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    

Classic Comics #10 (hrn 20) Very Nice Robinson Crusoe 1944 Fn+Steve Mannion Signed With Small Drawing Popeye Classic Comics Variant #30Classics Illustrated# 129 Davey Crockett Hrn 129 (o) Strict F+ Great Color/glossAcclaim Classics Illustrated Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass RareLot Of 22 Classics Illustrated Comics From Mid SixtiesClassic Comics No. 20 The Corsican Brothers First Edition Gilberton, 1944 Estate40 Vintage Comic Books-collection Inc. 4-1956 Classic Comics-star Wars 1982,ectClassics Illustrated Large Lot Of 15 - #24 - 140 - Free Shipping!Classics Illustrated #9 (hrn 51) "1948". Plus: #18 (hrn 60) "1949".Classics Illustrated Special Issue Comic Book 156a - The Atomic Age Circa 1960Classics Illustrated #92 With Back Cover Coward Shoe Promo... Ultra RareLot Of 23 All 1st Edition Classics Illustrated Comics Issues #50 To #85Classics Illustrated Large Lot Of 14 - #2 - 147 - Free Shipping!Classics Illustrated Special Edition "the Story Of Jesus " December 1959 #129Classics Illustrated 160 The Food Of The Gods Fn H G Wells O Orignal 1st Ed 158Classics Illustrated 49 Alice In Wonderland Unique Painted Cover Ii Hrn 166 Vf+Classics Illustrated# 112 Adventures Of Kit Carson Hrn (o) Strict Nm Newsstand Classic Illustrated Comics- #34- Mysterious Island - Original-1947- GilbertonLot Of 34 Vintage/rare/antique Children's Books Hardback Classics IllustratedClassics Illustrated 167 Faust Goethe O Orignal 1st Edition Hrn 165 VgClassics Illustrated 168 In Freedoms Cause Fn O 1st & Only Edition Rare ScarceClassics Illustrated 133 The Time Machine Fn O Orignal 1st Edition Hrn 132Classics Illustrated Special Edition "adventures In Science" June 1957 #138aClassic Illustrated Special Edition " The Ten Commandments " 1956 #135aClassics Illustrated 98 The Red Badge Of Courage Rare Hrn 118 Vg+Classics Illustrated# 104 Bring Em' Back Alive Hrn (o) Strict Vf Gem Color/glossClassics Illustrated# 135 Waterloo Hrn 135 (o) Strict Vf+ Newsstand Color/glossClassics Illustrated# 106 Buffalo Bill Hrn (o) Strict Vf+ Newsstand Color/glossClassics Illustrated# 121 Wild Bill Hickok Hrn (o) Strict Vf+ Superb Color/glossRare 1826 Fine Leather Italy Lazzaro Spallanzi Medical Classic Illustrated GiftClassic Comics No. 13 Dr Jekyll Mr Hyde First Edition Gilberton, 1943 Estate FinClassics Illustrated 8 Arabian Nights Unique Painted Cover Ii Hrn 164 VgClassics Illustrated No.11 Don QuixoteClassics Illustrated No.12 Rip Van Winkle And The Headless Horseman, 1944Classics Illustrated 153 The Invisible Man Hrn 169 Vf Stiff Cover Final PrintClassics Illustrated 110 A Study In Scarlet Rare Hrn 165 Sherlock HolmesClassics Illustrated 124 The War Of The Worlds Rare Hrn 156 Vg- H G WellsClassics Illustrated 3 Famous Mysteries Unique Painted Cover Ii Hrn 114 Vg-Classics Illustrated 45 Tom Brown's School Days Unique Painted Cover Ii Hrn 161Classics Illustrated 60 Black Beauty Unique Painted Cover Ii Hrn 166 Fn+Classics Illustrated 138 Journey To The Center Of Earth Fn O Orignal 1st Ed 136Classics Illustrated 162 Robur The Conqueror Fn Jules Verne O Orignal 1st Ed 162*classics Illustrated# 159 From The Octopus Hrn 159 (o) Strict F+ Color/gloss*Classics Illustrated# 134 Romeo & Juliet Hrn 134 (o) Strict Vf Great Color/glossClassics Illustrated# 165 The Queens Necklace Hrn (o) Strict Vf+ Gem Color/glossWorld Illustrated Classics Illustrated Story Of Great Explorers No.514. Hrn129Classics Illustrated 117 Captains Courageous O Orignal 1st Edition Hrn 118 Vg Classics Illustrated Special Issue #159a Rockets, Jets And Missiles, 1960Classics Illustrated - The Bottle Imp- No.116 Hrn #117Classics Illustrated 12 Rip Van Winkle Unique Painted Cover Ii Hrn 169 FnClassics Illustrated 26 Frankenstein Unique Painted Cover Ii Hrn 169 FnClassics Illustrated 47 20000 Leagues Under The Sea Unique Painted Cover IiClassics Illustrated 144 The First Men In The Moon Unique Painted Cover IiClassics Illustrated 163 Master Of The World Rare Hrn 166 Vg+ Jules VerneGolden Age Classics Illustrated, The Hurricane, No.120, June 1954Classics Illustrated No.99 Hamlet Hrn# 141Classics Illustrated - The Forty -five Guardsmen- No.113 Hrn #114Classics Illustrated - Soldiers Of Fortune - No.119 Hrn #120Classics Illustrated: "gulliver's Travels" #16, 1968 Silver Age Comic, 8.5 (vf+)Classics Illustrated No.34 The Mysterious Island, 1947 Hrn#140

Recent News: Classics Illustrated Comic Books

Source: Google News

Store Tour | Tazmanian Comics in Vancouver
Comic Book Resources, June 28th

We have a constantly stocked all-ages section, so we get brand-new, young comic readers every day, and we also have elderly customers looking for the Classics Illustrated and Gold Key comics they used to love. Over time, and especially in the last few ...Read more

Ken Lashley, menton3... And Mark Twain
Bleeding Cool News, June 20th

In advance of the film production, my publishing company, Alternate History Comics Inc (AH Comics) is now producing a graphic novel adaptation of Mark Twain's Niagara with a Kickstarter campaign running now until July 17th! Mark Twain's Niagara follows...Read more

Dell and Disneyland: When Disneyland Sold Comic Books
MousePlanet, June 9th

The other two publishers were EC and Gilbertson (Classics Illustrated). Dell created its own even higher standards that “eliminates entirely rather than regulates objectionable material.” The slogan “Dell Comics Are Good Comics” appeared in each Dell...Read more

Pictures worth a thousand words — and a fortune
BBC News, October 8th

Western comic books from the 1950's, Classics Illustrated and Disney titles are the least coveted. However, there is still demand among European collectors for Disney, Archie and other comics they “associate with American TV”, Thornton said. Most new ...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 Launches "Classics Illustrated" Digitally for Apple iBookstore
Comic Book Resources, May 15th

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