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.

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

Flotsam Jettisoned

The melee continues as the tide floods the secluded cove.

Thinking quickly, Sir Duncan flings a piece of flotsam to Kevin, who makes quick use of the improvised weapon. Or perhaps the elder gentleman simply remembered the trick Stub demonstrated a dozen years earlier in “Kevin the Bold” (below).

(Perhaps it was one of the thugs’ clubs that Sir Duncan flung to Kevin, but for the sake of a clever title for this post, I’m assuming it was some debris from the wrecked ship). With his assailants vanquished, Kevin turns his attention to saving Sir Duncan.

With the fate of Louise, Sir Duncan, and Kevin unknown, friends and family gather at the McDonald Manor and try to come to grips with the events of the day.

With Kevin’s dramatic appearance, all questions are answered. The following day, Kevin escapes another dangerous situation—an infatuated lady friend of Louise—and Kevin manages to avoid personal entanglement.

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

Racing Against Time (And Tide)

It looks grim for Sir Duncan and Louise, landing on the beach with Blackie and his gang…

…yet it gets worse as a rockslide leaves no escape.

Kevin quickly describes his plan to Louise; Blackie has other ideas.

A daring plunge hoists Louise out of danger and Kevin rejoins the fray.

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

An Outing

Because the next chapter starts a bit abruptly, let’s back up one week to see what happened as the previous sequence transitioned. These were the first two chapters to follow Jay Heavilin’s credited writing stint, and the following chapter was clearly written by Collins (To me, the acrobatics in the finale are a dead giveaway). Dank u to my friend Arnaud in Rotterdam for the tabloid examples shown here.

Ah yes—Kevin was sailing from France to England with a load of precious cargo when a storm whipped up. And what a storm it was—instead of a relatively straight shot across the English Channel from Balinghem, France to London, the storm has driven the ship far to the north, toward the Scottish Highlands. There, a more genteel scene is set, and a host of new characters are introduced.

Reading between the lines, one can surmise that Blackie has an axe to grind with Sir Duncan McDonald.

With arson on his mind, the storm plaguing Kevin’s ship reaches Blackie and his band of hoodlums.

After bumbling upon the nefarious trio, McDonald and Louise bolt away blindly and tumble off a ledge. In hot pursuit, Blackie and his gang meet the same fate.

As this drama has been set, one notable absence from the past three weeks’ action has been Kevin. As it happens from time to time, others take the lead while the strip’s titular character sits out a few episodes. Sir Duncan and Louise could certainly use his help now!

To be contiued…

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

Allas Veckotidning

Allas Veckotidning (“Everyone’s Weekly”) is a Swedish magazine first published in 1931. Though its title proclaims it to be for everyone, it seems more geared toward women. (A huge thank you to my friend Roger for trading me 15 copies of the magazine for a copy of my book “The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, The Complete Mitzi McCoy”).

Dating from 1953, Issue No. 15, shown above, had a cover wishing its readers a Happy Easter. Inside, the contents are typical of a weekly: music listings and news, short romantic fiction pieces, movie reviews, crossword puzzles, and more romantic fiction pieces. Plus, it featured several comics interspersed throughout.

All four covers were printed in full color, with interior pages running in either two colors (black plus red), or just black and white. So it figures that only the most prestigious comics would appear on the covers (inside front cover, or occasionally on the back cover).

In the magazine, one consistency in the comics’ style was for the absence of speech balloons, with single captions beneath each panel utilized instead. Comics rotated in and out of the full-color cover positions, with Ricky (“The Friend of the Horses,” unsigned) appearing here. Facing it is Ett Gott Skratt Förlänger Livet (“A good Laugh Prolongs Life”) a typical single-panel gag cartoon that anchored the spot opposite the inside cover. A signed comic is found on page 28, Falcon Stormfägeln, av (“by”) Kreigh Collins.

Kreigh Collins’ comic strip, curiously renamed as the equivalent of “Falcon Storm Birds,” had a slightly modified logo, and reproduced nicely in a two-color scheme. This episode of “Kevin the Bold” (below) originally ran on May 18, 1952, meaning appearances in “Allas Veckotidning” came about 13 months later.

An unusual—and pleasant—aspect of the magazine was the scarcity of ads throughout. A few fractional ads tend to show up toward the back of each issue, where more comics were also found (plus a couple pages of classified ads). Filip & Majken, Ann, (both unsigned) and Fabian (by Emil Brinck) were also part of the magazine’s stable of comics.

I guess the inclusion of my grandfather’s comic is an example of U.S. cultural imperialism, but in my biased opinion it’s more charming than an ad for a “Yankee Junior” boys’ suit.

Issue No. 44 (1955) featured more of the same type of material, but had a more typical celebrity-based cover—say hello to Mr. Fred Astaire.

As a non-Swedish speaker, it’s fun to guess what articles are titled—sometimes it’s not so hard, but watch out for the false cognates! The article below translates to “A Man’s Way.’

Måns (“Moon” possibly signed by Skat Holman) ) and Var Finns Kitty? (“Where is Kitty?” unsigned but subtitled “Our brilliant young girl’s series”) appear in some, but not all issues of Allas Veckotidning. Below is an episode of Falcon Stormfägeln from the chapter “The Mountebank’s Lions” (December 5, 1954), not yet featured on this blog.

Abba caviar? Did the pop band do commercial endorsements first and then make hit singles?
“The General’s Bride” — pretty steamy stuff!
Unfortunately, this issue was falling apart, but it’s easier to show the second and third covers.

With an appreciation for the time period these magazines were published, paging through them is fun, even without understanding the editorial content.

From 1958, we have cover girl Debbie Reynolds and some examples from inside.

A new feature of the magazine is basically a photo-based soap opera comic strip; it ran on two spreads.

Another development in the layout of Allas Veckotidning was the grouping together of comics on some spreads (including what was the March 10, 1957 episode of “Kevin the Bold”).

Above , a nice example of what the Detroit News was capable of printing.

Often ads are a nuisance, but I can’t resist this one. There’s catchy ad copy (“Read Here How to Play Guitar Next Week”) and great photography. If only speech balloons weren’t banned, that lead photo would show the guy thinking, “Guitars! That’s how I’ll get girls!” This was early 1958—just wait until Beatlemania!

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

The Root of All Evil

The action movie-like drama continues.

At this point, any reader of “Kevin the Bold” knows Spider is going to get his—but how? Spider himself seems to know the end is near.

Kevin’s keening war cry, busted out only on rare occasions (such as on Sunday, October 24, 1954), startles Spider. Encumbered by gold, he sinks like a stone, much like Sir Guy Thornberry (in an episode from 1956).

While earlier action was reminiscent of action heroes like Indiana Jones, the chapter wraps up with more of a Tom and Jerry/Itchy and Scratchy feel.

Oddly, the chapter ends with Lord Dismore showing a complete lack of gratitude. As the action transitions, King Henry shows off his new armor, with a shout-out to Conrad Seusenhofer, and a factoid that would be repeated several years later.

As for Lord Dismore, perhaps he should become acquainted with Itchy.

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

Worst-Laid Plans

Naive and stubborn—a dangerous combination.

Meanwhile, Spider’s plan goes off—with a hitch.

Spider resorts to his backup plan as the coach hurdles along.

In a highly kinetic episode with each panel seemingly ripped from an action film, Kevin deftly rescues Ella before the coach flies off the road.

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

Special Delivery

At the tail end of 1957, the 37th chapter in the “Kevin the Bold” saga begins with the introduction of a couple of unsavory characters and a sad, naive young lady. Kevin pops up near the end of the episode and story’s framework begins to take shape.

Kevin suspects trouble is in the offing but as usual, doesn’t seem concerned.

Spider describes his poisonous plan and the game is on.

To be continued…

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