Thursday, May 03, 2007

Comic Books and Reading

This Saturday is "Free Comic Book Day" and some 2,000 comic book shops around the world are planning to hand out free comics to customers that day. I remember having quite a large comic book collection as a kid and I kept it safely tucked away until I joined the army in 1968. Of course, like the stereotypical mother that she was, my mother decided to clean out some of the "junk" I left behind and she gave all my comics to some of my younger cousins. I never really missed them but sometimes I do wonder what some of those old comic books would be worth today. We won't even talk about all the baseball cards that she gave away with the comics.

Now in its sixth year, the event asks comic book shops to distribute free comics to customers in hopes of sparking interest in the genre. It was set for Saturday in part to coincide with the Friday opening of "Spider-Man 3."

Al's is one of about 2,000 stores around the world that is expected to participate, said Joe Field, the event's founder and owner of Flying Colors Comics and Other Cool Stuff in Concord.
I'm pretty convinced that most people who are readers, at one point or another, have experienced reading comics," Field said.

He added that comics can use illustrations to catch the interest of young people who then become engaged in the text. For the past two years, Stockton has ranked last in a national study of whether residents read.

Little research has been done on the effect of comic books on reading. A 1996 study conducted in part by a University of Southern California professor emeritus showed that, among seventh-grade boys at two Southern California schools, those who enjoyed comics read more books than their classmates.

My collection included all the usual Superman and Donald Duck type comics of the fifties and early sixties but I particularly remember the series called Classics Illustrated because those comic books have a lot to do with the love for classic literature that I have today. Each of these comics offered a capsule version of one of the world's classic books, perfectly illustrated in comic book style, and summarized in a way that could easily be understood by a child reader. I'm sure that I'm not the only one of the thousands of kids who collected those comics who couldn't wait to read the real books for themselves. I discovered some great books and authors as a result.


  1. Those comic book covers, I LOVE them!
    And, seriously... if there is a better author than Joseph Conrad, what is his name?
    OK, well, Tolstoy, and THEN Joseph Conrad?

  2. I bought several Classic Comics last year as a present for my husband. They were about $11 -$13 (Australian) each.

  3. Cip, the Classic Comics really influenced my later reading of the actual books. I couldn't wait to fill in the details of some of those comics.

    By the way, is it just me or does the fellow on the front of the "Lord Jim" comic remind you of George W. Bush?

  4. Funny you should mention that, Sally. Seeing some of the old covers has really tempted me to buy a few of the old comics just out of pure nostalgia. Ebay has tons of them for sale...just what I need, something else to find space for. :-)

  5. I remember reading various Archie comics and something about a talking dog, but this is the one I really remember:

    I read it so many times. I wish I still had it; ebay's got it for $24! I'm sure it didn't cost more than 2, if that, when I bought it.

    I never knew there were comics of the classics - that would've been pretty neat.

  6. Was that "Cross and the Switchblade" the same story that was made into a movie, Annne...maybe starring Pat Boone, or am I thinking of something else?

    Yeah, the Classics comics probably turned a lot of kids on to reading starting in the fifties, or thereabouts. They were really something.

  7. Yeah, it's the story about a pastor and Nicky Cruz that was made into a movie with Pat Boone. Although, I had no clue there was a movie version until I was looking for the comic yesterday. I also discovered there was a comic version of "Run, Baby, Run," which was the book BY Cruz.

  8. I vaguely remember the Pat Boone movie and that he got pretty good reviews for his role. I don't think that critics expected him to handle a dramatic role as well as he apparently handled it.

    Of course, I haven't seen the actual movie and I wonder if it would appear "dated" today or if it would still seem to be as well done as it did originally.

  9. I think I had the only mother in the universe who didn't want her child to read the Classics Illustrated Comics. I bought Jane Eyre when I was eleven or twelve and she more than bristled...she actually gave me hell because I didn't bring home Archie or something that she liked to read. I never bought another, but when the neighborhood kids traded, I'd grab what I could find! Hmm...I think there's a blog entry in all of this...thanks for the bittersweet memories.

  10. A blog entry, indeed, Bybee. I'll look forward to reading it. :-)