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Story of Mankind
"The Story of Mankind"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND Dell Four-Color No. 851
Copyright 1957

Although this is billed as a "Movie Classic" and features stills from the Irwin Allen movie on its inside and outside front covers, this comic is really based on Allen's source material: the book by Hendrik van Loon (which I keep meaning to get around to).

The comic has a few idiosyncracies: There are no speech balloons, just text-heavy captions in the style of "Prince Valiant"; and there is no attempt to caricature the various actors and actresses. There are no analogues of the Ronald Coleman and Vincent Price characters, an angel and devil arguing that mankind be spared / wiped out. This is actually a bad thing, because the book could really use a continuing viewpoint character.

We open with five pages set in Prehistoric Times, with two cavemen and a cavewoman who look about as authentic as Racquel Welch. They learn a Valuable Lesson about Working Together.

From there it's kind of a slideshow on Humanity's High Points. The number of panels, when more than one, is given in parentheses.

Pharaoh Kufu (3)
Moses (5)
Helen of Troy
Trojan War (2)
Greek sculptor
Roman Soldiers
Augustus Caesar
Christians thrown to the lions
Attila the Hun (2)
Town on fire
British Knights (2)
The Crusades (4)
Magna Carta (2)
Joan of Arc (6)
Christopher Columbus (3)
Cortez (3)
British & Spanish ships at war
Queen Elizabeth (3)
William Shakespeare
Spanish Armada
John Smith
Peter Minuit (who does NOT look like Groucho Marx!)
Scottish Highlanders (2)
The Great Plague
The Boston Tea Party
Minute Men
Paul Revere
George Washington
War of Independence
French Revolution
The Guillotine
France attacked at sea
Napoleon Bonaparte (3)
War of 1812
Wagon train beset by Indians
Gold Rush (2)
Slavery (2) (only black people in the book)
Abolitionist Preacher
Abraham Lincoln
Fort Sumter
Robert E. Lee
Emancipation Proclamation*
Gettysburg Address
Ford's Theatre
Cattle drive
Transcontinental Railroad
Alexander Graham Bell
Thomas Edison
Horseless Carriage
Dewey at Manila
Early Airplane
Cotton cloth
Industrial Age
German Army
World War I begins
Trench warfare
Jazz Age
Adolf Hitler (2)
World War II begins
Pearl Harbor
Aircraft Carrier (2)
Anti-aircraft guns
Victory through Air Power (2)
Kamikaze pilots
Battle of the Bulge
V-E Day
Japan surrenders
Children scavenging in the ruins
Streamlined trains
Passenger ships
UN Building Television (3)
Hydrogen Bomb (2)

The pace starts to slow at this point:

"The dance goes on -- because life is still sweet! Because the heart cannot admit that such an end is unavoidable! And who really knows what to do about it?" (Silhouettes of two people dancing.)

"Meanwhile the great powers are hastily building their radar fences -- to gain a few hours time for desperate defense, if the lid does blow off!" (Observatories.)

"And hundreds of great bombing planes are constantly in the air, watching, waiting for the war they hope may never come -- (plane in flight) -- or until mankind has perfected a hydrogen bomb-carrying intercontinental missile which will make both warning and defnse impossible! 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof!'" (Missile.)

The last page has three double-size panels:

"Is there still hope for it? There is still on Earth a light and a book!" (Globe)

"Will mankind heed the light? or will his struggle end thus? What is written is written! Look--" (Third mushroom cloud)

Bucolic setting, apple tree in bloom, little girl waving at a robin, two hands hold a book open to a page that says: "Behold, I make all things new!"

So there you have it. The story of mankind, in 32 pages.

Understandably, this is little more than an overview, a quick gloss of the subject. Still, there are some errors -- The caption for the panel on the Emancipation Proclamation reads, "President Lincoln issued a Proclamation which made all slaves legally free from that time." Well, no. The Proclamation only made the slaves in the South free, and of course that was a separate country by this point. Nitpicking? Perhaps, but it illustrates the dangers of expecting a book like this to constitute serious scholarship.

The emphasis is heavily Eurocentric, but then van Loon was European, and Dell was owned by WESTERN Printing. It's asking too much to expect people be too far ahead of their time.

This book is too wordy for kids, too superficial for adults, and barely qualifies as a souvenir of the movie. I'd say Larry Gonick has nothing to worry about.