Happy Ending

After too many black and white episodes—eleven out of twelve, in case you lost count—the sequence wraps up with a couple of splashes of color.

Ponce and Snake, weakened by seasickness, can only watch as their nefarious plan unravels.

The story comes to a happy ending, with the messier details of the bad guys’ detainment left to the reader’s imagination. As the sequence transitions to a new chapter, my eye is caught by the action in the background of the second panel.

Young Dave is playing leapfrog (jumping over Heather’s boom?). The pose—used by Collins numerous times over the years—always makes me wonder of the whereabouts of the original illustration used as its source.

It first appeared in an episode of BIBLE STORIES COMICS (far right, c. 1944) and then twice in KEVIN THE BOLD (October 30, 1955 and December 15 1963). Collins used it another time in UP ANCHOR!’s seventh episode (December 15, 1968), when it popped up in the topper strip, “Water Lore.”

It’s a shame Dick Dixon never busted the move in MITZI McCOY!


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

Barracuda Key

Barracuda Key is a real place, located about nine miles west of Key West, Florida. In 1959–60, My grandparents sailed to Florida (via the Mississippi River and New Orleans), but not as far south as the Keys. However, visiting the chain of islands was likely on their original itinerary, which included sailing to the Bahamas, as per a profile that appeared in the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Magazine.

Ironically, their plans changed due to a downturn in Kreigh Collins’ business affairs—as the 1950s drew to a close, the Tribune dropped KEVIN THE BOLD from its stable of comic strips.

While Barracuda Key is real, the story told here with Ponce and Snake (and Dr. Estella Mosa) is obviously fiction.

To be continued…


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

“Don’t Boil a Kettle on a Boat” and other hazards

Jane Marlin sees her husband off at the dock, seemingly not worried about the pretty crew member joining Kevin and Pedro. But she has cause for concern—and it’s not Estella, the blonde PhD chartering Heather.

In UP ANCHOR!’S topper strip, WATER LORE, Kreigh Collins incorporated all sorts of nautical trivia, instructional information, and historical tidbits. When UP ANCHOR! appeared in its third-page format, the topper solved the problems caused by cropped panels, by serving as a throwaway. When running as a tabloid, only the larger panel appeared, filling the entire fourth tier of the comic. Generally, the subject of the topper strip wasn’t related to the feature at all (here, ice boats vs. sailing in the Gulf of Mexico).

Much of the information was recycled from or related to various former projects. For instance, a child-sized ice boat project was featured in a book Collins wrote and illustrated 30+ years earlier, called “Tricks, Toys and Tim.” (I highly recommend the book, if you can find a copy).

“Tricks, Toys and Tim” was published in 1937 by Appleton Century.

As Pedro looks for a snack, he is shocked to discover the damage caused by the saboteurs. And in this case, the subject of WATER LORE, a sinking schooner, is directly related to the events in the feature.

The resourceful skipper quickly comes sup with a plan to patch the holes, and the crisis is averted.

Occasionally, WATER LORE featured boating safety, essentially functioning like a Public Service Announcement. Somehow, I’m reminded of this strange PSA. It warns of the dangers propane can present on boats (and features an extremely spacious galley for a boat of the size shown at the end of the clip).

Kreigh’s wife Theresa wasn’t afraid to boil a kettle on a boat—here she is enjoying a spot of tea aboard Heather.

However, the cooking done on Heather was done safely using an alcohol stove more typical for a boat built in the 1920s.


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

Whistle Bait

Pedro has found someone to charter Heather, and he introduces the prospective customer to Kevin Marlin—a lovely plot twist indeed.

News of Heather’s upcoming charter reaches certain unsavory elements.

With Heather on the hard, vulnerabilities are exposed.

It’s interesting to see “whistle bait” appear in the dialog (third panel)—that was the name of a song written in 1958 by 13-year-old Larry Collins of the Collins Kids. (Sadly—no relation). It’s 95 seconds of rockabilly heaven, and is arguably the first punk rock record ever. To my ears, it’s astonishing, but it’s impact is diminished by not being accompanied by live footage. To see the Collins Kids live, check out Hoy Hoy. Still don’t believe me? “They’re lip synching!”—then check out this live performance. Besides all that energy, Larry’s got some skills! He later earned a co-writing credit for a worldwide #1 hit, Helen Reddy’s Delta Dawn… but that’s a story for another blog.


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

Heather the Bareboat

Sailing has always been a popular hobby in my family. My grandfather owned a succession of boats, and for a number of years, so did my father. My dad was also fond of “improving” existing sailboat designs—using tracing paper and a pencil to refine designs seen in sailing magazines. He also built numerous small wooden craft, always starting with a scale model made from balsa wood. When I was in high school I recall him asking to use my scientific calculator to determine sail displacement/length ratios.

Displacement being the amount of volume a boat’s hull takes up that would otherwise be occupied by a water, and LWL representing the boat’s length at the waterline. You’ll have to ask one of my more boat-savvy family members for further explanation!

Uncle Kevin has had a boat for most of his adult life; he plies the waters of Lake Michigan each summer. As for my generation, the sailing bug didn’t bite me so hard—I’ve never owned a boat but am happy to be part of a crew. On the other hand, my brother (Brett), a boat-owning sailing enthusiast, recently arrived in the Virgin Islands to charter a 50-foot catamaran with some friends. Accordingly, I thought now would be a good time to switch things up and feature a chapter from my grandfather’s final NEA comic strip, UP ANCHOR!

Mackinac Island

After making a couple jokes about cars and drivers in previous episodes, it should come as little surprise that Heather’s destination was Mackinac Island, noted for being completely free of automobiles. However, there are other ways to get around the island, as Erik and Dave soon discover.

Coming ashore meant becoming reacquainted with civilization—for better or worse.

In the sequence’s final episode, it accurately portrays how the artist Kreigh Collins continued working as he plied the water—his mail was forwarded to Post Offices along their route, and Collins continued to send and receive artwork along the way. The episode ends with another blow against the cliche of the pampered life of a sailor.

A nice personal touch to the March 30, 1969 is the name of the Erik’s girlfriend—Judy. Erik and Judy were the names of my parents.


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

Launch Time

Apologies for this week’s meager selection of color comics—my collection is a bit spotty as far as “Up Anchor!” episodes are concerned—but going forward in this chapter, things will brighten up considerably.

As the Marlin family gets ready to launch their boat, they first have to deal with on-shore know-it-alls. Luckily, sailing is a team effort, and that includes putting obnoxious folks in their proper place, done this time by Jane Marlin. Jane was loosely based on my Gramma Teddy, and one thing the two shared was an inability to mince words.

In the “Water Lore” topper, Kevin and Jane Marlin make a rare appearance (possibly the only time this happened).

With the boat finally launched, there is rigging and provisioning to be done before setting sail.

In the fifth panel, where Kevin points to the nautical chart, it also shows where my family was going to relocate, a few months after this episode was published. We moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan (near the lower part of mitten-like Michigan’s “thumb”), to Fredonia, New York when I was just shy of five years old.

It’s a shame that I don’t have a color version of the February 9, 1969 episode—it features a couple of strategically-placed bathing beauties modeling some of the season’s finest swimsuit apparel. It also features a character who offers an explanation of why Collins and his family spent so much time on their boat during the summer.

Continued next week…


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

Maiden Voyage

Looks like a relatively warm spring day to get Heather ready.

With Memorial Day approaching, so too is the traditional start of sailing season. This usually means having already done prep work in chilly conditions. In order to extend the season, Kreigh Collins liked to launch early. Kevin Marlin was in the same boat — literally — they both sailed aboard Heather.

While the photo above shows skipper Collins 10 years after he purchased his schooner, the “Up Anchor!” chapter starting today was just the second one in the strip’s 3.5-year run. It starts with Pedro showing off a small fiberglass boat he’s peddling, which must have appealed to Kreigh — maintaining a 40-year-old, wooden 40-footer required quite a bit of elbow grease! No doubt the Collinses worked up a sweat, even in chilly spring weather.

Not only did Kevin and Kreigh sail the same boat, but they had the same kitchen, too. (The opening panel in the episode below is a rendering of the tiny kitchen in Kreigh’s own Ada, Michigan home).

Featuring a family’s adventures living aboard a sailboat, “Up Anchor!” was unique, and while it promoted the growing hobby of pleasure boating, it fought against the stereotype of it being a glamorous sport solely for the wealthy.

Continued next week…


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

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!

Leapfrog x3

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.