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    

Classics Illustrated Lot Of 12 Comics Fair Condition Reader CopiesAustralian Classics Illustrated Bring 'em Back Alive Comic ( Good) 1950'sClassics Illustrated: Oregon Trail #72, Hrn-89. Kiefer Art. FineAustralian Classics Illustrated Around The World In 80 Days Comic ( V.g ) 1950'sAcg Collected Works Forbidden Worlds Vol #4 Hardcover Classic Comics #19-25 HcThe Food Of The Gods - Classics Illustrated # 160 - June 1967 - Comic BookClassics Illustrated #33 "1950" (hrn 71). Presenting.. Sherlock Holmes!Golden & Silver Age Classics Illustrated Reader Copies Lot Of 12! Great Issues!Lot Of 10 Vintage Classics Illustrated - 1sts Or Early - Vg To Low Grade ReadersClassics Illustrated #43 (great Expectations) Original Used In Soti 1947 Fr-gdGilberton Classics Illustrated #67 Scottish Chiefs 1st Print Hrn 67 About Vg++Captains Courageous By Rudyard Kipling, Classics Illustrated Comic, 1969, Vg-fClassics Illustrated Comics - Set Of 4Classics Illustrated Comics - Lot Of 10Lot Of 9 Vintage Classics Illustrated - 1sts Or Early - Vg To Low Grade Readers1950's Lot Of 8 Cartoon Classics Illustrated Comics Mighty Mouse Classics Illustrated - "men Of Iron " Comic - No.88 - October 1951Vintage Golden Age Classics Illustrated 4 Different Issues-fr-gd ConditionClassics Illustrated 107/108 Vg+ (4.5) "king Of The Khyber Rifles!" 1st Edition!Classics Illustrated #47 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Hrn 47 1948 Vg 1st PrintGilberton Classics Illustrated #56 Toilers Of The Sea 1st Print Hrn 55 About VgClassics Illustrated #21 (hrn 114) G, Sherlock Holmes, Gilberton Comics 1945Classics Illustrated (1941) N0. 73 "the Black Tulip" Key • Only Edition 1950 Lot Of 6 Vintage Classics Illustrated - Various Ptgs - Low Grade Reading Copies6 Classics Illustrated Comics Old Antique Vintage Comic Collectible Books Z16Classics Illustrated Comics Lot Of 4Classics Illustrated #46 Kidnapped Robert Louis Stevenson Classics Illustrated Junior #544 - The Golden Fleece (nov 1957, Gilberton) *^*^*Classics Illustrated No.77 The Iliad ComicClassics Illustrated Ben Hur-147, Queens Necklace-165,bill Tell-101 King Sol-97Classics Illustrated Comic, The Gold Bug & Other Stories By Edgar Allen PoeWestern Stories~classics Illustrated #62 Hrn 89~hc Kiefer Cover~bret HarteClassics Illustrated The Master Of Ballantrae Fall 1968 #82Vintage Classics Illustrated No. 149 March Of 1959 Fc 48 Pages Off On A Comet

Recent News: Classics Illustrated Comic Books

Source: Google News

Law School's Lessig Drops Presidential Bid
Harvard Crimson, November 2nd

3 with an early optical scanner, the then-complete works of Richard Posner and Antonin Scalia, every single story in the "Anne of Green Gables" series, the Classics Illustrated "Tender is the Night," and the United States Copyright Act ... and emerged...Read more

Beer history gets a comic treatment, October 7th

It's closer to Classics Illustrated - those old comics we'd scan rather than cracking open the real Robinson Crusoe - than "The Amazing Spider-Man." And secondly, beer has a long history as a common, almost vulgar drink of the masses that's perfectly...Read more

French, English, Comics: Proust On Memory, In Any Language
NPR, July 12th

I appreciated that moment, because that's when I first knew that Heuet wanted to do more than churn out the Classics Illustrated version of Swann's Way. This book isn't that, nor is it — parents and Comp Lit profs, put down your torches — a sort of...Read more

Book report due? Relax: 'Classics Illustrated' comics are back (blog), November 14th

In the mid 20th century, "Classics Illustrated" comics were the salvation of many a student faced with the grim prospect of a book report on the likes of "Silas Marner" or "Moby Dick." Now hundreds of literary classics adapted and illustrated as comics...Read more

Classics Illustrated Goes Digital With Trajectory, Inc.
Comic Book Resources, December 7th

Trajectory, Inc. announced today that the iconic Classics Illustrated comic graphic novel series is now available on the Apple App Store. The series consists of over 120 digital graphic novels presented in a comic book format with robust color...Read more

Trajectory Releases a Classics Illustrated Comics App
Publishers Weekly, December 6th

Trajectory, a Cambridge, Mass. e-publishing technology and distribution vendor, is releasing the Trajectory Classics App and relaunching its iconic line of Classics Illustrated digital comics as an app through the Apple app store. The Trajectory...Read more

Trajectory To Publish Original Classics Illustrated Comics in Digital Formats
Publishers Weekly, May 17th

Trajectory Inc., a Boston-based e-book and app developer and publisher, has acquired the digital rights to the original Classics Illustrated comics and will release the works as downloadable digital comics for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The...Read more

Classics Illustrated Bought In Full By First Classics, Inc
Bleeding Cool News, August 22nd

First Classics, Inc has been licensing and sub-licensing the rights to Classics Illustrated titles from the Frawley Corporation for some time now, the line that adapted classic works of literature into comic book form. Today, Richard Berger, President...Read more