Retro Review: Classics Illustrated #65 Benjamin Franklin
Full disclosure: I am one of the biggest Franklin fan-girls out there. You didn’t even know that was a thing, did you? I’ve been studying and writing about Ben for about fifteen years now, most recently writing my master’s thesis about his relationships with the women in his family, and celebrated getting my MA by getting his signature tattooed on my left shoulder while I was on a research trip in Philadelphia. Yeah, I am that level of history fan-girl.
So when I say that I had to get Classics Illustrated’s Benjamin Franklin issue, I’m not exaggerating. And as a history geek, it did not disappoint. Written in 1949, it is a perfect snapshot of how Ben was seen at that time: genius, printer/statesman/diplomat, family man, and apparently “frontier fighter.” Political correctness wasn’t even on the radar in 1949, so there are several panels that a twenty-first century reader would recognize as racist. However, as my professors in college and grad school all repeatedly drummed into my head over the years, you can’t judge a historical document (which is basically what Classics Illustrated is now) by current standards.
As a Franklin fan, it was also interesting what the writers chose to leave out of Ben’s story. Although certain details of his personal life (his fondness for women, his son William’s bastardy, and the fact that his marriage to Deborah Read was common-law, for example) are nearly as well-known as his scientific experiments these days, the comic is a little coy—not only are there no mentions of the first two, there is actually a panel that shows Deborah in a wedding dress! This issue is a reflection of a time when they idolized the Founders rather than being interested in their personal lives. Whitewashing was standard then.
This is the historian in me getting to do a little bit of nitpicking, of course. If you take the storytelling with a grain of salt and accept the fact that there are some less-than-historically accurate parts, Benjamin Franklin is a fun read that touches on the highlights of his long and busy life. It was drawn by several artists with different styles using a limited color palette, which gives it a nice nostalgic feel that kind of reminds me of the Sunday comics of my youth. On the whole, a good, if dated, introduction to Ben’s life.
I give it 3.5 out of 5 lightning bolts.
Classics Illustrated #65: Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass ‘armonica.’ He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania. Beautifully illustrated, this classic tale will capture children’s interest and spark their imagination inspiring a lifelong love of literature and reading.
Classics Illustrated – #65 Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Frankiln (Author)
William B. Jones Jr. (Author)
Jaak Jarve (Editor)
William Kanter (Editor)
Iger Shop (Illustrator)
Mike Gagnon (Illustrator)
Julie Hegner has been descending the geek rabbit hole since she watched her first episode of Star Trek at age eight. A longtime fan of Trek, Who, X-Files, and the Whedonverse, it was only a matter of time until hanging out with other geek girls and repeatedly watching Tom Hiddleston led her to the awesomeness of comics. She takes a special joy in reading about ladies who kick ass, but in general anything with a good storyline floats her boat. You can tweet @julz91 on Twitter.