Remembering the Classics, Illustrated

When I was twelve years old, I made a pilgrimage to the offices of Classics Illustrated Comic Books on Third Avenue and 16th Street in New York. The walls were covered with illustrated covers, each done in a realistic pulp style that tickled my imagination. I was particularly taken by their approach to Frankenstein (no Boris Karloff monster he), frightened by The War of the Worlds (which now seems so quaint), and I marveled at The Time Machine (I
still believe someone will invent one). The other day I found a few of
my favorite issues and was reminded how these comics taught me the joy
of reading–comics, that is. Although I never got away with only
reading these comics for class assignments (I also read the CliffsNotes),
seeing how the Classics Illustrated artists portrayed Paul Bunyan,
Oliver Twist, and the Prisoner of Zenda helped me to visualize these
stories and their protagonists more easily than reading the original
books.

I also recently found a copy of Robinson Crusoe, a Classic Comics book, the precursor of Classics Illustrated, and was reminded where graphic novels really came from.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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