A Charlie Brown Christmas & Fantagraphics' New Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking are Peanuts Christmas Classics
It's easy to get bummed out by Christmas -- especially when the "holiday season," with all the crass consumerism, bad music, and awkward family gatherings, seems to kick off earlier and earlier each year.
"Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."
But only the "grinchiest" can resist the charms of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Originally aired by CBS in 1965 (ABC now airs the special), the film established Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" characters as synonymous with Christmas, capturing all the joy and lowdown of the holiday with its crude animation, mellow jazz soundtrack (courtesy of Vince Guaraldi), and decidedly traditional message.
"It's sincere," explains Peanuts historian Nat Gertler. "It's not the most beautiful, 'let's polish off every little thing' production, but it goes there; it does what it's trying to do."
Fantagraphics Books Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking
Gertler manages the Peanuts news site AAUGH Blog, publishes comics (including non-Peanuts work from Schulz) through his imprint About Comics, and is responsible for Fantagraphics Books' new Peanuts Christmas collection, Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking.
The book features two never-reprinted Peanuts stories, "Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking" and "The Christmas Story," originally published in Good Housekeeping in 1963, and Women's Day in 1968, respectively. The compact book is a pleasure. And its simple green, red, and black color scheme and layout mimick Schulz's Happiness is a Warm Puppy books of the '60s.
"[Schulz] had done a Christmas book, Christmas is Together-Time, using red and green," Gertler says, explaining the minimal color palette. "We wanted to keep that simplicity and Christmas-sense in there."
There is no shortage of Christmas-related Peanuts material -- Gertler's AAUGH blog currently features an advent calendar highlighting the Top 25 Peanuts Christmas Books Which Aren't Adaptations of A Charlie Brown Christmas -- but the strips presented here are rare enough to warrant some special attention.
"It's sort of weird to call them obscure, because those magazines were selling millions back in the 1960s, when things like Good Housekeeping were huge," Gertler says, "but they got recycled, and [these strips] have gone unseen for more than the life of people who are into Peanuts today."
The collection features Linus reciting the Gospel of Luke to Snoopy, and informing the dog, "That's what Christmas is all about, Snoopy!" It's a scene familiar to fans of the animated special, though Snoopy's response, "How gauche of me not to have known that!" and worries that "all this theology" could ruin his holiday point to Schulz's keen ability to poke fun at himself while maintaining his faith.