Monday, November 29, 2010

Classics Illustrated: Early PIctorial Cliff's Notes?

Among my collections of, well, almost everything, are these early "graphic novels," Classics Illustrated. They are abridged versions of books by well-known authors such as Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, and Winston Churchill. There is even a Shakespeare play, Macbeth, and Homer's epic poem Iliad! Macbeth is in the bard's own words, but must be pretty edited, as all of these "comics" are 48 pages and of course, heavily illustrated. Included in the group above, top left, is Issue No.1, The Three Musketeers.

The copyrights on these issues date from 1943 through 1948, but oddly enough, they might actually date "only" to the early 1950s. In doing some research on them, it seems that since they are only 48 pages, have painted covers (as opposed to colorized line drawings) and have  a cover price of 15 cents, these are all technically reprints. I don't understand why the copyright pages don't reflect the reprint data, there is no mention of a second/third printing; nothing but the original copyright date. Perhaps the information I sourced online is wrong, but I found the same information on two different sites. 

My collection numbers forty, out of 167 titled issues, and I have both No.1 (mentioned above) and the final title, No. 167, Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I visited Goethe's birthplace in Frankfurt, Germany in 1975, once again illustrating my multiple connections to my multiple collections, lol.

• For the Wiki on these Classic Illustrateds, click here.
• For the first post of my vintage comic books, click here.

In the first row above, notice both issues are labeled No. 52. Jules Verne's The First Men on the Moon was actually published in London, instead of New York, and printed in Sweden. The trim size is slightly smaller as well. I'm not positive, but I think my Dad probably bought these magazines at PXs around the world, while he was in the Navy, which would account for the european publisher. 

Bottom right in this last group, is Shakespeare's Macbeth, and The Crisis, by Winston Churchill—in a comic book, lol!

Update: For my loyal reader, AP, who commented that With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkeiwicz was his favorite Classics Illustrated. I just happened to have a copy!


  1. Classic for sure. Do you have the Count of Monte Cristo? It's my all time favorite book, 48 pages would certainly have been a edited version, lol

  2. These were a part of my childhood reading ! I loved them. They were wonderful ! I still have The Downfall !

    My favorite was With Fire and Sword -

    This is quite a collection.
    Brings back many memories !
    Thank you!

  3. I loved Classics Illustrated...I spent hours daydreaming over the illustrations, especially those covers...the pictures of indians and knights and whatnot really turned me into a history buff. I think Last of the Mohicans was my fave. I didn't save any of them, though I bought The Conquest of Mexico as an adult. Hard to compare these to kids entertainment today eh? At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, bah, the kids these days, they don't know what they're missing.

  4. very cool, AP! no one I've ever showed these to has ever seen them before. I'm going to scan one more...

    Annie: I don't have the Count of Monte Cristo. : (

  5. You can say that again, Ish! I checked, and I don't have Last of the Mohicans. I would have scanned it!

  6. I just got back in from shopping and dropped in to see whats up with Casey and Company and.... With Fire and Sword!

    My jaw dropped!

    Casey! Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!
    I have a smile from ear to ear. It's like seeing an old, old long lost friend !
    Thank you so very much, Casey .You just made my day!


    ish : I agree. I was not a good student, but found that these were fun, easy keys to open the doors to great literature . I was in second grade when I "read "Classic Illustrated The Ox Bow Incident. The pictures were so compelling, it made me urgently want to understand! It sure beat "See Jane run.Run Jane run."

  7. You're entirely welcome, AP. I really like it when things work out like this!

  8. My favorite was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Oddly enough, it was illustrated with the stars of the Disney movie. I always dreamed (and still do at times) of gathering all the things I treasure from the world and just hiding myself away from everyone and everything! Of course, NOW I'd have to have internet access!

    Paul, NYC

  9. Very cool! Paul, beside dreaming of having a monorail in my backyard as a child, I always wanted one of those Disney theme park subs in my pool. As I got a little older I thought it would be awesome to turn it into a bar....hhaha.

    Too bad they closed down that ride.,,



  11. Paul—I don't have that one either, but I loved that TV show. The interior of the sub was so modern, with a huge multi-paned window to see all of the sea monsters through.

  12. I dug out a copy of With Fire and Sword after you revived my interest with this a few weeks back . Years ago, I had purchased an 1890 printing of the book , and had planned to read it, but the poor thing languished on my shelves.

    Well, thanks to you, I am reading the novel and really enjoying it. As a Slovak, my genetic history is tied with those of the Poles and Russians . A history that I endeavor to learn more about,as Western European history tends to get the spotlight .

    I mean The House of Valois , sure. No problem. Hohenzollerns? Lay it on me . Elizabeth 1st. Easy peasy.
    But Sigismund the III ?

    So, thanks to you, Casey, an entire chapter of history gets opened !

    It's very sweet, also, how quickly a forgotten book becomes an treasured friend.

    Thanks so much.

  13. I'm so happy to hear this. Thanks for letting me know!

  14. Well, I can not express what a thrill it was to see that old cover!


  15. reaching out and touching people's lives, complete strangers you wouldn't recognize on the street if you passed them, is the magical part of the internet, isn't it? i know it's one reason i enjoy my blog so much!