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Classics Illustrated: Literary comics on display at Forest Park library

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A new display at the Forest Park branch of the Clayton County Public Library System shows that classic "literary" authors, such as Samuel L. Clemens, Jules Verne, and Daniel Defoe, all appreciated comic books, too.

Well, sort of.

Over the weekend, the library put up a new display showing off old issues of the "Classics Illustrated" comic-book series.

The series, which was created by Albert Kanter in 1941, turned pieces of classic literature, such as Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days," and Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe," into comic books, according to Stephen Hart, a library assistant at the Forest Park branch, who put the display of five issues together.

"With having a visual image to comprehend, it'd be easier for [readers] just to get interested in the classics," Hart said.

The comic book issues, which Hart received from an aunt when he was cleaning out her attic in 2001, are on display at the library this month to expose readers to pieces of classical literature, he said.

He put the comics on display once before, in 2002, but has kept them at work since then.

The display includes "Around the World in 80 Days;" and "Robinson Crusoe;" as well as Clemens' "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court;" Rudyard Kipling's "Captains Courageous," and Edward Bulwer-Lytton's "The Last Days of Pompeii."

Hart said a sixth issue he owns, an adaptation of Sir H. Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines," was not included in the display, because there was not enough room for it in the display case.

"I was thinking this would be a good way to raise people's awareness of the classics," he said. "A lot of our younger readers are interested in the graphic novels, or the manga [Japanese comic books], so this is something they can look at, and see it as a different form of the graphic novel."

According to Hart, the conversion of classic literature into comic books did not end when the "Classics Illustrated" publisher, Twin Circle, discontinued the series in 1971, after 169 issues. Rather, he said, the series was a "forebear" of sorts for modern graphic novels.

He said the Forest Park branch library even has a more modern take on the classic literature-to-comic book concept -- Japanese manga comic book versions of some of William Shakespeare's plays.

Forest Park's managing librarian, Lydia Bigard, said the display on the "Classics Illustrated" series should appeal to young and old readers alike.

"For the kids, it's a way to introduce them to classic literature, and it helps promote lifelong readers," she said. "And, for seniors, it will remind them of their childhood, when they read these comic books."