The "Classic" Comics
Article by Scott Tingley,January 30, 2007
I'm not sure if they were ever really gone, but the use of comics to tell some of the great stories of classic literature is certainly here now.
There are two companies that are right now putting out two completely different types of books dedicated to adapting the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain, and many, many others (there may be more, but these are the two I know about).
The two groups of books seem to have similar goals, but are intended for different uses and different audiences.
When I first saw the Saddleback's Illustrated Classics series from Saddleback Publishing Inc. they looked quite familiar to me. They reminded me of a couple of comics that I had as a kid. I emailed the publisher about this, and it turns out that there is good chance that these are the same stories I had – the company has got the rights to them and is reprinting the old books.
The Saddleback books take a pretty straightforward approach to telling the stories, and the educational material that is available for the books really helps confirm my thoughts on the series. It looks like it was first created and is now repackaged to be an educational tool for parents and teachers to help their kids get the main ideas and plot points of a particular story. There is certainly nothing at all wrong with that. The books are meant to be an aid.
To quote the Saddleback website: “ These action-packed literary classics, written to be accessible to students reading below grade level, offer your struggling learners successful reading experiences while retaining the flavor and tone of the original novel."
Sounds good to me. I was a pretty decent reader in school, but I know that I really could have used their Tale of Two Cities in grade 10 (I never did read it – oops). I would not likely purchase and sit down with these books purely for the enjoyment of it, but I would readily hand them over to a student struggling with the original book. It would especially be useful for someone that has struggled through the book and would like something to help them piece the whole thing together.
There are workbooks and audio CDs available for the titles.
Now, the Graphic Classics series, edited by Tom Pomplun, are completely different types of books. For one thing, while each book in the Saddleback series is dedicated to telling one classic, well know story, each of the G.C. books is dedicated to telling a number of different stories from the works of a single author – some well known works, some more obscure. The Arthur Conan Doyle book, for instance, has two Sherlock Holmes stories, and six non Sherlock stories. That is an interesting choice. I would have preferred to read more tales of his most famous creation, but Conan Doyle did have many other writings in his portfolio. Each story is by a different creative team; in fact, the variety of art styles present in each volume was the most pleasantly surprising part of the whole thing. The covers are beautiful and although not all of the art was to my tastes, each piece is nicely done.
I really enjoyed reading the G.C . books. I went straight for the Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells ones, and I was not disappointed. Then I worked my way through some of the authors I was unfamiliar with. For instance, I had only read “altered” versions of O'Henry's “Gift of the Magi” and for the first time I understood that it was about sacrifice and love, not about cruel twists of fate.
These “educational comics” are intended for different things, but in a way, for similar audiences. Saddleback's Illustrated Classics are intended for that student that would find the original source material to difficult to get through. Graphic Classics are for that student as well, but they are also for readers in general that have enjoyed the original stories and would like an additional interpretation.
So, there it is. Both are recommended, but for slightly different reasons. Is very important to note that just because these are “comic books” not everything in them is for young children (especially in G.C .). If your child is not ready to handle Edgar Allan Poe's “The Masque of the Red Death”, they are not ready for the comic version. Graphic Classic's volume of Robert Louis Stevenson stories has some disturbing little gems (“The Sick Man and the Fire Man” was good, but Yikes!). The Graphic Classics books are more for middle and high school students.
Also, I just received an email that gave the complete list of G.C. books available:
The Graphic Classics series:
Contents on links on the Internet change continuously. It is advisable that teachers and parents preview all links before recommending them to children.
Administrator / Creator of this website: Scott Tingley firstname.lastname@example.org
The prior copyright notice was in error. The correct copyright notification is Comics in the Classroom, (C) Scott Tingley 2007 All rights reserved.
All articles are (c) by their respective authors and used here by permission, unless otherwise noted.