Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

On Things I’ve Been Reading

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Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking
Fantagraphics Books
Written and Illustrated by Charles Schulz

Charlie Brown's Christmas StockingWhile BOOM! Studios publishes new stories of the Peanuts gang in a monthly comic book and occasional graphic novel, Fantagraphics Books is reprinting Charles Schulz’s classic comic strip in their Complete Peanuts hardcover collections.  This month, Fantagraphics released something unusual, a reprint of two things that I’d never even heard of before — Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking is a slim, square, little book, running maybe 40 pages.  It reprints two stories published in magazines in the 1960s — “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking” (Good Housekeeping, December 1963) and “A Christmas Story” (Woman’s Day, December 1968).

“Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking” is told in words and pictures — there’s a page with a Schulz illustration, and on the opposite page there’s a piece of untagged dialogue.  (In every case, it’s obvious who is speaking on pages with multiple characters.) Charlie Brown and his friends are trying to figure out where to put their Christmas stockings.  However, for Charlie Brown and Sally, it’s especially difficult because their house has no chimney, nor anyplace obvious to hang a stocking.  Says Charlie Brown at one point, “It’s almost midnight… Good grief!  I feel like the chairman of the board during an industrial crisis!”  That’s an odd simile, even by Peanuts‘ standards.  Ultimately, the crisis is averted, and Christmas arrives.

The second story, “A Christmas Story,” reads more like the Peanuts comic strip.  Snoopy is lectured by Linus and Lucy about the true meaning of Christmas, and after hearing two stories he gives a literate punchline to the whole thing.  Though “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Story” was created before A Charlie Brown Christmas, “A Christmas Story” was created after, and the story reflects moments from that animated special &mash; Linus reads to Snoopy from Luke while Lucy talks about Santa Claus and presents.

The artwork for these stories is vintage 1960s Schulz.  In addition to the characters mentioned above, we also have appearances by Schroeder, Frieda, Violet, and Shermy.  On a trivial note, Charlie Brown is wearing his red striped shirt instead of his yellow striped shirt.

It’s a charming little piece of Peanuts ephemera, and Fantagraphics gives it a nice presentation.  Though I think that calling these stories “Peanuts holiday classics” on the back cover really stretches the meaning of the word “classics,” it’s a pleasant, if inessential, addition to a Peanuts library.  For the Peanuts fan in your life, Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking will make a nice stocking stuffer this Christmas.

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