The Musketeers

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).

Merrill Blossar recovered and lived for nearly 20 more years.

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.

These little 5″ x 7″ notes became Molyneux’s preferred stationery for his messages to Collins (This memo originally ran to a second page; I edited the image so it ran as a single sheet).

Despite his connections and flukey luck, Cecil is committed to the cause, and Captain Martinet’s musketeers shove off.

To be continued…

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

The New Guy

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.

To be continued…

_________________________________________________________________________

An Overlooked Classic

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 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 is available for $30 ONLY $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.

_______________________________________________________________

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

Burying the Lede

Grand Rapids History & Special Collections, Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI

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.

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

Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, a day on which servants, tradespeople, and the needy are traditionally presented with gifts. It originated in the United Kingdom, and is primarily celebrated in countries formerly part of the British Empire.

It precedes Kevin the Bold, who might have celebrated it differently.

Panel taken from KEVIN THE BOLD’s third episode (October 15, 1950)

I learned of Boxing Day more as a day to share holiday leftovers and good cheer, and this post will follow that line of thinking. In my more freewheeling younger days, my brother (Brett) and I would often host Boxing Day parties where we’d encourage attendees to dress in boxer shorts and play a few rounds of Rock-em Sock-em Robots.

Brett and I are comics fans from way back but didn’t start throwing Boxing Day Parties until the late ’80s.

Brett was Kreigh Collins’s first grandchild and my brother’s namesake character was a major player in KEVIN THE BOLD from January 1952 until April 1965.

A character named Brian only appeared in a single 1961 sequence and although the characters Brett and Brian both preceded my brother’s and my existence, I can’t help but feel a bit jealous about the discrepancy in those characters’ roles—though I’d be smart to avoid mentioning this to my Uncle Glen (Uncle Kevin’s brother).

At least Brian, the Duke of Duval, was a bad guy and basically shared a name with a tasty Belgian beer.

Speaking of Belgian beer, the painting above, from the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s collection, with its unusual composition, is unlike any other I have seen by Kreigh Collins. Its date (5/14/31) indicates it was produced while Kreigh and his wife Theresa were summering in Europe, shortly after they were married.

Although there were no major characters named Brian in my grandfather’s comic strips, I was bestowed a cool nickname in the Christmas letter he and my grandmother sent out in 1964. (I was born three days before his third grandchild, my cousin Josh).

KTC xmas 64 150

With that, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a gay holiday season, and that you look forward to 1965 2022 with as much anticipation as I look forward to all of the adventures the year promises to bring.

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

Brett in in the Lions’ Den

At each others’ throats just moments before, Kevin and Karl are now completely aligned.

The short chapter’s quick pace continues, and with Brett’s lion cub/baby switcheroo, the story begins to transition to Kevin’s next adventure.

Before Kevin’s lady friend gets a chance to share it, her story comes alive!

This story line would continue in the pages of the Monomonee Falls Gazette. KEVIN THE BOLD debuted in issue No. 109 (January 14, 1974), which featured Kreigh Collins’ artwork on the cover. For the next six months, KEVIN ran on the gazette’s back cover, and continued inside until the demise of the publication four years later.

In case you can’t get your hands on MFG issues 109–232, the next dozen or so KEVIN THE BOLD chapters are collected in the book Kevin the Bold: Sunday Adventures. The 154-page collection, about 97% of which was compiled from BW syndicate proofs, is available on Amazon.com.

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

The Mountebank’s Lions

This short chapter appeared at the tail end of 1954. Its five episodes were all taken from the Chicago Sunday Tribune, and although they are a bit past that newspaper’s prime years (as far as reproduction and printing of Sunday comics is concerned), they are beautiful examples nonetheless. This early chapter—KEVIN THE BOLD’s 17th—immediately precedes the episodes that ran in the Menomonee Falls Gazette.

As noted in the opening caption, the action is set in 1491. The year is somewhat arbitrary—my feeling is that it just serves to peg the action as occurring just before Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World. It was a busy year for Kevin—the strip’s three previous chapters also took place in 1491. These were the first times a specific date was referenced for KEVIN THE BOLD’s action.

This sequence also kept Kevin busy—quite a bit of action was packed into its five episodes, which lacked the longer exposition normally found at the beginning of a chapter.

Having just arrived, Kevin makes immediate impressions on both the town’s law and order man and his pretty female friend. The jealous Swiss guardsman insults Kevin and moments later they square off to fight. Oh, and there are lions!

As quickly as it started, the fight ends, and the two combatants join forces in a common goal, finding the lioness’s cub. It’s all happened so quickly that I barely had time to look up the definition of mountebank—if he’s a charlatan, the townsfolk don’t seem to mind. Now back to the action!

In an odd form of payback, the lioness kidnaps a baby. Brett emerges as the voice of reason, the lion cub returns and… has Brett lost his mind?

To be continued…

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

Allas Veckotidning—1958

Allas Veckotidning (“Everyone’s Weekly”) is a Swedish weekly first published in 1931. Its general-interest content is typical for a weekly, and it also included several comic strips. Generally running in two colors, a Swedish translation of KEVIN THE BOLD (Falcon Stormfägeln), debuted circa August 1951 and ran for at least 15 years.

Actress Elsa Martinelli graced the cover of 1958’s issue No. 17. Defaced slightly by a bit of doodling from a blue ballpoint pen, at least the culprit didn’t give the young actress a mustache or a missing tooth. But as they say, it’s what’s inside that is important.

Inside was the explosive episode originally appearing on May 26, 1957. In 1958 issues of Allas Veckotidning, Falcon Stormfägeln often ran opposite CAROL DAY, by David Wright, a relatively new British soap opera comic strip. However, it wasn’t given as much space as Kreigh Collins’ strip, and although its title was printed in a second color, the artwork only appeared in black and white.

The original KEVIN episode is even more dramatic in full color, although its explosive subject is a bit incongruous for a late-1950s general interest women’s magazine.

Issue No. 23 featured a lovely lass enjoying an all-day sucker, and its cover beckoned its audience to read about Esther’s escapades.

Since the only word in Swedish that I remember is farfar (paternal grandfather), I’ll stick with what I know and skip right to page 39.

A better fit for the magazine, the episode shows a nervous Pierre Van Arden proposing marriage. The original episode, from July 7, 1957, is shown below. This episode is from a chapter whose villain is Count Noir.

Issue No. 27, with an attractive model enjoying some time at the beach, also featured some nice art direction—though if there was ever an occasion for a polkadot bikini, this was it.

Again appearing on page 39 was another episode in the sequence with Count Noir.

As it appeared in the Detroit News, here is the August 4, 1957 episode.

Issue No. 30 featured another beautiful cover model, and an even more attractive cover. I might be a sucker for polka dots, but I think this is stunning. But it’s something else that leads this to be my favorite issue of Allas Veckotidning.

For the only time in my limited collection of Allas Veckotidning magazines, Falcon Stormfägeln ran on the back cover, and in full color. The action from the Count Noir chapter continues.

The episode looks splendid. I don’t mean to badmouth these half-page examples from the Detroit News—after all, by this time, the Chicago Tribune was only running third-page versions—but the reproduction of Falcon Stormfägeln from Allas Veckotidning far surpasses the original episode (I guess using a paper stock better than newsprint is a bit of an unfair advantage).

(A sincere thank you to my friend Roger for sending me these copies of Allas Veckotidning).

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

The Deadfall

Mitzi continues to wander, realizes the great mistake she’s made, and starts to seek shelter.

Inches from certain demise, Mitzi is saved by Tim’s quick thinking.

Tim’s shouted warning has also put Mitzi in an eye-catching position! Seeing a familiar face seems to have brought her back to her senses, and Tim has landed a major scoop for the Freedom Clarion.

Mitzi was fortunate not to have gotten caught in the deadfall trap. Several years before turning up in MITZI McCOY, Collins illustrated one of the devices for the book “The Lone Woodsman,” by Warren H. Miller (1943). Though unfortunately printed on cheap wartime paper, the book contains numerous lovely illustrations and comes highly recommended.

MITZI’s introductory chapter ends with a humorous denouement. The dialogue brings a smile to my face due to a phrase my father often used in lieu of cursing—“Blankety Blank!” (sixth panel). Although Erik and Kreigh weren’t close, the two shared plenty of idioms. I think their estrangement is one of the main reasons I am so interested in my grandfather’s career. Growing up, iIt’s not like I was unaware of my grandfather’s work, I just wish there was more dialog about it when Kreigh and Erik were still alive. Of the few comments my father made on the subject was a bemused remark when I switched my college major from engineering to graphic design—“a commercial artist, that’s what my dad was.” Although Kreigh died young (shortly after his 66th birthday), my grandmother lived into her eleventh decade, and I’m proud that she lived long enough to see I had started collecting Kreigh’s comics, and had taken the first steps to start raising his profile. As his wife, muse, frequent model, and champion, I know she took pride in that.

To read more about the return of Mitzi’s ex-fiancé, and the other goings-on in the little town of Freedom, order a copy of “The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins, the Complete Mitzi McCoy.”

_________________________________________________________________________

An Overlooked Classic

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 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 is available for $30 ONLY $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.

______________________________________________________________________

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

Mitzi, You’re Lost

Meeting Pemican, Tim has lucked out. Mitzi too, but she is blind to her good fortunate.

Perhaps you could chalk it up due to stress, but Mitzi’s reaction to her benefactors certainly hasn’t aged well. Then again, bolting does seem second nature for Miss McCoy.

Appearing for the first time in MITZI’s seventh episode was a new title logo. It’s possible that this graphic was executed by an NEA staff artist, following Collins’ original. At this point, Collins still handled the lettering of all the balloons and captions. (Art Sansom would take over in episode number 25, on April 24, 1949).

OK, clearly I’m a Mitzi McCoy apologist. That’s a pretty vile thought running through her head, but remember—this is 1948. Sadly, many others besides Mitzi harbored such feelings. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Mitzi redeems herself before this chapter ends!

The final MITZI McCOY episode from 1948 was used as a promotion, sent to newspapers as an enticement to carry Collins’ strip. I’m lucky to have a copy of this slick reproduction, one of two in my collection. If I was the comics editor of a newspaper, the first panel would have sold me. And maybe that sweet visage would’ve distracted me from Tim mansplaining in the following two panels.

It’s s visually arresting episode—it even reintroduces Phil Rathbone. In a bit of foreshadowing, Mitzi’s ex-fiancé is razzed by some young ladies—Phil won’t appear again until MITZI’s second chapter, when he’ll play a more memorable part.

_________________________________________________________________________

An Overlooked Classic

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 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 is available for $30 ONLY $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.

______________________________________________________________________

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

Wild Goose Chase

A news item from Stub Goodman’s Freedom Clarion has reached the big city papers, and the little guys move quickly, trying to stay on top of the story of Mitzi’s disappearance.

MITZI’s third episode is again densely packed with figures and action as the narrative picks up speed. My knowledge of comics history is somewhat limited, but MITZI reminds me of CONNIE, an earlier strip by Frank Godwin. Like Collins, Godwin’s background was in illustration, and both strips’ protagonists were female aviators. A connection between the two artists first happened in the early 1940s, when the two produced illustrations for Hermann Hagedorn’s “The Book of Courage,” published by The John C. Winston Company in 1943.

Near the onset of his professional career (late 1920s), while summering in a rural northern Michigan cottage with his new wife Theresa, Kreigh Collins came across a discarded old birch bark canoe. He set about restoring it, and it became a frequently-used prop in his artwork. It first appeared in paintings, then as a magazine cover, and later as a part of the “Do You Know—” series (a 16-month, daily newspaper feature Collins illustrated from 1935–1937).

Eventually, the canoe made its way into the fourth episode of MITZI McCOY, reproducing beautifully in the nascent comic strip’s first splash panel.

The episode is packed with more arresting content—a racing canoe, a suggestively posed and unconscious Mitzi, her burning aircraft, and some stereotypically-depicted Indigenous people (whose conversation quickly brings Mitzi back to consciousness). Collins availed himself to his “Do You Know—” canoe reference material a second time for this episode. Having launched his career as the Great Depression began, Kreigh had learned the virtues of thriftiness.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle, er, Canada’s Great North Woods, Tim has made tracks in his pursuit of Mitzi. His 1,000-mile trip from Freedom, Michigan would likely situate him near the northern boundary of Manitoba, on the western shores of Hudson Bay. While the Great North Woods might be sparsely populated, folks tend to be friendly—lucky for Tim.

The chase continues (as do the plugs for my book).

An Overlooked Classic

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 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 is available for $30 ONLY $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.

______________________________________________________________________

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