The Collected Neil the Horse
8×11 inches, 360 pages, b/w, softcover, $25
Introduction by Trina Robbins
Backward by Katherine Collins
And so much in between…
Neil the Horse ran 15 issues in the 1980s. With its tagline, “Making the World Safe for Musical Comedy” it is the world’s only musical comic book. It is a totally original hybrid influenced more by Carl Barks and Fred Astaire than by the underground comics of the time. Originally produced under the name Arn Saba, Neil’s creator transitioned to Katherine Collins after the last issue.
Neil and his friends Soapy and Mam’selle Poupée are a struggling song-and-dance act. Neil is a happy-go-lucky horse with a mania for bananas. Mam’selle Poupée is a romantic and lovelorn living doll from France, whose wooden body is jointed with hinges. With red circles on her cheeks, curly blonde hair, and large bust, Poupée appears to be a cross between Raggedy Ann and Dolly Parton. Soapy is a street-wise and cynical (with a heart of gold) orange alley cat, a cigar smoker and a drinker, who serves as the brains of the operation. Their magical and absurd adventures take them to outer space, the past, and the future in a mix of slapstick, romance and show business.
The book includes brand-new commentary by Collins, rare art, sheet music to accompany the stories, and reprints of early syndicated newspaper strips.
Katherine Collins, born in Vancouver, was known as Arn Saba until 1993 when she came out as a trans-woman. Arn’s mother and great-grandmother were both published cartoonists, and he started drawing comics at around age six. In 1977, he moved to Toronto and began appearing on, and eventually writing and producing for, the CBC Radio program Morningside, and other shows. He produced nearly 100 skits, adapting classic newspaper strips. In 1979, he wrote and produced The Continuous Art, a five-part CBC documentary, exploring comics’ cultural ghettoization. It featured interviews with some of cartooning’s greatest names. His character Neil the Horse ran in Canadian newspapers from 1975-1982, and subsequently starred in fifteen comic books, from 1983–88. Neil was the first (and last) musical comic book, with original songs. There was a five-part Neil musical comedy play on CBC in 1982. In 1993, Katherine was obliged to leave comics. This year’s Neil book is her first return to the field.
Collins will be inducted into the Giants of the North, Canadian Cartooning Hall of Fame at this year’s Doug Wright Awards.