Trajectory Inc., a Boston-based e-book and app developer and publisher, has acquired the digital rights to the original Classics Illustrated comics and will release the works as downloadable digital comics for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The digital series includes over 123 titles selling for $4.99 each from the original comic book series and features such classic works as Snow White, Treasure Island, the Tree Musketeers, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gulliver’s Travels and many others.
The original Classics Illustrated comics series began publishing in 1941 and was created by Albert Kanter. The series featureds extremely abridged versions of classic works of literature with the original comic books varying from 64 pages to about 48 in later years. Kanter originally hoped the popularity of comics books—the comic book format we know today had essentially just been invented—would introduce young people to high literature and quality reading, much like subsequent generations of parents and teachers who have tried to substitute Classics illustrated comics for the superhero, crime, adventure and horror comics kids have brought home from the newsstand and comics shops over the years.
Classics Illustrated comics were published in more or less their original format until the early 1970s, after which the rights have moved around to a number of other publishers, including a venture between First Comics and Berkeley Publishing in 1990. This series produced new versions of the classics with a new generation of artists that included Rick Geary, Peter Kuper, Kyle Baker and others. Since 2007 kids’ graphic novel publisher Papercutz has licensed and published a selection of contemporary adaptations originally published in Europe. Jack Lake Productions in Toronto also publishes a line of revived Classics Illustrated Junior titles for kids.
In a phone interview, Scott Beatty, publisher of Trajectory Inc. said that he was a fan of the original Classic Illustrated comics and remembers, “my dad had a box of Classic Illustrated comics that I found and I wondered if anyone was doing digital versions.” Beatty acquired the digital rights from First Classic Comics, the entity that owns the rights to the series, and said he had to “track them down, but they were happy to license the rights.”
Beatty said he also expects to release the 123 titles through Kobo, the Canadian e-book retailer and its Kobo Vox 7-inch color tablet device, in the next few weeks. And he said he plans to make the series to be available for all devices and all digital formats in the coming months. “We’re planning to do e-books for every format.”