|Panel from "20,000 Leagues Under the Seas," CI #47 -- art by Henry C. Kiefer; adaptor unknown.|
|A page from "A Connecticut Yankess in King Arthur's Court," CI #24 -- art by Jack Hearne; adaptation by Ruth A. Roche and Tom Scott.|
|The first horror comic -- published 1943.|
|Page from "Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde," CI #13 -- art by Arnold Hicks; adaptation by Evelyn Goodman.|
|Panel from "Treasure Island," CI #64 -- art by Alex A. Blum; adapter unknown. Blum's clean lines and strong compositions are very effective.|
|"Kidnapped," CI #46 -- art by Robert H. Webb; adaptation by John O'Rourke. Cinematic blocking.|
The usual cultural norms of the time are in place – women are passive unless they are evil, or Joan of Arc. The heavy hand of Western colonialism is on many pages – the simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from “alien” cultures, and the impulse to assimilate or destroy it, is here. Non-Caucasians are not articulate, thick of feature, and well in need of the white man’s aid if anything constructive is to be done. The “house style” becomes deadening aesthetically, manufactured-feeling. Plot points play out in rigid six-to-eight-panel-per-page style.
|"The Fall of the House of Usher," Berkley CI #14 (pub. 1990) -- art by Jay Geldhof; adaptation by P. Craig Russell.|
|Page from "Moby Dick," CI#3 -- art by Louis Zansky; adaptation by Zansky.|
Even with its highly selective palette of stories, Classics Illustrated presented a universe of stories, a clutch of standard plotlines, and a raft of character archetypes, all the essential building blocks of storytelling. Each comic was a colorful little instruction manual on how to get from Point A to Point B in a narrative, quickly and efficiently. And despite pretensions to meaning and cultural significance, these were simply a great universe of stories with which to stock my imagination. In those panels were excitement, and feeling, and thought, and meaning. They doomed me to become a storyteller as well.
It’s said that a developing child can learn any language if he or she has the template, the concept of language to begin with. All the stories I have read and written, all the films, the art, the larger culture, bears traces of the classics I was seduced into reading. Jones terms the Classics Illustrated goal to have been “ . . .to make the realms of the literary and historical imagination accessible and immediate.” Mission accomplished.
|Robert C. Burns's controversial first cover for "Twenty Years After."|
|Page from "Black Beauty," CI#60 -- art by August Froelich; adaptor unknown.|
|Page from "The Tell-tale Heart" from "The Gold Bug and Other Stories," CI#84 -- art by Jim Wilcox; adaptor unknown. An extremely stylized approach that looks far more modern than much CI of the time.|
|"Cyrano de Bergerac," CI#79 -- art by Alex Blum; adaptation by Kenneth W. Fitch. Particularly complex stories often used an opening-page character gallery with some explanatory material to set the scene.|
|Panel from "The Downfall," CI#126 -- art by Lou Cameron; adaptor unknown.|
|Page from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," CI#49 -- art by Alex Blum; adaptor unknown.|
|"Lorna Doone," CI#32 -- art by Matt Baker; adaptation by Ruth A. Roche. Baker was one of the first African American illustrators to work in the American comics industry.|
|Panels from "A Study in Scarlet" from "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," CI#33 -- art by Zansky; adaptor unknown. Zansky's loose, flowing lines and strong inking made his titles a compelling read.|
|Page from "The Time Machine," CI#133 -- art by Lou Cameron; adaptation by Lorenz Graham.|
|Panels from "Toilers of the Sea," CI#56 -- art by August Froelich; adaptation by Harry G. Miller (Harry Glickman).|
|Page from "Mysterious Island," CI#34 -- art by Robert H. Webb and David Heames; adaptation by Manning Stokes.|
|"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," CI#50 -- art by Aldo Rubano; adaptation by Harry G. Miller (Harry Glickman).|
|Two pages from Lou Cameron's outstanding "War of the Worlds," CI#124 -- adapted by Miller (Glickman).|