Classics Illustrated

This is the orignal form the Classics Illustrated comics and I think the much superior form to what came later.

Arabian Nights

Although this is just entitled Classics, it seems to actually be part of the Classics Illustrated series.

Shariar is a cruel king in India who gets married and has his wife beheaded within a day, then gets married again, another beheading, repeat over and over. Scheherezade was picked as a wife but managed to tell him stories each night in order to delay her murder. She starts off with a tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (which makes me think of the Popeye cartoon based on that. Quite funny.)

That's a really good story, actually. The Story of the Magic Horse is the next tale she tells. A sage gives a ruler a peacock which can tell time and the leader gives him one of his daughters in marriage. A second guy gives him a trumpet that warns of enemies approaching so he gets the second daughter. A third guy, an ugly one, brings a flying horse and the ruler cheats him out of his third daughter. The story also involves the ruler's son and a princess in another land.

The next story is Sinbad the Sailor. (Which, if I remember correctly, was another funny Popeye cartoon.) Sinbad survives monsters and being buried alive. Then she goes on to the story of Aladdin and his Magical Lamp. A guy tricks Aladdin into going into a cave to retrieve the magic lamp. Aladdin also ends up with a magical ring, so he has two genies he can control but he doesn't learn that until later.

The Tyrant of Etreus (text): There's a tyrant in an Egyptian city who taxes the people to death and two young men who end up stealing money back and giving it to the people. Eventually the cruel leader is overthrown.

Some Wonders of the Ancient World: Factual material.

Three Men Named Smith (text): Factual material.

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A Tale of Two Cities

The starts starts in 1775. A banker tells a woman that her father has been held prisoner in the Bastille for some eighteen years. He's finally been released. A few years later a guy named Darney is on trial but gets off. Conditions in France are desperate for the poor people as the rich ride roughshod over them, quite literally (much like it is done in today's world.)

Charles Darney is the son of the passenger in the coach that killed the kid. The French Revolution begins. The total farce of the French legal system during that time is shown in the trials and how one man can be found innocent one day and guilty next. One man makes a sacrifice for his friend and family, while a peasant woman filled with hate meets her end.

It's a very moving story and shows just how insane the French Revolution was. The government was replaced but the killing went on and on in a totally senseless fashion.

Then there's a text page on Charles Dickens.

The ads are interesting also. The comics at the time were 15 cents rather than the almost $4 cost today.

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David Copperfield

Gilberton Company, 1948.

A young boy is badly mistreated by two people in the household. Another one of the themes of Charles Dickens is how bad the schools were for boys and how they were subjected to beatings and other forms of mistreatment. It's a rather complex story, roughly based on Charles Dicken's own life. There's a lot of suffering that he had to endure but things turned out well in the end.

Charles Dickens (text): Factual material.

Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. (text): Factual material.

American Rivers-The Hudson (text): Factual material.

Harvard's Marshall Plan (text): Factual material.

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Davy Crockett

The story is about Davy Crockett's life. He had a tough life from the beginning but it didn't have any bad effects on his personality. He was a magnificent marksman with his rifle. He and his family keep moving from one place to another. He became involved in various wars and skirmishes with the Native American tribes. The story goes on about more moves, his being elected to political office, and his final stand at the Alamo.

The comic does a very good job and the graphics are quite good. What is interesting is what is hinted at, though, and that is the white man's constant push to take land away from its rightful owners. This started with the numerous wars against the Native Americans which ended with them on reservations. The taking of Texas from the Mexicans is another example.

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Don Quixote

1944, Gilberton Company.

An old man wants to return to the Age of Chivalry and fight like the knights of old. He puts on his great-grandfather's armor. A village handyman, Sancho, joins him as his squire. Everyone thinks Don Quixote is mad which, frankly, he is. There's also the incident where he thinks windmills are actually giants that need to be destroyed.

(Did I mention he was mad?)

A lot of people make fun of him but not in a cruel way and they finally manage to trick him into returning home.

Life of Cervantes (text): Factual material.

The story of Don Quixote is actually quite funny and enjoyable.

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Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

1964, Gilberton Company.

This is the story about the guy with a split physical personality, being a good physician part of the time and an evil, monstrous-looking character when the takes his potion.

Hyde beats up a young girl when she accidentally runs into him and then pays money to the family as a result. This all involves Jeckyll's attorney who was told to make a will leaving Jeckyll's money to Hyde. The problem with the potion is that it is addictive and Dr. Jeckyll finds himself changing into Hyde without taking any potion as the antidote has less and less of an effect on him.

Eventually Dr. Jeckyll can no longer take the pressure of being Hyde part of the time.

Robert Louis Stevenson (text): Factual material.

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Gulliver's Travels

1969, Gilberton Comics.

The story starts in 1699. Gulliver travels on a ship which sinks in a storm. He and a few survivors are somewhere in the East Indies. Another storm kills all but Gulliver who ends up on the island of Lilliput. He ends up on an island of tiny people that befriend him, although there is one power-mad guy that wants to cause trouble for Gulliver.

He does and Gulliver has to flee to another island of little people, then becomes involved in their wars.

The Life of Jonathan Swift (text): Factual material.

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Ivanhoe

1946, Gilberton Company.

The Crusades are going on and there is still bad blood between the Saxons and Normans. The story starts with a group of Normans going to a tournament. One of them is a member of the Knights Templar. Ivanhoe is currently involved in fighting with King Richard in the Crusades. Ivanhoe has returned to England in disguise.

The anti-Jewish prejudice of the time is also shown. Ivanhoe saves him from being killed by others and the merchant makes sure Ivanhoe will be equipped for the upcoming tournament.

Rowena is a beautiful woman who loves Ivanhoe, but another guy is after her and says he'll take her off without permission from anyone so the story involves not just the Norman/Saxon bad feelings but the usual romantic bad feelings/hatred.

Robin Hood makes an appearance. Things move on to a major battle at a castle, more abduction, the healing of Ivanhoe and the final battle between Ivanhoe and his nemesis. It's a very good story about the times.

Sir Walter Scott (text): About the author of the story.

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Les Miserables

1946, Gilberton Company. Victor Hugo.

In 1815 in France, the main character being Jean Valjean. He gets to a town but every place he stops to get something to eat throws him out. The crime the guy had committed was stealing a loaf of bread. He ended up on a galley ship for nineteen years. He steals silver from the bishop but is forgiven and ends up leading a good life, helping others. There is a policeman of sorts who is obsessed with capturing him and a greedy innkeeper who also is obsessed with him.

Yet Jean Valjean spends his life one he's free of the galley actually helping all sorts of people, even risking his life for others. It's the old saw 'no good deed goes unpunished,' and the guy suffers a lot before he finally dies. It's a sad but very good story.

Victor Hugo (text): Factual material.

Crime and Punishment (text): Factual material about the horrible legal 'system' that was in France before the revolution, and how corrupt judges could profit tremendously from it.

The Boy Who Hated Washing (text): Factual material about the inventor Peter Cooper.

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Moby Dick

This is an interesting work historically since it is about whale hunting and that is something that has become a very controversial subject in today's world with many nations trying to cut down on whale hunting and others ignoring those actions. Greenpeace also makes the news as they try to stop whale hunting. (In my opinion, there should be a total ban on whale hunting by all nations and a scientific study to make sure that the whales can re-populate themselves before any question of further hunting is even considered.)

The characters of Ishmael, Queequeg and Captain Ahab are fairly familiar ones (at least to those in the present day that read at all anymore). Captain Ahab, of course, is obsessed with catching the whale that took off one of his legs.

The actual catching of a whale and rendering of the whale are drawn and, frankly, it's sort of a disgusting thing to see, even in a comic book.

The comic continues to do a very good job of telling the story and, once again, the artwork is done quite well.

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Oliver Twist

The story takes place at least a hundred years ago in a London where there is a very sharp contrast between the wealthy and everyone else. There's a woman that is the 'guardian of the parish children' who embezzles money meant for their care. When he's nine he's taken to a workhouse to learn a trade. In both places he is nearly starved along with other children.

He runs away and heads towards London. A crook finds him and takes him there to someone else to be brought up a crook. From them on he is mistreated by the crooks, goes through a series of different places he's living and eventually finds out he's not so poor after all.

This is a good example of just how bad crime was at that time in London, and how the criminals were much like today's, willing to kill to get whatever they wanted and willing to cheat others out of what is rightfully theirs.

Charles Dickens (text): Factual Material.

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Rip van Winkle

1944, Gilberton Company.

The story takes place around 200 years ago in a Dutch village near the Catskills. Rip was a 'simple' person who told stories and was liked by kids. His wife has a terrible temper and kicks him and his dog out into the storm, literally. He meets an old, short man and follows him, eventually finding the ghosts of a sailing ship playing nine pins.

He is to be killed by them but gets into a drinking contest and goes to sleep, a sleep lasting twenty years. When he wakes up he has some trouble adjusting to the changes around him but it works out in the end.

The Headless Horseman: (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow): The town has only one teacher, Ichabod Crane. He tells stories to kids and mooches meals off parents. He's also coming on to one woman whose father is rich. He also happens to be a total coward. Rip van Winkle makes a guest appearance. He meets the Headless Horsemen and it's possible he escaped.

Life of Washington Irving (text): Factual material.

And One Came Back, the true story of a lone survivor of a bomber crew: (factual material)

Poem: The Charge of the Light Brigade.

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Robin Hood

Gilberton Company.

This is another story about where the ultra-rich and the rulers treat their subjects like garbage and make them suffer terribly while fattening their own purses. He helps a man get a deer for his starving family but is declared an outlaw as a result. There's a strong theme here that runs through stories of this type, and that is those who are rich and are in power have absolutely no consideration for nor understanding of those people who barely manage to get by from day to day, not through any fault of their own.

Robin Hood begins to gather together his group of 'merry men' in the forest. The fight with Little John on the log is shown.

There's also the normal political maneuvering with an evil guy wanting to get rid of the rightful king and employing equally evil underlings like the sheriff of Nottingham. Later an Army goes after Robin Hood and his men but it's not a very big army and they are easily defeated.

Robin Hood and his group gather ransom money for King Richard who is held by the enemy. A tournament is held to capture Robin Hood. Ivanhoe makes a guest appearance. John still plans to kill King Richard but, of course, things don't work out like he figured they would.

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Robinson Crusoe

I don't care very much for the cover of this issue.

Daniel Defoe.

A guy set sail in 1659 for his first sea voyage. Pirates catch up to his ship but both ships are destroyed in a waterspout and he ends up stranded on an island. He gets provisions from the wreck of his ship and builds a lot of what he needs. After that there's an earthquake and then he starts exploring the island.

I wonder why he spent to long before he set out to do that? He had gotten weapons and ammunition from the ship. He was worried about 'savages' so, instead of waiting for them to come to him, maybe it had been better if he would have done some earlier exploring to determine what kind of threat, if any, they posed.

He has some bad encounters with headhunters, and from one of these encounters he meets his companion Friday. There's more fighting, this time with pirates.

Daniel DeFoe (text, factual): Information about the author.

Poems of the Sea.

Joan Fernandez, Desert Explorer (text): In 1445 he explored a part of West Africa, a desert area with 'savages.'

With Leg Shot Away, Mans Gun for 8 Hours (text): A World War II story.

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The Count of Monte Cristo

The story starts out in 1815. Dantes is in love with a certain woman. His father is penniless. A guy named Ferdinand is also in love with her, though. Ferdinand arranges for false charges to be brought against Dantes who ends up in a prison.

The first part of the story revolves around men who support and oppose Napoleon, then moves on after Napoleon has lost the battle of Waterloo. Dantes stays in prison for 14 years but finally another prisoner is able to help him. Then Dantes sets out on a program of revenge and it leads to a very interesting, very intricate story that is well told.

Important Milestones in the Life of Napoleon: Factual material.

Highlights in the Life of Alexander Dumas (text): Factual material.

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The Deerslayer

1944, Gilberton Comics.

The Deerslayer has a Delaware Indian friend whose girlfriend has been captured by the Iroquois, which are on the warpath. The Iroquois attack the boat he and some friends are on but they drive the Indians off. The governor of the area they live in has put a bounty on Indian scalps. (This is pretty barbaric, but then, in olden times in Japan, you brought back the entire head of your enemy, so practices of this nature were not that uncommon.)

The Indians capture two of Deerslayer's friends. Deerslayer manages to find some things to trade to the Iroquois for a couple of the captives. Things go wrong pretty soon, though, and he ends up being captured by the Iroquois. The British army ends up getting involved.

The Life of James Fenimore Cooper (text): Factual material.

Medals for Heroes: Factual material.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

1963, Gilberton Comics.

The year is 1482. A play is being performed, sort of. A fool is chosen and it turns out to be Quasimodo, who is deaf and ugly. The archdeacon of Notre Dame makes Quasimodo follow him back to the church while a beautiful woman has been entertaining people with her goat that can tell time.

Quasimodo later tries to kidnap Esmeralda, the woman. Meanwhile, the writer of the play is about to be hung but she says she will take him as her husband to save his life. We also find out Quasimodo had been left as a child at the church and one of the priests adopted him and raised him.

He is arrested and flogged. Esmeralda is the only one who will give him water when he says he's needs water. Esmeralda is put on trial for the death of someone (who she did not kill) and is tortured.

This shows how even regular crimes could be treated like witchcraft interrogation. The accused is questioned and subject to torture if he or she denies committing the crime. Under torture, especially the kinds that were used back then, the accused almost always confessed to anything just to stop the pain. Then they generally would be killed after that.

She manages to escape and Quasimodo takes her to Notre Dame where she can claim sanctuary. Things get a lot worse. This is not a story that ends happily.

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The Last of the Mohicans

The story starts out in 1757 with yet another war between the French and the British, with various Native American tribes allied with one side or another, or some trying to remain neutral.

A Major Hayward is escorting two women to another fort while an Indian runs along to guide them. The group comes under attack by other Indians and the some of the men eventually leave the women behind, planning to come back and free them from the Indians later. They manage that task. Things get much worse, though, as the story goes through various battles, the capture and murder of one of the women and the death of a brave warrior. It's a really well-told story and the illustrations are also done very well.

The next thing is a biography of the writer James Fenimore Cooper.

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The Three Musketeers

A father gives his son a letter to take the the captain of the Musketeers. This is D'Artagnan who manages to lose a fight and the letter soon after entering Paris. He also manages to line up three duels for himself. There's the usual involvement of the Church with politics and there's an evil woman who manages to get people killed or who does the job herself but, in the end, she learns that crime does not pay.

I think this is an all-right type of story, but not something I would consider a classic. I definitely care for the attitude of the musketeers who, immediately upon any sort of supposed offense, would want to cross swords with the alleged offender. They remind me of school-yard bullies. In today's world they'd be thugs with guns, basically.

It's also interesting that the story seems to show the passing of an era as the gun begins to replace the sword in fighting.

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Uncle Tom's Cabin

1967, Gilberton Comics.

There is no doubt that this is one of the major stories in American history as far as its effects on society goes. Before the Civil War there were many people who were abolitionists; people who strongly opposed slavery. There were few books which stirred up abolitionists as much as this one. The book helped people begin to understand just how bad slavery was in the South.

The story starts with a white man who needs money selling a slave of his known as Uncle Tom. This is one thing to remember-slaves were not considered humans as such. They were property, pure and simple, and could be bought and sold like anything else. In the story the slave owner is in Kentucky which was a border state during the Civil War. Slavery was not outlawed there as it was in the deep South.

A slave named Liza and her child have also been sold and plan to run away. They make it across the river where they are helped by a white man. The man who now 'owns' her plans to keep pursuing her, though. Meanwhile, Tom and a bunch of other slaves are put on a steamboat to be taken to New Orleans and sold at a slave market. On the boat Tom meets a young white girl named Eva.

He saves Little Eva's life and her father buys him.

There's a very interesting series of panels where Little Eva is dying and sees angels coming for her which is not that far off the normal near-death experiences reported in today's world. The 'master' dies and the mistress goes back on a promise to let Uncle Tom go free.

Simon LeGree is a major villain of the piece. Tom pays the price for defying him.

The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe (text): Factual material.

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Westward Ho

1943, Gilberton Company.

The story starts out in 1575 and it is not about wagon trains but about sailing ships. Amyas Leigh is a young boy who wants to go to sea, but his parents want him to finish his schooling first. He also has a girlfriend.

Later he gets his chance to sail. His first voyage under Francis Drake takes three years. We get to see how the Spanish treated their prisoners at that time. Leigh continues to court the girl he likes but she can't seem to choose from all the men who want her.

Then the boat he's on gets into a battle with the Spanish. Through some smart thinking Leigh manages to lead a group of men who attack the Spanish fort and manage to take it over. A Spanish guy is taken prisoner, taken back to where Leigh comes from, and either falls in love with the girl or tricks her into loving him and takes her with him. When Leigh gets back he and others go after them.

They encounter a Spanish ship with pearls and they take the pearls and set fire to the ship. Then he and his guys set out for a rich city and later end up fighting the Spanish armada, with Leigh trying to settle a personal feud.

I don't think the story is that great. It takes a good while for Leigh to get on the sea, and later when his ship is damaged they set off on some other quest. The story just doesn't seem to flow smoothly.

Charles Kingsley (text): Factual material.

The Railway Train by Emily Dickinson: Sort of cute.

Victory March: (Text): Factual material.

The Cost of Carelessness (text): A guy is careless at his job at making rifles for men to use in WWII and his carelessness causes the death of a soldier later.



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