BBC Radio 4 has been celebrating 70 years of Classics Illustrated with a special programme about the comic, broadcast earlier today, and available now through iPlayer.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the comic book Classics Illustrated, actor Bill Paterson explores the publication’s impact and recent revival on Britain’s bookshelves.
Classics Illustrated, the comic book adaptations of classic literature, began in America in 1941, starting with an adaptation of The Three Musketeers, followed by Ivanhoe and The Count of Monte Cristo, and soon became a favourite reading material for children and many adults.
Paterson reveals his lifelong passion for the comic as he charts the fortunes of Russian Jewish immigrant Albert Kantner, who conceived the idea of a comic book series as self-contained abridgments of a literary work into a single comic book.
Over a thirty year period a vast range of literary classics were adapted, from The War of the Worlds to Sherlock Holmes, Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Faust and Dr No.
These publications later became popular in Britain but the series regularly came under fire for distracting children from reading the original stories.
Contributors to the show include Professor John Sutherland and British bookseller Jeff Brooks who in recent years revived the comic book versions using the original artwork with new covers.
Following up on the release of a number of hardback editions in June, seven new titles in the Classics Illustrated Modern Regular were recently announced: Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Davy Crockett, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rob Roy, Tom Brown’s School Days and The Food of the Gods.
With thanks to Paul Gravett