Friday, August 1, 2008

Book Review : Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, with Illustrations

Chronicles of the Classics Illustrated

There are numerous attempts at producing illustrated versions of the classic tales from around the world.

The series called "Classics Illustrated" is the definitive attempt at bringing all the great classics to the easy reach of us with beautiful illustrations, in the grand form of sequential art also known as Comics.

It invovled some of the finest artists, and produced a huge collection of stories. These were the results of the dream of Albert Kanter, materialising during the 40s,50s and the 60s, thrilling and educating and entertaining a generation with vivid, simple and beautiful versions of the well known classical tales such as the Three Musketeers, Ivanhoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe to name a few.

I remember as a kid, I got hold of a used copy of 'The Salt Mountain' this was part of the Classics Illustrated Junior series, there was something absolutely stunning about it, the story, the pictures, the adventure. it captured the imagination.There was something special about it, which I could not find in any other story book, or series. I wasn't aware what series this was part of, who the publisher was, who the artist was. I was a kid, I simply enjoyed it. not a collector or a history buff. But several years later, when I tried to figure out more about that book, I simply couldn't, until recently the omnipotent WWW helped me learn about this amazing series. I was hooked. I am sure many of us can relate to this, and have a similar tale.

Now to the book.

This is a fantastic chronicle, of the happenings of the Classics Illustrated series, beginning with the beginning, Alber Kanter's dream, it takes us through the publications history of the various stories, and the involvment and influences of the numerous artists invovled in the effort. The evolution of the style and presentation of the books, such as the evolution from comics style to the painted covers etc. are all full of interesting information.

There were several editions, and series... Classics Illustrated, Classics Illustrated Junior, Classics Illustrated Specials, etc and several republishing attemts up until the turn of the century. All of this is detailed in the book with interesting facts.

This book lists all the stories that were published with details about the author, illustrator etc. as much as is available, also the listings from several publishers, and variations.

The book also contains pages and covers from several Classics Illustrated, mostly in black and white. There is a section of about 8 pages in color in special paper.

For the Classics Illustrated collector this sure will be a delight, as it would be to anyone interested in the grandeur of sequential art.

This is an extract from my review at, You can find more of my reviews here.

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