Classics Illustrated

A Cultural History, 3d ed.


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About the Book

In its expanded third edition, this definitive work on Classics Illustrated explores the enduring series of comic-book adaptations of literary masterpieces in even greater depth, with twice the number of color plates as in the second edition. Drawing on interviews, correspondence, fanzines, and archival research, the book covers in full detail the work of the artists, editors, scriptwriters, and publishers who contributed to the success of the “World’s Finest Juvenile Publication.” Many previously unpublished reproductions of original art are included, along with new chapters covering editor Meyer Kaplan, art director L.B. Cole, and artist John Parker; additional information on contributions from Black artists and scriptwriters such as Matt Baker, Ezra Jackson, George D. Lipscomb, and Lorenz Graham; and a complete issue-by-issue listing of significant international series.

About the Author(s)

William Bryan Jones, Jr., is the author of Petit Jean: A Wilderness Adventure; the editor of Robert Louis Stevenson Reconsidered: New Critical Perspectives; and a contributor to The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies and Icons of the American Comic Book. He has written introductions for more than 100 reissued titles in the revived Classics Illustrated and related series.

Bibliographic Details

William Bryan Jones, Jr.
Format: softcover (8.5 x 11)
Pages: 472
Bibliographic Info: 359 photos (112 in color), appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8832-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5101-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments    xi
Introduction: “Good Stories”    1
I. Albert Kanter’s Dream    9
II. Of Musketeers and Mohicans: The Jacquet Shop    18
III. Louis Zansky: The Painter’s Touch    30
IV. Eccentricity Abounding: The War Years    39
V. Arnold Lorne Hicks: Transitional Figure    47
Between pages 54 and 55 are 16 color plates with 60 photographs
VI. Enter Iger: The Fiction House Artists    55
VII. Henry Carl Kiefer and the Classics House Style    69
VIII. Alex A. Blum: “A Prince of a Man”    81
IX. A “Newer, Truer Name”: The Late Forties    95
X. Blood, Sweat, and Rudy Palais    109
XI. Meyer A. Kaplan: An Editor’s Perspective    116
XII. William E. Kanter and the Family Business    122
XIII. Painted Covers and an Extra Nickel: The Early Fifties    126
XIV. Maurice del Bourgo: From Little Lefty to William Tell    141
XV. Freelancers and Publicity: The Mid–1950s    147
XVI. Canonical Matters and Classical Curiosities    156
XVII. Lou Cameron: “If John Wayne Had Drawn Comic Books”    165
XVIII. Norman Nodel: “A Certain Integrity”    173
XIX. Roberta’s Writers: Lorenz Graham and Annette T. Rubinstein    186
XX. John William Parker: Iconic Images    194
XXI. From the Crypt to the Classics: The EC Era    197
Between pages 210 and 211 are 16 color plates with 52 photographs
XXII. George Evans, Reed Crandall, and EC Realism    211
XXIII. Roberta the Conqueror    223
XXIV. High Tide and Greenbacks: The Late Fifties    227
XXV. L.B. Cole: Horses, Wild Animals, and Poster Colors    242
XXVI. Gerald McCann: The Colors of the Sky    246
XXVII. Gray Morrow: “Real People and Real Events”    251
XXVIII. “Roberta’s Reforms”: The Early Sixties    256
XXIX. “Frawley’s Folly”: The Twin Circle Era (1967–1971)    274
XXX. Expanding the Mission (Subsidiary Series, 1953–1971): Picture Progress and Classics Illustrated Junior    278
XXXI. Ambitious Endeavors (Subsidiary Series, 1955–1964): Classics Illustrated Special Issues; The Best from Boys’ Life Comics; The World Around Us    289
XXXII. Classics Abroad: The Worldwide Yellow Banner    308
XXXIII. The Wilderness Years: The Seventies and Eighties    320
XXXIV. Great Expectations: First Publishing’s Graphic Novels    323
XXXV. “Your Doorway to the Classics”: Acclaim’s Study Guides    333
XXXVI. Restoration: Jack Lake Productions, Papercutz, and CCS Books    336
XXXVII. Classics Collected: Notes on the Evolution of a Pastime and a Passion    342
XXXVIII. Classical Coda    351
Appendices    355
A. Classic Comics (Gilberton, 1941–1947) and Classics Illustrated (Gilberton, 1947–1967; Frawley, 1967–1971)    355
B. Classics Illustrated Giant Editions (Gilberton, 1949)    374
C. Fast Fiction/Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated (1949–1951)    374
D. Classics Illustrated Educational Series (Gilberton, 1951–1953)    374
E. Picture Parade/Picture Progress (Gilberton, 1953–1955)    374
F. Classics Illustrated Junior (Gilberton/Famous Authors, 1953–1967; Frawley, 1967–1971)    375
G. Classics Illustrated Special Issues (Gilberton, 1955–1964)    382
H. The Best from Boys’ Life Comics (Gilberton, 1957–1958)    384
I. The World Around Us (Gilberton, 1958–1961)    385
J. British Classics Illustrated, First and Second Series (Thorpe & Porter/Strato, 1951–1963; Ayers & James Pty., Ltd., Australia)    389
K. British World Illustrated Series (Thorpe & Porter, 1960–1963)    396
L. Ediçao Maravilhosa (Brazil, Editora ­Brasil-América Limitada [EBAL], First and Second Series, 1948–1962)    396
M. Clásicos Ilustrados (Mexico, Editora La Prensa, 1951–1974)    400
N. Klassika Eikonographemena (Greece, ­Atlantis-M. Pechlivanides, S.A., First Series 1951–1970, Second Series 1975–1980): Greek Literature, Mythology, and History Titles    403
O. Classics Illustrated “Joint European Series”/JES (1956–1976)    404
P. Classics Illustrated, Second Series (Berkley Publishing Group/First Publishing, 1990–1991; Classics International Entertainment, 1994)    409
Q. Classics Illustrated, Third Series, Study Guides (Acclaim Books, 1997–1998)    409
R. Classics Illustrated, Fourth Series (Jack Lake Productions, Inc., 2005–2014)    411
S. Papercutz Classics Illustrated Deluxe Editions (Papercutz, 2008–2014)    413
T. Papercutz Classics Illustrated Editions (Papercutz, 2008–2014)    414
U. British Classics Illustrated, Third Series (CCS Books, 2008– ); Modern Hardbacks (CCS Books, 2016– ); Replica Hardbacks (CCS Books, 2018– )    414
V. Letter from Albert L. Kanter to T/4 Joseph Mersand, Camp Crowder, Missouri, 7 July 1944    245
W. Correspondence Between Roberta Strauss and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, re: The Dark Frigate, ­November-December 1955    416
X. Letter from Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht to E. Nelson Bridwell, 25 July 1960    417
Y. Synopsis of The Call of the Wild by Ken W. Fitch, 1951    418
Chapter Notes    419
Sources Cited or Consulted    431
Index    437

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Classics Illustrated was a wonderful series, which introduced young readers to works of literature which they were encouraged to read in the original—and that’s just what I, like many others, did, in my case from The Iliad to the works of Verne and Wells. Now, with William Jones Jr.’s enlarged and improved third edition of his study of the Gilberton publication, the author has introduced yet another illustrated classic to the world—this one with the title Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History. It’s one of a handful of comics-historical works that belongs on any comics fan’s bookshelf.”—Roy Thomas, Alter Ego

• “Bill Jones has written a compelling history, detailing the prescience of Albert Kanter, a man well ahead of his time, in anticipating the 21st-century development of using comics to coax readers towards great literature. Joining Kanter in his endeavor were the writers, artists, editors, and art directors who captivated the imaginations of more than one generation of young readers, allowing them to amass a library of classic literature more economical, in both cost and space, than the originals. Jones profiles each contributor, adding greatly not only to the familiar story of Jews and comics, but also to the lesser known histories of women and educators in the industry. As a result of the efforts of Jones’s subjects, and despite the assumptions of many parents and teachers, comics fans in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s grew up arguably more erudite than most young people today.”—Karen Green, Curator for Comics and Cartoons, Columbia University

• “Using artwork, interviews, and analysis, William B. Jones, Jr. brings deserved attention to the writers and artists who made condensed adaptation an art form, while also evoking memories of the naughty thrill of writing a plausible book report based on a comic book. With new chapters, new color illustrations, and rarely seen process artwork, this 3rd edition serves up a delightful blend of nostalgia and knowledge.”—Randy Duncan, co-author of The Power of Comics and Graphic Novels: Culture, Form and Content

From the previous editions:

• “This second edition adds some 100 pages of in-depth details, new interviews, and the latest adventures of the series…an especially salient piece of comics culture…chronicles a growing respect for the medium…of interest to comics fans, culture watchers, educators, and high schoolers”—Library Journal

• “Highly recommended major revised edition…illuminating…more thorough and more heavily illustrated, than the original…a book to enjoy and appreciate again and again. Our Highest Recommendation”—Bud Plant, Bud’s Art Books

• “Fabulous…wonderful. A wealth of information is presented, bolstered by interviews with people, especially artists, who worked on the comics. The book’s layout is breathtaking…lavish. The repros of panels and covers are of exceptional quality, clear and crisp…excellent introduction…an extremely well researched, entertaining volume”—Classic Images

• “The appearance (or rather, reappearance, as a second edition) of this volume is an occasion for celebration across the world of comic art scholarship. There are no more than a dozen scholarly works (my favorites include Masters of American Comics, Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art, Underground Classics, Jews and American Comics and perhaps, although I am prejudiced, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman) in the field, nearly all of them quite recent. None is as exhaustive for any genre as this. Every reader interested in comic art, will find this volume illuminating. Close readers will find it different, more thorough and more heavily illustrated, than the original. It’s a book to enjoy and appreciate again and again.”—Paul Buhle (Jews and American Comics, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman) Swans Commentary

• “A comprehensive review of the art and careers of the creators…well researched, documented, and analyzed…important…interesting…highly recommended”—ARBA

• “Information is endless…this book encompasses all…an excellent addition to any library…entertaining…in-depth information”—Public Library Quarterly

• “A massive research project…source material is rigorously identified”—Comics Buyer’s Guide

• “Mr. Jones’ study represents the best memory book in a long time. Anyone who remembers horse drawn milk trucks, mail deliveries twice a day, faded red enema bags, pin boys at bowling alleys, the St. Louis Browns, and the ‘cat’s meow’ will love this book. It is a work of outstanding achievement”—Film & History

• “Splendidly readable account…detailed”—Filmfax

• “Influence is immeasurable…wonderfully illustrated”—Hitch

• “For millions of American baby boomers, monthly issues of Classics Illustrated were a colorful, exciting gateway to the classics of Western literature”—The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

• “Remarkably well researched…meticulously detail…a beautiful volume…painstakingly, almost lovingly, defines the series’ unique place in comic book and cultural history”—Neighbor News

• “Eentertaining, informative”—Active Years

• “A labour of love…an important work…a reminder of the legacy of Albert Kanter”—Weekender, Leader-Post

• “Meticulously indexed…copiously illustrated”—Reference & Research Book News

• “Generously illustrated”—Knowledge Quest

• “Interviews, behind-the-scenes secrets revealed and correspondence all combine to give a wide-stroke history of the publisher that introduced classic literature to several generations.”—Boyce McClain’s Collector’s Corner