Vintage Classics Illustrated Comic Books

Classics Illustrated was founded in 1941 by Russian-born publisher Albert Lewis Kanter. Under the name Elliot Publishing Co., and later Gilberton Company, Inc., Kanter adapted classic books and novels for the comic-book format. In 1967, Kanter sold his company to Twin Circle’s Frawley Corporation, and by 1971, with 169 publications to its name, the classic era of Classics Illustrated had come to an end.

The series actually began as Classic Comics, with an abridged version of “The Three Musketeers,” the Alexandre Dumas tale of the swashbuckling Aramis, Athos, Porthos, and their young protégé, D’Artagnan. With its line-drawn cover and interior art by Malcolm Kildale, the story ran for 64 of the comic book’s 68 total pages. Like most original printings of Classic Comics, issue number 1 of “The Three Musketeers” features the price (“10¢”) in the upper-right corner of the front cover, plus a preview of the following issue (“Ivanhoe”) on the back cover. Kildale did the line-drawn cover art for “Ivanhoe,” too, but that was the extent of his contributions to the series.

One of the things that keeps collectors of Classics Illustrated busy are the numerous cover variations, which can affect the value of a given title by as much as 90%. For example, there are 23 editions of “The Three Musketeers,” the first dozen of which feature the Kildale art. Subsequent issues had what are known as painted covers, a reduced page count of 64, new interior art, and a price increase of a nickel (the last two editions of “The Three Musketeers” in 1969 and 1971 cost a quarter).

In addition to cover, interior art, and page-count changes, early issues of Classic Comics were rebranded as Classics Illustrated in 1947. By then, the series numbered 34 issues. The last Classic Comics was Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island,” whose cover depicts a smoking volcano in the background. The first Classics Illustrated was issue number 35, Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “The Last Days of Pompeii,” whose garish cover by Henry Kiefer (the first of dozens by the artist) also features a volcano, but this one is erupting, causing oxen, horses, and people to flee for their lives.

Other titles in the series include “The Count of Monte Cristo” (one of nine by Dumas), “The Last of the Mohicans” (one of eight by James Fennimore Cooper), “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (one of 10 by Jules Verne), “Romeo and Juliet” (one of five by William Shakespeare), and “Huckleberry Finn” (one of four by Mark Twain).

In 1953, Kanter created an even more youthful spinoff of Classics Illustrated called Classics Illustrated Junior, whose sources were well-known children's books. The first issue, number 501, introduced kids to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” whose interior art was created by Classics Illustrated stalwart Alex Blum. Collectors of Junior titles focus almost exclusively on original printings since the reprints feature no cover or interior art differences to drive demand.

As with Classics Illustrated, Classics Illustrated Junior ceased publication in 1971. Its last issue was number 577, “The Runaway Dumpling,” which is described on the inside of t...

Three other Classic Illustrated titles of interest are the Giants printed in October 1949. Each had a new cover by Kiefer, cost 50 cents on newsstands, and contained reprints of four full issues. The Giant called “An Illustrated Library of Great Adventure Stories” includes “Tale of Two Cities,” “Robin Hood,” “Arabian Nights,” and “Robinson Crusoe.” The title devoted to “Exciting Mystery Stories” features yarns by Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, and Robert Louis Stevenson. As for “Great Indian Stories,” it collected four of CI’s most popular James Fennimore Cooper issues (4, 17, 22, and 37).

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Cover Browser

Cover Browser

Philipp Lenssen's incredible archive of over 94,000 comic book covers - Wow! Wham! Yikes! Browse by title from the … [read review or visit site]

Jamie Coville's in-progress ode to the history of 20th century comic books. Start with his Newsstand Period Part 1 … [read review or visit site]

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Bruce Shults takes us on a comprehensive Popeye fan tour, from the early comic strips to cartoons and collectible m… [read review or visit site]

Barnacle Press

Barnacle Press

This collection of obscure newspaper comic strips provides scans browsable by title, year and date. Showcases comic… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lot Of 10 Different Vintage Classics Illustrated 15 Cent Comics Classics Illustrated # 167 Hrn (o) - Faust By Goethe Vg/fine Cond.Classics Illustrated # 8 Hrn 64 - Arabian Nights G/vg Cond.Classics Illustrated Large Lot Of 27 Reader Issues - Free Shipping!Lot Of 4 Classics Illustrated Special Issue Comic Books 1960'sLot Of 9 Classics Illustrated Comic BooksClassic Comics # 4 Hrn 28 - Last Of The Mohicans Vg Cond.Classics Illustrated # 74 Hrn (o) - Mr. Midshipman Easy Vg+ Cond.Classic Comics # 3 Hrn 28 - Count Of Monte Cristo G/vg Cond.Classics Illustrated # 4 (hrn 89) The Last Of The Mohicans (fn+)Classics Illustrated # 168 Hrn 169 - In Freedom’s Cause Vg/fine Cond.Classic Comics #26 Hrn #169 - Higher Grade - Frankenstein, Robert Hayward Webb!!Dr Jim Stamps Us Flash Gordon Classic Comics Fdc Artmaster Cover 1995Classic Comics # 1 Hnr 28 - Three Musketeers Good+ Cond.Classic Comics # 7 Hrn 22 - Robin Hood Vg/fine Cond.Classic Comics #12 Hrn #28 1946 -higher Grade-rip Van Winkle & Headless HorsemanClassic Comics #24 Hrn #30 - Higher Grade - Connecticut Yankee - Jack Hearne!!Classic Comics #23 Hrn #30 - Higher Grade - Oliver Twist - Arnold Hicks!!!Classics Comics & Classic Illustrated - #1 Three Musketeers Original Plus Lot Lot Of 8 Classics Illustrated Silver Age Comics #5 Classics Illustrated - " Frankenstein " Comic - No.26 - December - 19453 Classics Illustrated Comics - Macbeth, Silas Marner, Tale Of 2 CitiesClassics Illustrated #3 The Count Of Monte CristoClassics Illustrated The Covered Wagon #131 1956 Gilberton Hrn 131 FnClassics Illustrated - 2, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Jules Verne, Kiefer, FJuly 1956 The Penny Prince No. 528 Classics Illustrated Junior Comic BookJanuary 1954 The Pied Piper No. 504 Classics Illustrated Junior Comic Book1948 Classics Illustrated #24 Comic Book Connecticut Yankee TwainVintage Classic Illustrated Comic “the Last Of The Mohicans" #4 June 1964Classics Illustrated #74 Mr. Midshipmen Easy Hrn75 Solid Vg+ Condition!!Dr Jim Stamps Us Rube Goldberg's Inventions Classic Comics Fdc Artmaster CoverClassics Illustrated # 44 Hrn 62 - Mysteries Of Paris Vg+ Cond. Classics Illustrated - " Moonstone " Comic - No.30 - 1947????Dell/classics Illustrated Comic Lot Of 2 Classics Illustrated 46 "kidnapped" (hrn 118, 5th Ed) Fn 7.5 High Grade!Classics Illustrated #62 Hrn #62 Bret Hart's Western Stories Gd- Gilberton Classics Illustrated Adventures Of Cellini #38 1947 Hrn 38 Original Fr/gdHamlet Comic Book 1952...#99..classics Illustrated Vintage 1952 Classics Illustrated The Red Badge Of Courage Comic Book Crane Man1948 Classics Illustrated #14 Comic Book Westward HoVintage 1969 Classics Illustrated #134 Romeo And JulietClassics Illustrated Frankenstein #26 Hrn 82 Mary Shelley FrClassics Illustrated Kids Books Comics Lot Of 3 Vintage Books 1997Classic Illustrated White Fang No.80 Autumn1969Classic Illustrated Crossing The Rockies December 1958 No.147a.Classic Comics No.22Classic Illustrated Wild Bill Hickok No. 121 Winter 1969/issueAlice In Wonderland Classics Illustrated Comic Book #49 Collectible 1966June 1958 The Queen Bee No. 551 Classics Illustrated Junior Comic BookWuthering Heights: Classics Illustrated 59 [hrn156]Classic Comics #22 - The Pathfinder (oct 1944, Gilberton) Unknown Ed 6.0 Cooper1948 Classics Illustrated #57 Comic Book Song Of Hiawatha1948 Classics Illustrated #20 Comic Book Corsican Brothers1948 Classics Illustrated #34 Comic Book Mysterious IslandClassics Illustrated, World Around Us. Story Of Horses. No. 3, 1958. L.b. Cole 1948 Classics Illustrated #75 Comic Book Lady Of The Lake1948 Classics Illustrated #70 Comic Book The Pilot CooperClassics Illustrated #92 Longfellow's Miles Standish Hrn 92 Sharp Vg+ Condition!Classics Illustrated #83 - The Jungle Book