Harvey Comics Classics: Casper the Friendly Ghost

Harvey Comics Classics: Casper the Friendly Ghost is one of the most attractive historical archives released this year. It’s also one of the best deals — a heavy book, almost 500 pages, with upscale presentation and color sections, for under $20. That’s a price that makes it worthwhile for anyone interested in comics history to try it out, and they’ll be rewarded for doing so.

Harvey Comics Classics: Casper the Friendly Ghost cover
Harvey Comics Classics:
Casper the Friendly Ghost
Buy this book

Jerry Beck’s introduction provides an extensive history of Casper, illustrated with design documents and covering his cartoon and publishing background. Beck is unafraid to express opinions about the material he’s covering, which is refreshing as well as helpful in explaining the appeal of the character over five decades. Editor Leslie Cabarga also provides comments explaining the source material and reproduction techniques used for this book. Original art and and proofs were used wherever possible, and most of the stories are in black and white to show off the linework.

As Cabarga says, “all the most classic tales have been selected, including the first appearances of Spooky, Nightmare [the ghost horse], Wendy [the Good Little Witch], and the ghost waif Something.” Most of the stories follow one of a few common formulas: Casper wants a friend, Casper scares people, him being a ghost saves the day by scaring away bad guys, the good people accept him as he is. Or Casper stops the Ghostly Trio from scaring people by outsmarting them. Or Casper uses his ghost abilities to give a kid a fun adventure. The appeal of all of these types is in his irrepressible good humor and the professional storytelling.

It’s also interesting to see unexpected bits and pieces that are rarely mentioned, like Casper’s ghost mom, or his depressed attempt to drown himself because he can’t find anyone to play with him. (Both of those are from the same story.) Often Casper succeeds simply because of his nature, scaring people unintentionally simply by existing. It’s a comforting message of acceptance, of value because of who one is instead of what one does. Or finding a way to contribute, as with the odd tale of Boris Stiff, the world’s biggest bore. Simply talking to Boris puts people to sleep, but Casper manages to turn even that liability into a benefit.

Strangely, instead of people, the people-like characters are often drawn as humanoid bears and dogs and pigs. This makes it particularly odd when a “boy” (a pig) is menaced by a bear (a bear). Or when a bear family is scared away and Casper thinks “maybe I’d have better luck with animals”. No matter the look, though, there’s always fun in seeing the slapstick way people run away from Casper. There are many creative variations on the usual structure, keeping the stories fresh and entertaining.

See a preview at the publisher’s website.

11 Responses to “Harvey Comics Classics: Casper the Friendly Ghost”

  1. Alan Coil Says:

    I already have this, and heartily recommend it to those who like Casper and his comics.

    I think I saw that a Richie Rich volume is planned.

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 11, 2007: The thinking man’s Ralph Dibny Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson on the new Harvey Comics Classics: Casper the Friendly Ghost collection. (Above: sequence from St. […]

  3. Johanna Says:

    The Richie Rich came out last week, I think it was, and Hot Stuff is up next.

  4. Peter Says:

    I got the Richie Rich volume today and it’s gorgeous. It includes intros and an interview with Ernie Colon, one of my favorite artists.

    The Hot Stuff comes out early next year, I believe.

  5. Harvey Comics Classics: Richie Rich » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] enjoying the first volume in this series, the one featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost, I was looking forward to this next collection, and I wasn’t […]

  6. Bert Says:

    anyone remember casper having a cousin…..a lil devil?…i want a pic of him for airbrushing….any hints what to google?

  7. Johanna Says:

    I think you’re looking for a character named Hot Stuff.

  8. Paul R Wilson Says:

    Oddly enough, in my 1000+pg fanfiction about Caasper & Co. “the Shining Pyramid” I give Nightmare’s origin as Casper meeting him in Scotland. The startling thing is -it jibes with the first Nightmare story in this book ! I had NOT read this story before ! The fanfic dismisses 99% of the Harvey stories as fictitious…but only 99% …

  9. Horror Lit Fit: Hell House by Richard Matheson | Says:

    […] will expose?  Because this is not a nuanced house.  There is no tragedy behind the house, no Casper you want to feel sorry for.  Unlike a Stephen King story, no authors or kids (that are far too […]

  10. Another Archie Historical Reprint Project From Dark Horse » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] about it, the more the split publishing makes sense — Dark Horse has been successful with Harvey reprints, and they know comic books, while IDW focuses on historical strips in their hardcover […]

  11. B. Woods Says:

    I need help, I have a copy of Casper’s Collectors Comics in my poss. I’ve googled about it, I’ve been all over the net about it, and I can’t find anything anyplace it’s Vol.7 if that helps.please anyone with some insight contact me at-
    please n thnx,




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