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Magic Crystal of History


Magic Crystal of History begins as an interesting concept for a serial, as two young siblings, Bobby and Binks, stare into the eponymous crystal ball and are transported to Egypt in the time of Cheops, and the building of the Great Pyramid.  They get into adventures in that era, and then in the time of Tutankhamen, that have more in common with action serials than with history, and the art is barely passable, but the idea is somewhat interesting.

Although I have spent a bit of time trying to figure out Binks’ name.  I would guess it is a diminutive, though for what I cannot imagine. Perhaps I should mention that Binks is a girl, as the name is genderless as well as meaningless.

The serial runs from issues 1 through 10, and then the series misses issue 11.  When it returns in issue 12, it has changed drastically.  Now Bobby and Binks merely stare into the crystal in the first panel, appear once more mid-story to comment on the action, and then make comments at the end of the two page instalments.  The comments are characterless and dull, along the lines of “With Charlemagne as their ruler, the Romans hoped to regain the glory of the past”

Each two issue tale relates some historical event or person, in a loose chronological order.  They watch Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar and others, but no longer are transported to the time periods.

With issue 21, the stories begin to link to each other.  21 contains the Battle of Hastings, while issue 22 deals with the reign of William the Conqueror.  Charlemagne’s life is covered in 23, while 24 deals with the splitting of his empire after his death.

With issue 27 the series begins to focus largely on British history, starting with Henry II, and continuing with John, Henry III and Edward I.  The Hundred Years War is covered in three issues (31-33), but the Wars of the Roses get jammed into one two page story, with a massive amount of narration and captioning.

Issue 36 jumps away from England to talk about Columbus, but this is a set-up for Philip II in the following issue, and his story leads around to the Spanish Armada’s attack on England in issue 39, and then we are back to British history for Guy Fawkes, Charles I and Oliver Cromwell

Issues 43 and 44 jump away again, this time to France, covering Marie de Medici and Cardinal Richilieu, and then its back to England for the Restoration of Charles II, followed by James II, William and Mary, and Anne.

Just when it could get into early American history, the series takes an unexpected turn to Russian history, and the final two instalments (iisues 49 and 50) deal with ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.

By the end, Bobby and Binks are not even mentioned in every opening, they are just two nameless kids staring at a crystal ball and then saying boring things to conclude the stories.

The histories related are fairly accurate, and attempt comprehensiveness, if not depth or insight, but the two page format works against this, and the overwhelming amount of text cluttering up the pages makes these unappealing, even to a history buff like me.  I cannot imagine kids went wild over these pages.  And in truth, the entire series seems to exist more to give the comic book an aura of legitimacy, rather than to entertain on its own merits.

Magic Crystal of History:  New Fun 1 – 6 (Jan – Oct 35)

More Fun 7 – 10 (Jan – May 36), 12 – 25 (Aug 36 – Oct 37), 27 – 50 (Dec 37 – Dec 39)

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