ernest Lynn’s bidding), complains about the trajectory of Ward’s story, and asks for some clarity regarding a plot point involving a gun’s rifled barrel. Feeling defensive about criticisms to his work (again), Ward digs into some minutiae, and takes a potshot at Molyneux (“Maybe Moly should practice on something else — maybe VIC FLINT or BEN CASEY”, referring to two other NEA comic strips, both of which were on the downward arc of their popularity.
Around this time, Collins had his own complaints, more of a physical nature—a sore wrist—no small matter. A letter from Moly reveals another long-time NEA artist was having serious health problems—the business seemed to take its toll on many of its practitioners. In the same letter, Molyneux tells Collins that he sells himself short as a writer (a common refrain in other correspondence between the two).
As for the plot of this KEVIN THE BOLD chapter, I might be inclined to agree with the suits at NEA—it’s a bit contrived. Since I tend to root for the underdog, seeing the high-born Cecil succeed through luck rubs me the wrong way.
In a memo sent to Collins the following Monday, Moly (pronounced “Molly”) addresses the KEVIN story that follows the Musketeers (Hispaniola), and updates Collins on how he traffics scripts and revisions back at the office.
Despite his connections and flukey luck, Cecil is committed to the cause, and Captain Martinet’s musketeers shove off.
From the start, Ernest “East” Lynn proved to be a rather persnickety boss for Kreigh Collins at NEA. After fifteen years, their once cordial relationship had cooled considerably, and when Lynn handed off KEVIN THE BOLD to Robert Molyneux, Collins must have felt some sense of relief.
Because of the nature of doing a weekly strip, with different stages of development happening on several storylines simultaneously, it wasn’t a simple turnkey situation. While Molyneux was introducing himself and learning the ropes, Collins was busy wrapping up existing storylines and scripts with Dave Ward. An erstwhile employee at the Newspaper Enterprise Association’s Cleveland office, Ward was now working on a freelance basis out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. This information comes from Collins’ correspondence with Lynn, Molyneux, and Ward, and with the exception of the new guy, there is plenty of sniping going on. As most acknowledged, Collins was caught in the middle.
It’s a shame that I don’t have copies of Collins’ letters—his tended to be entertaining reads too.
It’s bewildering trying to keep track of who was doing what, with all the different things happening simultaneously. While Kreigh Collins no longer handled all of KEVIN’s writing, he did provided outlines for upcoming chapters. He also collaborated on plot developments, and he was inclined to contribute to the scripts he received.
Both Molyneux and Ward played parts in the development of the sequence running below, featuring young Cecil Rochester. (In order to collect a sizeable inheiritance, Cecil must become a soldier). Ward was the writer and Molyneux handled the back end of its development. Correspondence shows that Collins generally gets along with Ward, Ward was resented by Lynn (whose demeanor had caused Ward to quit in the first place), and Ward resented Molyneux (who appears positioned as Ward’s replacement). Meanwhile, Molyneux and Collins start figuring out how to work together.
Here is a selection of these parties’ correspondence. The oddly-cropped images were the result of photos taken in haste as I plowed through the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Special Collection #56.
In this letter (or separate letters) from Dave Ward, Ward approves of Colllins’ original story outline and makes some suggestions for plot developments. One is to have the regiment of Musketeers let by the historical figure Jean Martinet (which requires bending time in order to fit him into Kevin’s 16th-century world). The story introduces a new guy, Cedric, whose name eventually becomes Cecil.
Meanwhile, Molyneux introduces himself, tells Collins that he has boned up on some episodes already in the pipeline (#69 – “Queen Elizabeth,” and “#71 – “Hispaniola;” Cecil’s story is #70); he also admits to being new to the game of comics continuations. Yet a few days later, he asks for Collins’ permission to write a story for KEVIN.
Molyneux settles in to the routine of handling Collins, but is getting pushback on some of his suggestions. Nonetheless, he includes an interesting anecdote from his WWII Army background with a reference to Mort Walker’s BEETLE BAILEY character, Cosmo. No doubt Collins was relating some doozies of his own in the return mail.
Another missive from Ward reveals how defensive he is toward his story, and below, he starts nitpicking at things Molyneux is doing (interestingly, also one of Lynn’s bad habits). But it’s also clear that Ward knows his stuff.
So many words! Enough! Now for some pretty pictures.
The April 5 episode is transitionary; Cecil is introduced in the final panels. Here is an early version of the episode’s script.
Lord Sanford has made it known that Queen Elizabeth wants Kevin to serve secretly as Cecil’s chaperone.
A round peg for a square hole, Cecil makes poor first impressions on both Sergeant Stubbs and Captain Martinet. Kevin has his hands full!
A really cool thing about the beautiful April 19 episode (what a splash panel!), is that I have its Finnish version, where it was titled Haukka – temmeltäväin tuulten kasvatti, which translates to “Hawk—The Most Uplifting of the Winds” (a rather romantic take on the usual sort or rebranding the strip received for foreign markets).
Incidentally, I hope to receive a couple physical examples of HAUKKA in the coming months.
“The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, the Complete Mitzi McCoy” features the entire run of Kreigh Collins’ first NEA feature, and is available for a limited time at a reduced price.
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 is available for $30ONLY $20! For domestic shipping, add $4; for international orders, please add $25 to cover 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.
As 1963 was about to end, so was the fifteen-year period of direct supervision of Kreigh Collins by Ernest Lynn at NEA. That it was disclosed without fanfare in the third paragraph of a memo hinted at how strained the relationship between the two had become. Happy New Year?
On a more cheerful note, January 1 was Collins’ 114th birthday. Beginning next week, a new chapter—overseen by neophyte Robert Molyneux—begins.