Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Classics - Classics Illustrated #9

When I was a kid, my friends and I decided that whoever dreamed up the Classics Illustrated line of comics was a genius.

That's because more than one kid tried to sneak by on tests by reading the C.I. version, as opposed to actually reading the homework assignment. (Of course, since the stories were heavily edited, it often didn't end well for the kid trying this method.)

I don't remember going this route myself - I enjoyed reading too much to pass up reading the book, and the challenge was to find a copy of the Classics Illustrated comic you needed - tough to do in those days.

At some point the original series went away, but it's been revived more than once, as comics companies do their own take on those classic tales (which are all in public domain and require no rights fees, of course).

In the late '80s / early '90s First Comics took a run at it, teaming up with Berkeley Publishing to create new versions of classic tales.

This issue, printed in 1990, is one of my favorites. It adapts Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, one of my favorite books - and the adaptation is handled by Mike Ploog, one of my all-time favorite artists.

The book looks like a labor of love for Ploog, too - his art has rarely been more lush, more joyful and more expressive.

Ploog shows his Will Eisner influences throughout, with wonderful, lively characters, and the Prestige format allows for great printing that highlights the colors beautifully.

So was the series a blessing or a curse? I'm not sure if the C.I. series every succeeded in pointing kids in the direction of true literature, or if it actually helped students in school more than it doomed them to poor grades.

But I do know this: there are some real treasures in the series, whichever comics age it's rooted in. Highly recommended!

Grade: A+


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