Friday, July 18, 2014

A Sampling of Classics Illustrated Sci-Fi Comics

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

I fully admit I am an adult that still gets excited to go into a comic book shop.  I am also a parent who has used children’s books, as well as comics to introduce reading to my girls. I have also used comics in my classroom to help get students more excited about a certain time period.  Classics Illustrated was a series of comics that ran for thirty years (1941-1971) and would adapt well known novels into comic book form.  Think of it as an earlier version of CliffNotes with pictures for students.  Many of the Classics Illustrated comics hold up well, they were beautifully adapted and illustrated.  For my girls, they enjoy the comics as much, and in some cases more than the original book. So, let us take a trip down memory lane with some classic sci-fi adapted novels from H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. 

H.G. Wells
You can read H.G. Wells classics like The Time Machine (No. 133) and The Frist Men on the Moon (No. 144). The Time Machine (originally published in 1895) is about an English scientist and the time machine he creates and uses. He uses his machine to travel to 802,701, where he meets the Eloi and the Morlocks.  Unlike the original novel, in the comic adaption the Time Traveller is not set in Victorian England but instead contemporary 1950s.  Also, the bonus feature in the comic is part of a 12 part series on The Story of Great Britain. 

The First Men in the Moon (originally published in 1901) is about a journey to the Moon by a businessman, Mr. Bedford, and an eccentric scientist, Mr. Cavor. Long before we would actually go the moon, Wells let us know about things like weightlessness, and that Moon travel was possible.  Unfortunately, he was wrong about finding a civilization of insect-like creatures called the Selenites.  Sadly, there is no bonus feature in this comic.  However, there is extra info on The Mysterious Moon and Celestial Streaks (Comets).

Jules Verne
Some of the great Jules Verne adaptions are Around the World in 80 Days (No. 69), Off on a Comet (No. 149), and Master of the World (No. 163). Around the World in Eighty Days (first published in 1873) is the story of Phileas Fogg and his French valet Passepartout as they attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days thanks to a £20,000 bet. The extras in the comics are about Der Meistersinger by Richard Wagner, Smoky The Quick Thinking Dog and Thomas Wedgwood, the inventor of the camera.

Off on a Comet (originally published in 1877) is about the comet Gallia.  When it collides with Earth it carries a part of it off including 36 people. As they travel on the comet, they are able to explore the solar system and eventually return back to the Earth. Extras in the comic are about Mercury and Jupiter, and one on the constellations.

Master of the World (first published in 1904) is a sequel to Robur the Conqueror. In the comic, Robur has perfected his new invention, the Terror. It is a vehicle that can be many things, a speedboat, submarine, automobile, or aircraft. It is up to John Strock to find him and the Terror. The extras in the comic are Who Knows?, a short story, and The Bride comes to Yellow Sky.  There is also a short comic about Socrates.

One thing I really like about Classics Illustrated is that each contain a bio on the author.  It is really nice that the reader can read the novel in comic/graphic form and then learn all about the person who wrote it.  Another great thing is that each story also ends with the same challenge: “Now that you have read the Classics Illustrated edition, don’t miss the added enjoyment of reading the original, obtainable at your school or public library.”

These are just a few sci-fi classics, what novel would you like to read as a comic book? 

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