Wednesday, December 24, 2014

More on Pendulum Press--the 1972 CI reprints

As reported by William B. Jones, Jr. in his excellent Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, the Pendulum Press "Now Age Books" series originated in 1972 as reprints of original Classics Illustrated and Classics Illustrated Junior titles.  When these failed to sell well, Pendulum decided to go with new adaptations and new art the following year.  I had never encountered a one of the CI reprints, either on line or off, until yesterday, when the Now Age Books reissue of CI's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea showed up on eBay. (It's on its way to my address as we speak.  Paid too much for it, and I'd do it again.)  I proceeded to locate two other Now Age/CI cover scans in cyberspace.  Behold:

Now I know these things exist.  Frankly, I was beginning to think Jones may be in error.  After all, even a survey as skillfully researched and organized as his CI history is bound to contain a few errors, given its sheer scope.  But, as it turns out, Jones' 1972 Pendulum data is spot on, to the delight of this CI fan.  The 1972 CI reprints really did happen, and I'm going to have one in my humble collection.  CI Santa is looking out for this collector....


Saturday, December 20, 2014

For the Classics Illustrated fan on your Christmas list: Regent's Illustrated Classics, more

What to get the Classics Illustrated fan on our Christmas list? Too late for this season, of course, but Christmas 2015 is only 270 (or so) days away.  Time enough, maybe, to score a small set of Regent's Illustrated Classics, an obscure 1980s series which offered pirated Classics Illustrated art, Weekly Reader-style texts, and bad cover art.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I, until I read about these things in William B. Jones, Jr.'s Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History.   The moment I learned of their existence, I just had to locate some--maybe the CI fan on your list will find them as cool as I do.  The trick is finding them at non-stupid prices.  Beware the crazier ones being asked out there.  Please.  You'll hate yourself, otherwise.

Check out these covers, scanned from my collection.  I love them:

Chintzy, no?  But they're my kind of chintz.  (There's no accounting for lack of taste.) 

Understandably, William B. Jones, Jr. is down on this series--after all, it stole its material and altered the texts.  But I dig these for the black and white CI art reprints and, as I've already confessed, the tacky covers, most of them derived from splash page art (save for Frankenstein, which was blandly redone from the awesome line-drawn cover for that number).  Here, by the way, are some interior page samplings:  

Less obscure than the Regents pirates (probably way so) are the highly classy--and totally legit--Pendulum Press series of CI-style books, which showed up right about the time CI passed on.  I say "series of," because the Pendulum titles showed up under a number of logos, including Now Age Books, Pocket Classics, Picture Classics, AGS Illustrated Classics (reprints), and Lakewood Illustrated Classics (ditto).  The art was provided by excellent Filipino artists like Jun Lofamia (my favorite!), E.R. Cruz, and Nestor Redondo.  Wikipedia has a very good piece on Pendulum Press.

Here are some covers from my stash:

There were bios, also:


Below, I've scanned the back-cover promo pages for Now Age, AGS, and Lakewood.  Notice the resemblance?  

Picture Classics had a different back-cover blurb which listed two additional titles--The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Three Musketeers:  

And, if you can find it, the Filipino National Classic Comics (a.k.a. National Classic Illustrated) series is quite nice, judging from the one issue (The Turn of the Screw, art by Jun Lofamia) in my collection.  These are contemporary with the Pendulum Press titles, and were even more CI-inspired.

Here are some cover images, all swiped from on-line, save for my reissue of Turn of the Screw, which had a Classics Illustrated logo added.  I'd sell the farm for the NCI Time Machine!

Other possibilities: Another Filipino series, Famous Classics Illustrated (wonder what line those were based on??).  Those look pretty cool (I have yet to land one).  Or, original series-wise, you can find a mint copy of Westward Ho! (Classics Illustrated, No. 14) if you've got the dough.  And only if the CI collector on your list is a really, really close friend.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The original Grinch? "Mr. Neversmile: The Mayor of Honey Bee Hollow" (1880)

From the Dec., 1880 issue of the children's magazine Golden Hours comes the remarkably Seuss-like narrative poem, "Mr. Neversmile--The Mayor of Honey Bee Hollow," all about a townsboy-hating, grinch-like mayor ("the sourest old man that you ever did see") who, on Christmas Eve, declares Christmas off-limits in his village.  (So much for advance notice!)  The town's distraught mothers contact Santa Claus himself, begging for his intervention, which he gleefully supplies that very evening, flooding Bee Hollow with noise, lightworks, and presents, and depositing the mayor up a tree.  Santa predicts that the mayor, should he find his way down, will be a reformed killjoy.

Besides the misanthropic Christmas hater bent on cancelling Christmas, other details uncannily parallel How the Grinch Stole Christmas--first and foremost, there's the Seuss-esque word play and cadences (e.g., "Then the mothers arose in their just indignation And in with their tea took the whole situation," and "His eyes they were sunk, his coarse gray eyebrows under So far that the fact he could see was a wonder").  Then we have Santa Claus landing on the top of a mountain, a la the Grinch, "Preparing to slide down its side to the town Of Honey Hollow when night should come down."  And there's the last minute rescue of the holiday and the change of heart on the part of the bad guy.  Says Santa of the up-a-tree Mayor Neversmile: "But I'll venture to say, if he gets safely down, He'll be a changed person from this time and on, And never again will he seek to destroy The children's own birthright to Christmas and joy."  No mention of whether or not Neversmile's heart grew several sizes that night.

It seems unlikely that Theodor Geisel was influenced by this poem, since it predates him by 24 years, but who knows?  What we do know is that Seuss-sounding children's verse has been around for a hundred-plus years.

Scanned by me from my copy, and cleaned up with NCH Photopad. I recommend using the Zoom function on your browser (rather than clicking on each image) for best text-reading results.  I find +175 ideal.