Cover of the 'Tales from the Great Book' collection. Artist: John Lehti.


Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Publishers Syndicate
First Appeared: 1954
Creator: John Lehti
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In addition to being comical, comics have been used to tell detective stories, science fiction stories, western stories, and stories from every other conceivable genre. So it isn't surprising they've been used to …

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… tell Bible stories too. The first major effort in that direction may have been Picture Stories from the Bible, published first by DC Comics in 1942 and then by EC three years later. The genre reached the Sunday comics on March 21, 1954, when Publishers Syndicate (Kerry Drake, Mary Worth) launched Tales from the Great Book.

The cartoonist behind Tales from the Great Book was John Lehti, a comic book veteran who had worked for Dell on Tom Corbett and for DC on The Crimson Avenger. He'd also assisted on Secret Agent X-9, Terry & the Pirates and Tarzan, but the only other newspaper comic he'd done on his own was Tommy of the Big Top, which King Features distributed from 1946-50.

Aside from providing parent-friendly reading material for kids (including Jewish kids, because of its concentration on the Old Testament), Tales from the Great Book offered enjoyable reading for adults. Lehti, always a highly competent illustrator, did some of his best work here. His adaptations of the stories were well-paced and exciting, with occasional cliffhangers (for any readers who didn't happen to know the stories already).

The year after it began in Sunday papers, it was reprinted by the publisher of Famous Funnies, the first modern-style comic book. Their Tales from the Great Book ran four issues, dated February 1955 through January 1956. A few years later, Saalfield Publishing Company (Hawkshaw the Detective, S'matter Pop?) reprinted it in black & white, as a trade paperback.

On the newspaper page, Tales from the Great Book ran until 1972. Lehti returned to DC, then retired a few years later. He died in 1990.


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Text ©2006 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Publishers Syndicate.