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, Boat Show Edition

After the launch of “Up Anchor!,” a promotional event for the new comic strip was held a few months later at the New York City Boat Show.

 

The New York Times ran articles about the show opening and closing; unfortunately, there was no mention of my grandfather’s participation. They did mention 434 exhibits and 14 educational booths, I guess that will have to suffice.

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Kreigh Collins was accompanied by his new NEA boss, Robert Molyneux.

At the boat show, Collins worked on the episode of “Up Anchor!” shown below. Note the inscription beneath the strip’s logo, “Drawn at New York Boat Show.” The episode ran  May 4, 1969, and because the boat show lasted from January 25 until February 2, it shows the cartoonist was still working with his customary three-month lead time.

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In addition to nautical trivia, sailing regulations, and knot-tying how-to, “Water Lore” featured personal anecdotes based on Collins’ travels with his family aboard their 45-foot schooner. The Collinses encountered much in the 15 years they spent aboard Heather, sailing the Great Lakes, off shore in New England, and on their travels along the Mississippi River, Erie Canal, and Intracoastal Waterway. Here are some of those first-hand observations.

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In addition to nutty things his kids did or saw, others were based on places they had spent time while cruising.

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Lake Huron and the St. Clair River were crossed during any trips eastward through the Great Lakes, and Holland, Michigan was the location of Heather’s home port on Lake Macatawa (which connects with Lake Michigan).

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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