The Ultimate Reading List Classics That Endure
Since the end of World War II, illustrated comics of literary classics have captured the imaginations of children and introduced them to Western civilization's most enduring stories. Beginning in 1941 with Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers and ending in 1962, 167 titles were published. The first 34 were called Classic Comics, and subsequent issues (including reprints of earlier titles) were known as Classics Illustrated.
Al Kanter, the creator, was a Russian-Jewish immigrant who worked as a sales representative for a publishing company after the Depression. "He had the idea that you could publish illustrated books, each title a different literary classic. You could sell them as comics to kids and as books as adults," said Dan Malin, author of The Complete Guide to Classics Illustrated.
Classic Comics made it cheap and easy for kids to sample Western culture through Shakespeare, the Brontes, and Mark Twain. Many titles printed much of the original text. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, for example, contains Mark Antony's complete eulogy to Caesar in huge text balloons over three full pages.
"I used Classic Comic books to get through grammar school," said Charles Schwab, chairman of his own financial services company, in a 1995 interview.
While some may have used the comics as educational shortcuts, many took the advice that began to appear at the end of each story: "Now that you have read the Classics Illustrated edition, don't miss the added enjoyment of reading the original, obtainable at your school or public library."
Why have the comics endured? "The stories are new to each generation," said collector and dealer Raymond True.