Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking
By Charles M. Schulz
Review by J. Caleb Mozzocco
Form coincides with content in Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking, a new collection of two 1960s picture-book style comics efforts from Charles Schulz. The title story concerns the Peanuts gang’s musings on the stocking tradition (and good old Charlie Brown’s dilemma of where to hang his in the modern, fireplace-less home), and, perhaps not coincidentally, as a slim, five-and-a-half-inch-by-five-and-a-half-inch square, it’s the perfect size to slip into most stockings.
The book comes courtesy of Fantagraphics Books, the publisher responsible for the handsomely designed Complete Peanuts collections, and, unsurprisingly, it’s a lovely little package. The only colors employed in the art are shades of Christmas red and green, plus the white of the paper and the black of Schulz’s ink lines, and designer Jacob Covey follows the same palette (with a bit of silver on the cover).
The stories reprinted within (for the very first time, it turns out) were originally little insert booklets bound into a 1963 issue of Good Housekeeping and a 1968 issue of Woman’s Day; the former two years before the first airing of the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which would link the Peanuts characters to Christmas in the minds of a generation or two.
Both feature big drawings of familiar characters on pages that serve as panels; panels, it should be noted, that are of course many times bigger than the panels on even a Sunday newspaper page.
In the title story, images of the characters in conversation appear on the right-hand page, while the text of their conversations appear on the left-hand page.
The later story, simply titled “A Christmas Story,” features the Van Pelt children teaching Snoopy about Christmas and reads a bit more like a comic strip, with dialogue appearing in dialogue bubbles.
Linus reads part of the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke to Snoopy, concluding with, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Snoopy!” and, soon after, Lucy tells Snoopy about Santa Claus, a story that, in her telling, sounds even more mysterious than the Bible story.
Schulz’s Peanuts has always been unique in its ability to speak to audiences of adults and children simultaneously, which might go a long way to explaining why the characters continue to be so strongly associated with Christmas in the minds of many adults who grew up watching that TV special once a year. Christmas is, after all, a time when adults can feel like kids again, right? Nice then to have a comic that can speak to kids, adults and the little kids the adults used to be all at the same time—even if only for a quick 40 pages or so.