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]

Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site

Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site

Doug Gilford's great Mad Magazine reference site features cover scans and reference information on every issue of t… [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 Classics Illustrated No. 22, 24, 25, 26, 26, 31, 84, 101, 132, And 153Classics Illustrated #8 Arabian Nights Hrn 148 VfLot Of 28 Titles: Classics Illustrated Comics 1964-196723 Classics Illustrated Comics Lot Fair-vg Frankenstein From The Earth To MoonClassics Illustrated Original #73 (hrn 75) Vg "the Black Tulip"Classic Comics The Three Musketeers No.11994 Derek Jeter Rookie Card Rc Acetate Classic Illustrated Mint Condition RareClassics Illustrated Comic Book Lot (15 Issues) Classics Illustrated #43 Great Expectations Nov. 1947 Original Series! Huge 23 Piece Comic Book Lot,gold-bronze Age,archie,popeye,classic Illustrated +1994 Derek Jeter Rookie Card Rc Acetate Classic Illustrated Mint Condition RareClassics Illustrated Lot Includes Two Jules VernsClassics Illustrated #78 3rd Ed. [hrn113] Vg - Joan Of Arc (jul 1955, Gilberton)Classics Illustrated Homer’s Iliad Hrn 121Classic Illustrated Comic Books Reprints And Originals Lot Of 19Mysterious Island Classic Comics # 34 February 1947 Hrn 35 Gilberton CompanyLot Of 10 Vintage Classics Illustrated Comic Books Classics Illustrated #12 Rip Van Winkle And The Headless Horseman Hrn 118 Fn1994 Derek Jeter Rookie Card Rc Acetate Classic Illustrated Mint Condition RareLot Of 19 Nemo The Classic Comics Library Magazine Comic Four Classics Illustrated Junior Comic Books. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella + +1995 Fdc, Nancy & Sluggo, Classic Comics Golden Age Classics Illustrated #62 Aug 1949 Vf 8.0 $.99 Start! A Real Beauty!Mint "nancy & Sluggo" Classic Comics Strip First Day Cover With Gold StampClassic Illustrated #45 Hrn 44 Tom Brown's School Days 1st EditionLot Of 3 Classics Illustrated No. 12 + 17 + 50 *deerslayer, Tom Sawyer, Ripvan*Lot Of 4 Classics Illustrated No. 34 + 36 + 41 + 42 *swiss Family, Typee*Classics Illustrated Jane Eyre Hrn 118Classics Illustrated #87 A Midsummer Night's Dream Hrn 161 VgClassics Illustrated #118 Rob Roy Hrn 119 FnClassics Illustrated #161 Cleopatra Hrn 161 FnClassics Illustrated #19 Huckleberry Finn (hrn 158) January 1945Dr Jim Stamps Us Classic Comics Popeye Fdc Fleetwood Cover 1995Classics Illustrated # 112 By By Gilberton Comic 1953 Hrn 166 Winter 69 Classics Illustrated #33 (hrn 53) Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ComicClassic Comics #27 Marco Polo, Original Edition, Vfn-Classics Illustrated #169 Negro Americans The Early Years, Original Ed., FnClassics Illustrated Alice In Wonderland #49 (jul 1948, Gilberton)Classics Illustrated #26 Hrn 153 1945 Frankenstein Nice! 1945 Classics Illustrated , Huckleberry Finn , Great Coloring .Classics Illustrated Comic #60 - Black Beauty - Hrn 158Classics Illustrated Comic #159 - The Octopus - Hrn 166Classic Illustrated #36 Hrn 64 Tyree 2nd EditionClassic Illustrated #37 Hrn 92 The Pioneers 4th EditionClassic Illustrated Issue #25 "two Years Before The Mast"Classics Illustrated #18 The Hunchback Of Notre Dame Hrn 146 VfClassics Illustrated #24 A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court Hrn 121 FnClassics Illustrated #68 Julius Caesar Hrn 165 FnClassics Illustrated #78 Joan Of Arc Hrn 167 FnClassics Illustrated #99 Hamlet Hrn 167 VfClassics Illustrated #100 Mutiny On The Bounty Hrn 155 VfClassics Illustrated #104 Bring 'em Back Alive Hrn 158 FnClassics Illustrated # 121 By By Gilberton Comic 1954 Hrn 169 Winter 69 Classics Illustrated # 86 By Gilberton Comic Aug.51 Hrn 169 Summer 69 IssuesClassics Illustrated # 131 By By Gilberton Comic 1956 Hrn 169 Winter 69 Classics Illustrated # 145 By By Gilberton Comic 1958 Hrn 166 1968 Issues Classics Illustrated # 148 By By Gilberton Comic 1959 Hrn 169 Summer 1969Dr Jim Stamps Us Barney Google Classic Comics Fdc Fleetwood Cover 1995Dr Jim Stamps Us Gasoline Alley Classic Comics Fdc Fleetwood Cover 1995Dr Jim Stamps Us Terry And The Pirates Classic Comics Fdc Fleetwood Cover 1995

Recent News: Classics Illustrated Comic Books

Source: Google News

A scalpel, a carcass and a dream: Column
Hunterdon County Democrat, November 10th

I was 11 when my mom gave me a Classics Illustrated comic-book bio of Theodore Roosevelt. I still have it. On Page 4 it says “He learned to stuff animals and he kept a record of every new animal or bird that he saw.” And there's young Theodore seated...Read more

Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: A History of James Bond in Comics
Comic Book Resources, November 10th

The very first James Bond comic in the US came about as an adaptation of the first Sean Connery movie, "Dr. No". Published first in the UK by Classics Illustrated, it was picked up by DC Comics and published within their 1963 "Showcase" anthology series...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

The Classics Illustrated digital comic app is free to download and features an extended preview of several issues at no additional cost and offers Classics Illustrated regular series for $3.99 each and Classics Illustrated Junior series for $1.99 each...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

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