From 1946 to 1972, children in Catholic schools around the country eagerly awaited their next issue of Treasure Chest of Fun & Facts. They looked forward to opening these “treasure chests” of illustrated stories of the Catholic faith and historic American heroes and saints — and following continuing original adventure stories that carried a Christian moral, working on the puzzles, and being excited over so many other colorful features and projects.
Then came 1972, when the Treasure Chests were buried.
But recently, they were rediscovered for today’s generations.
Philip Kosloski, the founder and publisher of Voyage Comics, has made remastering the Treasure Chest comics his latest project.
Kosloski is the right explorer and adventurer for this voyage to new audiences. He was responsible for the graphic novel called The Tale of Patrick Peyton along with, among others, colorful and accurate graphic versions of Lily of the Mohawks, The Mission of Joan of Arc, Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist (published by Voyage Comics and the Augustine Institute), and his original Finnian and the Seven Mountains, inspired by the legendary “Sword of St. Michael,” with adventures covering seven pilgrimage sites.
How did Kosloski set out on this adventure to rediscover and share these treasures?
“Whenever there’s talk about Catholic comics, or the history of Catholic comics, Treasure Chest always comes up, and I had always been fascinated by it. Anyone who I ever talked to who remembers receiving Treasure Chest as a child had fond memories of it,” he said. “So I started to look at them and discovered how it really is a treasure chest of content inside of it. I was fascinated because it has a good mix. Maybe there’s a story about the liturgical year, like in the first volume we’re publishing.”
The very first issue in 1946 came out in March, “so they started with a story on Lent, and also included a history of Pancake Tuesday, and they made that into a little comic story as well. In the first issue they published, there was a little story on the founding of Maryland. And they had hands-on projects that kids could do. So it does live up to its name of Treasure Chest of Fun & Facts because it’s filled with things that are fun for kids to learn about, but also facts that are helpful to them to know about the faith, then about America.”
His “travel map” for finding every Treasure Chest of Fun & Facts (the official full title) took him to The Catholic University of America, which digitalized the entire collection of all 508 copies, from the first, issued on March 12, 1946, to the last issue in 1972. They were published for parochial schoolchildren by George Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio, a distinguished Catholic publisher. Everything was first-class because Pflaum had several of the most talented artists working on these comics.
Kosloski has two main goals for restoring and republishing these appealing and imaginative comics.
“For one, we want to preserve this kind of snapshot of Catholic history in a unique way,” he said. “Yes, it’s good to have the digital versions available. But it’s just a lot different when you have a physical copy in your hand. Some people, like collectors, still have these copies, but they’re getting older and the paper is deteriorating. The colors aren’t as vibrant as they once were. So one aim is just to preserve it” for “a wider audience.”
Secondly, the Treasure Chest restorations are good learning resources. Kosloski, who has five children, sees this “especially of interest for home-schooling families, as something that they can use as a supplement to their curriculum,” he said. “I know that home-schooling families are always looking for new resources to teach their kids.” He also finds another benefit for youth who may “have a hard time reading, and picking up a chapter book is difficult for them, but picking up a comic book is a lot easier. So there are a lot of great things about these Treasure Chest comics.”
“Most of the content is timeless,” he added. “Certainly sometimes they might mention baseball players that were active at the time, but in a certain sense, you can use that as a teaching moment. … Certainly, there are going to be some things that are a lot different — but, really, a lot of the things inside of it are timeless, and they have a lot of value, both for teaching and illustrating different stories from the faith but also just learning more about their American history.”
One sample summer issue included a section on camping. The timeless appeal of the contents includes the first installment of a serial on the life of Mary that starts with Sts. Anne and Joachim and more stories about “Heroines of Lighthouse Point.” These are joined by various puzzles, sports profiles, the mysterious true story of a ship found with the crew and passengers missing, an Alaskan adventure, a national park story, cartoons, a feature on birds and much more.
“Especially if you’re a home-schooling family, I think it will be a great resource, but also for Catholic schools, as well,” Kosloski said. “Books and graphic novels, in general, are still very popular.”
The colors and drawings always had great appeal. To recreate and remaster these issues, Kosloski used scans of the originals provided by CUA. Then, through digital processes, the color is extracted and artists essentially apply new digital colors that match the originals. “In a certain sense, you’re making a new comic — except you’re not drawing anything; you’re making it so you can put new color on it,” he explained. “Then it really brightens up the page.”
Voyage will put several issues together in one volume at a time. This initial volume of 192 pages contains the six Treasure Chests from the first series chronologically, from March to May 1946. The next volume will begin with the September 1946 issue.
Kosloski finds another reason for the timeliness of these treasures. “Treasure Chest started because after World War II, for some reason, the comic book industry went in the wrong direction,” he observed. “What became popular were all these kinds of horror comics and a lot of violence, and also a lot of these romance comics started to pop up. So Pflaum created Treasure Chest to counteract all the objectionable content that was being put out. He wanted it to also stand on its own so that it would be an enjoyable read as well.”
Kosloski tied the beginnings into the present time “because we find ourselves in a similar state in modern culture. As the culture goes a different way, we can go back to that and be reinforced in our beliefs” — where the real treasure is.