With the air filled with holiday tunes and the TV schedule filled with holiday specials, we thought it would be an opportune time to recommend some of our favorite holiday-themed graphic novels as well.
I’ll start with Craig Yoe’s Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories. I love a big, colorful treasury like this, and Yoe has done a great job of picking out stories by some well known creators, including Walt Kelly, John Stanley, and Richard Scarry. As I noted in my review at Robot 6 a few years ago, some of the stories have a vintage feel, but there are also timeless tales and the quality of the work and presentation is first rate. This would be a great gift book.
Scrooge and Santa is an enjoyable holiday mashup in which a 21st-century Scrooge tries to kidnap Santa and ruin Christmas. It’s energetic, cartoony fun with some witty allusions to the original and to other classics such as It’s A Wonderful Life, which makes it fun for adults as well as kids. (I interviewed the creators last year for Robot 6).
And now, please welcome our newest writer at Good Comics for Kids, J. Caleb Mozzocco. Caleb writes about comics at his own blog Every Day Is Like Wednesday, and he is also a contributor to Robot 6. He will be joining us as part of the regular writing team at GC4K starting this week.
Caleb: This year Fantagraphics, who have been publishing Charles Schulz’s Complete Peanuts, have packaged two fairly obscure special magazine inserts Schulz did in the 1960s as Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking. It’s beautifully designed, a breezy, five-minute read, and about the size of a Christmas card, making it a pretty great gift. And, this being Schulz’s Peanuts, it’s the sort of gift you’ll never grow out of.
For a more substantial Peanuts feast, there’s Ballantine Books’ 2002 collection A Peanuts Christmas, which features 150 pages of Christmas strips from 1950 to 1999, each of which features a different exploration of the various characters’ peculiar relationships with the holiday that is the biggest day of the year for a lot of kids their age.
While Christmas specials are an on-again, off-again tradition at DC Comics, in 2000 they published one for the bookshelf: A DC Universe Christmas was a trade paperback that collected short stories from a trio of their comics-format Christmas specials, plus Christmas-themed issues from various series. The result was 160 pages of comics from the Golden Age to the late 1990s, featuring their biggest stars (Batman, Superman, Robin, Wonder Woman) and not-so-big stars (Enemy Ace, Bat Lash, Impulse). The credits read like a who’s who of comics history: Jerry Siegel, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, William Moulton Marston, H.G. Peter, Bob Haney, Nick Cardy, Bernie Wrightson, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Mark Waid, Chuck Dixon and more.
Some of the stories will probably seem pretty dated to readers of the current DC line—as the third generation Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Flash are the ones in these stories, and the back-from-the-dead second generation versions have reclaimed their mantles in the last decade for example—but there are plenty of timeless, evergreen stories included (With Paul Dini and Ronnie del Carmen’s Batman story being the best of the bunch). The collection provides a nice entry point into the adventures of a bunch of different characters, and the bodies of work of a bunch of great writers and artists, while also being all about Christmas.
The latest installment of Fantagraphics Complete Carl Barks Library is the seasonally appropriate Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown, the title story of which involves Donald’s nephews accidentally taking a detour through the down-on-its-luck section of Duckburg, and feeling pretty guilty about having so much when so many have so little. Daisy and Donald both kick in to help them bring Christmas to the poor kids of Shacktown, but to raise the last $25 they need, they have to turn to Uncle Scrooge McDuck, who is never enthusiastic about parting with so much as a single cent. It’s one of about 20 of the top-notch comics in the book, which range from one-page gags to the sort of sprawling adventures Barks was best-known for.
The previous Donald Duck volume Fantagraphics published, Lost In The Andes, also included a few Christmas stories, the very best of which was “The Golden Christmas Tree,” in which Huey, Dewey and Louie’s search for a perfect Christmas tree leads their Uncle Donald into conflict with an evil witch (which looked like the one from Disney’s Snow White) bent on magically destroying every Christmas tree in the world.
Speaking of Barks and Disney ducks, as Scrooge’s first name suggests, he was inspired by the miserly protagonist of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and his very first appearance was as a villain whose greedy heart is (slightly) warmed over the course of a Christmas Eve. That was in Barks’ 1947 story “Christmas on Bear Mountain,” which you can find collected in the Boom Studios-published 2009 Walt Disney’s Christmas Classics, along with eight other holiday stories starring Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse (four of which are by Barks).
Lori: Dark Horse Comics released an adaptation of a Christmas classic with a twist: A Christmas Carol: The Night That Changed the Life of Eliza Scrooge takes Dicken’s tale and swaps Ebenezer for a woman, Eliza. Rod Espinosa, who does the adaptation and art, keeps the spirit of the original story by making the text and character designs in the vein of the Victorian era but has enough modern elements that kids won’t be put off. It’s a new, fun take on a classic that I’m really surprised has not been done before! Dark Horse has it available as a hardcover or digital, depending on your (or your recipient’s) preference.
Bongo Comics loves the holidays, and for winter they have the annual series Winter Wingding. These issues feature the folks of Springfield in stories for the winter holidays. There are seven issues out and they are not only funny but can have heart as well. They always feature great writers and artists from the world of comics and more.