Classics Illustrated, which actually began life as Classic Comics, was a comic book series that took classic literary works – such as Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe and The Three Musketeers – and adapted the storylines into comic panels ideal for young readers.
The series was the brain child of Albert Kanter, a Russian-born publisher who oversaw the series from its first issue in 1941 until it was finally retired in 1971. The stable of artists working on the comics included Jack Abel, Matt Baker, Lou Cameron, Jack Kirby and Angelo Torres.
Kanter’s first issue of Classic Comics was a telling of Alexander Dumas’ classic tale of the musketeers but he swiftly adapted novels by Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. His simple goal was to introduce young readers to great books. We will never know how many youngsters who read Classic Comics and Classics Illustrated are now confirmed bibliophiles with homes full of literature, but we suspect the figure is high.
The comics were instantly recognizable for their gaudy, but entertaining line-drawn covers. They were cheap and popular. Today these comics are ideal for collectors keen on revisiting their childhood or interested in a special slice of popular culture stretching across 30 years.