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Classics Illustrated is an American comic book/magazine series featuring adaptations of literary classics such as Les Miserables, Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Iliad. Created by Albert Kanter, the series began publication in 1941 and finished its first run in 1971, producing 169 issues. Following the series' demise, various companies reprinted its titles. Since then, the Classics Illustrated brand has been used to create new comic book adaptations. This series is different from the Great Illustrated Classics, which is an adaptation of the classics for young readers that includes illustrations, but is not in the comic book form.

Classics Illustrated
Three Musketeers, Issue #1, Classic Comics, published 1941
Publication information
PublisherElliot Publishing Co. (1941–1942)
Gilberton Company, Inc. (1942–1967)
Frawley Corporation (Twin Circle), (1967–1971)
FormatOngoing series
Publication date1941 – 1971
No. of issues169
Creative team
Created byAlbert Kanter
Artist(s)Lillian Chestney, Matt Baker, Jack Abel, Matt Baker, Dik Browne, Lou Cameron, Sid Check, L.B. Cole, Reed Crandall, George Evans, Denis Gifford, Graham Ingels, Alex Blum, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Jack Kirby, Roy Krenkel, Gray Morrow, Joe Orlando, Norman Nodel, Norman Saunders, John Severin, Joe Sinnott, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, George Woodbridge

Contents

1941–1971: Elliot / GilbertonEdit

Publication historyEdit

Classic ComicsEdit

Recognizing the appeal of early comic books, Russian-born publisher Albert Lewis Kanter (1897–1973) believed he could use the new medium to introduce young and reluctant readers to "great literature".[1] He created Classic Comics for Elliot Publishing Company in 1941 with its debut issues being The Three Musketeers, followed by Ivanhoe and The Count of Monte Cristo. In addition to the literary adaptations, each issue featured author profiles, educational fillers, and an ad for the coming title. In later editions, a catalog of titles and a subscription order form appeared on back covers.

Classic Comics is marked by varying quality in art and is celebrated today for its often garish but highly collectible line-drawn covers.[citation needed] Original edition Classic Comics in "near mint" condition command prices in the thousands of dollars.

The first five titles were published irregularly under the banner "Classic Comics Presents," while issues #6 and 7 were published under the banner "Classic Comics Library" with a ten-cent cover price. Arabian Nights (issue #8), illustrated by Lillian Chestney, is the first issue to use the "Classics Comics" banner.

With the fourth issue, The Last of the Mohicans, in 1942, Kanter moved the operation to different offices and the corporate identity was changed to the Gilberton Company, Inc.. Reprints of previous titles began in 1943. World War II paper shortages forced Kanter to reduce the 64-page format to 56 pages.

Some titles were packaged in gift boxes of threes or fours during the period with specific themes such as adventure or mystery. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (issue #13) and Uncle Tom's Cabin (issue #15) were both cited in Dr. Fredric Wertham's infamous 1954 condemnation of comic books Seduction of the Innocent.[citation needed]

Classics IllustratedEdit

With issue #35 in March 1947 (The Last Days of Pompeii) the series' name was changed to Classics Illustrated. In 1948, rising paper costs reduced books to 48 pages. In 1951 (issue #81), line-drawn covers were replaced with painted covers, and the price was raised from 10 cents to 15 cents, (and, at a later date, to 25 cents). In addition to Classics Illustrated, Kanter presided over its spin-offs Classics Illustrated Junior (1953), Specials, and The World Around Us. Between 1941 and 1962, sales totaled 200 million.

DemiseEdit

The publication of new titles ceased in 1962 for various reasons. The company lost its second-class mailing permit and cheap paperbacks, Cliff's Notes, and television drew readers away from the series.[citation needed] Kanter's last new title was issue #167 Faust (August 1962) though other titles had been planned. These titles appeared in the company's foreign editions.

In 1967, Kanter sold his company to Catholic publication Twin Circle and its publisher Patrick Frawley, whose Frawley Corporation brought out two more titles but mainly concentrated on foreign sales and reprinting older titles. After four years, Twin Circle discontinued the line because of poor distribution. Since the series' demise, various companies have reprinted its titles. By the early 1970s, Classics Illustrated and Junior had been discontinued.

ArtistsEdit

Artists who contributed to Classic Comics include Lillian Chestney (Arabian Nights, issue #8, and Gulliver's Travels, issue #16), Webb and Brewster (Frankenstein, issue #26), Matt Baker (Lorna Doone, issue #32), and Henry Carl Kiefer (second cover for The Prince and the Pauper, issue #29, cover for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, issue #33, and the first Classics Illustrated issue The Last Days of Pompeii, issue #35). Oliver Twist (issue #23) was the first title produced by the Eisner & Iger shop.[citation needed]

Artists who contributed to Classics Illustrated included Jack Abel, Stephen Addeo, Matt Baker, Charles J. Berger, Dik Browne, Lou Cameron, Sid Check, L.B. Cole, Reed Crandall, George Evans, Denis Gifford, Graham Ingels, Henry C. Kiefer, Alex Blum, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Jack Kirby, Roy Krenkel, Gray Morrow, Joe Orlando, Norman Nodel, Rudolph Palais, John Parker, Norman Saunders, John Severin, Joe Sinnott, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and George Woodbridge.

Classics Illustrated JuniorEdit

Classics Illustrated Junior featured Albert Lewis Kanter's comic book adaptations of fairy and folk tale, myth and legends. In 1953, Classics Illustrated Junior debuted with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; the line eventually numbered 77 issues, ending publication in 1971. Issues included miscellanea such as an Aesop fable and a full-page illustration to color with crayons. Artists included John Costanza and Kurt Schaffenberger.

1990–1991: First ComicsEdit

Classics Illustrated
 
Publication information
PublisherFirst Comics
FormatOngoing series
Publication dateFeb. 1990 – June 1991
No. of issues27
Creative team
Artist(s)Kyle Baker, Pat Boyette, Rick Geary, Gary Gianni, Peter Kuper, Tom Mandrake, Dean Motter, Mike Ploog, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz, John K. Snyder III, Dan Spiegle, Joe Staton, Jill Thompson, Ricardo Villagran, Gahan Wilson
Editor(s)Wade Roberts (issues #1–17), Valarie Jones (issues #18–25), Byron Erickson (issues #26–27)

In 1988 First Comics partnered with Berkley Publishing to acquire the rights, and announced it was reviving the Classics Illustrated brand with all-new adaptations.[2] In 1990 (after some delays),[3] Classics Illustrated returned after a nearly 30-year hiatus, with a line-up of artists that included Kyle Baker, Dean Motter, Mike Ploog, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Staton, Rick Geary and Gahan Wilson.

The line lasted only a little over a year, publishing 27 issues. Titles solicited but never published were Kidnapped, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Red Badge of Courage, The War of the Worlds, Around the World in Eighty Days, and The Last of the Mohicans.[4] (Kidnapped, adapted by Mike Vosburg, was later published by Papercutz in 2012.)

1997–1998: Acclaim BooksEdit

In 1997–1998, Acclaim Books (the successor to Valiant Comics) published a series of recolored reprints of the Gilberton issues in a digest size format with accompanying study notes by literary scholars. The Acclaim line included Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with art by Frank Giacoia, and The Three Musketeers, illustrated by George Evans. The series favored Mark Twain with reprints of Pudd'nhead Wilson, The Prince and the Pauper and Tom Sawyer. Other reprints in this series were Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. The series lasted 62 issues, with three of the final four issues being all-new adaptations (with art by, among others, Pat Broderick, Jamal Igle, Ralph Reese, and Mike DeCarlo.)

2008–2014: PapercutzEdit

In 2007, Papercutz acquired the Classics Illustrated license and announced that they would begin publishing new graphic novels ("Classics Illustrated Deluxe") as well as reprints of the First Comics series from 1990–1991. The new modern adaptations were largely produced in France; Papercutz published 12 volumes — including The Wind in the Willows, Frankenstein, Treasure Island, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — from 2008 to 2014.

The First Comics reprint series of adaptations was published by Papercutz in a different order from the originals and emphasized some of the later, low-circulation volumes. 19 issues were published (out of the original 27) from 2008 to 2014.[5]

Digital editionsEdit

In 2011, Marblehead, Massachusetts-based Trajectory, Inc. issued the first digital editions of Gilberton Classics Illustrated regular and Junior lines. In 2014, Trajectory, Inc. was granted the exclusive worldwide rights to produce, distribute and license the brand.

International editionsEdit

United KingdomEdit

Thorpe & PorterEdit

The British publisher Thorpe & Porter published Classics Illustrated reprints (and a few original stories) from 1951 to 1963. Of the 181 British issues,[6] 13 had never appeared in America. Additionally, there were some variations in cover art. UK issues never published in the United States include Aeneid, The Argonauts, The Gorilla Hunters and Sail with the Devil. The British Classics Illustrated adaptation of Dr. No was never published under the U.S. Classics Illustrated line, but instead was sold to DC Comics, which published it as part of their superhero anthology series, Showcase.[7] (The comic followed the plot of the film with images of the film's actors rather than Ian Fleming's original novel.) Thorpe & Porter was bought by DC Comics in 1965.[8]

Classic Comic StoreEdit

In September 2008, Classic Comic Store Ltd., based in the U.K., began publishing both the original Gilberton Classics Illustrated regular and Junior lines for distribution in the U.K., Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The issue number sequence is different from the original runs, although the Junior series was in the same sequence as the original, but with numbering starting at 1 instead of 501. The covers were digitally 'cleaned up' and enhanced, based on the original US covers. In September 2009, Classic Comic Store Ltd announced that although they would continue to publish the Classics Illustrated titles, they were no longer publishing the Junior series after issue 12, but rather importing the issues from Canada. This meant that the numbers used would be as per the Canadian issues (i.e. the first one imported would be issue 513). In October 2012 (when issue 44 had been despatched), Classic Comic Store Ltd no longer continued with a subscription service in the UK, because of the costs involved. The company told subscribers that they were planning on producing four issues at a time, but not on a specified time scale. The first of these batches (issues 45-48) was produced in October 2013. The second batch (49, 57–62) was available in August 2016 (although the issues stated "First Published May 2016"). The gap (50–56) was a result of the artwork for them being unavailable to Classic Comic Store in refreshed form – the intention being to publish them at a future date - this was completed by March 2019, after which issues continued to be produced in order from the last previously-published issue.

New publications for Classic Comic Store editions:

  • July 2011: Nicholas Nickleby (issue #32) became the first new title in the 48-page series since Gilberton's 1969 publication of #169 (Negro Americans: The Early Years). The artwork came from the November 1950 Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated edition of Nicholas Nickleby and retained the original Gustav Schrotter interior art.[CCS notes 1]
  • October 2012: The 39 Steps (issue #44) became the second brand-new title to the Classics Illustrated canon.
  • September 2013: The Argonauts (issue #48) was published – one of 13 which were never issued in the US collection but only in the UK.
  • March 2019: The Aeneid (issue #72) was published - another which was not issued in the original US collection but only in the UK - although in 2007, it was issued in North America as #170.
  • March 2019: Through the Looking-Glass (issue 73) was published - this was not issued in the original US collection, but was published in 1990 as #3 in the First Comics run.

GreeceEdit

In Greece the series is named Κλασσικά Εικονογραφημένα (Klassiká Eikonografiména, meaning "Classics Illustrated") and has been published continuously since 1951 by Εκδόσεις Πεχλιβανίδη (Ekdóseis Pechlivanídi, Pechlivanídis Publications). It is based on the American series, with the difference that well-known Greek illustrators and novelists work to adapt stories of particular Greek interest. In addition to the titles that were translated from the US Classics Illustrated more than 70 titles were published with themes from Greek mythology and Greek history. Κλασσικά Εικονογραφημένα are read by thousands of young Greeks, and the first issues are of interest to collectors.

The publishing house of Κλασσικά Εικονογραφημένα, Εκδόσεις Πεχλιβανίδη (Pechlivanídis Publications), was founded by three brothers of the Πεχλιβανίδης (Pechlivanídis) family from the Greek-speaking parts of Asia Minor: Μιχάλης, Michális, Michael; Κώστας, Kóstas; and Γιώργος, Giórgos, George), collectively known as αδελφοί Πεχλιβανίδη (Pechlivanídis brothers). They had extensive experience in publishing from the 1920s, mainly in advertising – but also in children's books after 1936, when Κώστας Πεχλιβανίδης (Kóstas Pechlivanídis) finished his studies in the – then modern – printing techniques in Leipzig .

The Pechlivanídis brothers had inherited the printing press of Bavarian lithographer Grundman – and his experience as well. Having worked for years with offset printing, the Pechlivanídis brothers founded after the war[clarification needed] the Εκδόσεις Ατλαντίς (Atlantis Publications) house in order to restart publishing children's books. They had read Classics Illustrated while traveling in the US, and arranged to publish them in Greece as well.

The first issue of Κλασσικά Εικονογραφημένα was made available on 1 March 1951. It was an adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, and attracted extensive critique in Greece, both positive and negative. It was the first "American" kind of comic in Greece and also the first four-color or tetrachromous offset (with 336 multicoloured illustrations as the front page advertised). Its cost at the time was 4,000 drachmas, and the first edition (90,000 copies) went out of print quickly and was reprinted twice in the following days. (According to Atlantis, it sold about a million copies.)

CanadaEdit

In 2003, Toronto's Jack Lake Productions revived Classics Illustrated Junior, creating new remastered artwork from the original editions. In 2005, Jack Lake Productions published a Classics Illustrated 50th anniversary edition of The War of the Worlds in both hard and softcover versions. In November 2007, Jack Lake Productions published for the first time in North America Classics Illustrated #170 The Aeneid (originally published in the UK) along with issues #1 The Three Musketeers, #4 The Last of the Mohicans, and #5 Moby Dick.

In October 2016, Jack Lake Productions republished under the Classic Comics banner eleven remastered original Gilberton titles:

IssuesEdit

Original Eliot/Gilberton runEdit

The authorship is based on the information held by Michigan State University Libraries Special Collections Division in their Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection[9][10]

First Comics runEdit

The authorship is based on the Grand Comics Database.[13]

PapercutzClassics Illustrated Deluxe graphic novelsEdit

Classic Comic Store [UK], 2008- runEdit

The authorship is based on the information held by Michigan State University Libraries, Special Collections Division in their Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection[9][10] and/or the copyright information inside the books.

The titles and publication dates are obtained from a personal collection.[15]

Classic Comic Store UK run - Notes

  1. ^ a b From the issue's introduction: "Classic Comic Store has now added the [November 1950 Famous Authors Illustrated] edition of Nicholas Nickleby to the Classics Illustrated series as issue No. 32, the first title in the 48 page series since the 1969 publication of No. 169, Negro Americans:The Early Years. Nicholas Nickleby retains the 1950 [Gustav] Schrotter interior art." ("Introduction". Classics Illustrated (UK). No. 32. Classic Comic Store Ltd. June 2011. p. 48.)
  2. ^ From the subscriber's letter: "Collectors among you may notice that number 44, John Buchan's The 39 Steps, is our second brand new title to the Classics Illustratedcanon, after introducing Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby as number 32"
  3. ^ a b c d In an email sent out on 16 January 2018, Classic Comic Store announced "There are now 4 great new Classics Illustrated Replica titles available to pre-order, as we continue to fill in the gap in our numbering - numbers 50-53 now available for pre-order. Shipping begins in May."
  4. ^ a b c d Issues 54-55, 72-73 had a release date of May 2019 on the Classic Comic Store website, with "First Published: April 2019" on the copyright notices inside the books, but they were in fact first sent out to purchasers in March 2019
  5. ^ a b c d e From an email in March 2017 from Classic Comic Store: "The 5 titles this October will be All Quiet on the Western Front, Joan of Arc, The Man Who Laughs, Daniel Boone and The Song of Hiawatha. This will take us to number 71 (with All Quiet as 56)."
  6. ^ This was published in November 2007 in North America by Jack Lake Productions, having previously only being published in the UK

In other mediaEdit

The Classics Illustrated branding was on a series of television films produced from 1977 to 1982 by Schick Sunn Classics:

  • Last of the Mohicans (1977)
  • Donner Pass: The Road to Survival (1978)
  • The Time Machine (1978)
  • The Deerslayer (1978)
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980)
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1981)
  • Adventures of Nellie Bly (1981)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1982)

References in popular cultureEdit

  • In the film Major League, Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) reads the Classics Illustrated edition of Moby Dick in an effort to impress his former girlfriend, Lynn (Rene Russo) in the hopes that he might win her back (which he eventually does). Later on in the movie, other teammates like Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), and Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen) start reading other Classics Illustrated titles, such as The Song of Hiawatha, The Deerslayer, and Crime and Punishment.
  • A copy of the Classics Illustrated version of David Copperfield figures in the film Heaven Help Us. At one point, the character Caesar (Malcolm Danare) is baffled by why a book report written by his friend Rooney (Kevin Dillon) contains continued references to W.C. Fields instead of Wilkins Micawber. Rooney responds by displaying the cover of the comic book, which depicts Fields as Mr. Micawber, based on his role in the 1935 film.
  • Classics Illustrated #108, Knights of the Round Table (June 1953, Gilberton) is mentioned in the Warner Bros./CW show Supernatural, season 8, episode 21: "The Great Escapist" (written by Ben Edlund, original air date 1 May 2013). Hero Sam Winchester, ill and delirious, recalls to his brother Dean the memory of Dean reading the story to him when they were both small children. Sam laments that as he thought of the knights' purity, it made him realize that, even though he was a child, he was impure – and that he always knew deep down he was impure.
  • In Arundhati Roy's book The God of Small Things (1997), "Rahel wasn't sure what she suffered from, but occasionally she practised sad faces, and sighing in the mirror.//'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done,' she would say to herself sadly. That was Rahel being Sydney Carton being Charles Darnay, as he stood on the steps, waiting to be guillotined, in the Classics Illustrated comic's version of A Tale of Two Cities."

Cover galleryEdit

See alsoEdit

Other companies or series producing comic adaptations of literature:

  • Classical Comics — British publisher producing graphic novel adaptations of the great works of literature, including Shakespeare, Charlotte Brontë, and Charles Dickens
  • Graphic Classics — American anthology series produced since 2002
  • Joyas Literarias Juveniles — from the Spanish publisher Editorial Bruguera, produced 270 adaptations of classic stories from 1970-1983. 28 of these have been translated into English and published as King Classics.
  • Marvel Classics Comics — Marvel Comics successor to Classics Illustrated that operated 1976–1978, reprinting some Pendulum Press titles and do a number of their own original adaptations
  • Marvel Illustrated – Marvel Comics imprint founded in 2007 specializing in comic book adaptations of literary classics
  • PAICO Classics — Indian series from the mid-1980s reprinting Pendulum Press's titles from the 1970s
  • Pendulum Press – picked up comic book adaptations of classic literature in 1973
  • Self Made Hero — British company producing adaptations of literature, including some of the same Shakespeare plays as Classical Comics

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Sawyer, Michael. "Albert Lewis Kanter and the Classics: The Man Behind the Gilberton Company," The Journal of Popular Culture, Spring 1987, Vol. 20, p. 1–18.
  2. ^ "First Comics Revives Classics Illustrated," The Comics Journal #120 (March 1988), p. 12.
  3. ^ "First Comics Revives Classics Illustrated in January," The Comics Journal #132 (November 1989), p. 23.
  4. ^ "Classics Illustrated: First, 1990 series," Grand Comics Database. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019.
  5. ^ "Classics Illustrated (2007)". Comicbookdb.com. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  6. ^ When reprinting issues, some issues were dropped, resulting in multiple issues, such as two versions of #152.
  7. ^ Showcase #43 (March–April 1963).
  8. ^ "Thorpe & Porter," Grand Comics Database. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection: Classics Illustrated (1-100)". Special Collections Division: Michigan State University Libraries. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  10. ^ a b "Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection: Classics Illustrated (101-169)". Special Collections Division: Michigan State University Libraries. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  11. ^ "GCD :: Issue :: Classics Illustrated #95 [O] - All Quiet on the Western Front". www.comics.org. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Artist directory for Special Issues and World Around Us". Classics Central. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Classics Illustrated: First, 1990 series," Grand Comics Database. Accessed Jan. 30, 2019.
  14. ^ Translated and reprinted from L'Île au trésor, de Robert Louis Stevenson (Delcourt, 2007–2009).
  15. ^ For published issues, the titles and publication dates are obtained from the personal collection of Wikipedia editor "Phantomsteve". Future issue details are from the "in the coming months" list on the back of the most recently published issue (and/or from subscriber letters detailing future issues).
  16. ^ Based in part on Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
  17. ^ Because of a printing error, first run prints of this Classics Illustrated wrongly attributed the story to Jules Verne instead of Rudyard Kipling in the copyright details in the inside cover
  18. ^ Based in part on The Story of King Arthur and his Knights by Howard Pyle
  19. ^ This is a title (one of 13) which were never issued in the US collection, but only in the UK.("Classics Illustrated History". Classic Comic Store. Retrieved 12 November 2012. In the UK, thirteen titles were produced that were never published in America including The Aeneid, The Argonauts...) This is the first such title to be published in the new UK collection.
  20. ^ Issue 33 in the US series consisted of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles - this UK issue only mentions The Hound - issue 37 of the UK series contains A Study in Scarlet
  21. ^ Based on A Narrative of the life of Davy Crockett of the State of Tennessee by David Crockett
  22. ^ The credits say "Probably based on An Autobiography of Buffalo Bill by William F. Cody"
  23. ^ Although not credited, this is possibly based on The Life of Kit Carson by Edward S. Ellis

ReferencesEdit

  • Goulart, Ron. Great American Comic Books. Publications International, Ltd., 2001.
  • Jones, William B., Jr., Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, with Illustrations (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002). Second edition, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7864-8840-7
  • Malan, Dan. The Complete Guide to Classics Illustrated. Classics Central.Com, 2006.
  • Overstreet, Robert M.. Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. House of Collectibles, 2004.
  • Richardson, Donna "Classics Illustrated." American Heritage, Vol. 44.3, May/June 1993.
  • Classic Comics at the Grand Comics Database
  • Classics Illustrated (1941) at the Comic Book DB
  • Classics Illustrated Junior (1953) at the Comic Book DB
  • Classics Illustrated (1990) at the Comic Book DB

External linksEdit