Leaping Lizards, er, Lads!

Six episodes in, and so far two of Heather‘s crew have fallen into the drink. I wonder who’s next?

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Somewhere in Kreigh Collins’ morgue file, he had an image of a boy playing leapfrog. It was never referenced in “Mitzi McCoy,” but it appeared in Collins’ pre-NEA “Bible Picture Story Comics,” twice in “Kevin the Bold.” and at least once in “Water Lore,” above. Now that’s thrifty!

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From left: December 15, 1963; October 30, 1955; and c. 1946.

With the eighth episode of “Up Anchor!”, another recurring character was introduced—Kevin’s friend, Pedro. Pedro had been a mainstay in “Kevin the Bold,” he first appeared in 1958 and continued on and off until the very last episode, a decade later. While Kevin definitely changed when he transitioned between the two strips, Pedro remained essentially the same.

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Oho! It was Erik that somehow fell in—luckily Pedro was there to lend a hand. He also lets loose with what will become the big fella’s catchphrase.

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Waiting until late December to button up a boat for the winter would be ill-advised in Michigan, but if you factor in the three-month lead time that the production process of these episodes required, doing it in late September (when the artwork was inked) seems appropriate.

Collins also had the advantage of being able to photograph his sailboat in order to create reference images for use in his strip, and it looks like the photo below could have been used for the episode above. I’d guess the younger guy is my uncle Kevin.

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

Secret Weapon

Heather's Crew

Kreigh: “Teddy, let’s sail the Great Loop with the twins.” Teddy: “Wouldn’t that be grand!”

“Up Anchor!” was narrated by Jane Marlin, who was loosely based on Kreigh Collins’ wife, Theresa. “Teddy” also had a hand in writing the strip, and the the November 24, 1968 episode, she also pitched in a bit with the illustration. I clearly recognize the handwritten labels on the drawings Jane holds from her numerous cards and letters over the years (and there were plenty of years—she lived to be nearly 102!)

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Teddy definitely fit the idiom, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” After all, besides “the Skipper” and eight-year-old twins, she served as Heather‘s only crew during it’s year-long circuit of the 6,000-mile Great Loop. Made plain in the strip, traditional gender roles were largely held, so she was responsible for cooking, cleaning, and all the other typical roles of a mother. The original plan was to home-school (boat-school?) Kevin and Glen during the journey, so teacher could be added to the list, too. Of course, Teddy was used to adventuring with her husband—shortly after their 1929 wedding, they took a steamship to Europe and spent several months exploring the continent (mostly France). She chronicled the Great Loop journey in her diary, and later the material was published in an article that appeared in The World Of Comic Art. The late 1966 article was reprinted and used as part of an NEA promotional push, and some of this material was repurposed as “Up Anchor!” storylines.

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After a bit of self-deprecation, another educational tidbit was dished out regarding alcohol fires.

Generally, the content of “Water Lore” didn’t reflect the action in an episode of “Up Anchor!,” but the December 1, 1968 episode was an exception, with its focus on cooking. Personally, I don’t have a lot of memories of sailing aboard Heather, but I do recall touching her smokestack once and burning my hand.

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This wouldn’t be the last time Heather went aground.


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

Drough Sabotage

The good news is that there aren’t any newspaper.com images this week; the bad news is that one of the BW proofs was “embellished.” But the good news is that whoever did it, did a pretty nice job. (Maybe I’ll take credit for this one, LOL)

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Kevin is up to some of his usual antics, climbing aboard an enemy’s ship, disabling a bad guy and using their clothes as a disguise. He has one more trick up his sleeve.

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In a couple of episodes from years past, Kreigh Collins showed how a sea anchor was used in order to stabilize a boat in the midst of a storm. In this case, Kevin used one as a brake, in order to slow the progress of Grommet’s monstrous ship. This bought some time for Kevin and the townsfolk time to implement a defensive plan—using fire arrows and… WHAT was the other thing?! (Fire arrows were another device Collins had used in the past, but I don’t recall any other instances of cheese ordnance).

I wonder if my grandfather ever needed to use a drough on his own sailboat—sea anchors loomed large enough that I can recall my father describing their use to me when I was young.

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The drough/drogue/sea anchor also was featured in the topper “Water Lore” for Collins’ final NEA comic, “Up Anchor!”

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Here are the three episodes in color, as third-pages.

 


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

 

Vanishing Harbor Gates

Expecting a fight, Kevin is in for a surprise.

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While half-page examples of “Kevin the Bold” are obviously preferable to any other format, it is interesting to see how the strip appeared in other configurations. As in earlier examples, tabloid versions excised a single panel, but in these latter-day episodes, the throwaway wasn’t a small panel in the second tier but a larger one from the bottom.

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Because so many newspapers were running third-page examples of the comic strip, Collins began producing his layouts so that the entire third tier could be deleted. The benefit was that his artwork wouldn’t suffer from having all of its panels cropped, but the drawback was obvious. For this post’s first episode, this would be quite unfortunate. For the following pair of episodes, the results wouldn’t be quite as tragic—but a key plot element’s concise description would be lost.

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Lightly showing through the third-page above is another NEA feature, Jim Berry’s “Berry’s World.” Berry and Collins were friends; Kreigh was gifted a signed original. Its date is unknown, but its subject (president Lyndon B. Johnson) makes it about the same vintage as these episodes of “Kevin.”

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The August 20, 1967 episode revisits the workings of the harbor’s pontoon gates.

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A year later, when “Kevin” morphed into “Up Anchor!”, this problem would be solved more diplomatically. Instead of an expandable third tier, a topper strip (“Water Lore”) would appear. While this solution had less effect on the presentation of the feature comic, it resulted in very few papers running “Up Anchor!” as a half page.

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Need a great holiday gift idea?

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more charming collection of Golden Age comics than The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins: The Complete Mitzi McCoy. 

Drawn and scripted by Kreigh Collins, Mitzi McCoy showcased the artist’s 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 here 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.

Edited and restored by the artist’s grandson, Brian E. Collins, with an introduction by Eisner Award-winning author Frank M. Young, an Afterword by comics columnist Ed Catto, and a new tribute illustration of Mitzi by Butch Guice

Available HERE from Lost Art Books.

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

More Lore

Because “Up Anchor!” ran for over three years, Kreigh Collins had to come up with quite a bit of material to fill the two topper panels of its 174 Sunday comics. All of this information needed to be fresh, but sometimes the accompanying illustrations required a bit of recycling.

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December 15, 1968

Say… that lad hopping over the tree stump looks familiar. Where have I seen that pose before?

Leapfrog

At left, from the Methodist Publishing House’s Bible Picture Story Comics, is a young Jesus (1946); at right, Brett from “Kevin the Bold” (1955).

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Brett from “Kevin the Bold” (1963).

Back in the days before the internet, illustrators were wise to keep a “morgue,” where reference images were stored. These images came in handy for future assignments, and I’m unaware of a pose Collins copied more often than the boy playing leapfrog.

Here are some more examples of “Water Lore.”

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After three weeks of “Water Lore,” I am happy to say that I will be making a major announcement in next Sunday’s post.


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

Water Lore

“Water Lore” was the topper strip Kreigh Collins created for his third NEA comic, “Up Anchor!” The comic generally ran as a one-third page, so the topper was rarely seen in print. Until recently, I had only seen “Water Lore” when I’d come across Collins’ original illustrations for the comic, or in the handful of “Up Anchor!” syndicate proofs in my collection.

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The May 17, 1970 episode is one of many pieces of Collins’ original art found in the collection of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

I recently acquired some half-page examples of “Up Anchor!” and have now seen its topper in print, and in color.

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The “Evening Chronicle” from Allentown, Pennsylvania was one of the few newspapers to run “Up Anchor!” as a half page comic.

Collins had long hated the one-third page format in which most newspapers were running “Kevin the Bold,” and when the suits at the NEA convinced Collins to retire “Kevin” and replace it with something more contemporary, he utilized the topper so his panels wouldn’t get cropped and shrunken. In cases where it ran as a four-tiered tabloid comic, the second topper panel would be eliminated.

The “Water Lore” toppers occasionally had dates inscribed in them, indicating they may have been intended as stand-alone single panel comics. Collins often illustrated and wrote articles for consumer sailing magazines, perhaps they were the intended market.

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More commonly, they were undated.

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

The Line Squall

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As he’s escorted around Hollywood by his co-star and director, Kevin learns how the movie game is played. As the action in the comic intensifies, the mood of the topper strip “Water Lore” darkens.

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Jane trusts her husband Kevin enough to ignore the rumors propagated by the Hollywood hype machine — or is she just putting on a brave face? Meanwhile, Kevin and Bunny are lost at sea without ship-to-shore communication. Rescue efforts get under way, and Pedro manages to press the spineless movie star Cecil Dunn into service.

Of note: movie director Rex Fox bears a certain resemblance to one of Collins’ old “Mitzi McCoy” characters, publisher Stub Goodman. Stub was based on the character Frank from the 1947 novel by Thomas W. Duncan, “Gus the Great.” Like Stub, Frank was a newspaperman, and a very richly developed character. Midway through the book, he retires to California (and to my disappointment, isn’t heard from again). It’s nice to see one possible outcome was Frank’s reinvention as a Hollywood director.

Stub on the phone