Saturday, August 18, 2012

Classics Illustrated Comics in the Movies

Three Musketeers, Issue #1

Classics Illustrated is a comic book series featuring adaptations of literary classics such as Moby Dick, War of The Worlds, and Huck Finn.  Russian-born publisher Albert Lewis Kanter (1897–1973) 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 such literary adaptations, these comic books featured profiles of the authors, educational fillers, and an ad showcasing the upcoming title. The one thing you can count on, if you’ve ever read them, you have a favorite issue (Mine’s The Time Machine).

In later editions, a catalog of titles and a subscription order form appeared on the back cover of each comic book. Kanter was quick to recognize the appeal of early comic books and was sure he could use the new medium to introduce young and reluctant readers to “great literature”.

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 format; they’re  more like the original text but with colorful images displayed  on approximately every other page and Great Illustrated Classics have hard back covers.

The first five titles of Illustrated Classics Comics were published irregularly under the banner “Classic Comics Presents” while issues six and seven were published under the banner “Classic Comics Library” with a ten-cent cover price. Arabian Nights (issue #8) was the first issue to use the “Classics Comics” banner.

The ‘comic book’ format, as you probably know, originated in 1933; American comic books first gained wide popularity after the 1938 publication of Action Comics, which showcased the debut of Superman. This was followed by a superhero boom that lasted until the end of World War II. After the war, superheroes were often sidelined, but the comic book industry rapidly expanded, so as to include categories such as westerns, romance, funny animals, and sever types of humor which ensured the livelihood of the industry in general. The 1950s saw a gradual decline in sales and production, due mainly to new censorship laws as well as the spread and popularity of TV. The 1960s saw a superhero revival, and superheroes continue to be the dominant genus today, although many other categories continue to find audiences as well.

Therefore it’s not a huge leap from the format of ‘big screen movies’ and ‘TV’ alike to recognize the connection between the many classic works that can be found in the countless publications offered by Classics Illustrated. Here’s just a few of the many Classics Illustrated publications that’s made it to the movies: 1. The Time Machine; 2. Robin Hood; 3. Sherlock Holmes; 4. War of the Worlds; 5. The Invisible Man; 6. Ben Hur; 7.Frankenstein; 8. Alice in Wonderland; 9.The Three Musketeers; 10.The Jungle Book; 11.Christmas Carol and, 12.The Scarlet Letter.

Perhaps most importantly, we should keep in mind that the purpose of the Comic Book medium has always been that of pure entertainment that allows each of us to “escape”, ever so briefly from the confines of our hectic environment. With this thought in mind, is it any wonder that many of today’s most successful film features are derivatives of the comic book?  


1 comment:

  1. Wish I had kept all the comic books I bought when I was growing up. They would probably be worth a small fortune now.