It’s War of the Worlds month here at the ol’ blog. The War of the Worlds is one of my favorite stories, and I’ll be writing about all the various media adaptations all throughout October.
From a very young age, I was a voracious reader. I skipped right over the picture book shelf at the school library and went into the chapter books. My parents took us to the public library every two weeks, and I would load myself up with as many books as I could carry each time. Nearly every birthday, Christmas, or other gift-giving time, books were in my pile of loot. One such pile included a set of Illustrated Classic Editions.
This series of book were small, perhaps 4 inches square, and nearly an inch thick. Each book adapted a classic piece of literature. The set I had included a variety of genres. Each book told the story in abridged form, written to the elementary school age reading level, and there was an illustration on nearly every page. It was a great way for a curious kid like me to experience these classics stories for the first time.
As a Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica fan, I gravitated to the sci-fi tales of H.G. Wells in my set. The Time Machine made a big impression on me, but The War of the Worlds was my favorite. The cover, pictured above, was evocative, though it included an anachronistic pickup truck. The interior art was formative for me. When I picture the Martians, I think of how they looked in this book. Same thing for the tripods. Every time I see a water tower, I think of how the nonfunctional tripods at the end of the story were illustrated in this version of the book. (I even included an homage of sorts in The Thing from the Drive-In.)
When I was in fourth or perhaps fifth grade, I had a friend over. While playing Atari, or G.I. Joe, or whatever it was, my friend noticed the Illustrated Classics on my bookshelf. He grabbed The War of the Worlds, and asked for a pencil. I was skeptical of this, but found one anyway. He proceeded to doodle on the illustrations in the book!
I definitely had mixed feelings about this. I hadn’t drawn in a book since I was very small, and took pride in keeping my books in good condition. (This was before my comic collecting days, where this urge to keep my stuff pristine went into overdrive.) However, this was my friend and I didn’t want to cause any problems with him. So, we spent the next half hour or so doodling little jokes in my copy of The War of the Worlds. It was great fun, once I got into it.
Over the years, my collection of Illustrated Classics disappeared. Now, I have only a handful of them left. One, of course, is The War of the Worlds. I loved the story and the illustrations, but I especially love looking at all the doodles my friend and I made that day. This little book would spawn a life long love of Well’s classic story of alien invasion… but more on that later this month!
Below are scans of the book. I picked pages with cool illustrations, or funny doodles. It can be hard to see the pencil doodles, so check the captions to each image, where I copied them, and added some comments.